When travel once again becomes commonplace, these two attractions are worth a visit | Commentary

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly hurt, among others, the travel industry. Many still aren’t comfortable with visiting tourist attractions, staying in hotels or flying commercially.

But the time will come when comfort levels increase, and trips and vacations become more common once again.

Sightseeing close to home — as in visiting Nebraska attractions — is always a good choice. But if Northeast and North Central Nebraskans are interested in something unusual, something inspiring and educational wrapped into one, then a trip east to northern Kentucky might be the ticket.

That’s where the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum are located — about 45 miles apart basically just south of Cincinnati, Ohio. They’re world-class attractions, especially so for those who consider religion to be an important part of their lives.

Earlier this year, the Ark Encounter — inspired by the story of Noah’s Ark in the Bible — was chosen the best religious museum in the United States out of 20 nominees. The poll was taken by the national USA Today publication. And what came in second? The ark’s high-tech sister attraction, the Creation Museum, which focuses on the Bible’s account of God’s creation of the world in six days before he rested on the seventh.

Built in 2016, according to the dimensions given in the Bible, the ark itself contains three decks of informative, well-designed exhibits. Outside the Ark, families can find many more things to do: a 2,500-seat Answers Center hosts daily family programs, movies, concerts and presentations; the Ararat Ridge Zoo behind the Ark allows guests to come close to animals; there’s a family playground, zip lines and a virtual reality center. The entire attraction cost about $100 million to build.

The 75,000-square-foot museum cost $27 million and opened in May 2007. The facility has a special effects theater, a planetarium and an Allosaurus skeleton. Both attractions are operated by the faith-based Answers in Genesis organization, and both were built through private donations. It’s Answers in Genesis’ way to bring Bible history to life through family-friendly attractions.

What was perhaps most encouraging during a recent visit to the two attractions was the large number of visitors — especially families — who were courteous and respectful to each other. No profanities were heard and no inappropriate behavior.

It’s reassuring to know that such attractions exist and attract tens of thousands of visitors. At a time when many aspects of culture today seem to be coarsening, the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum are a welcome departure from that trend.