Like bald eagles and stars & stripes to America, there's nothing more iconic to Florida than alligators and oranges.
If you're a Florida local, you probably call them "gators", not alligators. And while us residents don't think twice about seeing gators everywhere from retention ponds to the occasional swimming pool (don't worry, those were baby gators), many visitors to the Sunshine State have gator sightseeing at the top of their vacation checklists.
So, here's a list of the top places to get your gator on in Central Florida, for your vacation-planning pleasure.
#1 - Gatorland
As you probably gathered from the name of this iconic Florida attraction, Gatorland is alligators and so much more. Enchanting visitors since 1949, the 110-acre park boasts unique experiences like the Screamin' Gator Zip Line, where you can zip above live alligators. Gatorland is home to four extremely rare white (leucistic) alligators, offers daily live gator wrestling shows, a nature walk and aviary, and more. You can easily spend a full day enjoying the sights and activities, but if you are short on time, it is convenient to the international airport. So it can make a great arrival or departure, half-day activity.
#2 - Take an Airboat Ride
If taking an airboat ride wasn't already on your vacation checklist, it should be. Not only can you glide through the waters that makeup the beginning of the Central Florida everglades, but you can see all kinds of native Florida fauna and wildlife, including Bald Eagles, and, yes, gators. Knowledgeable guides will make your tour an educational experience, stopping along the way to point out wildlife, talk about the ecosystem, and answer questions. Many airboat tour companies have alligators on site available for after-tour photo-ops.
#3 - The Wildlife Park at Wild Florida
Bonus: you can also experience an airboat ride at this location. The Wildlife Park at Wild Florida houses over 200 animals, including zebras, sloths, lemurs, bobcats, and other exotic species. Check the show times before you go to see the exotic animal and gator-feeding shows. Did we mention admission to the park is free when you take an airboat tour?
#4 - Gator Spot at Fun Spot Orlando
A partnership between Gatorland and Fun Spot, Gator Spot is located off of international drive, convenient to all the area attractions, nightlife, and dining spots. Since Gator Spot is part of the Fun Spot Orlando location, you can take thrilling rides like the 250 ft. SkyCoaster. There's no admission fee for the park. You can pay as you go, or purchase wristbands for your group. Bonus: there a lot of kid-friendly rides here for the shorties in your party who may have felt left out by height requirements at the larger theme parks.
#5 - Any other body of water
Mostly/partly joking here. Yes, you can see alligators in every day bodies of water like retention ponds, small lakes, etc. But, don't be that guy pulled over on the side of the road getting a blurry cell phone picture of an alligator! Add one or more of the above attractions to your itinerary to get up close and personal with Florida's iconic reptile.
- Alligators you see in the wild, are, well, wild animals. The wise saying "they are more afraid of you than you are of them" applies. The number one rule for gator safety is no feeding. It's never a good idea to feed any wild animal. Most alligator incidents are a result of alligators being fed, making them less afraid of humans and associating them with food. June & July are nesting season for gator moms, so it's a good idea to keep clear of nests during this time of the year. When encountering wild gators as part of a guided tour or experience, follow the instructions of the guide and enjoy! If you happen upon a gator on your own in the wild, no need to panic. Let common sense prevail (no poking or provoking), and grab a photo so your friends back home believe your wild tale.