Skip to Main Content

Entrance to the Great Passion Play.

The Great Passion Play

Field review by the editors.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The Great Passion Play recreates the last week of Jesus's life, from his entry into Jerusalem to his rising from the dead. It's modeled after the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria, which literally takes a week to perform, but which is staged only once every decade. This version -- condensed into 2.5 hours -- goes on five nights a week in the summer, and less frequently as the nights get chilly.

The idea for a stateside Great Passion Play came to right-wing-Christian-theme-park-entrepreneur Gerald L.K. Smith when he saw a hollow at the top of Magnetic Mountain and realized that it would make a natural outdoor amphitheater. Into the hillside he had built 6,000 seats facing a 550-ft-wide, a three-story set the size of two football fields, including a 400-foot reproduction of a street in old Jerusalem.

Ascension scene.

Performed by a cast of "over 250 dedicated Christians" -- according to its literature -- as well as live donkeys, camels, mules, horses, and sheep, it is still the largest outdoor pageant in the United States. Jesus rises into the night sky at its end.

Since it opened in 1968, the Great Passion Play has become "the number one attended outdoor drama in America," according to a North Carolina outfit named the Institute of Outdoor Drama. Reportedly over 7 million people have witnessed it.

The Great Passion Play has not been without controversy. Smith, who was a bigot, called his Play "the only presentation of its kind in the world which has not diluted its content to flatter the Christ-hating Jews." Jewish groups in turn denounced the Play as anti-Semitic.

Crowds at the Passion Play.

We did not see the Great Passion Play -- we had to be in Oklahoma that night -- but since the rest of this Christian theme park seems to have put animosity behind it, perhaps tempers on both sides of the Passion Play have cooled as well.

Vernon Payne, who's been here since 1992, could recall only one instance of an audience member who was angered by the Great Passion Play -- and that was because the dialog departed from the text of the King James Version.

Also see: Great Passion Play Theme Park

The Great Passion Play

New Holy Land

935 Passion Play Rd, Eureka Springs, AR
A couple of miles east of town. Take US 62 east to Passion Play Rd.
May-Oct., days vary (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $25.00
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Sacred Arts MuseumSacred Arts Museum, Eureka Springs, AR - < 1 mi.
The Bible MuseumThe Bible Museum, Eureka Springs, AR - < 1 mi.
Slab of the Berlin WallSlab of the Berlin Wall, Eureka Springs, AR - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka Springs, AR - 3 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Arkansas

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Arkansas.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Save Cool Vacation Destinations! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Arkansas Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

American Treasure Tour, Oaks, Pennsylvania (Jul 8-14, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings