The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are excellent family attractions in Northern Kentucky. The Ark Encounter is a life-size recreation of the Ark that is located halfway between Cincinnati and Lexington. This attraction is a sight to behold for both young and old. It brings to life the enormity of Noah’s faith and the task God placed in front of him. The Creation Museum walks visitors through the Bible with state-of-the-art displays that even the littlest ones will find interesting.
Full Disclosure: I received free admission to both exhibits in exchange for my honest review. All opinions, as always, are my own.
With David learning about the Ark in preschool and my niece on spring break from 2nd grade, we decided it would be the perfect time to journey to Kentucky to explore the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. My sister and I planned the trip for our crew of littles ages 2, 5 and 8.
At the Ark Encounter, you park your car near the entrance and purchase tickets from the ticket booth. Then you hop on a bus that takes you further onto the property where the Ark Encounter is located. Buses came quickly to pick us up.
Bus ride to the Ark Encounter
We arrived at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky just as the littles were itching to eat lunch and stretch their legs. We intended our first stop to be at Emzara’s Kitchen, but the kids quickly forgot that idea when they saw the enormity of the Ark. They wanted to head inside and explore right away. We had to assure them that it would be much more enjoyable on a full stomach and everything would still be waiting for us when we finished lunch. I was more than happy to discover the efficiency of Emzara’s Restaurant. Built to handle large crowds, this all-you-can-eat buffet gets families in with little to no wait. Just walk right through the door, pay and hit the buffet. We were all wowed by the lifelike animals lining the outer limits of the dining area. After close inspection, my sister and I decided they must be real animals that were stuffed. Later on the Ark, we found out they were the work of incredible artists that sometimes added animal hair or fur one strand at a time.
The buffet consisted of mainly homestyle food like roast beef, broasted chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese and more. There was a significant salad bar with traditional salad makings along with less conventional favorites like kale salad and greek pasta salad. Drink options included a variety of fountain sodas, juice, milk, coffee and tea. For dessert, guests can make their ice cream sundae at a sundae bar or choose from a variety of desserts like delicious orange cake, carrot cake, cookies, brownies and more. There were enough choices to satisfy everyone’s particular palate and eating preferences.
When everyone had their fill, it was time to explore the Ark. It didn’t seem to be packed with tourists when we were there, but it’s hard to tell how many visitors were there. With the enormous size of the Ark and the extensive grounds to explore, visitors had plenty of room to spread out. It would take tremendous crowds here to create long lines and wait times.
As you climb the first ramps to make it up to the entrance, the smell of wood, animals, and straw fill your nose. You start to wonder if the Ark is full of real animals. When you cross the threshold and enter the central part of the Ark, it sounds like it’s raining outside. There are animals noises everywhere and you feel like you’ve instantly boarded Noah’s actual Ark during the time of the floods.
The lower level is filled with cages meant for smaller animals. You see systems for feeding and watering all the animals and begin to get a sense of how Noah’s family could have cared for this number of creatures. There are displays of life-like moving mannequins that help to tell the story of Noah and his family. The boys were taken with these displays and didn’t want to stop watching and listening to the story. There are a lot of areas on the Ark where you can learn more through reading the displays. This is perfect for the older child, teen or adult who are interested in learning more about the details. The experience isn’t lacking for little ones though. This is one of few full-immersion historical and biblical experiences that can bring to life a story like nothing else for all ages.
In the upper levels, you learn about the different types of animals that were on the Ark to have created the animals we have today. You can also learn more about the world before the flood and why God sent it to the Earth. There are videos and theatres throughout that further explain the Bible or how the Ark and displays were created.
In one area, there were live animals which were fun for the kids to see. A baby kangaroo, calf, and pony were on display when we were there.
Live animals inside the Ark.
It took us a couple of hours to explore the Ark. This was because the kids were only old enough to look and listen to some of the displays. Teens and adults could spend much more time at each exhibit. We helped the kids prepare for the trip by reading lots of picture books about Noah’s Ark. Check out the list of Noah’s Ark Picture Books here.
After exploring all of the exhibits on the Ark, we headed outside to the petting zoo. The kids had a great time checking out the animals and loved the goats. You could also ride a camel which all of the kids wanted to do. The boys would have had to ride with an adult, so we decided to wait until they’re a little older instead. Zip lining is also available at the Ark Encounter and would give incredible views of the Ark.
William fell in love with the goat named Abraham and didn’t want to leave him. All the kids were thrilled to get up close to the goats.
Ark Encounter Petting Zoo
The Ark Encounter was all we could fit into one day. Taking a day for the Ark and another day for the Creation Museum is recommended on the website. We agreed! It would be too much to try and do both in one day.
Ark Encounter Petting Zoo
We stayed in a hotel in Cincinnati. It was a little farther than I thought it would be. For our next visit, I would opt for one closer to the Ark or the Creation Museum.
Ark Encounter Petting Zoo
The second day of our trip we headed to the Creation Museum. This museum is located in Petersburg, Kentucky about 7 miles from the Cincinnati Airport. The website suggests arriving before 9 am to avoid the rush. They explain that they’ve had record attendance rates. This proved to be true on the day we arrived. We showed up at 9:30 and it was packed. The Creation Museum was built before the Ark Encounter and doesn’t have the same massive capacity as the Ark Encounter. Although you’ll see large crowds in the middle of the day, it’s still worth the effort.
The Creation Museum is a state-of-the-art museum for any field. The life-like displays, architectural features and diverse range of topics are done in such a way that few historical museums or museums of natural history compare. The smallest visitors are enthralled with immersive features like the garden of Eden you can walk through. Older visitors can deepen their understanding of Biblical stories and references.
When walking through the museum, there are places that bottleneck, only allowing a single file line through. With record numbers in attendance, this leads to some waiting to get to the next exhibit. It’s clear that these record numbers weren’t anticipated when the museum was first built but is a natural consequence of being a sister attraction to the large Ark Encounter.
Many of the displays centered on scientific themes like insects, dinosaurs, and fossils which the boys were thrilled about. Overall, there was a nice combination of Bible stories and science and nature.
Near the end of our museum tour, we stopped for a snack at the food court. There were a variety of options at different snack bars for all tastes. A full lunch or a light snack could be enjoyed.
After our fill of museum exhibits, snacks and gift shop purchases, we ventured outside and into the gardens. The beautiful gardens have many paved and stone paths with different types of bridges. The kids loved the suspension bridge the most and we all enjoyed the early spring flowers and blooms.
Walking paths outside the Creation Museum.
At the Creation Museum, you could also zip line, ride camels, feed the animals and explore the petting zoo. The kids enjoyed petting and brushing the goats and feeding donkeys. They also loved checking out the Komodo Dragons a staff member had out for children to meet.
Creation Museum Petting Zoo
The petting zoo was our last stop before heading out for lunch and a nap. On our next visit, I would plan on going later in the afternoon around 2. At this time, crowds are supposed to lessen. Each of us enjoyed the museum experience and learned many things from the exhibits. Taking the kids again when they are older and can dive deeper into the Biblical meaning behind the exhibits is a goal for the future.
Follow the links below for more information on the attractions.