This past weekend, the weather here in Florida was magical! We were lucky enough to head down to Busch Gardens in Tampa, and then the next day we swung over to Orlando to Gatorland to check them out! I had never even heard of Gatorland, and did not really know what to expect of the place. I also am phobic about alligators so it is strange that I even decided to go there, but I love my son, and my son loves reptiles so I took one for the team! Astonishingly, I LOVED Gatorland and my husband and son did as well!
"Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve, combining “Old Florida” charm with exciting new exhibits and entertainment. The park opened as a roadside attraction in 1949. Today, it provides affordable-priced family fun with thousands of alligators, crocodiles, an aviary, breeding marsh with observation tower, petting zoo, nature walk, educational wildlife programs, Gatorland award-winning gift shop, Florida’s best train-ride, restaurant, Gator Gully Splash Park and one-of-a-kind reptilian shows including the Gator Wrestlin’ Show, Gator Jumparoo and the Up-close Encounters Show."First off, I should tell you Gatorland is not only just alligators! They have a petting zoo, crocodiles, snakes, and every kind of bird you can imagine. They have a train that takes you to see deer and cows, and of course alligators. The train ride is an additional $2 for purchase and lasts about 15 minutes. I think the train wrist band is unlimited rides though, so well worth the $2. On the ride you learn a little about the park and some fun facts. For example, we learned that the gender of an alligator can be determined by the temperature of the nest while they are eggs. Pretty amazing stuff, right? They have a nature trail that you can walk. We walked it in about a 15 minute leisurely pass, stopping and reading the signs about Florida wildlife.
They have this amazing splash pad for the children, but it was only in the 60's when we went so as much as my son begged, we did not allow him to play. There is an awesome place to eat called Pearls Smokehouse. My son got the kids meal hot dog which came with a souvenir cup, Oreo's and goldfish! He was very happy with that selection. I got the BBQ pork sandwich which was very tasty and loaded with pork and my hubby got the grilled chicken salad, and even he commented on how much chicken was on the salad. Later we stopped back by and got an ice cream bar to enjoy around the park.
We enjoyed all of the alligator exhibits, but I probably enjoyed their breeding grounds the most. This was the most natural environment for them, and you could see dozens of gators basking in the sun. This is also where the zip line goes! Right over the alligators. Some people have a LOT more nerve then I do, let me tell you! I will enjoy watching the gators, safely from the wood walkway. My son most enjoyed the leucistic alligators. These gators are white but with amazingly bright blue eyes. We spent quite a lot of time looking at them and reading the signs.
So, at a very leisurely pace, we spent a good four hours at Gatorland. Had it been warm enough for the splash pad, we could have easily spent all day there. My son loves new knowledge, so he ate up all the facts we learned about the alligators! At the end of the day, we went into their very reasonably priced gift shop and looked around, where my son found me a Christmas present that I am excited to get!
Oh, my son got picked to go on stage and help pick out which alligator that would be "wrestled!" He was so excited! I videoed part of the show, and it was definitely the highlight of our day. It was pretty funny and entertaining.
Overall, I give Gatorland a four star! It is clean, and the animals are well taken care of. Everyone there seems to be very pleased with their job, and never act like anything you ask is a burden. The splash pad is an added bonus and would be especially wonderful during the hot summer months!
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