The Holyland Experience

Florida Guide > Other Parks

I visited the Holyland Experience last week. I went because I had heard a lot about it ( some good and a lot bad) and wanted to form my own opinion. I am not at all religious and to be frank, this does colour your perception of the place. It is quite well done and I would think if you are religious, you would really enjoy it. It is quite reverent, did not see why all the fur flew with the American bible belt when it first opened. If you are not religious, it is more of an interesting oddity.

You enter through a reconstruction of the market in Jerusalem in the first century. The staff are dressed in rags and stuffed camel toys are on sale which would not have been a best seller in that period!

The smallish park is dominated by e reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. That is the venue for two musical shows ( 10-45 and 1 pm so don't go in for just the afternoon). The shows are along the lines of Gospel or Jesus Christ Superstar and have a cast of excellent singers as you would expect from any theme park show. We were all a bit worried when they brought a real life lamb in for the sacrifice scene but he lived to be returned to the petting zoo! ( s small enclosure with some animals from biblical times - sheep, goats, camels)

Both the reconstruction of the garden tomb and the model of Jerusalem in 60 AD have guided tours by a presenter. These start off historical and archaeological and are quite interesting but become evangelical as they progress. In the Wilderness Tabernacle ( entered through a Bedouin tent), there is a 25 minute presentation of the Old Testament worship rituals conducted by a High Priest.

In the middle of the complex, there is a lake and the Oasis cafe. This is a pleasant place to eat with palm trees and potted plants and sells fast food (Goliath burgers and Jaffa hot dogs ) and a variety of middle eastern foods, such as pitta bread wraps, curry and cous cous, soup served in a hollowed out loaf of bread and fried cheesecake.

Apart from a reconstruction of the Dead Sea scroll caves that was not yet open, that was the entire extent of the attraction prior to the opening of the Scriptorium a few months ago and I can understand why people complained about it being a rip off in the past. The Scriptorium is a multi million dollar themed attraction which houses some genuine biblical antiquities which are the property of the religious trust which runs the attraction. It is an hour long self guided walk through experience. Guided by the booming voice of the narrator, this takes you through various eras in the history of the written word starting with cuneiform Babylonian tablets and Egyptian papyrus scrolls, and continuing through medieval times ( the shadow of a monk writes on the scrolls), through to an audio animatronic John Wycliffe, a reconstruction of the printing workshop in which the first bibles were printed and a reconstruction of an chapel in the days of the American pioneers. Among the artefacts on display are a Gutenberg bible, a King James bible and a first edition of the Pilgrims Progress. If you are going to do a museum of religious antiquities, this is about as interesting as you can make it and they do try to make it theme parky, but there is only so far you can go given the subject matter.

How would I rate it as an attraction? Well as I said, it you are religious, you would enjoy it, though I did not think there was that much there to justify the entrance fee of nearly $30. Most of the people in there were Americans and a lot had come in from their various churches on tour buses and I do think that this is the sort of market that the attraction is aimed at. Most ordinary holiday makers, unless they are interested in religious history, would find it well done but a little worthy and boring compared to the other Orlando attractions. I would think that kids in particular would not find much to interest them apart from the animals

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Page added on: 19 July 2004
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