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Gatorland – Swamp Thing: Your (Half) Day at Gatorland


Gatorland has trademarked the phrase “Orlando’s best half-day attraction.” That seems about right to me. Many people stay for a shorter period and it’s doubtful you will stay longer unless you are an ardent bird watcher or a wildlife photographer willing to wait for that perfect shot. In any event, you can take your time here. There is never any need to rush madly from place to place to avoid long lines or crushing crowds.

As I mentioned before, Gatorland is modest in both scale and execution. Unlike the bigger parks, it’s not filled with attendants and hosts; you are pretty much on your own, although you can certainly feel free to collar one of the “gator wranglers” with your questions. These guys take turns hand-feeding and wrestling gators and handling deadly snakes. They are knowledgeable, charming, and maybe just a little nuts. They are one of Gatorland’s major assets. You will recognize them by their distinctive swamp explorers’ outfits that grow wetter and sweatier and dirtier as the day wears on.

The park is an elongated rectangle divided lengthwise into three main parts. The first is a huge alligator-clogged lake that stretches the entire length of the park. When you enter the park from the Gift Shop after paying your admission you step onto a large wooden platform over this lake. The platform is honeycombed with open areas filled with sunbathing and swimming gators. One of these openings is the site of the Gator Jumparoo show, Gatorland’s signature attraction. Also on this platform is a space set aside for children’s birthday parties.

Across the wooden platform, you will find Alligator Alley, the second major area of the park. It is a long, narrow, shaded concrete walkway that runs north and south through the middle of the park. It is instantly recognizable by the wavy, blue-green, snake-like line down its middle. Along this walkway you will find a variety of displays, animal pens, and scientific work areas, as well as (at the southern end) the Gator Wrestlin’ arena and Pearl’s Smokehouse.

On the other side of Alligator Alley is the third major area, a 10-acre Alligator Breeding Marsh, with its wooden walkway and Observation Tower, and behind that the crocodile exhibits. The Swamp Walk, reached through a gate at the south end of the park, comprises a separate fourth area.

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