September 29, 2011

Gatorland



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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25 comments

Emmy said...

Oh that would be creepy. I don't know why or how some people can work at places like that.

Lisa said...

This post brought back fond memories of a family vacation when I was ten. My parents didn't have a lot of money, but they made sure we went to Gatorland. I remember it being pretty darn awesome.

Makayla said...

If you drive down to the Everglades you can actually hold live alligators for FREE. You can also take an airboat ride, and if your guide is cool, he'll let you feed the gators marshmallows. It's the COOLEST thing ever! Also, my brothers have a great collection of alligator heads from Gatorland. It was cooler before the fire (and thus the remodeling) though. :S

starnes family said...

That is just plain fine tourism right there.

During the credits for National Lampoon's Vacation, is there a postcard of this place? If so, I'd like to go. If not, I still may want to go after this glowing review.

Why in redneck hell would you NOT go there?!

(PS - My word verification is "dator". Coincidence?)

Chef Penny said...

We went this spring with our church group as a Spring Break outing. It was so much fun! A lot better than Disney. You can actually learn a lot about gators there although I am with you on the hanging around to see someone lose a limb.

Sara Bell said...

I'll be sure to visit Gatorland when we make our way out to Florida!

Mom of 12 said...

I'm not loving alligators. That's why I live in Utah instead of Florida.
Sandy
www.twelvemakesadozen.blogspot.com

Sallyford said...

I feel ashamed! I live in Orlando (ex pat from the U.K) and have been here for three years. My boy's VPK is opposite Gatorland and yet I haven't ever visited. Your post has given me a glimpse behind the gates. I hope you had a fun vacation. Thanks for sharing, Sally xx

Reese said...

Oh dear.......my parents took the family on an Orlando vacation (on the cheap) when I was 12. Think 10 people crammed into one room at the Holiday Inn for a week. Gatorland was one of the places we visited.....I have photos right in front of the entrance with all eight kids posing together.......thanks for bringing back the memories:) Sounds like nothing has changed because I remember all of those things happening!

Robyn :) said...

We went here on our honeymoon!!! I loved it, but what I found creepy was that they sold gator nuggets at the snack bar LOL That's just wrong.

We also paid to feed the gators and get our picture right in front of them. One of them splashed us!! It was awesome.

Jesus Chick said...

I love how the gator handler has a visible scar on the side of his head. Workmen's comp claim?

Just Jaime said...

I have been there!!! It was all you said it was, and more!

Lorilynne said...

I've lived in Florida for almost six years and have only been there once. I was on edge the whole time and absolutely could not enjoy myself with the gators swimming under the walkways.

Dawn said...

Don't worry, they do this stuff in other contries too. We went to Thailand back in 2004 and got to experience this same thing with gators and tigers. Men putting their heads in the tigers mouths and all. They even had a women covered in scorpions. I am sure your boys would love that place :)

Donna said...

Seriously, that place sounds awesome! Don't let OSHA in the front gates.

Cindy said...

Darn it, in the everglades they don't make the gators jump up out of the water. We were gypped!

Anonymous said...

My mom took us there years ago. She told us it was a petting zoo.
Does that make her a "mean mom"?

Renee said...

OH MY GOODNESS!! That sounds (and looks) terrifying. I'm not a big reptile fan and the thought of holding a snake makes me want to scream in fright, like a little girl. It does sound like quite and experience though. I might just check it out to say I've been there, the next time I'm in Florida.

Mrs. Tuna said...

I wonder if they would have wrestled the gators if they swallowed their cell phones.

Maureen said...

One time I went to Gatorland and through some complicated connection, they let me in to some chain link fence area and let me sit on an alligator. His name was Pop. He was blind in one eye. I sat on his back.

Jen said...

Our family visted Gatorland 8 years ago. It is one of the biggest tourist traps we've ever been too, but we loved it. We took a lot of fun pictures there, but the best part was the British tourists.

Five Foot Mama said...

That sounds awesome. I'm lucky enough to have been to Orlando several times, but have never been to Gatorland. I think that will definitely make the to-do list for the next trip!

http://fivefeetoffun.blogspot.com

Lindsey said...

I stinkin' love Gatorland!!! You are so right about the curious lack of interest in making it even appear somewhat safe, haha!

No Drama Mama said...

Oh I remember Gatorland from when I was a child and my dad was stationed in Florida! So much fun! Now of course I think those people are crazy nuts, but back then I figured, eh, what could go wrong? I mean, you can train a gator to be your friend, right?

likeschocolate said...

we love this place!