No matter your age, holding an alligator brings a thrill of excitement. There’s just something about holding a living dinosaur. No matter where you visit in Florida, there is an alligator park near so you can learn more about Florida’s state reptile the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis).
Even Florida natives who learn at a young age that alligators live in lakes, swamps, canals, and wetland habitats throughout the state, enjoy the opportunity to safely hold and snap a photo with a two-feet-long, cold-blooded reptile at an alligator park. (Typically, the mouths of the alligators are taped closed so visitors can safely hold them.)
Perhaps, the best-known alligator park in Florida is the 110-acre Gatorland in Orlando. The park boasts the Screamin’ Gator Zipline over an alligator-filled lake, Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure, as well as educational wildlife programs and Gator Jumparoo.
The alligator park opened in 1949 as a roadside attraction. Each alligator park is a bit different. But, as you make the “tour de alligator parks” throughout Florida, you learn a lot about the reptiles that eat fish, turtles and a variety of other animals.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
This alligator park, which opened in 1893, boasts living specimens of all 24 species of crocodilian: alligators, crocodiles, caiman and gharial. (The gharial has a long, thin snout with a bulbous tip.) The St. Augustine Alligator Farm focuses on natural exhibits, wildlife shows and educational demonstrations. In order to attract the attention of thrill seekers, the alligator park added a zipline over Alligator Lagoon.
The AZA (American Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited alligator park partnered with the Florida Audubon Society to expand its rookery for wild herons, ibis and egrets. It’s a photographer’s paradise in the spring to walk along the wooden docks in the swamp and be close to the variety of baby birds perched in nests above the alligators swimming silently or sunning beneath the nests in the trees.
Read More: 4 Best Vacation Spots In Florida For Families
This actual working alligator farm lets you hatch a baby alligator out of its egg during its annual Hatching Festival in August. Words cannot explain how exciting it is to help the baby alligator peel back the egg so it can take its first peek at the world.
But, even if it is not time for the annual Hatching Festival, Gatorama always features a variety of animal exhibits and exciting alligator and crocodile feeding shows, as well as animal encounters.
Little ones can wade with small gators or meet a tortoise. While, brave adventurers looking for extreme thrills can participate in the Fast Hands or Face to Face Challenge with the big gators at this unique family-owned alligator park. The biggest alligator in the park right now is about 13.2 feet long.
Gatorama is in Palmdale, Florida, about 1.5-hour drive south of Legoland in Winter Haven.
Jungle Adventures: A Real Florida Animal Park
This alligator park takes you into the duckweed filled swamp as you cruise on the Jungle Swamp Queen River Boat to see more than 200 alligators in their natural habitat. You will see flocks of wild birds and a replica of a historic fort. Of course, this alligator park, located in Christmas, FL, also boasts animal encounters, Gator Jamboree Feeding and educational shows, but its exhibits also teach about early Florida settlers and Native Americans.
Everglades Holiday Park
This Fort Lauderdale alligator park takes you on a 60-minute narrated scenic airboat ride through river grass to see alligators, birds and vegetation.
Enjoy an alligator show with the Gator Boys Alligator Rescue Team. You haven’t heard of the Gator Boys? They are experienced trappers who hand capture nuisance gators throughout Florida. They even have a show on Animal Planet. Everglade Holiday Park became a “safe haven” for many of these captured alligators. The Gator Boys Alligator Rescue teaches conservation and preservation in the Everglades.
You can also enjoy an animal encounter with your family at this alligator park that opened in 1982, where you can interact with not only alligators, but animals like tortoises, skunks, racoons and more.
Read More: 7 Hidden Gems In Florida You Did Not Know Were Fun
Gator Beach: World’s Greatest Alligator Park
If you are visiting the beaches in the Florida panhandle, you can visit Gator Beach in Destin, so you can get up close and personal with a gator by holding it for a photo and learning about them at a show.
For those really wanting to get involved at an alligator park, you can become a part of the team and go behind the scenes helping the trained Gator Handler. You get to feed young adult alligators up close in their habitat, you get to feed baby alligators in their habitat and watch the albino alligator be fed.
Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center
This ‘Discovery Center’ started as Alligator Attraction in 2011 but expanded its focus to education and conservation. The center cares for surrendered and orphaned native wildlife that cannot return to the wild. It is an air-conditioned indoor home to more than 200 animals including alligators, lizards, pigs, skunks, rabbits, snakes and more.
Here in Madeira Beach just about a 30-minute drive south of Clearwater Beach, not only can you hold an alligator, but you can kiss a gator, too. You can be a trainer for a day or even sign up to interact with a sloth (although reservations fill up fast for ‘slothies.’)
Croc Encounters: Reptile Park and Wildlife Center
This animal park opened in 2008 in Tampa after starting three years earlier as an animal sanctuary for unwanted reptiles, birds and mammals.
This alligator park is unique because guests visit as part of a 1.5-hour guided tour that is set up by reservation. You see and learn about a variety of animals. You get to interact with 25 African tortoises. And, you get to hold a snake and an alligator – all part of the guided tour. The park’s biggest gator is about 12.5 feet and its biggest crocodile is about 13 feet long.
Everglades National Park
The Everglades encompasses 1.5 million acres of wetlands in south Florida. Visit one of the four visitor center’s first so you can plan your visit to the national park.
You can take a short walk on the Anhinga Trail. You can climb the 65-feet observation tower in Shark Valley or you can go on a week-long canoe trip, camping along the way. You will see a variety of wildlife depending on the time of day: alligators, crocodiles, manatee, flamingos, herons, turtles and more.
Observe and learn about Florida wildlife in their home. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alligators co-exist with most Floridians and visitors with no issues in all 67 counties. But, while it is awesome to hold and feed the reptiles at an alligator park, you should never feed an alligator in the wild. The more than 1.3 million alligators in the wild need to be admired and respected at a distance.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 4 Family Water Activities Not To Miss When in Naples, Florida.
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