The Ark Encounter: is it worth the hype?

Thank you for your prayers and kind words. I’m grateful…

Worth the hype? Well, the short answer is YES.

Of course I had heard about the Ark Encounter – Ken Ham’s massive recreation of the original Boat of Noah – but when I was told it was in Kentucky, I translated that into “twelve hours away from me.” Last summer, I suddenly realized that the Ark is tucked into Kentucky’s upper corner, a stone’s throw from Cincinnati, leaving it only six hours from my house.

My husband and I quickly planned a family camping trip to the area in June of last year.

We found a very nice campground nearly, Big Bone Lick State Park, a place to tent and swim and relax and cook over a fire and walk nature trails. And we booked two days for sightseeing: one for the Ark and one for its sister attraction, the Creation Museum.

I’ll tell you the bad news first: I wasn’t crazy about the Creation Museum. I can tell already that this paragraph will turn out too critical (actually I added this comment later when my own criticism surprised me – gotcha), but I found the Museum heavy on evangelism and short on artifacts. What would you artifact? Instead of putting money into buying real antiques and ancient books or bones, the Museum showcased wax works of Adam and Eve, fossil replicas, original comedic movie clips, and so on. There was a ton of reading, if you are the kind of person who likes reading wall plaques. But the worst was that although we were told there were “exits along the way” if we needed to step out of the self-guided tour, we didn’t find any. We had to blitz our way through the labyrinth with a fussy baby, through many hallways threatening the imminent judgment of sin. It felt like “trap your audience and then preach to the captives.” Forgive me for laughing.

ANYWAY. Some good effort and worthy aspects for sure, especially petting zoo and the wonderful botanical gardens outside – but otherwise, not really my thing. Maybe you went there and loved it.

But the Ark! we thoroughly enjoyed. First of all, the sheer size is breathtaking.

And then the delight of realizing how possible it all is – how much room there is (even extra room), and how a giant boat to save the earth could really have been built, and by an ancient man – which was Mr. Ham’s point in the whole project. Maybe some income too, I don’t know.

Point being that I’ll admit the Ark has always been the Bible story I’ve fought the most private skepticism about. And I loved walking through a replica, however imperfect.

It was less talky than the Creation Museum, and far more experiential: listen to the tapping of rain and the rumble of thunder as the storm begins, walk up the mighty ramp to get inside the boat, view the hundreds of crates and barrels and cages and storage stations, tour the living quarters of the family, pet real goats and sheep indoors. See how the Ark could have gotten light and air. Notice the huge timbers and the rough-hewn wooden pegs. Walk through all three floors. Take a picture against the massive Door.

Behind the Ark is a great little zoo, with a surprising number of animals to see and touch.

And incidentally, where did last summer’s babies go?

My children loved the Ark, and so did Ryan and I. If you get a chance, please go.

Worth the hype? I believe it is.

Have you been to the Ark Encounter? What was your favorite part?

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Diane Histand
5 years ago

We have been there yet, but I did appreciate the post, as I have wondered about the hype too. So thanks, and the camping info too. We always like recommendations on campgrounds!

5 years ago

Hey Shari, thanks for including so many lovely pictures – soul-food? – in your posts! Maybe someday our family will stop in and see the ark; a number of years back we were at the creation museum. We didn’t see the petting zoo n gardens then – maybe the weather wasn’t suitable.
Blessings to you on your journey thro the “hard”! I heard something interesting on the revive our hearts podcast recently. It was something like “Anything that makes us need God is a blessing.” Often I don’t look at my struggles in that light!

5 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

Thank you, Rachel. That is an amazing perspective!

5 years ago

So thankful for this review since we are headed to see it in just a couple weeks. Any tips for seeing it with a youth group who is primarily from non-Mennonite background?

5 years ago
Reply to  Kendra

I’d just say let them take it at their own pace. As teens, they may find different things fascinating and want to linger in places that you breeze through. 🙂 Everyone experiences it differently.

5 years ago

We loved it too!! Tho it’s not fun when the Ark is so crowded that you feel like you have no choices but to move w a crowd instead of at leisure. Tho I can totally see the stuck feeling w a fussy baby thru all those exhibits, Go back to creation museaum when your children are more into the reading… going thru the seven Cs ending w the Last Adam film was amazing to bring it all full circle!! And the planetarium show was best most interesting outer space/galaxy presentation I’ve ever heard! Try again sometime…

5 years ago
Reply to  Lori

That is good to hear, Lori! We didn’t see the planetarium, and we might try again when our kiddos are older. ?

5 years ago

I haven’t been to the Ark but have to admit, that I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend any money going as I came away with probably the same opinion of the Creation Museum. I couldn’t put my finger on just why I wasn’t impressed but I thought the admission cost was more than I thought it should be. OK, we went on Christmas Eve when it was free admission and of course, the place was crowded with other low-income families so it was very difficult to get close enough to the exhibits to READ all the placards. But I do not enjoy doing an extra amount of reading when I am at a museum and especially when you can’t get close enough to read it well. 🙂 I am glad for the thumbs up on the Ark. That’s good to know. Thanks.

5 years ago

I share your opinion of the Creation Museum. I felt that I really should have enjoyed it more, and maybe there was something wrong with me that I didn’t! We went through it with a 2 year old, without a stroller, and of course it didn’t interest him and he fell asleep. Therefore Hubby needed to lug him through it, as I was very pregnant! All that reading could maybe have been interesting but we could hardly get see through the mob to the plaques on the wall. In my opinion it’s overrated, and I’ve felt almost wicked for even thinking that, so I’m relieved to hear of other’s who were not enamored by the place.
But yes, the Ark! We loved it. We went through that last summer as well, with 4 children. One little chap doesn’t like crowds and was feeling quite needy. (The day was redeemed for him when we went outside to the petting zoo, and saw Ken Ham in person out there. That is the part he still talks about.) Since it was especially Hubby’s dream to tour the Ark, I told him to enjoy it all he wanted, and I would catch what I could. We thankfully had a stroller this time, and the two littlest alternated taking naps in it. The two older children loved it, and we did too! I’d love to go back if we ever have the chance. The architecture itself is worth seeing, if nothing else.

5 years ago

What day of the week did you visit the Ark? We went last July, on a Saturday. There were throngs of people and I had a cranky 2 year old. I rather hated the experience and wasn’t all that impressed, but maybe if there weren’t so many people and I didn’t have a needy child with me, I would have enjoyed it. I never did get to see the Creation museum- I had to stay back at the hotel with a child who’d been sick the night before.

5 years ago

The planetarium at the Creation Museum is AMAZING!! And my favorite part of the Ark was the Bible Museum preview.

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