When I’m on vacation I’ll admit – a bit of kitsch will lure me into an “educational” destination. So when I learned of the giant gaping jaws at Gatorland and the promise of a coveted Mold-a-Rama souvenir, it wasn’t too hard to get me to go there.
Even if it meant risking Retro Roadhusband for a tacky vacation photo op!
Family owned and operated since it opened in 1949 (totally love that) Gatorland totally surpassed my expectations and I wish we had been able to spend more time there! It was bigger than I thought it would be (their website say it’s 110 acres) and has thousands of alligators, crocodiles and other animals to check out. I’ll give you a sneak peek inside, but by all means check it out in real life for yourself, and you won’t be sorry.
We saw these little fellas when we first walked in, and weren’t sure if they were just some statues piled up for effect, but no, they were all ALIVE! And living in harmony with the turtles – can you see that one being used as a pillow? I reckon if a gator wanted to use me as a pillow I’d oblige. Better than being an hors d’oeuvre!
There are some MUCH BIGGER gators in the park as well- so watch your step!
And speaking of steps – we very much enjoyed walking around the park, but if you want to get an overview of the entire park you can ride the Gatorland Express for a nominal fee.
According to a sign at the park their original miniature train the Iron Horse Express debuted at Gatorland in 1961, making it the very first amusement park ride in Central Florida. It was retired from active duty in 2000 after logging in almost 500,000 miles (in half mile increments!) and is still on display in the park.
C’mon, says Retro Roadhusband, we’ve got gators to see!
Here’s a glimpse of one of the bigger crocs we saw on our “croc walk” but you just can’t get the sense of scale (and scales!) and size unless you’re really there. I couldn’t help but think that, however we disparage zoos when they’re done poorly, a setup like this must be pretty sweet for all animals concerned – they don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or becoming someone’s next meal, or being killed by poachers. I swear I see a little smile on his face.
One thing we were surprised at was how many birds there are at Gatorland, and not just the fancy wild ones like this wild heron.
I was fascinated by the display of budgies / parakeets who were at one point a hugely popular house pet. Once they fell out of vogue however, people had no problem releasing them out in the wild, and a large population of them migrated to St. Petersburg, FL. Heck, don’t we all want to migrate to St. Pete? In any case, we just missed it timing-wise but we saw that you can actually buy a “seedsicle” and enter the budgie display and feed them. Dang!
We did get to see some of their famous leucistic “white” alligators though, which I decided to commemorate with my Mold-a-rama souvenir:
Though the front of the park and the original gift shop suffered a horrible fire in 2006 it was completely rebuilt and reopened in 2008. Along with every alligator related gift you can imagine, you can also buy food to feed the gators and birds, and there’s a snack bar for people as well (random note -they sell beer and have a gluten-free menu!).
Because we had to scurry I totally missed the snakes.We did see some goats, and now I wish we had also stayed for one of their live gator “wrasslin” shows. Not being adventurous-at-all- we declined the Zipline through the park option as well, but if that’s your idea of fun, then by all means go for it!
So remember, when you visit Gatorland not only are you getting a wicked value ( a family of eight can visit Gatorland for less than the cost of one person at any of the larger area theme parks)but you’re also supporting a family owned attraction. And I’ll be darned – I learned something and didn’t even realize it!