Sunday, July 24, 2011


This used to be the entrance, they changed the building but left the Gator!

Gatorland was opened in 1949 and is still owned by the family of founder, Owen Godwin.  This park was a place to visit BEFORE Disney, Busch Gardens or the many other attractions in Orlando.   If you are old enough to have an AARP card you may have gone to Silver Springs, Weeki Wachee or Gatorland on your  vacations to Florida when you were younger!   Those parks are still in operation - and we chose to visit Gatorland on our recent trip.
Feeding small gators....and birds
Visiting Gatorland is a way to spend some time in Orlando and not break your budget.  The entrance price is $22.99 and there are coupons readily available for $3 off.  We bought the 'grunt' package which includes: admission to the park, a package of gator food (4 turkey dogs), rides on the train and a chance to sit on a live gator and take pictures.  The grunt package is $29.99 - the food is $3, train $2, sit on/hold the gator for pictures $10 if purchased separately.
Gators seem to like to use turtles as pillows

The park has thousands of alligators and crocodiles, a breeding marsh with boardwalk and observation tower, one-of-a-kind reptilian shows, aviary, petting zoo, swamp walk, educational programs, kids water play area (no gators there!) and a train ride.  You can easily spend 1/2 day here and even longer if your kids play in the water area.  There are concessions available and a couple of gift shops.

We saw all 3 of the shows available while we were there.  The first was an 'up close' show where handlers brought out snakes and tarantulas and had people from the audience help.  Lots of humor and information together made this a very enjoyable show.
Audience members help to hold a snake

The second show was the 'gator wrangler' where they pull a gator out of the water and show how they handle them along with giving information about alligators.  If you are a fan of the show Swamp People...this is for you!  At the end of this show they allow those people who want to get their photo op with a gator to come into the area.
The gator wrangler

Lizz holds the gator (her friend Emily does NOT like gators!)

The last show we watched was the 'gator jumparoo' where they feed the gators chicken and have them jump out of the water to get it.  Lots of hillbilly humor - but interesting and fun.
Gator Jumparoo

We walked through the white alligator building, saw the different snakes in their aquariums and  went into the bird aviary (food is $1 for a Popsicle stick with seed).  Be very patient with the birds and they will eventually come down and sit on your hand.
Rare white alligator
Bird aviary - Lizz tries to coax them down for food
The swamp walk is on an elevated boardwalk through the natural swamp area that is the headwaters of the Florida Everglades.  Interesting plants and a few turtles.  Informative signs and bench areas to rest and enjoy the scenery.
On the swamp boardwalk
There is a path around the breeding lagoon and also a boardwalk across part of it.  We suggest keeping your gator food for this area.  Lots of BIG gators here and not too many people.  The train goes around the back of the park and is a slow ride.  The lines were long midday and we ended up skipping it.  Maybe if you took the train early or later in the day the wait would be shorter?
Breeding lagoon boardwalk
I wonder if these birds ever get eaten?
We really enjoyed our time at Gatorland.  If you are in Orlando and looking for something to do, maybe you would like it too!

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