Second Largest Gator Ever Built (Gone)
For many years, Kissimmee's giant gator, in the parking lot next to the Gator Motel, reigned as the World's Largest. Its 126 feet of reptilian eyecandy yanked family vanloads out of the tourist trap river that flowed along Hwy. 192 into Disney. We stayed at the motel, fitfully enjoying the all-night bellows from the adjacent gator pit at Alligatorland Safari Zoo.
The gator pit is still there today, home to 30+ American alligators.
The attraction is now called JungleLand, the giant gator brightly repainted, and augmented with a safari jeep in its jaws, the explorer comically dangling by a rope.
The animal zoo itself encounters occasional run-ins with both activists and state inspectors -- during the summer of 2002, it was cage drainage problems after heavy rains.
In 1997, a JungleLand was in the news when a lioness -- named "Nala," after the Lion King character -- escaped as JungleLand handlers were repairing her cage. For three days, Nala eluded 40 local animal workers armed with tranquilizer dart guns. The search ranged over the swampy land along Highway 192, near Xanadu, Home of the Future, and the Big Bamboo Lounge. Helicopters with infrared sensors buzzed overhead. Citizens were advised to keep children indoors. Nala was finally captured after being cornered in a spot of dry land in the swamp and darted by the hunters.
Still, it's always safe to take a photo from your car of the World's Second Largest Gator.