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Monday, November 7, 2016

Ark Encounter - Williamstown, Kentucky

I have been so exited to visit the Ark Encounter since I heard of it being built a year ago.  It opened in July and we finally had a free weekend to make the road trip.  The Ark is 510 feet wide and 51 feet high and is the largest timber-frame structure in the world. 

They also offer a 20% veteran's discount.  The catch is you have to buy the tickets on site and does not work for Combo Tickets. The savings on buying ark and museum tickets at a discount price is equal to just paying for the combo tickets.  So save yourself the waiting in line and purchase the combo tickets from the website.  If you do buy them online, the tickets will be sent to your email address so much sure you have access to that before you purchase.
You are also required to pay $10 for parking.  This was rather strange because the parking is added to your ticket price at the window after you have already parked.  If you buy the tickets online then you will need to pay the $10 parking when you pick up your tickets.
The line was pretty long by the time we got there.  It was back all the way into the parking lot and took us about 30-45 minutes to make it to the ticket booth.  I want to say there were 12 ticket booths but only half those were open and they were split into half for buying tickets and another for online purchased tickets.
You will be given a wrist band, map and a money envelope for donations (truly).  There is a line of buses waiting to take you to the Ark which is maybe a mile away.  The buses remind me of subway cars with seats facing different directions.  They will be pretty full so lots of people are standing but also big enough to put a stroller or two on each bus. 
The bus will drop you off a good distance from the Ark Entrance.  You will need to walk all the way around the lake (which was empty on our visit).  I believe you can rent strollers, wheelchairs or electric scooter at the Guest Services building which is on the way to the entrance.  Be very careful watching your kids while on the Ark because my son almost got ran over by a lady on one of the electric scooters.  
View from the walkway to the Entrance of the Ark

Ark view

This is the walkway to the entrance of Deck 1 (the start of the encounter).  Off to the right is green screens which you can get pictures taken.  We didn't view these so I have no idea what the background looks like.
These ramps go from ground floor to deck 3 and take up the middle of the Ark.  The exhibits are in the blue areas of the map below.  There is a bathroom and I want to say a snack bar on each floor. There is also a small elevator (red dot on map).  This is a good walk and I saw several seniors struggling on the ramp so you may want to take that into consideration when planning your trip.

Deck 1 - The Flood Begins
The start of this deck has "animal" exhibits or really just different sized closed boxes making animals sounds.  This is to give you an idea of how the smaller animals were kept inside the Ark.

Jars lined the side of the Ark
 As you are walking around the maze of cages and jars you stumble upon Noah (which moves) and see lightening in the background. 

More Jars

The walls in this section were covered with larger animal cages with the water jug between two.  Bears, deer, etc.

Some of the walls were covered with sacks.

Ark Model
What the end of the Ark looks like on all decks.

Deck 2 - Technology on the Ark
This deck explains how Noah's family maintained the Ark and took care of all the animals during the flood.
This line was just for the Pre-Flood World Exhibit.  The line was also down the other side of the Ark.  You can see inside the exhibit and it look like just paintings.  I heard the wait was almost an hour for a minute exhibit.  We skipped this.

There is a small kid's play area but I did not go into the section.  

Just an idea of what the crowd looks like on a Saturday. 

The scroll room.

The Ark door is pretty cool to see.  I wish I could have gotten the full size of the door in the picture but there was a crowd of people behind me all waiting to take the same picture.  The doors were huge!

Deck 3 - After the Flood
This was the area I really wanted to see because it housed the Living Quarters.  There was another line like the one for the Pre-Flood World and took us close to 30 minutes to get into the exhibit.  There were benches lining and a bathroom by the line so my kiddo took a breather while I waited. 
This area had to be my favorite part of the Ark. 


To exit the Ark you make your way back down the Ramp to the Ground Level.  This is also right inside the Gift Shop. 

There is also a dinning hall right outside of the Gift Shop called Emzara's Kitchen but we were not hungry and skipped that as we made our way to the Petting Zoo.  You can enjoy a donkey ride ($6)/Camel ride ($8) or just walk around the small petting zoo.  The only animal they had to pet were goats.  A lot of the little kids were having fun in this area.  If you walk the small loop you can also see other animals.
Once you are done, make your way back to the bus area and catch a ride back to the parking lot.
Overall it was an ok adventure but I feel it is way overpriced for what you get.  My understanding is there may be plans for additional things offered outside of the Ark in the future.  If that is the case then the price may be fine but not now.  It should be lowered to maybe $25 adult and $10 for child.  The $10 parking fee is also way overpriced.  If you compare Creation Museum and Ark Encounter then Creation Museum wins because it has more to offer at a lower price. 

Future plans for the Ark Encounter
I would suggest you try to plan your trip for the week day rather then the weekend.  I heard several people talking about how empty the Ark is during the week and just packed on the weekend. 

You may also want to read information on our trip to Creation Museum.

Creation Museum - Petersburg, Kentucky

This past weekend, my son and I decided to take a day trip and visit the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.  A search online did not give me much information on either so we were kind of going in blind.  I have broken these experiences up into two different blogs with a link to each other at the end just in case someone is only looking to do one or the other.

Creation Museum is open Monday-Friday (10:00-6:00); Saturday (9:00-6:00); and Sunday (12:00-6:00). 

They also offer a 20% veteran's discount but the catch is that you have to pay the full price at the door for each experience.  The savings is equal to just paying for the combo tickets and you will get to skip the long line wait if you just purchase the combo tickets from the website.
We arrived at 9:00 on Saturday morning and was able to park pretty close to the door.  Unfortunately we were also about a minute behind a large group of 50+ people so it was pretty crowded at the start. We decided to skip the first room so that we could get ahead of the crowd and that worked out pretty well.
Biblical Authority

Culture in Crisis

Wonders of Creation

Wonders of Creation

This Museum had tons of wonderful art and interactive exhibits.  A lot of the "people" move and talk in the exhibits which made each one highly entertaining as you are learning.  My favorite part was the Wonders of Creation Exhibit.  It was like walking through a wooded area and discovering Eden.
The museum also has a garden you can walk around.  We did not do this because the weather was not the best and we were really excited to move on to the Ark Encounter.  Looking back, I wished we would have taken the time to look around this area as well. 
Overall, Creation Museum was a pretty good experience and I give it four stars out of five.  I would like to go back maybe during a week day when the museum is less crowed to allow for the whole experience without feeling rushed.  It took us close to 1.5 hours to see this Museum. 

You may also want to read about our adventure at the Ark Encounter.

Family Space Camp - Huntsville, Alabama

I was ten years old when the movie Space Camp hit the theaters and it has always been my dream to attend a real space camp.  Kids today are not raised in the world of NASA or space so I decided to give my child the space camp experience for our summer vacation. 
If you didn't know, there still is a kids (or adult) space camp in Huntsville, Alabama.  Children can attend from ages 9-18.  They also have Family Camps and Adult Camps.  We picked the Family Three Day Program for a long weekend.  Keep in mind that this vacation is not cheap but everything is included for your stay.  For my son and I the price was $948.  This amount included three nights lodging in the Habitat (see more below), breakfast/lunch/dinner, t-shirt and all the below. There is a payment plan to allow you to slowly pay this amount off before camp starts.  I would suggest you plan and book early because spots fill up fast.
For a special treat, check the calendar of events for your weekend.  We were lucky enough to go when they were also having a concert so we were able to attend the concert for free.  Added bonus!   
What To Pack:
1. Clothes depend on the weather.  We went during hot hot hot Alabama summer so shorts and t-shirts were a must.  PJ's that are family friendly. 
2.  Walking shoes.  You will be doing lots and lots of walking.  We averaged about 10 miles just walking for building to building so pick something that is broken in and easy to walk in.  Also bring some shower shoes or slip on shoes to wear around the Habitat at night.
3.  Backpack - You will need a small backpack to carry your books and water bottle in.
4.  Water bottle is a must!  There is not very many places to grab a drink but they do have water coolers around the area which you can fill your water bottle.
5.  Shower stuff with towel.

6.  Lock for your room.

7.  Sunscreen and bug spray

8.  Bottle sprayer


Day 1:
On the first day, I timed it so we would arrive early and look over the area before it was time to check into our rooms.  There was a guy at the side gate (which is closed except for graduation/check in times) which gave us a pass that would allow us to walk around the space center.  Although this center is space, there is a lot to see and do. 

We explored on our own and (per request) ate lunch before our check in time.  The only restaurant at the center to get food is the Mars Grill.  They serve pretty much everything from pizza to burgers.  I wasn't to thrilled with the taste of the food but it was edible. 

At 1pm we checked in (bring your bags) and was told which team we would be on for the weekend.  You are paired prior to arrival.  Also take note that there is photographer there and will take several pictures of you in front of a green screen and later add different backgrounds if you buy the photo package.

We were also given camp t-shirts, schedule and room number for the Habitat (which is next door to check in). 

If you buy the space suits, you can pick them up as well.  One thought on the space suits if you are thinking of buying them...check what time of the year you are going to camp.  It was so hot on our weekend and the kids that had the space suits had to wear them all day long in the hot sun (zipped up and unrolled).  I was kind of glad we skipped this and just bought matching shirts from the gift shop before check in.  It worked out better and saved tons of money.

Habitat (our rooms):
Our room contained seven (7) single beds, benches, desk and eight (8) lockers.  Pillows are in the rooms but sheets and blankets are in plastic bags at the end of the hall on each floor.  Just grab what you need and make up your own bed. 

If you are a single father with sons, you will more then likely be paired with other fathers and sons.  Same goes with mothers with daughters.  If you are a single mother/father with a son/daughter, then you will have the room to yourself.  There was also a mother with a special needs child and they do have special rooms on the first floor that as your own bathroom. 

No food is allowed in the rooms.  They have ate problems, so there is a place on the first floor to store all food items you bring with you.  We avoided this by not bringing food with us. 


The only plug I found was attached to the desk.  If there is more people in your party, you may be fighting to charge your electronics.

The rooms do not have keys because there is no locks on the doors.  In fact, our door would not shut all the way.  Which is why a lock is needed so you can store your stuff in the school like lockers in each room.  They are pretty roomy and hold a lot of stuff.  It is rather safe (no worries) because there is a staff member that walks the halls all night.

I will say that the mattress on the beds are WELL used and really are no support at all.  It is like sleeping on the ground.  My son and I were the only ones in our room so the second night I took all the extra pills and stuffed them between the mattress and fitted sheet.  This worked wonderful and I slept like a baby!

Bathrooms are located on each floor.  Males on the left side of the building and females on the right.  Female bathrooms have two (2) stalls and three (3) showers.  I had no issues with getting a shower or getting ready because I'm an early riser and not that many people were wake.  If you sleep in then you may have to fight for a mirror.  Parents are asked to shower after the children are down for lights out around 9:30.

There is a gift shop on the first floor but it was only opened the day we checked in.  I had wished to buy something that the other gift shops did not have but could never catch it open.  So if you want something then buy it the first day.

Once orientation starts your weekend is nonstop so get plenty of rest.  On the first day we did the following:

1.  Astronaut Speaker

2.  Team Photo
Please remember to bring your Space Camp shirt with you.  You will need to wear it twice over the weekend.  Once after orientation to take the group photo and on the last day at graduation.  If you do not have your shirt, the group must wait as you run back to your room to get it and it will push our time back.

3.  Scavenger Hunt
After the team photo we had a scavenger hunt (of sorts) around the historical rockets.  You are given hints and must find the rocket name that goes with the information given.  This can be found in front of each rocket.  Seeing the rockets up close and learning the history was a pretty fun way to start camp.

4.  Adult Group/Children Group
I don't want to tell you to much about this because it would give you an advantage over the other groups.  Just say that it will be a small contest against the other teams and you must work together as a group in order for it to work.

5.  Dinner
All your meals well be cafeteria style.  Sort of like what you would eat in school.  There is several items to choose from for all different styles.  There is also soda but it is only offered at dinner. 

6.  Alpha Mission Training
This was are first mission as a team.  Each person is assigned a role to play and sent to different parts of a mock space ship.  In our assigned spots will be a binder with our roles marked and what to say and do.  It is pretty much set up like a play and you just follow along.  You do your training first and then come back at a different time to do a complete run through of the mission.

7.  Rocket Construction
It was pretty late in the day when we got to the rocket construction.  We were also joined by another team while we all followed the directions and made our rockets and left to dry over night so that we can launch them the next day.



1. Breakfast
No need to pack an alarm clock, unless you want to.  You will be woken by the staff and given time to get ready for the day.  Make sure to pack everything you will need because there will be no time to come back to your room for missed items.  Don't forget your water bottle.  You can fill this up at breakfast.

Your team leader will be on the first floor of the Habitat waiting for all members to show up.  Once the group is all together you will make your way to the cafeteria.  Food was ok with a lot to pick from.  My son is picky eater so he mostly just ate bread and fruit.  There is plenty of coffee, juice and water as well.  Once everyone has finished, we are off to start the day.

2.  The Multi Axis Trainer
Our first stop was the Multi Axis Trainer.  Here anyone who wants to may give it a spin.  I'm not that big on rides but I couldn't pass up the chance to try this machine out since we were there.  I was told not to worry and that once I was done all I had to say was stop and she would shut the machine off.  I guess everyone was having so much fun that she didn't "hear" my stop, Stop, STOP song I was singing but all the kids did and had a huge laugh out of it.  It was kind of funny after watching the video. 

3. Shuttle History and
As we walked to our next event, we were given the shuttle history and got to learn more about the shuttles that are now housed at the Space Center.  We stopped to allow anyone in our team to ride the Space Shot and G-Force Simulator. 


4.  Gift Shop
Then it was a short break and a chance to walk around one of the gift shops.  This was really the only time we got to shop.  But as I said there is two other shops located at the center.

5.  Alpha Mission
It was time for our Alpha Mission that we had trained for the day before.  We got to our spots and the mission started.  It was pretty fun listening to everyone in the headsets and watching them on the monitors as they did their parts.  We were Mission Specialties 1 & 2.

6.  Rocket Launch
After our mission, we took off for our rocket launch.  This take place a little off site and we first started on a hike only to find out that the gate was locked because of the concert that night so we had to backtrack and wait for a bus to pick us up.  This was a welcome ride because the air condition was heaven sent!
All of our rockets were lined up and waiting the count down.  One by one we stepped up the launch pad and pushed the button which sent our rockets soring into the air.  Unfortunately, both our rockets made it into the Hall of Fame (aka the trees) and is now there for all times.

7.  Lunch and Rain Storm Fun
After the rocket launch, we boarded the bus back just in time for lunch.  While we were eating, there was a thunderstorm that on it's way and we were not allowed to leave the building.  So, our team leader fixed the kids up with some amazing fun on the spot games to play and keep them entertained until the all clear was giving. 

8.  Bravo Mission Training
This is almost like the Alpha Mission but different mock space ships and different roles to be played.

9.  Adult Group/Children Group
We put the finishing touches on our mission assignment.

10.  Bravo Mission
Back to Bravo Mission and this time we did the full run through.  This had to be the best part of the weekend for my son and I.  See that silver tube behind the black bars?  We had to crawl from the shuttle part, through the tube and down the ladder area to get out side and put on our space suits to do our in space mission.  So so fun!

We loved the suits and had so much fun getting into each part.  Although I have to say there was no air condition in this section of the building and it was really hard to breath in all this stuff.

Me rocking the moon walk over to the space chair.  The kids was watching from the monitors and thought it was funny.

My son flying from the shuttle to our mission.

I'm sort of flying but my son made it look so much easier.

We worked together to put our machine together as part of our mission.  My son had a bag full of parts that he would take one at a time out and I had the poles in a tube that needed to be attached.  If we forgot to close up the bag or tube the our parts would "fly" away and we would have to go search for them. We were told that we had completed our mission in record time.

11.  Dinner
Dinner was different then normal because of the concert.  We had it at the aviation center as a picnic style lunch.  I will admit that this was awful.  It was hot dogs and hamburgers but there was little else and hardly anything to put on the hot dogs/hamburgers. 

Although, being a Navy veteran, I sure did like seeing the below!

12.  Imax Movie
This was a pretty cool movie about going into space.  Take a few extra dollars with you if you would like popcorn and drinks.  There is special seating if you get motion sickness so be sure to ask if you need this arranged.

13.  Strange Science
We made back from dinner just in time to watch Strange Science.  It had been a long day and my son was pretty wore out.  We stayed for a while but it seemed that a different group of kids had joined in the fun and was a little out of control.  I feel for the Science guy.  After a long day we decided to cut this short and head back to the room for a little rest and a shower. 

14.  Shuttle Park Concert
The concert was pretty fun and I would have stayed most of the night but my son was just wore out and falling asleep on the ground so after a few songs we turned in early. 

1. Breakfast
Sunday morning are team was hit with some excitement.  It seems a father and daughter had disappeared during the night.  No word to anyone but their room was empty and bags were gone.  Just fyi, if you are going to leave during the middle of the night, please let someone know so that the rest of the team is not waiting and waiting and waiting for you to join us before we can go to breakfast.  This put us a little behind.

2.  Moon Chair
Because of the rain storm the day before, we missed our moon chair bounce.  So we headed over there first thing so everyone could have some fun and see what it is like to walk on the moon. 


3.  Adult Group/Children Group
After this we headed over to the mission center and presented our missions to the children group and theirs to the adult group. 

4.  Graduation
The weekend was over and time for graduation. 

Before we knew it, space camp was done and time to go home.  Over all this was a really fun family trip to take with your kids.  It was fun to step in the shoes of an astronaut and get a small taste of what it feels like to train for trip to space.