While I was planning our recent trip to Florida, I became intent on visiting Orange World. The big, orange-shaped gift shop is located in Kissimmee, which is about an hour and 45 minutes from where we were staying. While I'm certainly not opposed to driving or walking long distances for things many people would call silly, I thought it just made sense to find other attractions in the Orlando area. Of course Orlando is Disney country, but we chose to spend our time at an amusement park that is much more my speed—Gatorland.
Gatorland, which claims to be the "Alligator Capital of the World," is a theme park and wildlife preserve in Orlando. It was founded in 1949 and has been owned by the same family ever since. It's sort of like a zoo—with several species of birds roaming the property including peacocks and flamingos in addition to a snake exhibit and several sizes and colors of alligators and crocodiles.
Gatorland is famous for its collection of leucistic alligators, which appear white due to a partial loss of pigmentation (not the same thing as being an albino, although they have one of those too). They also put on shows: Up-close Encounters, an animal show-and-tell; Gator Wrestlin'; and the Gator Jumparoo, which features gators jumping in the air to catch food off of a clothesline.
We skipped the Up-Close Encounters show, but we saw Gator Wrestlin' and the Gator Jumparoo, which they repeat several times a day. Our shows were entertaining, and while it's hard to tell what's an act and what's real, they still managed to be both suspenseful and surprising.
I had actually been to Gatorland once before, when I was younger, but I'm glad I got to go back and appreciate the park as a roadside-attraction-loving adult. Gatorland feels like an amusement park from the 40s, and I mean that very much as a compliment. Just like its Mold-a-Rama machines—Gatorland has two!—Gatorland is low-tech but thrilling in its own, charming, Old Florida way.
14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32837
Open daily from 10:00AM to 5:00PM