Central Florida’s newest tourist attraction offers a drive-through experience for up-close encounters with gators.

Don’t worry, the 400 alligators at GatorWorld Parks of Florida are secured behind protective fencing.

At the end of the drive-through course, visitors can feed alligators from a raised platform, dangling specially designed poles over a collection of young gators.

The Sumter County park opened Oct. 9 on State Route 44 near Interstate 75. The 15-acre park includes other family-friendly activities like holding a gator and meeting Elvis the goat or Biscuit the bunny at their petting zoo.

“We’re thrilled to open this unique adventure park that we’ve specifically designed to showcase one of Florida’s unique wonders — that of seeing and engaging with alligators in a real-life setting,” said Don Buckner, who founded the park. “In addition to the entertainment aspect of our park, we’re proud to serve as a rescue and relocation facility for alligators.”

Buckner got the idea for the park back in 2000, when he traveled with former Gov. Jeb Bush as part of a trade delegation visiting South America. He learned there were three common denominators for Florida tourist visits – theme parks, beaches, and alligators.

Buckner began devising a low-cost way for visitors to check the alligator experience off their list. He trademarked the name GatorWorld and launched the concept of a “drive-through” alligator-themed venue.

The entry fee for the drive-through park is $9 per adult, with discounts for veterans, children, and seniors.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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