Gatorland is a Florida institution. A small-town, self-styled 'Florida Cracker' theme park in business since 1949, it has managed to draw crowds without having all the animatronics, gadgets, and gizmos of all the other local attractions. Gatorland has one thing: gators. Lots of them. And I think maybe that's the draw: Come see some of the things that make Florida unique, but without the risk of being eaten.
In business since 1949, right? And yet none of us had ever visited...until May 2, 2010.
Our desire to get off the beaten path left us with a full carload: myself, Rob, Olivia, Chris, and Chris's girlfriend Danielle. No state park trips this time. Instead, we took advantage of the final day of Gatorland's Florida resident discount. The weather was sunny (read: extemely hot) and the park wasn't terribly crowded. We made our way to the first show...the Gator Jumparoo...and got to see alligators jump out of the water to eat chicken:
Olivia saw it a slightly different way:
From there was saw white alligators...very neat...and then caught the next show, Close Encounters. Olivia, I am proud to say, is kinda fearless. She asked to do this:
Our next stop was the petting zoo...cuddly farm animals, mind you, not the aquatic reptilian dinosaurs the park is famous for...and then on to the observation tower. On one side it looks down onto the petting zoo and on the other it looks onto the breeding marsh.
The park is also a bird sanctuary of sorts. They also currently offer the Swamp Sunset Celebration, in which you get to observe the birds flying in to roost for the night. We did not take advantage of this, however, but did get to see lots of birds in and around the park.
What does Olivia say when you tell her there are turkey buzzards around?
Thanks, Chris, for teaching her that. I mean it.
We also got to see alligator wrestling, which Olivia also wanted to participate in (have her picture taken while sitting on the back of an alligator with its mouth taped shut). When she found out I would not be able to go onto the gator with her, sadly, she declined. She had to settle for this instead:
I like to consider this quality family time.
There were other things we got to see on our visit, but the most important thing was this: We got to see one of the off-the-wall places that makes Florida great. It's a theme park without being a sell-out-to-the-almighty-dollar park. It was another great day spent with great people. We had fun. Lots of it. And, we came away with all our fingers and toes. I count that a success!