Where: 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail | 407-855-5496
When: Daily from 10 am – 5 pm
Cost: $24.99 for adults and $16.99 for children over 3 (find a coupon for $2.50 off the admission price on their website)
Grunt Pass $31.99 adults, $24.99 children (includes admission, gator wrestling photo opportunity (photo extra), unlimited train rides and gator food (hot dogs)
On a recent visit to Orlando, we decided to do the ‘Everything BUT Disney tour’ and take in a little of the real Florida. What could be more Florida than alligators and swamps, so our first stop was Gatorland. According to our train guide Donny, the “alligator Capital of the World” was built in 1949, and went through several names before settling in on Gatorland. Donny also told us baby alligators were sold as a souvenir for $1 when the park first opened. Of course my boys wanted one.
We went to the park on a chilly, drizzly January afternoon. Not the best weather for alligators, who are cold-blooded and try to conserve energy in chilly weather by not moving a lot. Gatorland is probably the only attraction where you want to visit later in the day, when it’s hot outside, as the gators tend to be more active in the later part of the day when things have had a chance to warm up. This also makes summer the ideal time to visit Gatorland, although winter has it’s advantages too. Here’s what you can expect.
Aside from seeing so many gators in one place, the main events at Gatorland are the shows, get a schedule when you enter and plan your visit around them. My youngest’s favorite was the Up Close Encounters where audience members are asked to hold tarantulas and large snakes. He thought that was funny. The snake I was ok with, the tarantula, not so much.
Although the gators weren’t jumping in the Jumperoo show, they were a bit feisty in the Alligator Wrestling show, of course that could have been the antics of Donny, our gator wrestler, who proclaimed the gator picked the meanest and nastiest of them all. He was a great showman and really seemed to be enjoying himself.
In between shows, visit with the rest of the animals on property. There’s Chester, the dog eating gator. Probably the largest reptile I’ve ever seen. Rare white alligators and farm animals that roam around in the petting zoo. Don’t miss the bird feedings. It didn’t take long for my middle son to be covered in feathers. Unlike at Zoo Atlanta, these birds are all over you. The parrot on his shoulder was a little hard to shake when it was time to leave. The Rookery is relaxing and offers some gorgeous photo opportunities, as does the swamp walk.
Additional Experiences at Gatorland
Although the main attraction at Gatorland is the alligators, there are lots of additional adventures such as zip line tours throughout the park, a behind the scenes tour and a trainer for the day program. There are also several opportunities to feed the animals and have pictures taken. All of these experiences are an additional fee, so if you are on a budget, look online and discuss with your family what you will and will not be able to do before you get to Gatorland. In the warmer months, bring a bathing suit for the splash pad area – which is included in park admission. Save some money for the Gator Wrestlin photo by bringing your lunch. Gatorland lets you go in and out, so it’s easy to bring a picnic lunch.
The Grunt Pass
We visited on the Grunt Pass, which is probably the best deal. It includes park admission, gator wrestling photo opportunity (photo extra), the train ride and alligator food (hot dogs). See above for prices. Feeding the alligators was one of my son’s favorite parts. Even in their chilly state, they were snapping at the food and crawling over each other to get it. I was pretty excited about the gator wrestling. In the end it was just sitting on a gator that had his mouth tapped shut, but still, how cool to have your photo sitting on an alligator!
My family was given media passes to Gatorland. All opinions are our own.