Holy Land Experience makes some people uncomfortable, both devout Christian as well as un- or iffy-believer. Religion – a solemn view of salvation, sacrifice, and supreme powers – doesn’t fit easily into a city with singing country bears and wizards named Harry. Believers wonder: Is it a sacrilege to take a serious subject and turn it into a show? Can a park that relies on admission tickets and souvenir sales to pay its rent show the proper respect for God?
The short answer is “yes.” Holy Land Experience finds a fair balance between religious awe and potential criticism, as if it says, “We’re doing our best to recreate famous biblical events but not pretending this is the original version.” If a fact is in doubt – such as Jesus’ physical look – it leans toward the American interpretation. Jesus, within Holy Land at least, is the Caucasian version with light brown hair. Whether that’s accurate is a subject for discussion, but it works for Orlando audiences.
People of different faiths and non-faiths will find many interesting elements if they have a smidgen of intellectual curiosity, just as they do at the countries in Disney’s Epcot. Holy Land makes no attempt to convert guests, though shows and exhibits present the Christian perspective as fact – on the assumption that the entire audience believes devoutly – rather than from the analytical perspective seen on the Discovery Channel.
Still, Christians remain Holy Land’s primary market. For many visitors, it’s the live recreation of events they’ve heard about since childhood. For some, it’s an emotionally moving experience, and Holy Land is perhaps the only Orlando theme park where attractions draw tears of joy and pain. (Though small children have been known to cry on Snow White’s Scary Adventures.)
Holy Land Experience has no rides and relies primarily on exhibits and live shows. It’s not a cheap roadside attraction and features the same quality construction and attention to detail as its less religious park compatriots down the road. High external walls – they look ancient and rugged from inside – block the real world out, and the park manages to create and keep an old, old world atmosphere.
Holy Land sits alongside I-4 and is easily accessible. The park is open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. every day but Sunday. Admission costs $35 for adults, $20 for children 6 – 12, free for younger children, with a $4 discount for booking online before arrival.
- Scriptorium. Perhaps the most breath-taking exhibit is a museum of religious works and old bibles, including part of the Gutenberg Bible – not recreations but historical documents – some over 2,000 years old. The presentation has Disney-style showmanship elements, but the books remain the major attraction.
- Behold the Lamb. This featured show, a version of the passion play, depicts Jesus’ final days – arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. Note that it’s not a watered-down version and includes all the blood and suffering of the original event.
- Other live shows. Some plays run only once per day. Plan your itinerary early.
- Miniature Jerusalem. Beyond religion, a look into the way people lived circa year 0 provides a fascinating insight into our collective past.
More info: http://www.holylandexperience.com