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This month we had the opportunity to visit the life-size Noah’s Ark at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky as part of a family reunion. My Uncle Steve and Aunt Sue graciously financed the trip and lodging/food for all of us, and it was an incredible blessing to be able to reconnect with family at such a meaningful location. I’m sharing a few suggestions and tips from our experience in hopes that it will help you if you’re planning to visit!
Lodging Near The Ark
Since its opening in 2016, the Ark Encounter has become quite the popular attraction and the local hotels have jacked up their prices accordingly, making it difficult to find a hotel for under $100 per night in Williamstown. For that reason, I’d recommend booking something in nearby Dry Ridge where we stayed, which is about 15-20 minutes away from the Ark. There are plenty of affordable Airbnb options like this farm stay or this one in a B&B. Use my link for $40 off your first booking. Everything is so green and I know you will enjoy the beautiful rolling hills of Kentucky as much as we did.
Plan For An Early Arrival
We visited the Ark in July when Kentucky was experiencing a heat wave, so we arrived right when it opened at 9:00 AM. I would recommend getting there early no matter what time of year you visit, as the crowds were already flooding in, even going first thing in the morning. If you’re wanting to visit the petting zoo or participate in any of the other activities outdoors, I’d recommend going during the cooler months of the year. I would allow for at least 4-5 hours if you’re planning to eat there and explore the outdoor areas as well.
Carpool if you can, since parking is $10 per car. Once you arrive, you will park in a large lot and then hop on a provided shuttle which will drop you off by the Ark. Our family reunion was quite large, so we took up our own shuttle!
Before you pick a date, you may want to check out their discounted days page. As you can see from the above prices, you have several options. We only had time for the Ark, but some of my family also went to visit the Creation Museum (about 45 minutes away). When you purchase your tickets, you will also pay for parking at that time. They will provide you with a parking ticket that you will need to scan as you leave the parking lot, so don’t lose it!
There will be a good deal of walking to see the whole Ark, so wear comfortable shoes! It’s important to note that the Ark Encounter is fully ADA compliant (including their shuttles). They offer electric scooter, wheelchair, and stroller rentals as you can see above. The restrooms inside the Ark also have available rooms for nursing mothers.
Entering the Ark
Be sure to capture some pictures at the entrance area, as that will offer one of the best views of the entire Ark. There are some birds to enjoy along the way and several neat animal creations like the elephants above. Also, check out the time-lapse video they have of the Ark’s construction before you head in. It took less than two years to build this one which seems like nothing compared to the actual Ark from the Bible taking somewhere between 55-75 years for Noah to construct!
Be prepared for loud thunder and rain noises as you enter. This may startle you if you’re not expecting it, but it definitely sets the mood for all that you are about to experience inside. You will start on Deck 1 and work your way up to Deck 3.
We really enjoyed seeing all the replicas of current and now-extinct animals that were on display throughout the decks. Also, seeing how the creators of this Ark believe they would have stored food, supplies, water and made allowance for eliminating all the animal waste was thought-provoking. Much of this was an “educated guess” type of thing since the Bible does not explicitly give all the details, but it’s all interesting to consider just how much Noah and his family had to plan for in this endeavor. You will learn so much through the exhibits in the Ark, including information about building materials, climate change, languages and, food storage. Along the way, there are special sections that cater to children as well, to help keep them engaged.
Decks 2 and 3 have short movies (20-30 minutes each) that you can stop and watch in the provided seating area. We watched the first one, The Noah Interview, and it was unexpectedly funny!
I initially had a silly idea that the whole Ark would be filled with live animals as in the Bible but found out through my Mom that was not the case. It made sense when I thought about how inhumane and impractical that would be. Animal lovers, don’t despair, on Deck 3 there are a few live animals in an open but fenced area. I think they rotate the animals that are up there, but when we were walking through, they had adorable alpacas you could feed (and get a kiss from) and a baby kangaroo. We heard from our family members that there were also armadillos earlier that day.
After we finished exploring the interior of the Ark, we exited through the expansive gift shop on the lower level. As you can see, a lot of options for you to take home as a souvenir or to buy for others. I was particularly drawn to the Amish refreshments from Uncle Leroy’s Candy Kitchen.
There are several outdoor dining areas outside the Ark as well the Emzara’s Buffet, where we had lunch. There was a salad bar, bread, hot entrees, and a dessert bar. It was delicious! The upstairs area had large tables where all of our family was able to eat in the same area.
After lunch, we headed outside to check out Ararat Zoo. It was quite hot as I mentioned earlier, so we didn’t stay long, but we did enjoy seeing the animals in this area – zebras, ostriches, bison, goats and donkeys. They offer camel and donkey rides for an additional fee.
Inclusive Playground & Zip Line
On our way out, we were impressed to see the new playground designed to accommodate children of all abilities. It even had a mini zip line type thing that children could sit on If you bring children, this playground is sure to be a hit! We didn’t try the zip line, but it would definitely be a neat ride to get an aerial view of the Ark and surrounding areas.
Things To Do Near The Ark
- Creation Museum – we didn’t get a chance to go, but my other family members said it was definitely worth visiting.
- Cincinnati, Ohio – about 45 minutes away and has plenty of things to see and do, along with the famous Skyline Chili. If you are flying, this airport will likely be the cheapest and closest for you to fly into.
- Lexington, Kentucky – this is a charming town about an hour from Williamstown. Famous for its horses and for the University of Kentucky. We stopped here for dinner and enjoyed seeing all the murals around the city.
- Louisville, Kentucky – so much to see and do here, including Churchhill Downs and the Louisville Slugger Museum. We opted to go see the giant forest trolls at Bernheim Forest which was definitely worth a stop!
- Bardstown, Kentucky – this was an impromptu stop for dinner on our way home, but driving through this city’s outskirts was one of the most beautiful countrysides I’ve ever seen. If you can, go around sunset and enjoy seeing all the horses, rolling hills, and white picket fences.
Overall, we had a wonderful time at the Ark Encounter and definitely recommend this to anyone who might be considering a visit. It’s an educational experience for children and adults alike, but also so much more than that, as it brings the Bible and Noah’s story to life. This reminds us of God’s ultimate sacrifice of sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us and pay the price for our sins.
Before you go, you might enjoy:
Thanks so much for reading!
I was provided with 2 complimentary media passes to the Ark. All opinions expressed are my own.