Travel to 'the Alligator Capital of the World' at Gatorland

By: Ashley Stegbauer

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If you grew up in Central Florida, you’ve probably heard of Gatorland. Since 1949, this Orlando mainstay has been entertaining and educating guests of all ages from all over the world! But what is it about Gatorland that keeps people coming back? We traveled to the gator capital of the world to find out on this edition of Central Florida’s Hidden Gems.

After you walk through that iconic gator mouth on Orange Blossom Trail, you’ll feel like you just teleported to a whole new world. Lush trees and wildlife surround you and there are no signs of the bustling city outside. Tim Williams, who has been working for the park for 25 years, says that this is the key to Gatorland’s success. The park strives to preserve that Old Florida charm that the people who grew up with it know and love.

»PHOTOS: Go inside Gatorland

At 110-acres, Gatorland has a number of activities to fill up an entire day, and then some! We started our journey at the Gator Wrestling Arena, where performers get up close and personal to some monster reptiles. Don’t let the name fool you, in the Gator Wrestling Show, the performers aren’t doing WWE-level fighting stunts, they are handling the alligators in a way that allows audiences to get a closer look at how they work. From the nose, to the eyes, to those terrifying teeth, our Gator Wrestler, Justin helped us get to know our new gator friend a lot more intimately. Park guests can also try their hands at Rookie wrestling, where they can get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride a real alligator. I was an absolute pro gator wrestler, you watch me get in the ring in the video above.

»MYTH OR FACT?: Will running zig-zag help you escape a gator?

As you walk throughout the park, you’ll see countless animal displays everywhere. You can see the majestic Florida Panther in her habitat and even the super rare leucistic “white” alligators. There are only around 15 of these gators in the world and 4 of them are at Gatorland! Each gator sits in their own separate pen because they don’t like to play nice with each other. I got the chance to go inside one of these enclosures to see them up close. It was an incredible experience but I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could!

 Now, Gatorland has more to offer than just animal encounters. You can take the ride of your life on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line. The seven story high zip line will take you on a journey through the park while pools of gators and crocodiles crawl around beneath you. As a first time zipper, I got a few tips for my first ride. The most important one? Don’t hesitate, just go for it!

For more than 60 years, Gatorland has been creating memories throughout Central Florida. When the park was built in 1949, Orlando looked a lot different than it does today. A true classic, Gatorland gives you the chance to step away from the bustling tourist capital of the world and step back into nature. For more information and to plan your next trip to Gatorland, click here.