The price to enter a theme park in Central Florida has been skyrocketing in the past few years. I mean, you can’t get into Disney, Universal or Sea World for less than $100 per person per day.
However there’s one theme park in the area that offers a free day every year.
The Holy Land Experience.
Since February 2001, the Holy Land Experience is something of a “niche” park, much like the Wizard of Oz themed Land of Oz theme park in North Carolina or the wine-themed experience of La Cité du Vin (City of Wine) in Bordeaux. Except instead of focusing on a classic movie or wine, the theme of the Holy Land Experience (HLE) is Christianity.
From Best of Orlando:
A faith-and-family theme park in Orlando, the Holy Land Experience is an entertaining, interactive – and inspirational – experience for kids of all ages. This is a terrific opportunity to become immersed in the colorful and realistic recreations of ancient Jerusalem. Explore detailed structures and interactive exhibits such as the Garden Tomb, the Great Temple and Plaza, and the Wilderness Tabernacle – modeled on the architecture of the Holy Land 2,000 years ago.
The park features live stage productions, from dramatic plays to Broadway-style musicals. Recreations of the ministry of Jesus and stories from the Old Testament, will move your spirit and emotions. During Easter and Christmas time, the park embraces the joy of the season and transforms to rejoice in classic stories.
Don’t miss The Scriptorium, a center for biblical antiquities, where you take an incredible journey through the pages of history to learn about the Bible’s parallel to the history of civilization and its impact upon the world. There’s also Smile of a Child Adventure Land, where kids can have their faces painted, try the rock-climbing wall, play Mini Golf and much more.
HLE has had its shares of ups and downs over the years, but more recently it’s been in something of a downward spiral. In February 2020, after a sharp decline in revenue for several years, the park announced that it planned to lay off 118 employees, representing most of its staff, and would be ending all theatrical productions, restaurants and retail shops. With little left to justify a $50 admission price, the local rumor was that the park would soon close.
Owned by Trinity Broadcasting Network, the theme park is registered as a non-profit corporation (HLE conducts weekly church services and bible studies for the general public, which puts them under the “church” category). Part of the law that allows a theme park to have that status requires the park to offer an annual day where admission is free.
HKE’s free admission day in 2020 never happened, because of COVID (the park closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. However, unlike every other theme park in the area, it’s never reopened since). And even though the park has been closed for over 13 months now, apparently they’re going to do Free Day this year – on TWO days!
From HLE’s website:
Wednesday and Thursday, April 28th and 29th the Holy Land Experience will open our gates for 2 Days of Free admission! Take a step back in time and visit the largest indoor Jerusalem model. This presentation brings the New Testament stories to life and highlights the craftsmanship of this one of kind replica. Join our guide with a walk through the Scriptorium and view thousands of manuscripts from around the world. Gates open at 10 AM, FREE parking and FREE admission. Overall Experience takes on average maximum of two hours. Masks required, social distancing and limited entry requirements will be practiced. Join us and prepare to be inspired, Wednesday and Thursday, April 28th and 29th, 4655 Vineland Rd. corner of Conroy and Vineland in Orlando.
Free admission day at HLE has always been interesting. It’s free, which means people genuinely interested in the park but didn’t want to pay $50 admission would go. Several people from the LGBTQ+ community would also visit on the annual Free Day to show visitors who still harbored inappropriate feelings about the LGBTQ+ community that they were the same as everyone else. They even called the free day in 2009 “Gay Day at Holy Land.” From Watermark Online, 2009:
While not overtly offensive to the LGBT community, Holy Land and owners Trinity Broadcasting Network exemplify the pseudo-Christian hypocrisy that is at the root of so much homophobia.
So yeah – if you’re in the area and are genuinely interested in what might be your last chance to visit The Holy Land Experience (or if you want to appreciate the point of “the gays invading a Christian theme park” [not my words, but a despicable phrase I saw in the past that stuck with me]), Wednesday, April 28th and Thursday, April 29th are HLE’s Free Days this year.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary