Postcards & Passports

Gatorland — Orlando’s Oldest Attraction

This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019

Gatorland

I first visited Gatorland when I was about ten years old…in the 70’s. All I remembered was walking on a wooden boardwalk around a small pond full of alligators. AND I was a little scared. Flash forward to today: Gatorland may be the oldest attraction in Orlando, but it is certainly not “past its prime”.

Gatorland

The original entrance to Gatorland

I was thrilled when the opportunity arose for my husband to accompany me on a trip to Orlando this year. I knew I wanted to take him to Gatorland. Wouldn’t you agree that it sounds like a place a guy would like? After my first impression, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Well, it has grown. A lot. And there’s so much more to see and do there than I remembered. (I’m sure they added much of it since my last visit!) I also think you get a lot more ‘bang for your buck’ at Gatorland. So keep reading, and I’ll share some details…

Just Havin’ Some Fun!

From the vintage signs at the entrance and the large crocodile mouth you can walk into…to the recorded message (redneck style) on the phone when you call Gatorland for information, there’s a sense of fun and humor throughout the park. I liked the tongue-in-cheek signs, too. Like “Don’t try to feed the alligators. They will eat YOU. And that might make them sick.” Gatorland will make you laugh!

Gatorland

Or the sign at the train crossing: “You can beat the train or the train can beat you. Tying the train, however, will ruin your day.”  You just can’t take Gatorland too seriously, because it’s all about having some fun. But then there’s those wicked-looking alligators — and you DO have to take them seriously!

One more: “Anyone caught throwing objects at the alligators will be asked to retrieve them.” Oops! I think I’ll keep my things to myself!

Value

At only $27.00 for adults (or $19 for kids 3-12), admission to Gatorland is a fraction of the price of the big Orlando theme parks. Parking is free, food is affordable, and the variety of activities, shows, and things to see is awesome. I’d say you could easily make a half-day out of visiting Gatorland…longer if you bring swimsuits for the kids and stay to cool off at Gator Gully Splash Park.

With Disney World Magic Kingdom tickets starting at $104.00 for kids and $110 for adults, plus parking and expensive food, you’re spending a LOT more per hour of family enjoyment! Is Gatorland the same as the Magic Kingdom? Of course not, but it is a very unique experience that is educational, fun, and part of the natural Florida habitat. For less than double the price of a one-day admission, you can buy an annual pass and return to Gatorland several times!

Variety

I think it really WAS just about the alligators when I visited in the 70’s. But now, Gatorland features rare white alligators, crocodiles, tortoises, macaws, flamingos, snakes, a petting zoo with goats, an aviary, owls, and free-roaming herons, cranes, egrets, peacocks and more.

If you take the train ride within the park ($2), you’ll also see lots of deer and a few other animals, too.

 

There are no lines, and you’re free to roam the park at will. You can stop and read every informational sign (lots of humor and fun facts) or just skip them and still have a wonderful visit.

There are two main shows: Alligator Jumparoo and the Aligator Wrestling show. Both are very entertaining. I had no idea that alligators could jump out of the water so high!. The trainers are very knowledgeable and share a lot of interesting facts about alligators during the shows. I was rather nervous for the trainer doing the wrestling show, as he is not protected from those huge jaws of the alligators. I guess he just really knows his stuff!

Gatorland

How do you caption this? Crazy?!?!?!?

Gatorland

“Gotcha by the tail!”

This video demonstrates how singing can put an alligator to sleep…(really, now, are you just pulling my leg?!)

Here’s a photo and video from the Gatorland Jumparoo — this is a show with some bite!

Gatorland

Gators can jump! Watch out, everyone!

One of my favorites

I wasn’t expecting the beautiful birds who frequent Gatorland to be so visitor-friendly. They’ll let you get pretty close to take photos, and they are all over the park. Including in the alligator-infested marshes. I wonder how many of them end up being lunch?! I even saw a bird standing on the top of an alligator’s back!

Here’s a few of the photos my husband and I took. I wish I could tell you the names of each bird, but I’m just not sure.

Another Favorite

Gatorland is kind of sandwiched between two swamps, so they make the best of it by incorporating the swamps into the learning environment with their Swamp Walk. On a raised wooden boardwalk, you can walk a loop (maybe 1/2 mile) through a swamp so dense, there’s no sign that you’re anywhere near civilization. It’s beautiful! Lush, green foliage and plants you would only find in a swamp. Informative (and also funny) signs explaining what you are seeing. Even some wildlife. (I saw birds and dragonflies, but I bet you’ll see more if you’re patient.) I enjoyed feeling like I was a long, long way from home. Don’t miss the Swamp Walk.

Ultimate adventure

So, let’s say all this is too tame for you. You’ve seen the alligator wrestling show and you actually yawned. Well, then, there’s more adventure waiting. You can actually ride the thrilling Screamin’ Gator Zip — a zip line right over an alligator infested marsh. Now certainly that will get  your adrenaline pumping! There are several different zip line packages you can purchase. On the day of my visit, they had a $10 special for one leg of the zip line, but it wasn’t the portion that takes you over the alligators. Still, a great view of the park!

Is there More at Gatorland?

Yep! So much more. I already mentioned the train ride, but did I tell it’s the oldest ride in Orlando? There are also lots of photo ops within the park — scenes where you can stop and take your photo with a great backdrop. Or you can pay to have your photo taken with an alligator and/or a boa!

A restaurant, fudge shop, and ice cream shack keep you fed and hydrated, and there’s also a small general store stocked with items you might have forgotten to bring with you — sunglasses, sunscreen, drinks, etc.

I really enjoyed climbing the Observation Tower in the center of the park. From there, you have 360-degree views of all of Gatorland. You can see the zip line courses, the alligator breeding marshes, and beautiful cranes gliding over the water.

And don’t forget the spacious and well-supplied gift store — here you will find just about any kind of alligator-themed souvenir you can think of.

Fun Facts about Gatorland & Alligators:

  • Gatorland has over 1700 alligators and crocodiles, including four extremely rare leucistic “white” alligators.
  • It is known internationally as the “Alligator Capitol of the World”
  • It is also the only place worldwide where alligators have been successfully artificially inseminated.
  • Alligators have rounded noses, and crocodiles’ snouts are more triangular.
  • Crocodiles are a lot more aggressive than alligators.
  • The bumps on an alligator’s back are actually small bones, and they serve as a kind of solar panel for soaking up heat.
  • When you turn an alligator upside down, it will enter into tonic immobility — a temporary stage of paralysis. (So…the trainer wasn’t really singing the gator to sleep!)
  • Alligators can only breathe through their noses, not their mouths.

Have you ever been to Gatorland? What was your favorite part?

Disclosure: My husband and I were hosted by Gatorland for this visit, but I can assure you that my opinions are my own.

Gatorland

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Gatorland — Orlando’s Oldest Attraction

  1. Darren

    Being near those gators was a reminder of days decades ago when I lived near the Everglades! Glad we went to Gatorland.

  2. Heather Young

    Wow! This definitely looks like a great place to visit, although I’m not sure I’d be able to get too close to the edge; those alligators sure freak me out! What an informative blog post; I feel like I was there, but from the comfort–and safety–of my home! 🙂

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