A few years ago in Florida, a little alligator snuck up on me. I was sitting on a dock looking for some manatees and an alligator popped his head up out of the water, right under the place my feet were dangling from. My feet were safely dangling 3 feet above the water...or so I thought. A simple Google search later told me that alligators can jump 6 feet into the air from a state of rest! Needless to say, I've been afraid of gators ever since.
In my most recent visit to the Sunshine State I decided it was time to face my alligator fears. I knew gator wranglin' was out of the question so, to overcome my fear, I decided to visit two alligator tourist attractions: First, I paid to enter a theme park that housed 150 alligators and second, I paid a scary man to crazily drive me around a swamp on an air boat to look for alligators (and snakes!). I think I can honestly say my fear of gators is a thing of the past.
Known as the "Alligator Capital of the World," Gatorland is located "on Hwy 441, just North of the Orlando-Kissimmee line in South Orlando." Tickets cost $26.99 for adults and children aged 3-12 are $16.99; however, you can save $3 a ticket if you order ahead online. Gatorland showcases snakes, gators (And lots of them!) and cranes and also offers a train ride around the grounds ($2 per rider), an alligator zip line and a gator wrestlin' show.
My time here showed me that alligators don't do too much; they seem to just like basking in the sun. I also went to the Gator Wranglin' show and well, it was just another day on the job for the employee who stuck his face in an alligator's mouth.
The second place I checked out was Camp Holly and it was definitely scarier than Gatorland. Not sure if it's because a) shirts and shoes were optional b) My driver only spoke to inform me that he was in the only safe seat of the boat or c) because I trusted Gatorland's gates and fences more than the open air separated me from the gators. We found approximately 20 alligators and this experience confirmed for me that they can in fact jump quite high from a resting position. Camp Holly is in Melbourne and a 40 minute ride around the St. John River costs $40.
My driver, in his safe seat:
Camp Holly made me realize that people are scarier than alligators.
Pictured below is the little fella that started my gator journey. If it weren't for this little guy, I never would have learned that some people will wrestle alligators for minimum wage; alligators can actually live in harmony with birds and that not all places require shirts and shoes.
Unfortunately, a new fear seems to have surfaced as a result of this trip and I will have to attempt to conquer it on my next adventure in Florida: The Waffle House.
Despite Drew Barrymore's warning to Seth Myers, "If you've ever taken your kid to Disneyland or Disney World, it all ends at some point in mayhem", I decided I needed to go to Disney World with my son (4) and daughter (1). My husband threw a wrench in these plans when he said, "I absolutely refuse to go." We met in the middle and decided that I would go on my own with the 4 year old, and he would hang by a Florida pool with the 1 year old. I clearly had the better deal; he disagrees.
I paid the $2000 something dollars to get my son and I into the park. I couldn't believe that after purchasing a couple of tickets online, I was given a FastPass and was allowed to choose any 3 attractions where we could bypass the line. I also had to make an account which helped me plan my day. It showed me the wait times for all of the attractions. I was immediately sucked in to this World of Disney that I have heard so much about.
When Drew says that your trip will end in mayhem, I assumed she meant it would have something to do with the behaviour of your kid. As it turns out, during my visit, it was my own mood that had a lot of ups and downs. For example, I had the time of my life on the Peter Pan attraction, but half an hour later when the food lineups were so long, I would have taken a chicken drumstick off of Mickey himself. My son only had one issue (Which I will get to later), but in the grand scheme of things, he had significantly less mood swings than I. Regardless, my day did end in chaos and disorder, so I now realize Drew just meant that one way or another, the day will literally end in mayhem. But for now, allow me to take you back to the beginning.
The morning of our visit, I was pumped; however, upon arriving, the line just to get on the ferry and the sheer number of people at the park brought my general mood back down to neutral (Or slightly annoyed). But, as we entered the gates to this view, I felt excited again:
Still pretty happy, we hopped onto Prince Charming's Regal Carrousel:
We used up 2 of our Fast Passes and checked into Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor and a meet and greet with Rapunzel and Princess Tiana. And this point of the day marks my son's only meltdown. Suddenly, he became afraid of princesses, so as it turned out, only I met Rapunzel and Tiana. My son met this exit door:
No problem; we only wasted a FastPass and a much better photo opportunity. From here, my son was back, but my mood worsened exponentially as I lost our stroller. We parked in front of The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (Or so I thought), and when we left the attraction through the exit, the stroller was no longer there (Which also contained our snacks, drinks and warm clothes). It was my son that eventually found our stroller (In front of the pretzel stand; a stop I forgot we made...).
Very happy again, we moved along to Tomorrowland Speedway. Once again, my mood quickly changed as I became fearful for my life- it appeared to be in the hands of a 4 year old driver.
After the ride, a consistently content mood stuck around as we had so much fun going from attraction to attraction: Astro Orbitor, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, It's a Small World (My son's favourite), and Peter Pan's Flight (My favourite). We went for dinner from here, and as previously mentioned, I became incredibly hangry.
As a side trip on a different day, my son and I also visited Disney's Art of Animation Resort so we could check out Lightning McQueen's Stomping Grounds. We loved the art and spending some time in Radiator Springs, but climbing the cars is not allowed- we found out the hard way.
All in all, we had a great day at Disney. If I could do it again, I would try to choose Peter Pan's Flight, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Pirates of the Caribbean for my FastPass. Also, you can continue to book new FastPasses throughout the day, so it's best to time attractions closely together. I'm really glad I brought my stroller, but I wish I also thought to bring my own meals for the day. Oh, also, I wish I wasn't standing on a bridge with people trying to get by in both directions during the firework show. I also wish these people didn't push, shove and leave minor but multiple bruises on my arms. Besides ending in mayhem, it was pretty magical.
I was lucky to grow up with a grandmother who owned a mobile home in a senior's resort in Florida. As a child, I loved visiting her there, but knew I drove her friends crazy with my splashing, loud "Marco-Polo's", and grand jumps into the pool. My grandma would often dare me to "accidentally" bump into them during their daily aqua- aerobics. It was fun until Gladys "accidentally" clocked me one day.
Aside from pools and harassing the elderly, my childhood Floridan interests also included the Orlando area's theme parks and beaches. My only dislike was being dragged to shopping malls night after night. As an adult, my thoughts on Orlando have changed: 1) I no longer find joy in bothering others and 2) I enjoy trips to giant Target super centers way too much.
This post is a collection from over the years of my favourite things to do in Orlando.
1. Melbourne Beach I love Melbourne Beach and exploring the town of Melbourne
2. Coca Beach This beach has it all: shops, ice cream, food and views! It is also very close to the Kennedy Space Center, so I was able to fit both stops into one day.
3. The Kennedy Space Center: While here, I couldn't believe I was in a place where rockets actually launch! This center was inspiring, educational and fun!
4. Disney World Check out this post for some stories and pictures from my latest trip
5. Gatorland: Super scary. I wouldn't be hanging around if I was that crane. Just realizing that I paid to hang around in there...
6. Camp Holly I had a fantastic but terrifying day riding this boat around a gator swamp at Camp Holly. This post compares the Gatorland to Camp Holly.
7. Universal Studios I had such a great day here and my favourite attractions were Jaws and Jurassic Park. I need to get back for Harry Potter!
8. Busch Gardens This was one of my favourite day trips to make when I was that young, obnoxious child. I likely complained and asked "When are we going to get there?" the entire drive to Tampa.
On my most recent stay in Florida, I rented a home off of the nicest people in the world, Sarah and Ken. They were so helpful in planning or trip and genuinely wanted us to have a good time. And I mean that literally. Their home was decorated with signs like this:
Upon arriving, I read the signs and immediately responded "I know" and "Well I thought you'd never ask!" These two have an amazing blog about everything Orlando and if you're in the area, you should definitely check it out!
My name is Sara and I love finding new things to do in a new city. This website is an attempt to share the things that excite me in a new place through stories, photos, lists, travel tips and tricks.