Sunday, May 6, 2012

ORLANDO: Gatorland and Screamin' Gator Zip Line


 During our trip to Orlando, we stopped to visit Gatorland. This wasn't my first trip to an "alligator park", but it was certainly the best. I can't just make a statement and not explain why. Logan is my number one reason. Just watching the awe and amazement on his face as he rode the Screamin' Gator Zip Line was enough for me. He rode with his dad while I watched a little from below, and he was all smiles from the time he put his harness on! I am not sure he saw much of the park after the zip. I swear he was reliving his moments in the air! It lasted about an hour and a half. I could have followed them from below as they took in the sights from the air, but Sam wanted to catch a few shows!
At 110- acres, Gatorland provides affordable-priced family fun with thousands of alligators & crocodiles to see, an aviary, breeding marsh with observation tower, petting zoo, nature walk, award-winning gift shop and one-of-a-kind reptilian shows including the Gator Wrestlin' Show, Gator Jumparoo and the Up-close Encounters Show.Take a ride on the Gatorland Express train and then head on over to Gator Gully Splash Park where kids of all ages can enjoy a good ol' fashion squirtfest! Don't miss the new rare white alligators on display for a limited engagement at Gatorland's newest exhibit, White Gator Swamp. Featuring four of the world's largest white leucistic alligators known to roam the planet, these giant Ivory colored reptiles are each ten to twelve feet in length and weigh over 800 pounds. Their piercing blue eyes are believed to have the ability to command good fortune to those lucky enough to make eye contact with the blue eyed beauties. 

 Gatorland is spread out, so even though it might be crowded, we didn't notice until show time. The seats filled up for the shows (well in advance) and the Gator Jumparoo was elbow to elbow and at least two people deep ten minutes before showtime. I wish there had been better viewing possibilities, but my kids were able to see a little here and there. Be sure to get there early for the best view! The hosts (throughout the park) were some of the greatest entertainers and I wanted to watch the shows because they did such a great job, not just for the wonderful educational opportunities provided by watching the shows!
Not only did we learn a lot, we were able to interact with the animals. We also watched others (thank goodness it wasn't us!) interact with a few critters. My favorite show was Upclose Encounters. There were photo opportunities throughout and for an additional fee, my kids could have their photos taken (up close and personal) will real alligators or snakes. And they weren't babies! Imagine a kid showing off one of those photos at school! That takes Spring Break and Summer Vacation to a new level, and you can't tell me that kids don't compare adventures when they finally return to school!
 Sam hit the petting area while Logan zipped through the park. Sam made a few furry friends and didn't want to leave. He could feed them too, and he laughed and giggled as animals tickled his hands! There was a handwashing station at the petting area entrance so he could clean up afterwards.
 We enjoyed watching the birds and we also enjoyed the other animals on our tour through the park. We didn't get a chance to ride the train, but we did walk through the swamp and see the crocodiles and enormous alligators. I couldn't believe how close they were, with just  fence or two between us! They were in very secure enclosures, but it was a closer encounter than any I've had before.
 If you visit Gatorland, make your reservations for the Screamin' Gator Zip Line in advance (or get there really early) because they do fill up fast. When we picked up our passes, there were several couples trying to buy tickets and they were all sold out. Parking is easy and the gift shop is worth checking out. And please do not miss the fried alligator (Gator Nuggets) from Pearl's Smokehouse. It's so delicious, we had to get seconds! It was the best "park" food I've ever had!
 Disclosure: Passes were provided for my family to enjoy the park. I was under no obligation to mention Pearl's Smokehouse. No monetary compensation received.

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