Written by David "Indy" Graham
Tired of the big theme parks and the crowds? Looking for something a little slower in pace to do when in Orlando? How about a half day attraction/theme park that was here 22 years before Disney even opened and even gives you a glimpse into Florida's past?
Located about 20 minutes away from the Walt Disney Resort you will find Gatorland, famously known for the gator mouth entrance. Located on 110 acres in south Orlando, Gatorland opened in 1949 by Owen Godwin on former cattle land and is still privately owned by his family. Back in 1949 the main roads heading south through central Florida were Highway 27 or US 441 which both opened in 1926. The common main roads most people use now in Florida didn't exist back then and there was no toll road ring around Orlando.
To better understand the roads back then, Interstate 95 didn't open until 1956 and Interstate 75 and Interstate 4 both opened in 1957 making 441 the 2nd most traveled highway in Florida. Based on this alone, when Owen Godwin and his wife, Pearl, opened his roadside attraction to give people passing by an up-close look at alligators it was something different for a lot of people. Looking over the history of Gatorland and some fun facts for someone that was born in Orlando, there were things on there I didn't even know about the place. I was surprised to learn that the breeding marsh area of the park was used for filming the 1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. For anyone who also has stayed at or visited Gaylord Palms to see ICE during the holidays, you might have even see the gators there from Gatorland . In 2015 they opened Gator Spot at Fun Spot America on International Drive close to Universal.
As for things to do at Gatorland, over the years they have put a lot of money into growing the place and have a variety of things to see and do. I even had a part in the Gatorland Express that was put in back in 2001 at the park. Looking for something a little more thrilling, how about zip lining across a pool of alligators that in 2012 was voted Best Zip Line in USA by AOL Travel as well as in 2016; they even installed a single zip line and attraction that was designed for the wheelchair accessible guest. Other attractions and exhibits include the Stompin' Gator Off-Road Adventure, the famous alligator wrestling, a children’s playground and splash park, parrots, raccoons, bobcats, Nile crocs, a swamp walk, and home to the largest Central Florida rookery for thousands of aquatic nesting birds and so much more.
I truly can say if you really want to see a lot of true Florida then you can't pass up a visit to Gatorland as well as it won't break the bank like the bigger parks with adult single day at only $29.99+tax. For more information please visit them at www.gatorland.com. So are you going to add Gatorland to places to visit? Let us know in the comments below or other suggestions on things you would like to see UDN do a blog on. And as always, thank you for being a part of the Universal Disney Nutz family.