The months-long task of demolishing a popular Orlando-area theme park is finally complete, but current world events make the park’s absence far more noticeable.
The theme park was among the many offerings in Central Florida’s bustling and sprawling Orlando entertainment mecca. But rather than offering vacationers and other guests experiences and attractions bent on magic, movies, minions, and mayhem, like its counterparts, the Holy Land Experience in Orlando offered an experience with a message–one of hope and peace–two things desperately needed and sought after across the globe–especially in light of recent events in Israel.
A Theme Park Unlike Any Other
While Disney World features rides and shows inspired by some of the most beloved fairy tales ever written, The Holy Land Experience featured attractions and shows inspired by the Greatest Story Ever Told. And unlike the heart-pounding rides at Universal Studios Orlando Resort, attractions at The Holy Land Experience were of the heart-changing variety.
And though the message lives on, The Holy Land Experience theme park is now but rocks, rubble, and reminders of what once stood in a multi-acre lot located on Vineland Road, just off I-4 at Conroy Road in Orlando.
The park could be seen from the interstate and was an established member of Central Florida’s bustling theme park district. But while Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando, and others offered visitors interactive attractions and heart-pounding rides, The Holy Land Experience offered guests a heart-changing message of hope and peace.
For nearly 20 years, the park welcomed guests of all faiths through its gates to experience several themed lands, each one inspired by events chronicled by the Bible.
The Bible-themed family park featured reenactments of Jesus’s resurrection, a scale miniature model of the city of Jerusalem in the first century, and the Scriptorium Museum, which showcased Biblical artifacts, including ancient Bible scrolls, manuscripts, and early printed editions of the Bible. The Holy Land Experience also featured an animatronic likeness of the 14th-century Bible translator John Wycliffe.
In 2007, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) acquired The Holy Land Experience and began renovating the park to include the construction of the Church of All Nations auditorium, a state-of-the-art complex with seating for as many as 2,000 guests, in which live theatrical and musical performances took place, the development of the Smile of a Child Adventure Land area, and the construction of several restaurants, shops, and more.
A Famous Beacon of Hope
For nearly two decades, The Holy Land Experience welcomed guests and tourists in the Orlando area through its gates. Located just off Interstate 4, the massive Church for All Nations structure could be easily seen from the interstate, as it towered over other structures in the park.
The unique Orlando-based theme park offering was known as a “living Biblical museum” and was touted as the most famous of the Biblical replicas in the United States:
“The Holy Land Experience started as the brainchild of Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish convert and ordained Baptist minister who called himself a ‘Christian Hebrew.’ Rosenthal was raised in Philadelphia and converted to Christianity after his mother, who ran a candy store, started reading the New Testament. He saw her life transformed and wanted what she had. In 1989, Rosenthal and his family moved to Florida and started the ministry Zion’s Hope. When Zion’s Hope sold some property to the state for the construction of a highway, Rosenthal was moved to invest the profits into a replication of the Holy Land, which would allow people to experience Israel as it was in Jesus’s time on earth.
We hope all visitors will come and see the majesty of God. Or at least go home and dust off their Bibles,’ Rosenthal told a Florida newspaper. ‘I’ve come to appreciate how helpful it is for people not only to read about some of the great truths of the Bible but to see some of the great places, the environments, the sounds, the touches, the smells.”
The Message Remains, but the Theme Park Has Disappeared
But after more than 20 years of operating in the Orlando, Florida, area–14 of those years under the leadership of Trinity Broadcasting Network, the 14-acre theme park was acquired by AdventHealth Services.
When the pandemic forced the theme park to close in 2020, TBN reportedly began to search for a buyer for the park. Selling off the park would help TBN in its efforts to streamline its operations. TBN ultimately announced the sale of the land on its website, stating, “After fourteen years of operation and millions of visitors to the park, TBN sold the property in 2021 during the COVID pandemic to Advent Health Services, whose mission is ‘To extend the healing ministry of Christ’ in order to better serve the greater Orlando area with healthcare.”
At the time of the acquisition, AdventHealth, a major player in the Florida healthcare arena that owns and operates 29 hospitals in the Sunshine State, had yet to disclose its plans for the 14-acre tract of land underneath The Holy Land experience.
But the group made a statement, saying in part that AdventHealth would “make a significant investment in redeveloping the property to bring enhanced health care services to the community.” That investment began to take physical shape in late April when the first of many demolition vehicles arrived at the site of The Holy Land Experience.
Demolition work is now underway at the former Holy Land Experience in Orlando. The attraction permanently closed in 2021. The property was purchased by AdventHealth, which plans to redevelop it for a new emergency room. pic.twitter.com/LyvO9D1az7
— Ashley Carter (@AshleyLCarter1) April 28, 2023
Demolition of the area began on April 28, 2023.
Week after week, structures featuring once-beautiful architecture were transformed into dusty piles of concrete, steel, plaster, and more.
On June 1, 2023, all that remained of the temple at The Holy Land Experience was the pile seen in the lower center of this image.
Though the demolition of The Holy Land Experience in Orlando is now complete, a glance back at the images seems a reminder of the destruction taking place some 6,550 miles away in Israel. The violence and terror that’s spreading in the region make the absence of The Holy Land Experience in Orlando somehow more noticeable.
Here’s hoping the message of hope and peace that didn’t go away with the piles of rubble from the now-defunct theme park will reach those in Israel, the Gaza Strip, and along the West Bank.