September 29, 2011
This classic Orlando tourist attraction predates Disney World and is impressive for many reasons, not the least of which is its mere survival.
One of the reasons why I like places like Gatorland so much (and there are a lot of them in Florida) is that they get away with stuff that would never fly at the Magic Kingdom.
Where else can you hold an alligator (or ball python) for ten bucks? That is, except for the kiosk at the local outlet mall.
Name another zoo where you are encouraged to feed uncooked hot dogs to the wildlife.
I know! I know!
At Gatorland, you can touch just about everything, except for the gators. The disappointment of not being able to pet a large reptile, however, is tempered by the excitement of watching grown men come close to losing their lives. The lack of obvious safety measures is one of the things that appeals most to me about Gatorland.
Today we observed two workers playing games on their cell phones while sitting inside an alligator enclosure, less than three feet away from several animals. The two most popular shows at Gatorland feature alligators that "jump" (in the spirit of Shamu) out of the water for hot dogs and chicken parts and a dude who gets into an enclosure and "wrestles" with the creatures.
Unlike Disney World, which somehow seduces people of normal intelligence into feeling so comfortable with themselves that they don mouse ears, Gatorland makes its visitors feel slightly uneasy the whole time they are there. I got the distinct sense that if I hung around an enclosure long enough that I would witness someone lose their fingers or toes...or worse.
"I've always wanted one of those," Kellen told me when we were in the gift shop. He pointed to a table that contained several real life gator heads and a plastic cobra, coiled and ready to strike.
"Nope," I replied. "I'm all out of money."
I did manage to scrounge up a few bucks, however, for a pack of hot dogs.
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