Gatorland, or “Alligator Capital of the World” as its entrance sign announces, is a 110-acre (45-hectare) park and nature reserve dedicated to the sharp-toothed creatures native to the marshlands of South Florida. Here you can step into a ‘gator wrestling arena and learn to actually train one of these reptiles. Hold a baby alligator and see the rare white version of the species. If you dare, venture into the swamp and get just a few feet away from them in their natural environment in Adventure Hour.
A short drive east of Walt Disney World® Resort, Gatorland is within easy walking distance of the residential Kissimmee area. It opened in 1949 as Florida Wildlife Institute, a roadside attraction set up by Owen Godwin, with just a few snakes and alligators. It was renamed Gatorland in 1954, and today attracts visitors from around the world.
This wildlife sanctuary is home to thousands of alligators as well as snakes, crocodiles, deer and giant tortoises. Birdwatchers will love the photo opportunities here, too. Follow the raised wooden platform weaving through the swampy landscape and you may spot any number of feathered creatures, including egrets, flamingos, hawks and spoonbills.
At Allie’s Barnyard Petting Zoo, children can meet and feed baby animals. Other attractions for kids include a playground and the Gator Gully Splash Park.
Gator Jumparoo is one of the most popular shows, offering great views of alligators in action. Be quick with your camera to catch these beasts launching themselves up to five feet out of the water as they go after the raw meat that a trainer dangles above them. You can also dangle above the reptiles on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line: strap into a harness and fly for 1,200 feet (366 meters) across attractions, including the Alligator Breeding Marsh, during this special two-hour experience.
Gatorland is a popular family attraction but can be less crowded than most of Florida’s theme parks. You’ll need a whole day to see all the park has to offer, but try to come early in the day to ensure you catch the shows and feeding times.