Last week we had the pleasure of visiting the Holy Land Experience in Orlando. The Holy Land Experience is a themed park that brings the Bible to life for its visitors.
The minute we stepped foot in the park, we were hit with how well themed it is. The scenery and buildings are impressive. It’s literally like travelling back to Bible times. As we entered the park, ten minutes after it opened, there was already a show going on near the entrance.
We were given a schedule of all the shows being performed throughout the day. Some are repeated and some are only on once a day. The longer shows make up a story so even though it is still good to watch any without the others, if you want to watch the whole story you will want to make sure you watch them all.
Other than shows, amongst other attractions there is a museum of scripture, the Scriptorium. Guided tours, taking about an hour, take you around the museum.
There are also various “hidden treasures” such as a tiny Bethlehem and a giant recreation of Biblical Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Model is of A.D. 66, and is the largest indoor model of Jerusalem in the world. Throughout the day there are presentations about the model.
There is a children’s area called Smile of a child. This area is again very themed and child friendly. There are various activities including a bean bag toss, a climbing wall, a Bible themed mini golf, craft and face painting. There are also childrens shows and interactive experiences throughout the day that children can enjoy with their parents and carers.
There are also places to eat and various shops with many Holy Land and Bible based souvenirs and books. We loved the Holy Land camels!
There is so much to see at the Holy Land Experience, in fact, we were told seeing every show and exhibit in the park would take you a day and a half!
Visiting The Holy Land Experience with an autistic child.
We wanted to see how suitable The Holy Land Experience was for those wishing to visit with autistic children so we went along to experience the park for ourselves and to find out. We were guests of The Holy Land Experience for this adventure and we would like to thank them for having us and being so accommodating.
I’m pleased to say that The Holy Land experience have just introduced a new VIP pass for autistic guests and they have really thought about how they can make their attractions more accessible for those with autism and sensory processing disorders. We were told that the new VIP passes enable staff to be aware that you are a party with additional needs and to give you a bit of extra help with things such as allowing you to be seated near to exits during shows. This worked well for us in the shows that we watched. We were able to sit at the front near the exit so we weren’t in the middle of a crowd and we could make a swift exit if necessary.
There are one off, longer, main shows throughout the day. These are performed in the large theatre called the church of all nations . These shows are impressive broadway style musicals, with ever changing sets and well thought out costumes. The shows can however be quite loud and the large theatre can get very busy. The Holy Land Experience have helpfully provided another, smaller room with live feeds from the main theatre so that if the main theatre is too much for your child, or you feel your child may be disruptive, you can watch the shows from here instead. Similarly if you find yourself having to leave the theatre half way through, you can make your way to the nearby family room to continue watching. The other show venues are either outside or in much smaller theatres. I would suggest if your child uses ear defenders they may need them during the shows. There is also one show called The story of Mary Magdalene that uses incense so has a fairly strong smell, there are plenty of other shows to enjoy if you need to miss this one.
You aren’t allowed to take your own food into the Holy Land Experience but there are various places to eat. The main cafe is called Esther’s Banquet Hall, but this can get quite busy at meal times. If you want somewhere quieter to eat then there is a small cafe near to the church of all nations called Church of all nations bistro. This is more out of the way and therefore quieter at meal times. There is a reduced selection of food but still enough to choose from and snacks are also served. Your other option would be the outdoor snack stand called Martha’s kitchen, we went here for ice creams and crisps.
As a lot of the park is show based and sometimes show after show, no matter how good they are, can become overstimulating for autistic guests. The Holy Land Experience have actually thought of that and kept attractions to a minimum in the gardens near the lake, the Living word prayer gardens, making this a great, peaceful place to escape to if needed. My children managed one of the longer shows and three of the shorter ones. The shorter shows are around 15 minutes long so may be a lot more manageable to sit through. We then spent some time in the quieter area by the lake to chill out for a while before visiting the Smile Of a child area.
Although, to do everything, you could spend a couple of days at The Holy Land Experience, my children don’t tend to manage more than half a day at any park as they become overstimulated and need some down time. We found there was enough to keep us occupied for a morning and feel like we had seen a lot of the park. As there is so much going on I would suggest doing a few half day visits if you really want to see it all.
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