Visit one of Orlando’s most iconic attractions — Gatorland — with Instagram influencer and guest blogger Sam Cloward of Sam & José fame.
Orlando is home to attractions of all types, from theme park thrills to culinary fills, but few will bring you so playfully and creatively into such a uniquely Florida adventure as Gatorland — where alligators are only the beginning. The park’s location near the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, its focus on alligators and other animal encounters, and the integrated educational and comedic elements all come together to create a fun experience you won’t soon forget. Here’s why you’ll want to make Gatorland part of your next visit to Orlando.
Save on discount tickets: Gatorland
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Inside the Park
Stepping through Gatorland’s historic gator mouth entrance to capture a photo with the notable icon, you will only begin to sense what can be found inside. Alligators may be the stars, but they aren’t all that can be found within the turnstiles. Situated around the main entrance and throughout the park, the informational and directional signs allude to a sense of humor that overlays the overall theme of the place and helps to set the stage for the laughs that can be found at their signature shows.
Once inside, a stroll around the park can take as little or as much time as you have (within the park’s operating hours, of course). Fully enjoying the animal habitats and main shows alone is enough to fill out a memorable visit to Gatorland, with additional add-on offerings that allow for the planning of an unforgettable day based on your level of adventure seeking. For families or groups with a variety of ages, there’s something for everyone.
Starting our day, my husband and I explored the park’s map of attractions and showtimes to plan our visit. Wanting to take in as much as we could, and to enjoy some of Gatorland’s more intense experiences, we also booked and purchased our chosen add-ons. These additional up-close animal encounters and thrills are designed to elevate your visit in fantastic ways. Three of these highly immersive up-close experiences are the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, Adventure Hour, and the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure — more on them in a bit.
Finalizing our plan, we started exploring and meeting the animals that call the park home.
Meet the Gators — Plus Other Animal Stars
Finding Gatorland’s namesake stars is easy to do: They’re everywhere. From the time we stepped through the main entrance until we left, we found gators around every turn. Gatorland calls itself home to over 2,000 American alligators, ranging from new hatchlings at their Baby Gator Marsh to adults of all sizes throughout the park’s pools and marshes. You can even find albino and leucistic, or white, alligators. In fact, Gatorland is home to two of only 12 leucistic alligators known to exist in the world.
Along the main guest path, we came across a variety of new animal friends. In addition to alligators, the park’s other animals include a variety of reptiles, birds, tortoises, emu, a barnyard animal petting zoo, wild cats and more. We took some time to roam through these curated animal encounters, each one offering new insights on their specific showcased species. After discovering some of the park’s smaller critters, we headed toward the main boardwalks.
Claiming our spot along the wooden railing lining the water, we gathered along with other guests in anticipation of one of Gatorland’s signature shows. The Gator Jumparoo Show is a favorite that has been a mainstay attraction since early in the park’s history. This high-energy show uses humor to entertain and educate in unforgettable ways, all while demonstrating some of the agility and strength that alligators can exhibit in the wild.
Starting with humorous introductions from the host and animal trainers, the energy of the presentation starts to build. The audience is divided into two competing halves to cheer on each trainer as they compete to complete the most successful feedings. The excitement builds as the gators jump up to, and some of them more than, 4 feet from the water to grab the food dangling above them. We cheered on the action as one after another, the gators leapt for their lunches.
The Gator Jumparoo Show is only one of three main unparalleled wildlife presentations that can be enjoyed during a visit to the park. Alligators: Legends of the Swamp and Up Close Encounters round out a lineup that that will impress animal explorers of all ages. They also provide opportunities for you to get entertaining insight into the natural environments, behaviors, anatomy and lifecycles of many of Gatorland’s resident creatures.
Screamin’ Gator Zip Line
After enjoying the show, we headed down the main walkway to enjoy one of our booked experiences. Of the more intensive add-ons, the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line and its Gator Gauntlet are the only ones that will take you soaring above the park’s green treetop canopy, marshes and unique animal habitats. From above, some of Gatorland’s rarer animals can be seen, including Cuban and Nile crocodiles, in addition to the central Breeding Marsh and its many alligators.
Discover: Screamin’ Gator Zip Line
We met our guides and began to climb up the first tower. As we took in the views, our guides talked us through the upcoming adventure and offered stories of the park’s animal inhabitants. This was the first of the course’s five towers, connecting five zip lines ranging in lengths from 230 feet to 500 feet in length, launching from heights of up to 65 feet. Our final challenge was a swinging bridge spanning the main guest walkway. Once at the launch platform, we each took our turn to clip onto the line and took our first soaring steps.
We continued along the zipline course, one tower at a time, with each new stretch of line offering fresh views of the park. Our guides continued to provide us with details of the animals we’d be soaring above at speeds nearing 30 mph. This gave us a different perspective of the park and the animals within their habitats while meeting our need for adrenaline-inducing fun. We completed the course, thanked our guides, and continued to our next activity: Gatorland’s Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure.
Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure
Walking up to Gator Joe’s Adventure Outpost, the starting point for this add-on, we could hear the motors of the ride’s custom-built, monster-style, all-terrain vehicles bellowing from the nearby trees. This more recent addition is one of Gatorland’s few sit-to-ride-style attractions, the other being the Gatorland Express Train. It’s also one hilariously wild and exciting ride. We took our seats atop the 12-foot-high, character-branded ride vehicle and buckled in to prepare for the 15-minute trek into the Florida wilderness. As we loaded in, the guides set the tone for this experience with their quirky commentary.
Shortly after loading, the vehicle left the station, and the action began. As we headed into the nearby swamps in search of gators, we quickly realized this was going to be a ride to remember. Our search was short-lived as we quickly sighted gators on both sides of us. Our vehicle continued to cruise along its path, taking us over rough terrain, through swampy pools, and splashing across a pond full of alligators, all to the playfully comedic commentary of our guide.
As I grabbed a piece of meat from the bucket, it squished within my gloved hand. With gator food at the ready, and some hesitation, I stepped toward the bank of Gatorland’s Breeding Marsh. My husband looked at me with his own hesitant smile and handful of food. It was feeding time — or specifically Adventure Hour, another Gatorland add-on.
Our guide made another yelp calling for more gators to join us. Already before us, just feet from where we stood, over 40 alligators had gathered at the marsh’s edge, and more were swimming up. With some encouragement from the guide, we took another step toward the water together and tossed our first pieces of meat toward the waiting congregation, creating a frenzy of snapping and splashing. More gators swam up as we continued to toss lunch to the expecting gators.
Soon after, and a bucket of food later, we stepped back through the fenced gate and onto the park’s main walkways. For the gators, Adventure Hour is a daily occurrence. For us, this behind-the-scenes tour was a venture that won’t soon be forgotten.
Still More to Explore
As you explore Gatorland, small surprises — like feeding birds in the Aviary and interacting with giant tortoises — will continue to add to your day of gator fun-making. We strolled along the park’s boardwalks that bridge the Breeding Marsh and through the Swamp Walk, providing us time to connect to Central Florida’s immense natural beauty. In between the exciting moments of zip lining, feeding gators, and riding on a uniquely built swamp vehicle, these areas of the park fed our need for some nature therapy.
One thing Gatorland has in common with the local theme parks is that it too closes each day. As we walked toward the exit, we reflected on our day of escape into the Florida swamps with Gatorland. It is a park unlike any in Orlando. From feeding gators to aerial zip line adventures to serene strolls along shady boardwalks, Gatorland has a fantastic slate of attractions. Thrills may be what we initially sought to find during our first visit, but the park’s charm and focus on conservation and education with a comedic spin have brought us back through the gates several times.
Considering what can be discovered within, Gatorland is a value and also offers deals for Florida residents periodically throughout the year. It’s definitely worth factoring into your own Orlando plans.
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