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plan a trip to the ark encounter :: 7 {mom perspective} tips

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We live in California, but we visit family in Michigan during the summer. Since we were about 6 hours away, we decided to take a side trip down to Kentucky to see the Ark Encounter. I did some research and bugged a few friends that have already been to the Ark. I figured out our trip with the info I gathered. I often approach a trip like this with a few questions. I’m an obsessive planner as well. It’s a blessing and a curse. This post should help you plan your trip to see the Ark Encounter with a young family.

Visit the Ark Encounter

What is the Ark Encounter?

There is a life-size replica of the Noah’s Ark built in Williamstown, Kentucky. There are exhibits on each of the 3 floors, thunder is crashing at times, and an astonishing amount of thought, time, and research went into the Ark Encounter. It’s a museum that tells the story of Noah building the Ark and why God sent the flood waters to destroy the earth. There is an amazing dynamic of history, science, and the Bible intertwined into the whole experience. Artwork, craftsmanship, and creativity is all through the Ark Encounter. We were in awe as we learned about all of the details that went into building the Ark, collecting food, caring for the animals, etc. All done without machines, electricity, or computers. Noah was a brilliant man and God used his talents and his family in great ways.

God brought Noah through the catastrophic storm, showing his mercy and grace during the judgement. Noah was faithful in his generation to honor the Creator and do as He commanded. We are all descendants of Noah and should follow his example. Our storm of judgement is coming, and the Lord has offered mercy and grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. Honor the God of heaven and earth. Follow Him and live forever.

ramadaWhere to Stay?

We wanted to stay at the Comfort Inn which is closer to the Ark, but it was out of our budget for our trip dates. We HIGHLY recommend the Ramada Sparta/At Speedway. We had the pool to ourselves, our nightly rate was around $99, the FREE breakfast was amazing (make your own waffles, bagels, toast, English muffins, cereal, fruit, oatmeal, coffee, juice, etc.). The only slight negative was the distance to the Ark was still roughly 38 minutes. We had to get up and on the road by 8 a.m. It was worth the little drive in the morning for a comfortable and affordable hotel.

How long do you need at the Ark Encounter?

I read some blogs before we went and the times varied from 3-6 hours. We arrived around opening time and we left at 2:30 p.m. We thoroughly enjoyed each exhibit and watched every movie, but we kept a decent pace. You will take a 1-mile shuttle ride from the parking lot ($10 for parking-shuttle is free), so pack what you may want for the day and bring it with you. I read a tip to arrive about 15 minutes before they open to avoid the crowds and that was a helpful hint. The Ark is well equipped for a big crowd, but it’s better to beat the rush.

What food options are available?

Of course my kids got hungry by the 2nd deck of the Ark. However, there were snack stations along the way. Kind of like an airport kiosk. In hindsight, I should have brought some snacks to get them through until lunch. They have a FABULOUS buffet. I felt it was reasonably priced (4 and under were free plus they had a senior discount). There was also an option to order pizza at a little place on the property as well. Just like the animals on the Ark, we didn’t go hungry. There were also options around the property to grab ice cold lemonade, they had souvenir cups, fudge in the gift shop and much more.

food options

We did the buffet lunch. It is super organized, but we didn’t realize how to navigate it until after we waited in line. I’m glad you are reading this post so I can explain the buffet line. After you pay, there are 6 buffet stations all in a row. Every station is exactly the same. Don’t wait for #1, just jump in line at any of the starting points labeled 1-6. Then you will find fried chicken, mini burgers, mac-n-cheese, veggies, fries, etc. After we loaded up our plates we found quieter seating upstairs. Another tip: get your drinks last. There are POP or SODA machines (whatever you call them) 🙂 upstairs too. They are around the corner and we missed them. So we were silly and walked up and down stairs a few extra times. You will for sure make a few trips to the buffet for salad, fruit, and dessert. We were so stuffed. The kids thought the buffet concept was the BEST EVER!

What ages will enjoy the Ark?

There is a lot of reading within each exhibit so I found myself summarizing a lot of it for my 4 year old. I was his personal audio tour. The older kids (9 and 7) were able to stop and read what interested them as we went. I recommend the films that play on 2 of the levels. They were easy to coordinate with our meandering around the ark levels. They had upcoming start times counting down. If we were too early for a film we  would go ahead to a few exhibits and then circle back for the movie. That allowed us to skip ahead after the movie and avoid the movie crowd exiting into the same exhibits. There were many strollers being pushed around (and motorized scooters dominated the place too), very handicap friendly. I would say 4 is the minimum age to bring your kids if you want them to walk away having learned something (4 and under are free). Don’t forget to invite grandparents (senior pricing available)! There is no maximum age on this trip. My parents joined us and they loved it as well.

invite the Grandparents

Are there bathrooms, changing tables, and nursing stations?

I was keeping my eyes open for all the mamas with younger children. There were bathrooms when we got off the bus, bathrooms on each level of the Ark, and more restrooms in the restaurant. If you have a potty training toddler, do not fear access to a bathroom. They are clean, easy to find, and they include changing stations in the handicap stalls as well as in the nursing stations located within the woman’s restrooms. There were also family bathrooms.

Family Friendly

How to prepare for weather?

We were there on a steamy, hot summer day. The Ark is air conditioned and we were cold at some points. A light sweater might be desired. However, there is a petting zoo, zip lines, and animal rides that were outside and we were melting we were so hot. I didn’t find there to be enough water fountains outside, but we did buy water at a snack shack. If you are there on a rainy day, there would be a need for an umbrella to get to the restaurant and for any outdoor attractions. We  enjoyed the {FREE} Ararat Ridge Zoo even though it was hotter than a jungle the day we visited. Annabelle had her heart set on riding a donkey. We paid a tiny bit extra for her to ride Chloe the Donkey. They also had camel rides.

Animal Rides

Can you see the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter in the same day?

I could not find the answer to this question and we were toying with heading to the Creation Museum after the Ark. However, by the time we were back on the bus and headed to the parking lot around 2:30 p.m. we were toured out. There are combo ticket options, but I would have to assume it would be best to visit the Creation Museum the following day. It’s 45 minutes away and I’ve heard it includes a full day of attractions.

Did you make it to the end of this post? If you are planning a trip, I hope you find our observations from our visit helpful. We walked away in awe. It was a beautiful  and well-spent day as a family. If you live 6 hours or closer, you can easily stay one night, spend your day at the Ark, and be home by 9 p.m.

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HERE is a video of our entire day at the Ark. 5 hours condensed into about 6 minutes.

Disclosure: I was provided 2 free admission tickets to facilitate my post. All opinions are mine.
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  • Sue O
    August 2, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    This looks like a fabulous family trip! Thanks for sharing.

  • Miranda
    July 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Just a note, it’s ages 4 and under are free (they word it UNDER 5 which may cause confusion). Your post says 5 and under are free but once kids are 5, they need a ticket.

    • Ginny
      July 28, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks for the clarification! I’ll update the post.