When I first heard about the Ark Encounter, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical. I wasn't sure what to think of such a massive endeavor. However, when my mother-in-law suggested a family trip to experience the Ark, I caved pretty quickly. I'm so thankful we made the trip. Just being able to stand under a structure built to the scale of the Biblical Ark was worth it.
I received two free passes to the Ark Encounter in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. See my full disclosure policy for more details.
After enjoying the Creation Museum the day before, we were thrilled to drive up and experience the Ark Encounter. The sheer size of this structure is awe inspiring. As we walked up to the Ark we wondered at the faith of Noah to continue building this edifice while receiving scorn from every angle.
What's Inside the Ark?
So it's not just a big boat set out on a hill. The structure houses beautifully fabricated teaching exhibits that walk visitors through answering questions about the Biblical account of Noah's Ark and the flood. The goal of the entire attraction is to inspire visitors to think differently about the biblical account of Noah’s Ark, and that's just what it did for us.
While the majority of the animals are not living, visitors can walk through the first two floors of the Ark and see how Noah and his family might manage caring for all of these animals.
While these details are not recorded in the Bible, the museum is clear about their "Ark-tistic License" which helps fill in some ideas for how all of this might even be possible. One of our favorite of these ideas presented was their solution for feeding the small reptiles with moth boxes. As the moths reproduced, they'd over-populate the box and push one another out into the adjoining jars where they'd be a fresh meal for the reptiles.
One of our favorite videos we watched on the Ark demonstrated how the artists created these exquisite creatures. From top to bottom, the craftsmanship at the Ark Encounter is truly awe inspiring.
Noah's Living Quarters
The top floor of the Ark Encounter houses the living quarters for Noah and his family. Seeing these exhibits really made us think about how much preparation it must have taken to sustain a family of eight for a long term trip. They couldn't just eat out while they were traveling like we did!
While this section of the Ark might have extended itself in that "Ark-tistic License" the most, it did for me what was intended: it made me think. It made me wonder what skills, abilities, interests, and gifts did God cultivate in this family to continue his purposes on this earth.
Thought Provoking Exhibits
Another one of our favorite aspects of the Ark Encounter was walking through some of the thought provoking exhibits. One such exhibit displays all of the children's books written on the subject of Noah and his ark. Viewers are challenged by seven ways that these fairy-tale adventure stores can deceive readers.
My other favorite display lined up flood legends from around the world and put the various vessels to the test. Gilgamesh's cube ark was the funniest of the reenactments as you watched animals slide back and forth in the odd floating device.
Inspiring & Environmentally Friendly Craftsmanship
Even if you're not as interested in reading all of the information associated with the exhibits, the craftsmanship of the Ark is worth experiencing. The center beams which support the massive structure are awe inspiring. It's also good to know that many of the large timbers came from areas where a beetle infestation killed trees. Much of the remaining timber came from renewable forests, which are carefully managed.
Museum of the Bible Exhibit
One of the other locations that my mother-in-law wanted to visit was the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. We got a little taste of it at the Ark Encounter with their Museum of the Bible exhibit.
I am always fascinated by the preservation of God's word over time. Andy enjoyed translating some of the Latin Bible as we passed through the exhibit.
Live Animal Encounters
On the second deck of the Ark, you can enjoy live animal encounters. My daughter and niece really loved learning about these curious animals. They fed a llama, pet a kangaroo, touched a iguana, and felt a porcupine quill.
What's Outside The Ark
Ararat Ridge Zoo and Petting Zoo
The live animal adventures continue outdoors at the petting zoo. While you can't touch them all, these animals are all fun to watch. We enjoyed watching the ostriches race around, the zonkey pick on the zorse, and the yaks look proud and powerful.
There is a large petting zoo area with hand brushes for the goats that the girls also loved! If it wasn't quite so cold that day, we might have stayed for hours!
You can also ride camels or donkeys in the zoo area, but since we'd just ridden a camel the day before at the Creation Museum, we opted out of that here.
There is one large restaurant on the property: the 1,500-seat Emzara’s Kitchen. This features a massive buffet lunch/dinner with something to please the whole family. We loved that there were so many large tables to seat our big group of eleven all together. It was also a great place to take a break from standing and thinking!
If you're not interested in the full buffet, there are several options located in the Village Market on the west side of the lake. It features new food venues and one-of-a-kind retail items for sale, including fair trade products. Featured in this village is Oscar’s Store, with unique hand-painted items. The rolled ice cream is particularly tasty!
Zip Line Adventures
One feature my kids really wanted to experience were the incredible zip line courses on the property. The Ark Encounter zip line course features 22 different lines. Ten of these are super-zip lines and are 1,000 linear feet or longer and three of them are 1,500 feet or longer. The longest cable is 2,100 feet and is the longest zip line in the midwest.
We looked into this adventure a little too late in the day and all of the tours were booked up. So if you're interested in taking advantage of this feature, make sure to book it early.
Future of the Ark Encounter
As we pulled away from the Ark, I noticed construction nearby. Currently, they're building the Answers Center which houses a large 2,500 seat auditorium and mulit-purpose facility which would be great for conferences. They are also expanding the zoo which will open in 2019.
I wish we could have gone just a few weeks later and experienced their ChristmasTime at the Ark. We saw the ice skating rink being set up and the trees being lit for the wintertime fun.
Overall, this is a wonderful place to take the family. If nothing else, it really raises questions that can spark conversations for years to come.
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.