This summer we took our family on a road trip! It was our first big vacation. We started off visiting a friend in West Virginia (so fun) and finished with visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum.
Our kids loved it! It was a great experience and I wanted to share a little about our trip, some tips, and what I think the ideal age(s) are to visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.
On this trip our kids were: 7 1/2, 5 and 4 months, and 2 1/2.
Homeschooling perk – we planned our visiting for weekdays after the school year started. I highly recommend doing this if possible.
You won’t avoid crowds entirely (you’ll quickly discover both places bring in many, many tour buses) but they weren’t bad at all.
Tickets, Parking, Planetarium Shows, Schedule
Tickets aren’t exactly cheap – especially to the Ark. There aren’t any ways to get stellar deals. Just buy the combo ticket and enjoy your trip.
(Kids that are 4 and under are free!)
At the Creation Museum you have the opportunity to buy tickets to two different Planetarium shows (first costs $9 and the second will cost $5). We talked to the gentleman at the ticket counter and he recommended that we not buy tickets this trip. The material would be way over the kids’ heads. We decided to listen to his advice and it worked out well. On a trip when the kids are older we’d maybe get them.
When you purchase a ticket for The Creation Museum (individually or as a combo with the Ark Encounter) it is a two day ticket.
This is how we planned our visits:
- Day 1: Creation Museum (open to close)
- Day 2: Ark Encounter (open to close)
- Day 3: Creation Museum at opening for a few hours
We were very happy with that decision and would do it again that way. I also heard from other people that planned their visit in that order and liked it as well.
Both places were less busy after lunch. The majority of the tour buses seemed to arrive at opening and left early afternoon.
You will have to pay for parking at both parks.
$5 parking at the Creation Museum
$10 parking at the Ark Encounter
Both places have restaurants, cafes, food stands etc. The Ark Encounter has many more options. We heard the buffet at the Ark Encounter raved about by so many people. When you are feeding 5 people, costs of eating out quickly add up. So we chose to not purchase food on location.
We packed a cooler with our lunch and left it in the car. Around 12 -1 on both full days we took the bus or tram back to the car and ate a picnic lunch in the car before returning back inside.
I would recommend also packing some snack items and throwing them in your purse or diaper bag. The kids were thankful for them in the afternoons. They are also light enough that they aren’t bad to lug around all day.
There are drinking fountains near most of the bathrooms, but a water bottle is also nice to have.
Ideal Kids’ Ages
In case you were wondering when to take your kids to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, especially for someone like us who doesn’t live near Cincinnati, I recommend the following.
First Visit: I’d recommend your first visit to be when your oldest is at least 7 – probably in the 7-9 range. This trip worked out when our kids’ ages was perfect. When your oldest is old enough to read, understand, and discuss with. They are starting to think analytically. They are still young enough to be amazed and this will make a huge impression. The younger kids are still learning and in awe and you can feed them facts in bite sized chunks.
Second Visit: I’d plan a second visit when your oldest is in high school. At this age it will be a completely different experience for them than it was 10 years ago. They will understand the information on an entirely different level and will be going through the exhibits with a different perspective. If they are questioning or doubting, this would be a great way for them to grasp Creation.
I think this is a great place to take your kids to twice. Now, for the disclaimer. There is nothing wrong with going when your kids are 4, 2, and 1 (or whatever). Especially if you are doing it for your sake – because you want to learn and experience it. I just think if this is a big trip you will likely only do once (or twice) it is better to wait until your kids are slightly older. 🙂
We did lots of hunting. Both hotels and rentals. If your family needed two hotel rooms, renting a small house might be the more economical way to go. For us, a hotel room was all we needed.
Florence is a nice city in between Petersburg (Creation Museum) and Williamstown (Ark Encounter). Lots of hotels, restaurants, stores etc.
We ended up finding a hotel on Hotwire in Erlanger, KY near the Cincinnati airport: a Holiday Inn with an indoor pool. No pool and no microwave (did have the mini fridge) but we were happy with it.
Florence was where we went to the grocery store to get stuff for breakfasts, packed lunches,and suppers.
Visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum:
At the entrance to the Creation Museum
Let’s dive into the creation museum. You will purchase your tickets and receive your wristbands in the parking lot. Even your free kids 4 and under will need a wristband and ticket.
Put on your wristbands and after taking the tram or bus to the museum (so be sure you are ready to fold your stroller) you can enter without needing to do anything.
There is a nice lobby area with displays on dragons. The Planetarium is also near the entrance and a restaurant.
Inside the Creation Museum. This is where the Planetarium and 4D theater are. There is also food options.
A new 4D Theater showing the film In Six Days opened up not long before we visited. It is free and very well done. The kids loved it. You use high tech 3D glasses and the story of Creation is captivating. My older two kids loved it. They saw it both days we went to the museum. You will need to do this first thing or after you’ve gone through the museum since once you enter the exhibit area, the museum is one way. We did it right after we arrived both times.
In the new 4D theater
(If you do the shows in the Planetarium you’ll will probably want to schedule them for right after you arrive or for several hours later.)
Once you are done with the 4D show keep going down the path and you’ll enter the exhibits and traffic flow becomes one way.
Through the Garden of Eden in the Creation Museum
We went through the exhibits reading (and/or paraphrasing) the information cards to our kids. Our 7 year old read a lot of them herself. We tried to go slowly and have the kids enjoy, learn, and observe things.
Lower Level of the Creation Museum
As you go through the museum the floor actually slopes down to a lower level.
By the time we were at the lower level and the main exhibits were finished, the kids were hungry and it was time for a lunch break. (There are also food items to purchase right there.) We headed to the car for lunch.
After lunch we went to the outside petting zoo first. They were doing construction in the garden area but the zoo was still open.
We then went and started the museum exhibits at the beginning and just went through it more quickly. The kids enjoyed checking out their favorite things again.
Back at the lower level there is an Insectorium, Dino Den, and Bible Museum Exhibit. (I don’t know if the Bible Museum exhibit is permanent or temporary but it was interesting for adults to go through. The kids didn’t spend much time in there.)
In the afternoons there is a story time and Animal Encounter. Perfect for younger kids.
Check the schedule of events each day because there are also presentations and movies shown in the lecture hall throughout the day.
The Creation Museum has two book stores. One on the lower level (where the lecture hall entrance is) with not as many things but it much more spacious and then the main, extensive book store on the upper level that you will pass through as you leave the museum. There are so many resources that it can be overwhelming. The book store manager was super helpful, though. Be sure to ask with any questions.
The museum was open from 9am-6pm. We arrived in the parking lot shortly after 9 and were there until shortly after 5.
Second Day at the Museum
The day after we did the Ark Encounter we went back to the museum for a few hours. The kids wanted to watch In Six Days again, so we did that and then they were able to go through the exhibits again and revisit all their favorites.
Our Ark Encounter day was a blast. You will most likely have to drive a ways from your lodging to get there (our trip was a little over 40 minutes). The museum opens at 9, so be sure to get up and going.
The Ark is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Driving up to it was exciting.
The parking lot is quite a ways from the actual Ark. Once again, you will buy tickets, or use the tickets you already bought at the creation museum, to get your wristbands. Then you will wait in line for a big bus.
Ark Encounter Parking lot
You are dropped off closer to the Ark and go by bird cages, great places for photos where you can get the entire Ark in the shot, and numerous food options.
This place is built for crowds in peak months. The queue line is such that it can wind back and forth when it’s busy. We didn’t have to wait in any lines and simply walked up the ramp to the bottom floor of the Ark.
There are bathrooms and drinking fountains on each of the three floors.
On the all the floors you make your way around the ark. Some exhibits are on the inside and some near the exterior walls.
The second and third floors both have their own 25 minute movie looping. They are open theaters with bench seats and no enclosure on one end of the ark. My 2 1/2 year sat through them, but they were over her head. The other two enjoyed them.
You see so many animals in their cages and learn about how Noah and his family would have lived on the ark and how the whole ark thing could have worked – how it was a feasible possibility! The ark could have actually housed and taken care of all the animals.
You walk past many cages like this with animals that might have been on the Ark.
It was after 1:00 by the time we made it through just the first two levels.
We took a lunch break in the car and then came back and did the petting zoo before heading back inside the Ark.
We did a faster re-walk through of the first two floors and then did a thorough visit of the third level (be sure you don’t miss the live animals that are at the back end of this level – llama and porcupine were out when we were there).
We finished off in the gift store. There are books but not near as many as the Creation Museum. The Ark Encounter shop is more of a gift shop and the Creation Museum more of a book store. (Though of course they both have some overlap.)
The Ark Encounter also has a huge fair trade section in their gift store.
By the time we left the gift store, it was minutes from the 6pm closing. Another full day.
This really was a fabulous trip! Shaun and I enjoyed it and the kids all loved it. If you are a Christian, or even just interested in learning about young earth Creation, how Noah built an ark and how caring for all of the animals might have worked, I highly recommend you put it on your travel list!
If you have any questions as you are planning your trip, be sure to ask and I can let you know what we did or thought. 🙂