The Ark Encounter is an amazing attraction to see! Have you been to the Ark? At Laurel Bend, we cater our lodging to large families and church groups, most of whom are going to see both the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. We are so excited to be listed as Unique Stays on both Answers in Genesis’ websites, and to meet all of the wonderful people that visit the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum.
We spend a lot of time speaking to guests and answering questions about visiting the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. Since we have lived in Williamstown, KY since before the Ark was built and visit the Ark Encounter about once a month, we thought it would be helpful to share what it is like and what to expect when visiting, especially since we have special needs and small children.
There were several hundred acres that were purchased for the Ark Encounter property, with several acres completed and many more left to go! It is definitely a considerable property and the Ark is created to be in the center of everything, so you should plan on comfortable shoes for a day of standing and walking, and bring accommodations for those who will find that difficult, or plan extra time to sit and rest. The Ark Encounter does have many wheelchairs available.
Laurel Bend is located in Falmouth, KY about 30 minutes away from Williamstown, where the Ark Encounter is located. For the colder winter months, which usually will last until the end of March, the Ark Encounter is only open Wednesday to Friday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am – 6pm. In general, you will want to leave at least by 11:00am in order to get there and see everything before closing. Budget wise, you don’t have to spend anything extra besides your parking and tickets, but if you are in vacation mode, expect to pay $20 for lunch and an additional coffee or ice cream, $10-20 for rides and things for each kid and extra money for the gift shop.
Approaching the Ark Encounter, you will see it from a few miles away. Yes, miles. Getting closer, it’s hard to miss the stately gates guarding the roads to the entrance and parking. Depending on traffic, weather and season, you will either be stopping at a guard house to pay for parking ($10 is the rack rate) or pay after parking. You will continue a winding drive from the entrance of the Ark Encounter to the ticketing pavilion.
My preferred route to parking at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown Kentucky
Being a mom to someone with special needs who used to enjoy running into traffic, and generally always having other people’s children with me, I try to park in the most accessible places that have the least amount of vehicle traffic for safety. For the Ark, I like to continue past the pavilion and turn right onto the last row. You can always get a good parking spot right next to the pavilion, right after the handicapped spaces. Remember for Kentucky, there will be a handicap sign on the pavement and mounted in front of the space. They have several spaces that were once reserved that are now available.
Once parked, make your way to the pavilion. They have counters for those with tickets and those without. You will need to go to a ticket counter for wristbands regardless. If you have some one who wants to go to the Ark Encounter, but not inside the Ark, that is free. For instance, if you have someone that will have younger children and it is a nice day, they can easily play for hours while the rest of the group walks the inside of the Ark. You can get a wristband (usually black) just for that and save the money if they aren’t really going to benefit from going inside of the Ark. The rest of the property at the Ark Encounter is free.
After the pavilion, you will be directed to hop a shuttle bus taking you up to the main property. Some of the buses are tour buses instead of the usual Ark Encounter buses. All have handicap access and accommodate strollers, and everyone is more than helpful. It only takes a few minutes on the shuttle and you will arrive at the Answers Center. When you get off the bus, you will be able to go to the Answers Center, or continue to the right towards the Ark, which only gets more impressive the closer you get!
Inside the Answers Center, it feels very similar to a movie theater. On your left and right, there are gift shop items, and in front of you are cashwraps to purchase your items in addition to concessions. Behind the concession areas are (usually open) doors leading to a corridor with restrooms and another set of doors leading to the auditorium and stage area. There is usually ample seating for anything you would want to see, just check the events page to see what is happening. I always like to drop in to see the schedule as there are often short movies or other interesting things to see and do, and I set a timer on my phone and we leave in time to catch them.
Continuing out of the Answers Center at the Ark Encounter, you take a left and follow the path to the right heading towards the Ark. You will come along the zip lines, on your right, which start at $29 for kids 4-9 years old and will take about an hour.
Continue on past several small buildings (open in the summer, these have several different types of food) and you will arrive at the Ark.
The entrance to the Ark is on the main level. (You can see a map here.) There are 4 levels, the ground level and Decks 1 through 3. Each level has snacks, restrooms, changing areas and a nursing room while the ground level has snacks, restrooms and some seating (less than usual during Covid). Once you have made your way through all three decks, you will end up on the ground level by the gift shop where there is fudge, coffee, ice cream and various gifts of all sizes and prices.
Leaving the Ark, if you continue right, you will be at the Ark Encounter Zoo, Ariat Ridge. There are several animals at the zoo, which can mostly be seen on the Ark Encounter website, but a few are missing, like the Alpacas and Llamas. One of the first enclosures is a walk-through for an up close experience with the kangaroos. There is a vestibule area, so you walk in, make sure both doors are closed, and then continue in to see the kangaroos. You are only permitted to stay on the path, and are allowed to interact with the animals if they come to you, but you can’t go to the animals. Right before the end of this section, there is a restroom.
You can continue in a loop through the zoo area, and will come to an area where you can turn left or right. If you go straight, you can purchase camel rides for $8. If you continue to the right, you will go by the Camelids, the camels, alpacas and llamas. Camel Encounter takes place at the camel ride track. This program is weather permitting and runs from January 6 through March 6, 1:00-3:00, on Wednesday through Saturday of each week. You get to meet a camel and feed it one piece of lettuce. So simple, yet my kids never get tired of it. You will see several different equine and end up at the goats’ enclosure, which you can walk in. Sanitizer is outside in several areas.
Continuing to the right, you will pass the ticketing booth again, where you can purchase a bag of dirt for $10 (including tax) and head over to the panning sluice to see if your bag contains amber, horn coral, petrified wood, or shark tooth fossils at the Mining Sluice & Fossil Find. After finding your fossils, you will be able to stop at the beautiful Rainbow Gardens for a seat and to see the gorgeous views of the Kentucky landscape.
Leaving this area, you will pass the Ark on the left and on your right, Emzara’s Restaurant, which is usually a buffet, but for Covid it is cafeteria-style. The food is not nearly as good this way, so don’t judge it too harshly, but the portions are good and the drinks are all included and self-refilled. There is also coffee with to-go cups, which you need for cold Kentucky weather! Emzara’s current pricing is Adult and Youth (ages 11–59) $14.99, Senior (age 60+) $12.99, Child (ages 5–10) $8.99 and 4 and Under (ages 0–4) Free.
Following the road, you will end up at Noah’s Village, the several village-style restaurants (closed for winter) and the amazing and very disability friendly playground. There is something for every age and ability on this playground, and you can spend several hours. What we love the most is how wonderful all of the children are and how active the parents can be with them. The must do things are the zip line and a rollercoaster swing. So much fun!
After working out the wiggles on the playground, continuing to the right, you will find the Truth Traveler exhibit. Normally $14.99, this exhibit is just $10 until Feb 27, 2021, but it is limited to people that can safely sit in a VR simulation seat that are at least 40″ tall.
From the Truth Traveler, you can walk to the right and end up back in front of the Answers Center! You have made it through the entire Ark Encounter – just around 1.5 miles of walking, without adding in playtime at the park!! We do this loop at least once a month (minus the interior of the Ark) and really enjoy it. The Ark Encounter is one of our favorite places to go all year round but especially in the spring and summer, and we love the park.
What do you want to know about visiting the Ark Encounter in Williamstown Kentucky? Is there anything we missed you think others will find helpful? Please leave your comments below for others planning their visit to the Ark Encounter!