Battles to get tax-exempt church status and smaller-than-expected attendance caused this tourist attraction to add a parking fee (which has since been eliminated) and boost rates by $13 in its first 2 years. But backers still believe Jesus Christ and John the Baptist can go head-to-head with (or at least play second harp to) Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker. This $20-million, 15-acre attraction near Universal Orlando is trying to court more believers by offering exhibits focusing on Jerusalem between the years 1450 B.C. and A.D. 66. Instead of thrill rides, visitors get lessons about Noah's Ark, the limestone caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, 1st-century Jerusalem, and Jesus' tomb. The trimmings include a display of old Bibles and manuscripts, a Bedouin tent where biblical personalities tell Old and New Testament stories, and a cafe serving Middle Eastern food. New additions include a multimedia production of music and art giving an overview of worship through the ages; a small play area for kids; and the Oasis Outpost, which features a rock wall and archaeological dig, misting station, and a small refreshment spot. The attraction has caused some controversy: Orlando-area rabbis, among others, say they believe it's a ploy to convert Jews to Christianity. I say, unless you're interested in a day dedicated to the history of the Bible, the high admission is pretty hard to swallow and this place is pretty skippable. Allow 3 to 4 hours.
- © Frommer's 2013