Founded in 1949 by Owen Godwin, Gatorland in Orlando, Florida is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles earning its billing as the “Alligator Capital of the World”. Still privately owned by the Godwin family, Gatorland has grown from a roadside attraction into a 110-acre theme park and nature conservatory. The park does a wonderful job of combining “Old Florida” charm with exciting new exhibits and entertainment.
In 2008 Gatorland unveiled a $4 million dollar complex designed to showcase the history of this unique theme park, it is located on the site of the original gift shop and historic Godwin family home which were destroyed by a fire in 2006. The complex features an open air admissions pavilion that incorporates the historic gator mouth entrance. Upon your entry into the park you have quite a variety of attractions and shows to enjoy. The Express Railroad is a great way to get around to parts of the park, it carries passengers around the Jungle Crocs and Breeding Marsh areas making a stop at the very south end of the park near Pearl’s Smokehouse and the Alligator Wrestling Stadium where you can take in one of their exciting and educational shows. At the southern end of the park is Gatorland’s Swamp Walk, a self guided tour through unspoiled native Cypress Swamp. As you walk on the raised wooden walkway you are give a rare look back into what much of Central Florida looked like before people started developing the land.
The Breeding Marsh and Bird Rookery was created in 1991 as a natural breeding area for Gatorland’s gators and this 10 acre area contains 130 adult alligators, 100 females and 30 males. A three story Observation Tower and raised wooden walkways give guests extraordinary views of both alligators as well as a plethora of native Florida birds. Protected from their usual predators by the alligators, the birds began using the area as both a roosting and nesting site. The Junge Crocs area is home to some of the largest and most dangerous crocodiles in the world, including Nile, saltwater, Cuban and even American crocodiles, which are found only in the very southern part of Florida. Alligator Island, located in the northern section of the park, is the best place to see Gatorland’s largest alligators and crocodiles up close as they soak up the Florida sun. You might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Alf, Gatorland’s largest reptile, a 1,000+ pound 15+ foot long American Crocodile.
Gators and crocs aren’t the only animals that call Gatorland home, drop by Allie’s Barnyard to say hello to some of the cutest and cuddliest barnyard critters. Make sure to say hi to Gracie, a friendly goat who just loves to eat right out of your hand. You’ll find all sorts of critters, from chickens and ducks to deer and sheep, all playful and looking for some attention. The Very Merry Aviary is home to the colorful and friendly Lorikeets, brightly colored parrots native to the Western Pacific and East Indies area. The Lorikeets really love people, especially those with a small cup of nectar which is available at a nominal charge. Just across the way is Gatorland’s Flamingo Lagoon, home to a small colony of American Flamingos. You might also discover several different species of wild birds such as White Ibis, Grackals, Anhinga, Heron, Egrets, and Black Vultures as well as several species of turtles and fish who also call the Flamingo Lagoon home.
The Snakes of Florida exhibit is home to a variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes that are native to Florida including Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes, Cottonmouth Water Moccasins and the brightly colored Coral Snake as well as its non-venomous cousin, the Scarlet King Snake. Don’t worry, strike-proof glass provides a safe barrier giving you a safe way to see these amazing and often misunderstood reptiles. There is even a separate walkway with a hedge divider so that you can safely travel without getting too close.
Gatorland Florida is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM and there is plenty of free parking. Both single day passes and annual passes are available.