Once you get outside the gates of Orlando’s major theme parks, you find a lot of other attractions. Some not-so-nice.
Some that might even be viewed as “tacky” and “kitsch.”
At least, that is what some snobs think of certain destinations that might feature alligators or offer a look at how to stay young.
Yes believe that or not.
But for most of us, what is seen as tacky is often worth a second look.
Maybe it’s not so tacky after all.
Once you have bought your Disney World tickets or Universal Studios Discount tickets…or any other major theme park tickets, you might want to consider some of the area’s lesser-known attractions.
As we say, certain highbrows at times dismiss these as beneath their good taste.
But let’s take another look.
Just what is “tacky,” to start?
Low taste or breeding
Tacky is “Characterized by a lack of good breeding…not having or exhibiting good taste…marked by cheap showiness. As for “Kitsch,” the Webster dictionary says it is something that appeals to “popular or low taste…often of poor quality…a low down condition.”
How appealing is that?
But for most of us, that sums up what some think of at least some of Orlando’s lesser known attractions.
But if you take another look, alligator wrestling and other similar pursuits might not be of such dubious reputations.
Also, if you have priced the cost of even lesser-known area theme parks such as LEGOLAND tickets, you would find “tacky” often means something else: inexpensive.
Less than $30 tickets. Sometimes less than $20, for one person, anyway.
The champ when it comes to how others sometimes define tackiness is Gatorland, an attraction that seems to have been around here since dinosaurs roamed the earth.
But to show you it is not just us that find some of the area’s tacky destinations desirable, we’ll also share some thoughts of others.
Don’t believe us?
We’ll tell you others who think the same.
Gatorland is tacky king
Your initial reaction to Gatorland is probably what everyone else thinks:
It boggles the imagination.
“Watch an alligator wrestling show, enjoy up-close encounters with exotic animals, and climb a 3-story observation tower to watch more than 200 alligators in action.”
Alligators in action?
What do they do but eat dogs and sometimes threaten people?
Here, you can watch “brave humans” wrestle them. (“Watch brave daredevils wrestle 6- to 8-foot (1.8- to 2.4-m) alligators for a thrilling man-versus-beast adventure in the Gator Wrestlin' Show”).
Even climb a three-story tower to watch them in action.
You might think: There are better reasons to climb a three-story tower.
But in addition to alligators, there are snakes, birds, other exotics animals.
But a mainstay here is to feed the gators.
Watch them fight for chickens.
You can even buy food for them. “For an additional cost, try your hand at the zip line, and soar over the park for a great view. Hop on an alligator's back for the ultimate photo opportunity. End your visit with a stop at Allie's Barnyard Petting Zoo to pet and feed some of your favorite animals.”
All this sounds like low life. Tacky.
Visitors have been going to Gatorland for more than 60 years. Longer even by far than going to Walt Disney World Resort.
The Orlando attraction is a“110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve, combining Old Florida charm with exciting, new exhibits and entertainment, making us Orlando's best half day attraction,” the park itself says.
Old Florida must have been different
That “Old Florida” reference might make you pause.
Did they really used to wrestle alligators in the old days?
Sounds suspiciously like those parental stories of walking five miles for the privilege…of going to school all day to study reading and writing.
And did you know: Gatorland is the only place worldwide where alligators have been successfully artificially inseminated.
The Breeding Marsh area of the park was used in the filming of the 1984 movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”
Gatorland was actually the first real major attraction in Central Florida. And believe it or not, a lot of people loved it.
Still do, in fact.
Oh yes, there are detractors.
“The shows were horrific, gators being dragged around with mouths bounded up, being sat on and made to perform for the baying crowds. I would not recommend this dreadful place.”
Another one writes:
“Just watch out for the big birds if you feed the gators, they're quick and one bit our toddler’s hand, no blood, just a shocked kid. What a horrid place, we actually walked out after 1/2hr. The whole set up is a bit grubby, tired and dated for an attraction in Orlando.”
But by far people who have been there and posted results loved it.
Positively loved it. They liked the shows, and often loved the price. Low.
They avoided crowds, for one good example of why they had a good time. But there were a lot of other reasons as well.
What they said is almost a guide to why you might not only like it, but what you can see and experience there, and how others recommend your viewing of it.
Low prices, no crowds
Writes one blogger:
“A great value family day out with some really good fun family shows with light witty humor, family of all ages will like it, not as commercial as other parks which make it nice and would definitely go again. The swamp walk is fantastic if have a little explorer with you as if look carefully can find some real wildlife while walking just a foot above the swamp. Gatorland keeps the kids and adults both interested, relaxed and entertained. Would recommend for all families. Excellent Epcot, Disney, and the Studios all rolled up in one... Ha, Ha, not really! But in all seriousness, this place is great and affordable family entertainment. It is educational and exciting.”
“My Brother is an Orlando resident, and he takes all of his visitors to Gatorland for a real twist on the native Florida experience. I have been twice, and they keep improving the program and the event. Good for the whole family This place is amazing. The only complaint I have is there literally are too many gators and a lack of cover.”
“Do the train ride and shows. I personally didn't do the Ziplines due to the cost difference and was happy not to. I invested heavily into buying food to feed the gators but soon learned their feathers rivals such as herons, egrets and storks were a blast to play with and feed. I would bring my own sandwich and water. Grab an icee there. The animals are great. It gets hot and would advise a hat. They had one amazing nature filled board walk, second favorite part of the visit.”
Sure, Disney and Universal are great for entire families.
But perhaps you didn’t think the same for Gatorland. But listen:
“If you have a family this is a very nice place to go to and enjoy nature for a lot less than the large theme parks. My partner and I recently visited Gatorland as a light day whilst visiting Orlando. I went thinking that it would be an okay way to spend a few hours, it was so much better than I thought!”
More reasons why it is fun
Or another comment:
“Overall a fun trip! Would definitely recommend with things to see and do for all ages! My daughter, 12 and I really enjoyed Gatorland. She loves animals and had a great time seeing the exhibits and shows. She also did the zip lining over the gators which was a highlight for her.”
Gatorland is usually viewed as a half-day attraction. But some visitors ended up staying much longer.
“Went to gatorland and was amazed how big the place was! We spent the good part of the day here there is so much to see and do with shows and getting up close and personal with the gators! The White gators are amazing to see and the jump show us very very funny! There is more there than just gators too…like birds snakes tortoises even crocodiles Enjoyed it that much will return before the end of our holiday.”
About that tackiness, or we should we call it “cheesy.
We thought this was going to be some cheesy tourist attraction but we were wrong. The gators here are huge!!! We enjoyed this place so much! You would believe how big the gators are! Make sure you watch all the shows. The guys that put them on our funny and very entertaining Can't complain as the rates are very reasonable. Good for families that like alligators, crocs, snakes & birds. Not a money hungry establishment (free parking.... in Orlando!). Alligator wrestling show was fun to watch. Try the gator bites! Will go back and try the zip line.”
Comparisons to Disney
Some visitors even (gulp and take a firm grip, and believe this or not…) compared it to Disney.
“We have been to Orlando many times and this is the first time we have been here. Highly recommended. Definitely go into the swamp and watch all the shows. They are well worth it. Very much enjoyed ourselves there. Especially the albino alligators! was so nice to get away from Disney World for a half day at Gatorland!”
But similar to Disney, the best advice on getting the most enjoyment is to start early.
“It's best to get there early, as the parking lots fill up and the ticket lines can get long. The gators are so much fun to watch, and you can buy hot dogs to feed them. The shows are excellent, especially the gator wrestling and the jumparoo shows.”
Some visitors also thought it was cooler than Disney and other theme parks. And complaints were not common.
“We had a great time in Gatorland. The shaded walkways were very nice since it was 90*+. It was really cool seeing all the gators and other animals. Wish we had known about the little water park before we got there, but I'll chalk that up to the little research we did before we got there. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because the petting zoo and aviary closed 1 1/2 hours before the park closed.”
If you are the type of person who can’t get enough of alligators and related creatures, you might also want to take the hour or two drive to St. Augustine to see the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
Where to find real wildlife
A lot of visitors liked it because there were more than alligators. Particularly the wildlife in general.
Writes one: “As if seeing gators and crocs from around the world is not enough,--along with shows and gator feedings, exotic birds and tortoises and snakes, museum-quality displays, and the option to enjoy a ziplining experience--, the trees in the park's rookery are loaded with hundreds if not thousands of wild birds choosing the park's rookery as their nesting quarters every season. We visited the park the end of May and watched tricolored herons hatching and photographed nesting wood storks, roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets, little blue herons, green herons, white ibis, great egrets, and more, with some of their young in various stages of development. Gators and two American crocs swam in the swamp waters below the trees of the rookery. We also saw wood ducks, ruddy ducks, talking macaws, and more. St. Augustine Alligator Farm is so much more than just Alligators. The exotic birds were fascinating. We really enjoyed the bird refuge. Absolutely loved all the birds nesting in trees. Also had turtles, lemurs, and more. Must see attraction.
“Heck, yeah go to this gator farm. Its much more than that actually, with tons of information, birds, Lemurs, crocodiles, etc. etc. etc! We didn't do the zip line over the gators, but might go back, that looks like fun. Absolutely recommended. “
Not cheesy or kitschy or even tacky
22 attraction reviews
74 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 days ago NEW
We had a ton of fun at the Allegator Farm. It is a well done facility and is not a kitschy roadside attraction. If you are a first responder, entrance is free and family is half price.
Kitschy? No way.
Cheesy? Not at all
Or so some say.
“We had a ton of fun at the Alligator Farm. It is a well done facility and is not a kitschy roadside attraction. If you are a first responder, entrance is free and family is half price.”
As we say, some tacky attractions have a cost under $30, and even under $20 in some cases.
18 attraction reviews
48 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 days ago NEW
Heck, yeah go to this gator farm. Its much more than that actually, with tons of information, birds, Lemurs, crocodiles, etc. etc. etc! We didn't do the zip line over the gators, but might go back, that looks like fun. Absolutely recommended.
8 attraction reviews
6 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 days ago NEW
Great attraction, Gators amazing, Giant turtles must be 100 years old. the rookery affords an amazing panorama of photo opportunities. Best to have a 300mm or more telephoto for the most amazing shots, but an iPhone will get some good snaps as well. It is hot in the summertime,bring a hat and sunscreen and take some time indoors to stretch... More
"Great attraction, Gators amazing, Giant turtles must be 100 years old. The rookery affords an amazing panorama of photo opportunities. Best to have a 300mm or more telephoto for the most amazing shots, but an iPhone will get some good snaps as well.”
Reminder to be early
And gee, it’s almost getting to be boring to hear the same kind of advice you get at Disney and Universal and other major theme parks:
“We enjoyed the park more than I thought I would. We visited in May, so it was a bit warm. I would suggest arriving early. There is also a parking lot it you have a car. No additional cost for parking. The park has interesting signs explaining the history of the park and the history of the Fountain of Youth and Ponce de Leon. Also, don't miss the ancient Indian burial grounds. Go inside and read about the excavation that occurred here.”
If you happen to be in St. Augustine, another long-time attraction often termed tacky is the Fountain of Youth.
You can actually take a drink.
In all likelihood, after a sip or two, you will ask the usual overdone question:
Do I look any younger?
You don’t really want an honest answer, do you?
But tacky or not, reviewers also found a lot to like there. Writes one:
“Yes, we, like so many others, probably spent more time in the park proper watching the peacocks than anything else. The archaeology sites were also fascinating and informative. The cross uncovered at the site where you can drink the fountain water is fully visible, and you can enter the burial site where the Christian natives were found, excavated, then reburied with full honors. It's an enclosed site and the individual graves are not marked, but you can visit it like any other graveyard and view the history. The grounds outside are beautiful and informative. The best part for us, though, was going out on the nature deck over the marshes.”
“We stopped in for a short time and enjoyed what we saw. We drank water from Florida's Fountain of Youth even though the one Ponce De Leon was looking for was fabled to be on the island of Bimini. The water was tasty though. The planetarium was interesting. It was a nice break from the heat; heading into a cool dark theater. The next theater was also cool and dark with a really old but cool globe hanging in/on the stage. The Peacocks were cool; there are approximately three dozen roaming around the property. There was much more to see but we wanted to move on and see other attractions.”
No suggestion of getting younger here.
But so what? You can’t expect everything. ###