Wednesday, September 24, 2014


9 Fun Things to Do Gatorland ~ Kissimmee, FL

{Disclosure: My family & I were invited to experience Gatorland and were provided tickets.  I was not paid to write this article.  Despite how squeamish alligators make me, we had a good time.  All my opinions are my own.}

The one thing my son always requests to see when we travel to Florida is alligators.  I don’t know how or where he came up with the idea that Florida was filled with alligators, but even when we are traveling to Disney World, he has his eyes peeled for alligators on the sides of the road.

On a recent trip to the Orlando area, we were hosted by the Kissimmee CVB who made sure we spent time at Gatorland. Thanks to Kissimmee Guest Services, my son was finally able to see the infamous ‘Florida Alligators” he had been dreaming about.  And Gatorland did not disappoint - with thousands of alligators & crocodiles, this momma saw her fill!

Gatorland is located between Orlando and Kissimmee on the South Orange Blossom Trail. It has a very nostalgic atmosphere, as if you are driving up to a 1950’s theme park - I mean look at the adorable alligator head out front you can snap a picture in.  Founded in 1949, the park is nothing but modern and well-run with lots of activities for the gator enthusiast.

Gatorland calls itself a "theme park and wildlife refuge".  I found it to be an educational experience, as the "shows" taught us more about animals in a fun and creative way and the wildlife preserve is just massive,  where you can experience a true Florida marsh.

We enjoyed Gatorland more than we thought, as it was a hot day and we were just coming off of 5 days at Universal and Disney.  However, we found Gatorland to be a nice, quiet experience.  We took our time, saw what we wanted and ended up with a whole new respect for alligators and other animals native to the Florida area.  Here are a few things we loved the most:

Upclose Encounters
We love to learn about animals and always find educational experiences that teach us more.  Gatorland has several opportunities throughout the day that taught us more about the alligators, reptiles and even birds.  Funny as these 2 "Upclose Encounters" educators were, they did a great job of teaching us to revere some mighty reptiles and snakes from afar.

Gator Wrestlin'
I’ll admit, I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of watching grown mean wrestle a gator to the ground, but it actually turned out to be one of our favorite things to do at Gatorland.  We learned about the history of ranchers in Florida and how they would have to jump into the swamps to wrestle gators to keep them from getting their cows. These “wrestlers” were quick at getting their gators and pretty graceful too.  Once down, the wrestler showed us various parts of the gator that were unique - even poking his eyes at one point!

Rookie Wrestlin'
For a small fee, you can site astride one of the wrestled gators and have your picture taken.  Of course my obsessed son had to do this.  Turned out to be the cutest souvenir I could have gotten him.

Gator Jumparoo Show
Another experience I was unsure of, gator feeding sounded a little vicious.  I mean, what exactly were they feeding these gators? And who would be feeding them? Turns out, this entertaining experience was also a favorite of my son's.  Trained handlers fed the hungry alligators chicken breasts in a variety of ways - from hooks, lines strung across the pond and even by hand (yikes!).  It was pretty amazing to see these huge animals leap fully out of the water for food.

The Breeding Marsh
We took a long walk along the boardwalk and observation tower that winds through the Breeding Marsh which allowed us plenty of spots to see the gators in more of their natural habitats.  I enjoyed the quietness that actually showed us what the Flordia Everglades would be like.  This is also home to  one of the largest rookeries in Central Florida.  You can watch endangered birds wade through the waters and build nests.

Parakeet Playground
Gatorland also is home to several other animals as well and they have a beautiful flock of parrots.  You can go inside their home and meet them up close.  The employees hand you a stick during feeding time with birdseed and many of these adorable birds will land on your arms & hands to eat.  My 11 year old really enjoyed this interaction, but the bird flying around were a bit to much for the 4 year old.

The Gatorland Express Train
While the original Gatorland Express train was retired a few years ago, there is still a fun train ride to experience that goes around the whole park. Perfect for the little ones who may not be that into the gators!

Gator Gulley Splash Park
As you can imagine, an outdoor park in Florida can be hot. And for the beginning of May, it certainly was. It was nice to see that Gatorland was thinking of it’s little visitors when building a playground with a terrific splash pad.  Terrific for cooling off after a walk on the Nature Trail.

Screamin' Gator Zipline
Gatorland offers 1200 feet of zipping over the gator pond. The 2 hour experience takes you over 5 zip lines that are up to 65 feet high.  It ends with a long zip over the breeding marsh. We didn’t zipline during our visit but from the yelps and woo-hoos you would hear, you know they were having fun.

Again, we really enjoyed our visit to Gatorland.  I thought it was a great way to really experience Flordia and see what life is like outside of Disney.  In fact, if you are planing a trip to Walt Disney World, try to tack on an extra day to visit Kissimmee and put Gatorland in your plans.

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