Having just returned from visiting the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, friends have been asking me what it’s like. First, let me praise God that such a monument to His glory can even exist in these last days. The Ark is a spectacle, a large-as-life model and exhibition to illustrate the ark of Noah’s day.
Whether for aesthetics or due to the lay of the land, visitor parking is some distance from the ark. We purchased our tickets at the parking area and boarded a bus for a five-minute ride winding through the hills to the exhibition grounds. The picture shows Peggy and me with grandson Dylan with the ark in the background, but doesn’t offer a true appreciation of the ark’s size. It towers overhead when you approach the visitor entry underneath the ark’s keel.
Once inside, the first impression is that the venue anticipates (and gets) large crowds of visitors. You’re greeted by a labyrinth of crowd-control aisles and gates which we fortunately breezed through by arriving mid-week and a little after the morning rush. Then begins the long, wide ramp climbing upward through the center of the ark to the three levels of exhibits that re-create life in the ark and explanations of its operation.
I won’t spoils things by relating all the content in detail, but rather give you an overall impression. Ark Encounter can be appreciated for the awesome spectacle of the structure itself. Think of it like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. You can simply stand at the base of the arch (arch, not ark) and marvel at the size and design of it, but then there is a museum inside. Similarly, visitors to the Ark Encounter can just admire the size and beauty of this model of Noah’s Ark, but then there is a different kind of appreciation of the exhibits inside.
In a word, the exhibits inside the ark are kind of “nerdy”, and I mean that as a compliment. Many people have never considered the details of the ark story, or if they have thought about it superficially, they dismiss the ark as fantasy. The ark exhibits do the math. How many animals needed to be saved? Was there enough space? How was the ark lit and ventilated? How did they dispose of waste? We often overheard conversations that began, “I never thought about that.” Exhibits about the ark allow lots of opportunity to share Scripture and salvation along with scientific evidences for confidence in the Bible’s history.
After touring the ark, we had lunch at the restaurant in an adjacent building. It was like a restaurant/fast-food hybrid with everyone given a menu, but then walking to a counter to order. It was very efficient. Meals showed up as quickly as ordered and were reasonably priced. From there, we walked to the nearby zoo (more about that later).
I’ll offer these criticisms so as not to distort your expectations as you think about visiting Ark Encounter. It’s not quite finished. The zoo grounds are still under construction and there are few animals, but we could see from the construction that large habitat enclosures are being prepared. For the time being, it’s a peaceful walking area with camel rides for the kids. Back to the ark, the interior is huge and there are still lots of corners just crying for another exhibit. I’d especially like to see more displays that are interactive or just plain fun.
However, none of these criticisms detract from the quality or importance of the place. Visit Ark Encounter now, and then visit again in a couple of years so you can see how it matures.