A $100-million monument to creationism opened earlier this month in a rural part of Kentucky, and the attraction is a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark.
The ark and surrounding theme park, dubbed Ark Encounter, opened July 7 in Williamstown, Kentucky. It is meant to commemorate the work of Noah and to stand as proof that the stories in the Bible are true.
The new theme park is the brainchild of Answers in Genesis, a Christian group headed by Ken Ham. The group believes the Earth is 6,000 years old and proclaims itself an “apologetics ministry.”
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Ham’s group predicts the attraction will draw upward of 2 million visitors in its first year, which will rival other big-ticket attractions in nearby Cincinnati.
The ark is the centerpiece of the park. The ship is huge—it runs the length of nearly two football fields (510 feet), measures the height of a four-story building (51 feet), and stretches about 85 feet across. The attraction’s website indicates the ark was built to dimensions stated in the Bible story about Noah, who got an end-of-the-world warning from God about a massive flood.
Inside the structure, visitors will find several exhibits, including displays of Noah’s family and rows of cages containing animal replicas (in pairs, of course). There are details about how Noah (must have) fed, cared for, and cleaned up after the animals, as well as estimations of how many animals likely were on board (the group’s conservative number is about 7,000, in case you were wondering). The ark even boasts dioramas with small dinosaurs—the folks from Answers in Genesis believe dinosaurs existed 6,000 years ago but were wiped out in the Great Flood. (For context, scientists say dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years before humans appeared.)
The museum also offers significant biographical information about Noah; the image of Russell Crowe as the Biblical figure from the 2014 movie Noah is, unsurprisingly, absent.
The ark was funded in part by donations that came in after Ham debated Bill Nye “the Science Guy” in 2014; a video of the debate posted by Answers in Genesis on YouTube has more than 5 million views. Additional funding—more than $60 million of it—came from a local bond.
In another boost, a federal judge ruled in January that the religious project could get partial sales tax rebates worth up to an additional $18 million. As part of this decision, the court ruled that Kentucky officials could not impose requirements on the ark that were not applied to other applicants of the tax break. Critics have said this decision is a direct violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Single-day tickets to the ark cost $40 for adults, $31 for seniors, and $28 for kids 5-12. Joint admissions also are available for the Ark Encounter and the group’s Creation Museum, about 45 minutes away.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com
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