Gator wrestling.
Alligator wrestler Jessica Hunter performs a "Face-Off" in the Gatorland arena.


Field review by the editors.

Kissimmee, Florida

In the early 1950s, Owen Godwin ran a struggling attraction in Kissimmee named the Florida Wildlife Institute. Then he bought a 15-foot alligator, named it Bone Crusher, and displayed it as the largest crocodilian in captivity. He offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove him wrong. No one ever did.

The Home of Cuddles.
The Home of Cuddles.

The skull of Bone Crusher, whose size helped to turn The Florida Wildlife Institute into, "Gatorland: Alligator Capital of the World," is preserved in a glass case next to the Gatorland wrestling pit.

Wrestling is one of many embellishments added by Gatorland over the years in its never-ending quest to make alligators fun. Innovations include the Giant Gator Mouth entrance in the early 1960s (now a classic photo-op), the sale of gift shop gator meat in the 1970s, and the Gator Jumparoo feeding show in the early 1980s, which proved that alligators will rocket out of water -- sometimes nearly five feet straight up -- to grab a chicken leg.

Gator mouth entrance before the big fire.
Gator mouth entrance before the big fire of 2006. The mouth survived; the gift shop behind it was destroyed.

For those who seek individual thrills, Gatorland is happy to oblige. A slew of recent extras at Gatorland (all for extra $$$) include the Screaming' Gator zip line ride over the alligator pits, and the Gator Night Shine tour that takes visitors into the after-dark Gatorland swamp armed only with flashlights and hot dogs. The Adventure Hour tour places you at the edge of the breeding pit, mere inches from dozens of approaching gators, for a memorable snap-and-run souvenir photo. Rookie Wrestling is exactly what it sounds like, although the alligators that you wrestle are modestly-sized and have their jaws taped shut for safety. For a few dollars more, Gatorland will take a picture of you astride your wrestlin' gator and print it on a t-shirt.


14501 South Orange Blossom Trail, Kissimmee, FL
Florida Turnpike exit 249. West on Osceola Pky about 1.5 miles, then north on US 92/441 about 1.5 miles. On the right.
Daily 10-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $27, 3-12 $19, veterans free.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

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In the region:
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