Thursday, August 16, 2018

Visiting The Ark Encounter & Why You Need To Encounter It As Well

In early July 2018, my family went to Kentucky, to see The Ark Encounter; a full size, precise biblical dimension recreation of Noah's Ark.

Inside, there is an extensive exhibit detailing the plausibility of Noah's journey - from why it happened to how it happened.

The Ark Encounter is an extension of Ken Ham's Answers In Genesis ministry which also includes the nearby Creation Museum.

As with the Creation Museum , I was most interested in going to see The Ark because of criticism from atheists on social media.

Small aside relating to this; I am perplexed at how unhappy those that criticize the Answers In Genesis outreach are. My personal belief is that  AIG is a great ministry that adds credence to faith. In this review, I will try to put aside any bias and review the The Ark Encounter objectively.

Once you've seen it, you have to admit that it's a site to see. If you are a believer, it's some of your favorite childhood Bible passages come to life - no longer a cartoon drawing, a silly song, or playset. As an adult, we, in modern times have had the chance to see depictions in film and on TV, but truly, this iteration is inspired. But, even as a non-believer, you must give Answers In Genesis at least some credit for the building, the beautiful grounds keeping & landscaping, and even the presentation of materials and experience. The entire area is maintained with cleanliness and order. It's truly beautiful.

As a believer in the unerring words of the Bible, it was an inspiration of my faith to visit The Ark Encounter. The thing that critics seem to be missing is - well - faith - which is what the Bible passages about Noah are about - longstanding faith in God. If you lack faith in the message of the Bible - which is salvation - then you will likely miss the full experience of visiting.

By Answers In Genesis estimates, upwards of 2.2 million guests have visited since the opening of The Ark Encounter - more this year than its opening year. On average, the park receives 5000-7500 visitors per day. When I went, on July 4 (The US Independence Day  Holiday), I would estimate there was somewhere in the mid-range of that daily attendance figure. My mother-in-law, who was making her second trip with our family states that when she visited the previous fall - it was shoulder to shoulder all day and that 7500 may be a low estimate of the people that were there.

When you read about The Ark Encounter on social media, or see youtube videos with atheists visiting to poke fun - you have to take into perspective several things.

1) The park was designed to accommodate large church groups visiting. Parking, line cues, and ticketing are all designed to move large groups through efficiently. These areas seem blank or unused on average days.

2) The estimates for park attendance by atheist websites and by critical commentary don't consider any factual information. At current levels - a fair estimation of attendance is 1.2-1.5 million visitors per year.

The surrounding area doesn't have near the capacity for the amount of visitors coming through the park, thus, limiting to a small degree, attendance. Nearby Cincinnati (40 miles) is not a cheap area to stay. Nearby Lexington, Kentucky also isn't on the economical end to stay. Not considering my discounts achieved - the 10 members of my family spent $1000.00 on two nights hotel stay at the Cincinnati Airport area in a Hampton Inn. Outside the park, we spent an additional $600.00 on meals (The Hebron Grille is a must try). During the trip, we visited a local Walmart and spent $130.00. Between the 10 members of our family, we spent greater than $400.00 in the gift shop of  The Ark Encounter. In 48 hours, I think it would be fair to say, our family, considering all expenses, had greater than a $2500.00 economic impact on the Kentucky tourism business.

3) As evidenced above, the economic impact of The Ark Encounter cannot be understated. If my estimations are clear, on property revenue is close to $100.00 per person - with some being much higher and some being about a minimum of $70.00 per person spent at the park in one day. All 10 members of our family ate at The Ark Encounter restaurant called Emzara's Kitchen (which was arguably one of the best buffets I've ever had the pleasure of eating at). Extrapolation of these numbers would indicate the The Ark Encounter has pulled in well over $200 million in revenue. With cost estimates at $100 million to build, and most businesses losing money their first 5 years, I'd say the experience is doing quite well.

Getting to see the Museum Of The Bible exhibit was a definite bonus and gave my family extra inspiration to travel to Washington DC next summer to see it.

Some cons of my experience:

- This isn't a completely inexpensive thing to do. Worth it? I'd say, "yes". And I'd even contend that it's a better alternative to the tourist traps of beaches or other theme parks.

- I was a bit disheartened by the exhibit containing a criticism of children's books and toys based on the story of Noah. The point of the exhibit was to say that teaching children in this manner was making the story of Noah into a fairy tale. I think this part of the exhibit is misguided and shouldn't have passed board approval. There's a very high likelihood that those creators and authors were Christian and worked hard to bring their creations to younger audiences to expose them to biblical teachings in a relatable way. I think you could even argue that revenue received by the creators of Children's material has been tithed to churches and other ministries.

- I was not that pleased with the parking fees. Non English speaking visitors seemed confused and remembering to get "an exit ticket" was cumbersome and annoying. I've since learned that parking fees were added mostly to pay bills associated with Freedom From Religion Foundation litigation and associated greed from the local town of Williamstown.

Whether you are a believer or not, no picture or vivid description from a friend or family member, and no article or brochure you read can put the size - outside or inside - into perspective. Even without the story being real to you, it's inspiring just to see the outside. I highly recommend a visit.

For another review, please read:

* My social media posts have inspired several of my friends to visit with their families, including the photograher of the photos included. All of my photos included family so I reached out to friend and photographer Marie Barton to share hers.

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