Founded in 1949 with only a handful of alligators living in huts and pens, Gatorland now houses thousands of alligators (including a rare blue one) and crocodiles on its 70-acre spread. Breeding pens, nurseries, and rearing ponds are situated throughout the park, which also displays snakes, toads, insects, turtles, and a Galápagos tortoise. Its 2,000-foot boardwalk winds through a cypress swamp and breeding marsh.
The Screamin' Gator Zipline is the park's latest addition. It will open June 16.
Headliners include Gator Wrestlin', using the old "put-them-to-sleep" trick, but it's more of an environmental awareness program; Gator Jumparoo, a crowd-pleaser in which the parks largest reptiles lunge 4 or 5 feet out of the water to snatch a hunk of meat from a trainer's hand; Up Close Encounters, showcasing the park's toothy carnivores, slithery snakes, and other wildlife; and Critters on the Go, a mobile show that allows younger kids a chance to interact with the parks cuddlier critters. A train ride, a treat for younger kids and tots, runs through the park ($2 per person); the Gully Gator Splash Park, a new wet-and-dry play area; and Allie's Barnyard, a small petting zoo. While you're here, try the smoked gator ribs or nuggets in the open-air restaurant, or grab a gator-skin souvenir in the gift shop. Allow 4 to 5 hours. Tip: Look for additional parking, a refreshed facade with an open-air admission pavilion, and additional landscaping renovations coming soon.
Note: Gatorland's Trainer for a Day program lets up to five guests get up close and personal with the gators for a day (or 2 hr., in this case). The $125, 2-hour experience puts you side by side with trainers and includes a chance to wrangle some alligators (minimum age 12). Advance reservations are required, and admission to the park is included (and a 20% discount off a regular admission ticket is extended to up to six members of your party). A 1 1/2-hour Night Shine tour is also available ($19.99, regardless of age) and takes you along the wooden walkways with only a flashlight and a guide (insect repellent and gator food is included). Advanced reservations are required.
Tip: Printable discount coupons and special Internet ticket prices are available at the park's website. Be sure to check it out before you leave home.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2009
- Highly Recommended 2010