Gatorland - A Kissimmee Tradition

Gatorland has been a Central Florida landmark since long before Central Florida was even a relevant speck on the map. Founded in 1949, Gatorland is a family owned roadside attraction that has lured locals and tourists alike to venture through its signature gator-jaw entrance into a wild wonderland. Over the years, Gatorland has grown - currently occupying over 100 acres of land. It beautifully depicts the real, natural Florida that has been all but swallowed up by the newer kids on the block... many of which have come and gone in a mere fraction of the time that Gatorland has only thrived.

Judging by the name, you can surely make a successful assumption about some of the park's inhabitants, but there's so much more to Gatorland than gators! Gators and crocs may be the highlight, but Gatorland is also home to a wide array of birds, panthers, raccoons, various reptiles, a swamp walk, observation tower, The Gatorland Express train, the Screamin' Gator Zipline, playground, a smattering of spectacular food, Gator Gully Splash Park, a barnyard-style petting zoo and a handful of breathtaking shows. Unlike the big, bustling theme parks, Gatorland is rarely too crowded to enjoy. It's the vacation from your vacation that so many Orlando visitors desperately crave after a couple of days of chaos that typically accompanies their tours of the big parks. You can easily spend an entire day here, and leave feeling content, amused and not worn down or financially deflated. Don't tell the kids, but you may even learn a little something during your visit!

Gatorland puts a great deal of effort into their theming and "personality". From the moment you queue up for your ticket purchase, you'll notice subtle signs casually posted sharing common-sense warnings, educational tidbits and necessary directional details. As simple as this seems, it's one of the most endearing features of the park! 

That same personality is put into play through the friendly, knowledgeable employees you'll encounter throughout your day, and the entertaining shows that will amaze and amuse you all day long. 

  • Up Close Encounters is a highly interactive experience... if you have the courage to be a part of the action. This show provides an opportunity for brave volunteers (or those who are reluctantly recruited) to come face-to-face with some of the most feared, dangerous critters on the planet. Everything from no-legs to eight legs will be revealed from a slew of boxes by show hosts, as facts and myths are shared with the captivated audience. 

  • The Gator Jumparoo Show is a famed feeding frenzy that demonstrates the surprising strength and ability of a hungry gator... or many hungry gators. Your hilarious hosts boldly enter a large pond area armed with nothing more than food - hoping to avoid becoming the main course. As some alligators crawl their way up to the hosts seeking a snack, others linger in the pond awaiting the allure of their entrees which will soon be dangled high above them. From a complete standstill, the alligators will suddenly dart up vertically into the air, snatching the food from four to five feet over their heads. 

  • By far, the most dazzling Gatorland show is Gator Wrestlin'. Well-trained (and perhaps slightly insane) gator wranglers skillfully snatch a random gator from the moat surrounding the staging space... and they don't go for three footers. Once a gator is selected, the wranglers proceed to straddle the behemoth, while displaying some of the physical characteristics that make the alligator such a powerful creature. After demonstrating the teeth, jaw strength, whipping tails, instinctual behaviors and overall might of the gators, the wranglers show that these "beasts" are also quite charming - lulling them to sleep, and tickling them back to life, so to speak. Make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to be a wrangler yourself!

Gatorland is known for rescuing local alligators that would otherwise be put to death, or possibly pose a threat to humans. In this natural preserve setting, the animals all seem so sedate and at home. It's stunning to see how so many various species of creatures co-habitate! After so many visits, I always seem to anticipate some sort of cross-species battle ending in a bloody mess, but this has never actually unfolded before my eyes. 

In fact, new life is a much more likely occurrence here - especially in the Bird Rookery and Breeding Marsh. Gatorland offers a "photographer's pass" during a portion of the year, allowing discounted, early admission for those wishing to capture amazing wildlife interactions in this pristine setting. As someone who cannot seem to ever stop snapping photos, I cannot express the value in this opportunity! I have taken so many photos at Gatorland that I could devote an entire website to my Gatorlando photo collection alone, and it's hard to get a bad photo!

Speaking of birds - for a bird's eye view of the park, steel up for a ride on the 1,200 foot long zipline as you soar seven stories above the gator pools below! From thrills to giggles, Gatorland provides heart-pounding action as well as safe, family-friendly fun. The tot lot-style playground and splash pad are perfect for the youngest adventurers. They truly have thought of everything here. Even those not up for the thrill of the zipline have the chance to enjoy an overhead view in the "safe" observation tower. You can also keep your feet firmly planted on the ground while you enjoy the peaceful serenity of the marshy swamp walk. 
Gatorland offers a host of extras - photo ops, animal interactions and feedings, and exceptional programs such as Gator Night Shine (after hours tour and interactions) and Trainer for a Day. The Gatorland experience genuinely is an ever-evolving adventure that will leave you feeling brave, educated, amused and inspired. There's a reason that this place has stood the test of time - and it's not due to high-priced entry keeping the business afloat. Adult admission is about $27 (and discount opportunities are abundant), and annual passes less than $50!

If you have somehow managed to avoid a Gatorland visit, what rock have you been spending your vacation under... and what are you waiting for? The Gatorland experience is one of the most worthwhile and essential stops to include in your Central Florida visit. Stop by today - and tell them Come See Orlando sent you! Until then - check out some of our favorite Gatorland photos here. For more information on Gatorland, visit their official site.