The Ark Encounter in Kentucky is a Bible-based museum inside a full-sized reproduction ark. Associated with Answers in Genesis, this experience is based around Noah building the Ark as per the specifics in the Book of Genesis. With three floors of museum, it’s a beautiful, state-of-the-art museum full of science and learning opportunities as the realities of living on the ark come to life. This is a trip you will continue thinking about for a long time afterward.
With three floors of the Ark to explore, there is a lot to take in here. On a crowded day, you may have to wait outside to enter – think a pathway separated by metal railings like at an amusement park.
The entrance to the Ark on the first floor is designed to show you how the Ark might have been set up with animal cages and food and water supplies. As each kind of animal is stored, you learn about modern day animals as well as some extinct including dinosaurs. There are cages on exhibit as well as showing how food and water would have been stored and distributed.
The second and third floors are devoted to the living on the ark, the Flood, Evolution, and lots of science. If you have already visited the Creation Museum, some of this will be repeat. There is also a small Bible museum on exhibit from the Museum of the Bible which adds in lots of history with actual centuries old manuscripts of the Bible to look at.
Check the online schedule or reference the paper version you get upon admission to learn about the different in-person lectures as offered in the very large auditorium. Some shows are only offered one time a day, so plan your visit around these as a highlight. If you have multiple days to choose from, look at this calendar ahead of time to see if one day appeals to you more than another. I love showing the kids in-person learning that doesn’t require the reading; bonus that we get to learn from someone who is passionate about the topic.
As the founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham’s in-person presentation was excellent and worth seeing. Despite being an hour and a half long, it is varied and keeps everyone entertained and interested in the subjects. Additionally, we loved the animal comparisons with live animals as we were talked through what animal “kinds” truly means. They were even allowed to get up close to the animals after the show.
There are also videos shown on the big screen explaining the building of ark and other subjects as varies per day. There is a snack bar and snacks are welcome in the building; this is a great time for an afternoon snack. The bookstore in the building has all kinds of material as published by Answers in Genesis and recommended.
Ararat Ridge zoo
The outside zoo is a great way to get those little bodies moving again. Interact with kangaroos, pet the goats, and walk through the many different animal exhibits. While this is near the exit to the Ark, you could also hit it first thing upon arrival if the line for the Ark is long. For an additional fee, you can also ride the camels.
For extra wiggly kids, there is an impressive playground between the ark and the lecture hall which could entertain for hours.
Northern Kentucky, approximately 45 minutes south of Cincinnati, Ohio
Monday-Friday 10 AM to 6 PM; Saturday 9 AM to 6 PM; Sunday 1 PM to 6 PM
Check online if you are visiting over holiday for the extended hours
⏳How Much Time Do I Need?
Plan for an all day experience. If you have smaller kids and know you won’t make it all the way through, I suggest you come after lunch for fewer crowds.
$10 parking in their large parking lot. There is a portion for oversized vehicles and RVs.
You will line up at the ticket building in the parking lot for a short five minute drive in a bus to the Ark complex.
General Admission Ticket
2021 ticket prices online are Adults $49.95, Youth (11-17) $24.95; kids under 10 are currently free in 2021 but you still have to get them an online ticket, usually $14.95
Look for a combo ticket with the Ark Encounter to save a bit of money
The tickets are not for a specific day and can be used up to a year after purchase.
While you can purchase tickets online and show them digtally, the line for buying tickets was actually shorter. This might save time on a very busy day.
Included in the Ticket
- Entrance to the Ark
- Guest speakers, presentations, and video viewing
Not Included in the Ticket
There are plenty of extra opportunities to spend extra money; prepare yourself. This is not a non-profit experience. While the prices for food and extras weren’t as high as you would find at Disney World, extra events and opportunities to spend money will be advertised in the lectures and everywhere. The fast food seemed reasonably priced but the buffet is quite expensive; I’ve been told Emzara’s is worth the cost though!
Additional experiences: fossil find, zip lines, snacks, meals, fudge shop, coffee shop, ice cream… And then there’s the bookshop conveniently located right at the end of the ark, so you have to pass through it to exit. The virtual reality experience is a separate cost as well.
There are many food opportunities around the ark. A full buffet is available in the Emzara Restaurant in a huge separate building to the side of the ark. For smaller choices, there are hamburger and snack stands as well as a fudge counter in the Ark store.
Because of the bus ride and amount of time it would take to get back to your car, I do suggest that you eat at the Ark Encounter instead of planning to leave or go get your picnic. It is doable with your bracelets to get back to your car, but this trip would eat up quite a bit of your day – especially on a very busy day with long lines.
While the museum site states no outside food, our bags were not checked, and you could easily bring in a granola bar for a mid-afternoon snack to tide over a kid; I saw some doing this. We took in refillable water bottles in our bags without difficulty.
- Check the schedule online to have an overview of scheduled videos, speakers, and events – mark these and plan around these. Plan to be at the theater at least 15 minutes ahead of time; more if you want to go to an animal experience.
- Get to the parking lot at opening after a big sit down breakfast.
- Be flexible with your plan for the day depending on the crowd. There is plenty of other stuff to do if 1,000 people are headed straight to the ark first thing.
- Plan to have an ice cream snack or hot dog at lunch time; we pushed through lunch to go have a big meal in Cinicinnati.
- When the kids are done, accept that they’re done. There’s only so much reading and learning a brain can do.
- Plan to stay at least 4 hours.
- Although some do it, I think combining this with the Creation Museum in one day is too much. It’s too expensive to not get the most out of both places.
- Be reasonable! You won’t be able to read everything. Your kids will give out. Go when they’re done. You’re just making everyone (including yourself) miserable. Been there; done that.
- Plan to go to the Creation Museum before the Ark if you can – but it isn’t essential. While much of the information is repeated in both, there is a lot of new information. I feel our Ark Encounter was faster because we had already familiarized ourselves with their theories and information.
- If visiting in the winter after Thanksgiving, the hours are extended in the evening allowing more time to explore the videos and bookstore. The holiday lights are the focus as the garden is lit up and offers a live nativity, activities, and extra snacks.
- Make the lectures a priority of your time. While the videos may be offered several times a day, the lectures are not. Don’t miss these.
- There are ramps leading up to each of the different floors so strollers or wheelchairs shouldn’t be an issue. The incline is very mild – benefit of giant boat.
- There is a lot of walking. The parking lot is huge, the ark is huge, and the park is huge. Don’t plan to run quickly over to the lecture and then go back on the Ark. Plan to stay on the Ark when there.
- This is a fully Christian-based experience completely based on a six-day creation plan. Please don’t use that as a discouragement to go. Even if your creation beliefs don’t align perfectly with this museum, there still is so much for you to take in – just attend with an open mind. Not to mention, seeing what others believe will only stand to strengthen your own beliefs as your see other viewpoints. If nothing else, walking through and seeing the scope of the Ark is person is so impressive.
- The creators of this museum, Answers in Genesis, is a Christian company with the goal to preach Christ. Part of the exhibits and presentation are “preachy” and may not line up with your religious beliefs.
- The Ark has a lot of walking. Depending on the day’s crowd, it may be a hike to the ticket station in the parking lot or a long wait to get on the bus. The Ark Encounter itself is a huge area and very spread out. If you can’t walk far or have difficulty standing for periods reading or waiting in line, you might need to consider how you will handle this. Wheelchairs, both manual and electric, are available for rental through the Creation Museum.
- Apart from inside the ark itself, there is so much space here that it feels very spread out. With that in mind, I would suggest a meeting place on the grounds incase you get split up. With kids potentially running off in the Ark to dart to the other side of an area, you could easily misplace a kid inside. This might be a good day for matching T-shirts.
- Even though we visited at the end of 2021 during Covid season, there were no precautions to be seen. No masking, no distancing, and no visitor limiting. Bring your mask but be prepared to be the only one.
- This Ark experience uses a fictionalized account of Noah and his family to tell the story and hypothesize about their life including naming the family members. While addressed briefly at the beginning, I strongly encourage you to have a debriefing with your kids after the trip to discuss which facts are Biblical and which are “creative license”. I hate to think the kids go to church and talk about Emzara, Noah’s wife, or how Noah lived with his inlaws for his ship-building training.
- Look at the entrance for detailed, full-colored workbook for kids to complete during their visit based on their age. These are only $2; it is also available online to print ahead of time if you want. Honestly, we were so overwhelmed by the information that reading extra and filling out worksheets was undoable. I do plan on working through them at home using the book of signs that we got at the bookstore. This is also available to download through the website if you want to prepare ahead of time.
- This is an excellent educational experience for Bible, science, and history. Terms like evolution, natural selection, and Darwinian are everywhere and will challenge or strengthen your beliefs. Biblical and ancient history are juxtaposed allowing for a review of both with archeological findings. Prepare to have plenty to discuss at home!
- The bookstore. You’ve been warned. The bookstore here and at the Creation Museum have much of the same books, so feel free to go home and think about your purchases. They are also available through the webiste if you change your mind later.
Check out the affiliated Creation Museum. If you are very pressed for time, you could feasibly see both in one day with a thirty minute drive. However, you would miss out on a lot of both experiences.
Staying in nearby Cincinnati would provide the opportunity to explore this city and visit the Cincinatti Zoo‘s most famous resident, Fiona the Hippo. I wish we had time to see the museum or the National Underground Railroard Museum. I’m saving that for our next trip.
If you have time for a day of exploring, drive an hour east of the museum to the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway is a circle with multiple stops to hike to natural arches. It’s a full day trip to break up the museum leaning.