I've been to Orlando many, many times. Hilly-Sue now lives here. This means that I've covered the major attractions to death... and Hilly will undoubtably be doing so eventually. Because of this, we decided to explore the non-Disney/non-Universal alternatives, which included Titanic, Ripley's, and Pirates Adventure Dinner yesterday, and Holy Land Experience and Sleuths Mystery Dinner today.
The reason I've never been to Holy Land Experience before has nothing to do with my not being a Christian. On the contrary, I've studied The Bible and its origins more than many Christians have, so the "Christian Theme Park" actually seemed interesting to me. No, the reason I've never been before is because it was bought out by TBN: Trinity Broadcast Network. Putting aside my general disdain for televangelists, I have a real problem with TBN. To me, their gaudy sets and demonstrative speakers do more to glorify TBN and their appearance of excessiveness than it does to glorify God. In my humble opinion, this goes against the example set by Jesus, and I choose not to support them with my money.
Quite understandably, it was my assumption that Holy Land Experience would be overrun by TBN with loads of gaudy, tacky, excessive crap. Turns out I was in for quite a surprise...
We arrived during the first of two daily reenactments of The Passion, so the first thing we saw when we get into the park? Jesus getting severely beaten, then crucified. Not exactly going in on a happy note...
But don't worry, he came back a few minutes later...
There are several "plays" like this throughout the day, and the actors who reenact these stories are excellent. You can tell that their hearts and souls were into doing the material justice. Their dedication to inspire was, in itself, inspirational to see... even if you're not a Christian.
The park itself is just beautiful, and meticulously maintained. Everything is clean and looking like new...
The showpiece for the entire park is The Scriptorium. It's an incredible treasure trove of religious antiques that explains the expansion of The Bible throughout the world from ancient times to today... all using a collection tablets, scrolls, and books from throughout the ages. From an educational standpoint, this exhibit alone is worth the price of admission...
Another of their prized exhibits is a scale model of ancient Jerusalem. It fills an entire room, and they have regular presentations throughout the day to explain how the city was in the time of Jesus...
There's a section for kids as well, mostly centered around a Noah's Ark theme. You can also go inside the belly of a whale and see what Jonah was up to when he got swallowed. I have no idea what's going on or what happened to his other sandal, but being digested by a whale looks like good times...
All in all, The Holy Land Experience was very well done... not the tacky mess I was expecting from TBN. If you have any interest in The Bible, it's worth a look. If you'd like to learn more about the life and times of Jesus and the foundations of Christianity, it's well worth a look. The only problems I could see were A) the park is rather small with limited things to do, which is partially offset by the low price and free parking, and B) They don't really have enough covered seating and proper viewing space for some of the presentations. In the scorching Florida heat, it's kind of harsh to ask people to stand in the blazing sun for extended periods of time like this.
After leaving The Holy Land Experience, we had some dessert, got caught in a torrential downpour (complete with thunder and lightning strikes), then wandered The Millenium Mall until our dinner show began at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Theater...
I thought it would be hard to top the Pirates Adventure from last night, but Sleuths was pretty darn good and managed to do just that. Basically, there's a rotating series of interactive plays where a murder occurs, and it's the job of you and your fellow guests to figure out who did it.
The cast was skilled and very entertaining, which is what made the show work so well. As with Pirates, the food was also pretty respectable, and I enjoyed my meal of (once again) cheese lasagna.
About the only thing that sucks about this place is something that (unfortunately) the actors have no control over... and that would be the other people sitting at your table. When we first got there, we sat down with a couple of guys who were great. But then the OBNOXIOUS DRUNKS showed up. A short while after that, the SLOPPY OLD DRUNKS showed up and completed our table.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for getting a little blasted and having a good time at these things... but you have to draw the line when the drunken antics of a few people start to ruin it for everybody. The OBNOXIOUS DRUNKS would be generally disruptive and annoying while the performers were trying work, and that absolutely took away from my ability to enjoy the show. And don't get my started about the SLOPPY OLD DRUNKS... the female of that duo was scary as hell. Without going into details, lets just say I got to see a lot more of this crazy old lady than I ever wanted to see.
As for the mystery itself... it was surprisingly well done. They absolutely give you all the clues you need to solve the puzzle, and that's pretty slick. Each table gets to ask a question of the suspects. I had a question which would have confirmed what I needed to know to solve it, but the OBNOXIOUS DRUNKS were wanting a question about stupid shit that made no sense, so that's what we got. I went ahead and guessed my suspicions anyway, and ended up being right. This put me in the drawing for a prize, which ended up being a cheesy magnifying glass that I won.
All in all, despite the drunks at our table, Hilly-Sue and I had a good time at the show. I'd definitely go again to take in another one of the mysteries they offer.
And thus ends my last day in Orlando. Thanks, Hilly!
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Until now, all I’ve heard about the Holy Land Experience is their draconian policies regarding guests. Did you see any examples of that?
I love Orlando, what a great place to take kids! But, I’m very happy that you summarized the christian theme park for me so that I never, ever have to go…
I had no idea such a theme park even existed!
What I found amazing (somewhat to answer Avitable’s question) is that NONE of the things we had heard before going in were true. There was no contract stating that you could not hold hands or kiss your significant other whatsoever. In fact, during the crucifixion, there were many couples that had their arms around each other or that were holding hands. I was happy to see that the only true thing they asked was no swearing and hey, why not?
I have to admit that I was moved by what I saw at the park (as you know) and almost cried myself when they crucified Jesus (even though I knew it wasn’t real). I found the whole park to be beautiful and moving as well as informative and historic.
I wish the day had stayed that way but hey, what’s a little mystery dinner without staring at some old stank ass pussy all night long?
Oh, I forgot to add…thank you so much for coming to visit me and going with me to all of these places! It was freaking awesome!
Is that Jerusalem’s Hard Rock Cafe in the lower right side of the photo. I definitely recall something about Rock & Roll being mentioned in the Bible.
I think watching someone get fake beaten and crucified would freak me out.
The Sleuths thing sounds kinda cool though. Medieval Times was the last thing like that I’ve been to, and it was fun.
There is a mega-church by my house that puts on shows like the Holy Land Experience a few times a year…it’s seriously like Broadway. But a theme park? Who knew?
No pics of the sloppy drunk chick?
I agree with you about TBN and I’m pretty sure Jesus does, too. Every time I pass their tacky headquarters off the 405 freeway I look forward to Jesus’ return in the hope that He’ll begin by blasting that tacky monstrosity to bits and clearing up any confusion about their affiliation.
So glad you were able to visit with Hilly and that you both had so much fun! I’m sure that made settling in to her new place just that much better. You’re an awesome friend!
Did you see Bill Maher’s movie Religulous?? He made quite a scene at the Holy Land Experience in the movie! And, did you know that one of my former blogging buddies actually works at the Mystery Theater? Yep, he’s an actor there.
I drive by the TBN building in Costa Mesa on the drive to/from work every day. White, round, squat, baroque….we all call it Jesus’ White Trash Birthday Cake. I’ll have to try for a pic when it’s lit up at night.
I’ve only got one thing to say about that crucifixion/resurrection sequence:
Damn, Jesus need a better hair weave. That one look cheap.
That Holy Land park looks very inviting and I’ve put it on my list of places to go in Orlando. Kind of evens out the Hellpit d’Avitable.
I’m so glad you won the magnifying glass – you love cheese, after all!