Through Dec. 30, the full-size Noah's Ark attraction will feature a multi-colored light display and ice skating next to the ark. Admission is free for Christmas at the Ark, but if you want to tour the 510-foot long, 85-foot wide ark designed according to specifications outlined in the book of Genesis, admission prices apply.
Even the goats at the on-site petting zoo will be decked out in holiday sweaters through the end of the year.
On select dates, you can take a zip-line tour for aerial views of the glowing grounds.
We visited the Ark Encounter last summer.
Unfortunately, like many theme parks, despite expansive asphalt parking lots, the Ark Encounter charges for parking.
Admission includes a bus ride to the ark from the ticket office.
No matter your religious beliefs, the Ark Encounter is a fascinating place to visit. The structure towers seven stories above the landscape and is reportedly the largest timber-frame structure in the world.
More than 3.3 million board feet were used to construct the ark, not including the interior exhibits. Laid end-to-end, the boards would stretch 612 miles.
Founder Ken Ham, an Australian-born Christian fundamentalist, built the ark at a cost of more than $100 million and opened it in 2016.
“The reason we are building the ark is not as an entertainment center,” Ham said in an interview shortly before the ark opened. “I mean it's not like a Disney or Universal, just for anyone to go and have fun. It's a religious purpose. It's because we're Christian and we want to get the Christian message out.”
The structure consists of three levels of educational displays. Visitors enter at the bottom level, where animal replicas are displayed in hundreds of crates and cages, representing the Genesis story where Noah built the ark and brought two of every animal species on board.
The exhibits attempt to explain how Noah would have fed and taken care of the animals throughout the ark's journey.
Other exhibits show how Noah and his family lived and worked on the ark. Many displays attempt to authenticate the Biblical story.
The kiddos will enjoy the on-site zoo, which includes an area where children can pet and brush animals such as goats and sheep.
Animal handlers also periodically walk the grounds with animals so kids may have the chance to pet a kangaroo, armadillo or other species.
The animals aren't the only portion of the Ark Experience that are family friendly. We were impressed with the food prices. While many amusement parks attempt to gouge customers – not allowing them to bring food in and setting on-site food fare at sky-high prices — the Ark Experience doesn't play such games.
There's a buffet restaurant that's a little pricey, but other stands offer Italian, Mexican and barbecue options at fair prices.
Our favorite purchase, and the favorite of many other park-goers according to the number of people we saw sipping them, was a watermelon slushy served in a watermelon. It's a fun drink to try at home, too.
Pick a fairly small watermelon with a flat base. Make sure the watermelon can stand up on its own on a flat surface.
Cut off the top and stick an immersion blender into the fruit. Spin the blender all around the inside until the flesh liquefies. Add a splash of lime juice and blend well.
Top with a spring of mint, add a colorful straw and a cocktail umbrella.
It's refreshing, healthy and such a pretty treat.
You can sit at one of the many outdoor picnic tables awhile you sip your watermelon slushy in the shadow of the mighty ark.