They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’ve found that to be incredibly true at Gatorland in Kissimmee, Florida. I had the pleasure of a complimentary visit to Gatorland and having a private tour by “the Dean” while on my Rock Your Vacation press trip with Experience Kissimmee last week, and I have some amazing photos to share with you!
Gatorland opened as a roadside attraction in Kissimmee in 1949. For over 50 years, Gatorland has operated as a wildlife preserve as well as a 110-acre theme park, famous for their combination of “Old Florida” charm and awesome exhibits and experiences. While this was my second trip to Gatorland, every visit is different, as you never know what those critters will do when you’re in the park!
Gatorland is located right between Orlando and Kissimmee, making it one of Central Florida’s most famous attractions. While we were there last week, the Dean said something that resonated with me; he said that a visitor told him she always comes to Gatorland when she is in the area because as much as she loves the Disney and Universal theme parks, Gatorland has something different to offer.
Gatorland is the theme park with a heartbeat.
It’s so true! While I love the other theme parks, there’s something magical about immersing yourself in a wildlife preserve, seeing reptiles that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see and learning about nature.
I mean, you can’t really meet a 60 year old turtle and pet him at Disney World, can you?
Gatorland was founded in 1949 by Owen Godwin, and his family still privately owns the park.
What does Gatorland have to offer?
Well, Gatorland is know as the “Alligator Capital of the World,” for a reason! There are gators (and crocodiles too!) everywhere you look! Aside from walking around the park looking at the different alligators, crocodiles, birds and other assorted animals (birds, snakes and panthers, to name a few!), Gatorland has wildlife shows, up close encounters, a free flight aviary, a petting zoo, a breeding marsh and even a Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, where you can zipline over a pool of alligators!
While we were at Gatorland, we were led into the gator-wrestling arena to have an up close encounter with an alligator. Now, I did this last year at Gatorland, so I knew what to expect.
However, when I was there last year, there weren’t other gators on the platform with us! I was more nervous about those gators than I was about the one I was about to sit on! Fortunately, they kept to themselves and didn’t even seem to notice that I was there.
I posed with my gator and then asked if it was okay if I improvised…
I wanted to give our gator a kiss, but I was afraid to bend his neck back too far, and afraid to lean too far over and lose my balance, so that was as close as I came to kissing him!
After posing with the gator, we headed over to the breeding marsh and got to meet Holly, the Dean’s favorite bird at the park.
She was super friendly!
Apparently, she has a thing for curly hair…
Gatorland’s breeding marsh might be my favorite spot, the scenery is just breathtaking, and there are so many gators and birds!
There are so many species of birds in the Gatorland marshes that photographers and bird watches come from all over the country to see them. Due to the climate and unique habitat, Gatorland has grown into one of the largest and most easily accessible rookeries in Florida. Gatorland provides a protected nesting, foraging, and roosting area to over 20 different species of birds, many of which are listed as Endangered or Species of Special Concern.
Gatorland’s boardwalks provide birders and photographers with close access to these incredible birds, allowing people to safely observe them and capture stunning photographs. You can even buy a special photographer’s and birding pass, which ranges in price from $10 to $99, depending on the type of pass you want.
From January 30th through June 15th, photographers and birding enthusiasts can enter the park at 7:30 am Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and stay until dusk on every Saturday.
Special Experiences Available at Gatorland
Adventure Hour – Tour offered daily. Reservations required. Adult or Child: $10.00
Venture into the Alligator Breeding Marsh for this behind-the-scenes tour you’ll never forget. Home to hundreds of alligators, you’ll have the opportunity to safely venture within a few feet of hungry, giant alligators and create a thrilling feeding frenzy.
Rookie Wrestling – Fee: $10.00 for the experience
Step onto the sand at the world famous Gator Wrestlin’ Arena and feel the power of one of the most feared creatures in the world. This is where I had my photo taken with the gator, just remember to give someone your camera to take your photo, as it’s not included!
Trainer for the Day – Reservations required, 12+, Fee: $125.00
Have you ever held a baby alligator? Well here’s your chance. How about a back stage tour that gets you up close and personal with some of the largest alligators and crocodiles? You’ll get to do that too! Next is a hands-on meeting with reptiles and creepy crawlers from the Upclose Encounters Show. Think you’re done? You’re not, because the grand finale is working with a Gatorland trainer in the Gator Wrestling Arena and those animals are wild! Don’t worry your trainer will keep you safe but you’ll get to learn about and experience these big boys and have some fun doing it.
Screamin’ Gator Zip Line – $69.99 (includes all-day admission to Gatorland)
Launch from heights of up to 65 feet and soar across five intense zip lines ranging in length from 230 feet to more than 500 feet, and carefully cross a swinging bridge over the park’s main walkway. Fly at speeds near 30 miles per hour over alligators and crocodiles. Equipment (helmet, gloves and harness) provided.
Night Shine – Fee: $19.99, 1 – 1.5 Hour, Minimum 5 people, Maximum 25
Armed with only a flashlight and a few hot dogs, you’ll be led along the winding wooden walkways of Gatorland’s Alligator Breeding Marsh to see the gators in action at night!
Night Ziplining – Call Gatorland for pricing.
Tour consists of two zips, a swinging bridge, tour of Gatorland including the Alligator Breeding Marsh and up-close interaction with a variety of critters.
Gatorland Park Hours and Admission Information
Gatorland is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Free parking. Stroller and wheelchair rentals available.
Showtimes for the animal shows are repeated several times daily and may vary slightly season by season. You can find the current information on show schedule here.
Day Passes are $18.00 for children age 3-12, and $26.99 for 13+. Annual passes are $41.99 for children 3-12 and $45.99 for 13+. Children under the age of 3 are free.
You can find more information on Gatorland here.