By Jennifer Hudson Taylor
While I would have much preferred Israel itself, this was actually a day trip to an attraction in Orlando, FL. I figured it might be the next best thing for those of us who can't make it across the Atlantic to the REAL Israel. I only wish I had known about it sooner.
We came to Orlando on vacation to visit Disney World and Sea World. On the last two days of our trip, my husband was surfing the Internet on his ipad and discovered the Holy Land Experience theme park. I'm glad we decided to check it out, because I would have left Florida wondering about it. Since we had never heard about it, and it doesn't seem to be widely publicized, I thought I would blog about my experience and share some photos.
This isn't like a regular theme park where you might expect to find thriller rides or virtual motion simulators. It's set up as an opportunity to walk through the Bible by experiencing stationary displays, watching shows or theater re-enactments of biblical scenes. Christian music plays throughout the park. The pricing is very reasonable for what they provide. The whole theme park is decorated in vibrant colors with flowers, statues, and furniture to make it look like ancient Israel or Rome.
There are shops where you can buy gifts, souvenirs, and Christian themed items for your church or home. For lunch, there is a deli where you can pick up sandwiches or snacks, and a coffee shop where you can take a break and visit with friends and family. One shop had a beautiful miniature display of the entire city of Jerusalem. It's very similar to some of the Christmas villages we see in December, with the exception of its vastness.
We liked the prayer garden where people write prayer requests on blue pieces of paper or praise reports on pink paper and attach them to a wooden cross. If they feel led, others can swing by and pray for some of these prayer requests. It's all voluntary.
What I liked the best is the Scriptorium. This is a 55-minute walk through of how the Bible came to be and survived through time. It's automated by narration and they light up various displays of scenes, as well as historical scripts and texts that are encased in glass for protection. It's really a museum. They had actual pieces from the 1st century AD, ranging from the 11th century to the 19th century. Some were written in Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and Old English. It told about the sacrifices people made to create these Bibles and one actually still had blood stains on it.
When I went through the Scriptorium, the Holy Spirit touched me and I wanted to weep for these people. It's awe-inspiring and it gave me chills to know I was looking at something that someone had labored so hard to produce, and in some cases, sacrificed their lives to protect. In my opinion, this was the most authentic piece in the entire park. Photos weren't allowed, or I would have been snapping pictures of everything in there.
I enjoyed the last supper where we were actually able to take communion. While I didn't see it, the play of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection from the tomb looks to be awesome from the online videos. Since we were so short on time, we chose to skip this as we had just seen the Passion of the Christ shortly before our trip.
For children there is Smile of A Child Adventure Land with a rock climbing wall, a few toys and settings with Noah's Ark, Jonah's Whale, the parting of the Red Sea. I realize these are displays for children, but I thought they could have been more authentic and interactive with the advancements of today's technology.
I think the concept of this park is a great idea and has a good start, but I couldn't help feeling that it would be nice for someone to come in and take it to the next level. The theme park targets Christians and it's nice for us to have our own special place. However, as a deep thinker and one with a broad, creative mind, I could literally visualize a section that might appeal to youth groups. I'm thinking of visiting kids who don't know about the Bible, or people who come for the "experience" of a different theme park and might get saved.
In my mind, I saw log rides going through the ocean and slamming into the whale as if we were with Jonah. I could see another log ride taking us through the parting of the Great Sea. I could feel a motion simulator that would make us feel what it would be like to be in Noah's Ark with all the animals and coming out after it was all over on top of a mountain. I could imagine a roller coaster that could take us on a thrilling ride through the streets of Jerusalem as we make our getaway from the Roman soldiers.
While the theme park is meant for the whole family, I feel like the small children have their place in the Smile of A Child Adventure Land, and the adults have things such as the Scriptorium, the Last Supper Communion, and the re-enactments, but there seemed to be something lacking for today's tweens and teens who are so used to being "wowed" by the newest technology competing for their attention.
It's still an adventure I would recommend for you family. Learn more at The Holy Land Experience.
Did you know about this theme park? Have you ever been, and if so, what were your thoughts?