Orlando might be best-known for its incredible family fun zones like the Walt Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks, as well as a long list of additional attractions, but there’s a lot more the city than Mickey Mouse and rollercoasters. The veritable heart of the Sunshine State, Orlando is a prime city in which to base yourself for a full Florida vacation, and many great cruises can be booked from Orlando as well. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Royal Caribbean - 3 Night Bahamas
3.Carnival - 4 Night Bahamas
4.Carnival - 5 Night Eastern Caribbean
5.Norwegian - 4 Night Havana
6.Carnival - 7 Night Western Caribbean
7.Carnival - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean
6 Best Cruises from Orlando, FL
- Overview, Photo: Wollwerth Imagery/stock.adobe.com
- Royal Caribbean - 3 Night Bahamas, Photo: Roman Stetsyk/stock.adobe.com
- Carnival - 4 Night Bahamas, Photo: TOimages/stock.adobe.com
- Carnival - 5 Night Eastern Caribbean, Photo: jovannig/stock.adobe.com
- Norwegian - 4 Night Havana, Photo: kmiragaya/stock.adobe.com
- Carnival - 7 Night Western Caribbean, Photo: Paulo/stock.adobe.com
- Carnival - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean, Photo: mikolajn/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Solarisys - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Gatorland
Dubbed the “Alligator Capital of the World”, Gatorland is integrates a traditional wildlife preserve with a theme park to create a unique, fun, and educational experience. Located in Orlando, Florida, Gatorland is the premier location to learn about the popular animals that roam Florida.
In 1905, Owen Godwin Sr. was born. Throughout his youth, Godwin spent most of his time with his uncle in Rattlesnake Hammock. In the early 1930s, Godwin decided to start a side job he was passionate about by building an alligator pit behind his home. He wanted to create an attraction that would engage visitors and teach them about the wildlife in Florida in a fun way.
More than fifteen years later, Godwin purchased land in what is now known as Central Florida’s tourist district. In 1949, Godwin opened the Florida Wildlife Institute. At the time, the attraction was only a gift shop with a small entertaining presentation of local Seminole Indians wrestling gators.
In the 1950s, Godwin decided the name of his attraction seemed bland and uneventful, so he changed it to Snake Village and Alligator Farm. During the early years, his attraction featured a snake display at the entrance, as well as alligator pools and the Seminole Indian village. To Godwin’s dismay, he notices people seem frightened of his attraction. If a family stopped at the attraction, women would stay in the car.
Gatorland was able to keep afloat by the crocodile Godwin purchased in the 1950s. This crocodile, known as Bone Crusher, came from a Miami breeder. Bone Crusher was 15 feet long and weighed a whopping 1,080 pounds. During the off-season, Godwin traveled throughout towns showing off his gators, especially Cannibal Jake.
In 1954, Godwin decided to change the name of his attraction to the current name, Gatorland. Throughout the next decade, the tourism industry began to grown, so Gatorland became more popular. This led to Godwin making renovations to the attraction to have more modern facility. In the 1960s, Godwin was able to spend the off-season touring the world in an attempt to find exotic animals for Gatorland.
In 1970, Gatorland officially became a corporation. Five years later, Owen Godwin, Sr. passed away. But, as a family corporation, Frank Godwin became the president of Gatorland and oversaw various additions and renovations.
Gatorland has various attractions that showcase the various wildlife in Florida. Here is an overview of the attractions at Gatorland:
· Panther Springs
· Giant Tortoise
· Children’s Playground
· Gator Gully Splash Park
· Parrot Playground
· Snakes at Florida
· White Gator Swamp
· Dog Gone Gator, Chester
· Very Merry Aviary
· Bobcat Bayou
· Swamp Walk
· Breeding Marsh
· Observation Tower
· Gator Gauntlet Zipline
· Raccoon Hut
· Cuban Crocs
· Saltwater Crocs
· Pops, the Giant Alligator
· Nile Crocs
· Emu Enclosure
· Flamingo Island
While exploring Gatorland is already entertaining, many people enjoy attending a few of the daily shows and entertainment presentations.
Gator Jumparoo Show is the show that made Gatorland grow increasingly popular. In the show, the alligators compete for store bought chicken. But, they’ll have to jump for their lunch because the chicken is hung at great heights.
Gator Wrestlin’ Show brings people to the edge of their seats as a man tackles a six to eight foot alligator.
Rookie Wrestling allows visitors to sit on the back of an alligator. Don’t worry about safety, there are many trained professionals to pose the alligator.
Upclose Encounters is an interactive and comical experience. Participants have the opportunity to explore a variety of snakes, insects, and other exotic animals in an intimate way.
Adventure Hour gives people a behind the scenes glimpse into the Breeding Marsh.
Allie’s Barnyard allows visitors to pet and feed some of the friendliest animals at Gatorland.
Gator Chow gives visitors the opportunity to feed the gators.
Gatorland offers a variety of educational opportunities for everyone to enjoy. Some of their highlighted educational opportunities include field trips, camps, and the exclusive trainer for a day program. Schools have the opportunity to visit Gatorland through the field trip program. During a standard field trip, visitors have the opportunity of experiencing close encounters, learning about the wildlife at Gatorland in an in-depth way, and even gaining a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes.
The other popular educational program at Gatorland is the extensive trainer for a day program. This program allows participants to tag along with some of Gatorland’s most experienced and renowned employees. Throughout this program, participants will be able to truly see what it’s like to train some of the most interesting animals in the world.
Back to: Things to Do in Orlando, Florida
14501 Orange Blossom Trl S, Orlando, FL 32837, Phone: 407-855-5496
Attraction Spotlight: Orange County Regional History Center
The Orange County Regional History Center is located in a historic courthouse in downtown Orlando and offers exhibits, programming and events to showcase 12,000 years of Florida’s regional history. Permanent exhibits at the history center span a wide range of subjects, all related to the history of the region.
The First People exhibit tells the story of Florida’s indigenous people and how they lived up until the 1500’s when Europeans first came to Florida’s shores. First Contact shows how the Spanish, the first Europeans to explore Florida, influenced the lives of the native people who lived there. An African American History exhibit explores the lives and history of Florida’s African Americans and exhibits paintings from the Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 self-taught landscape artists who lived and worked in Florida between 1950 and the 1980’s and made a living selling their paintings door to door. The Pioneer Cabin is a recreated log cabin from the 1800’s, complete with butter churn and moss-stuffed mattress. The Cattle and Citrus exhibit explores Florida’s key economic engines and their history. An Aviation exhibit offers a replica World War II B-17 bomber and tells the story about Florida’s role in aviation history, including its involvement with NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. Destination Florida showcases 100 years of tourism in the state, and the many ways in which people traveled to Florida over the years, via trains, horses and boats. The Theme Park Era exhibit explores Florida’s transition from an agricultural state to one whose main economic driver is tourism. The Natural Environment exhibit teaches about Florida’s flora and fauna and unique landscape of land, sea and wetlands. Each exhibit offers a combination of artifacts, replicas, dioramas and interpretive storyboards to teach about Florida’s history.
History: The courthouse that houses today’s history center was built in 1927 in the neoclassical revival style. In 1942, while the current history center was still in use as a courthouse, a small history exhibit began next door in an old brownstone building from 1892. The popular exhibit traced Florida’s history from pioneer times back 100 years. The exhibit grew over the years as citizens donated to the collection. In 1957, when the brownstone was demolished, the exhibit was transferred to Loch Haven Park’s Orange County Historical Museum. The collection remained there for 20 years, managed by the Historical Society of Central Florida. In 1995, when the courthouse moved to a new high rise building, community leaders unanimously voted to move the history center to the 1927 building where it remains today. The new exhibits at the Orange County Regional History Center opened in 2000 and have since received several national awards and critical acclaim.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Educational programming at the history center is available for scouts, school groups, and educators. Skill building programs for scouts give them opportunities to earn badges. School group tours are offered in the form of field trips, home school days, or the “History on the Go” program, which brings items from the collection to the classroom. Day camps are offered during summer and spring break when school is not in session. Camp topics explore everything from the history of dinosaurs to presidents to art. The heirloom art series offers hands-on workshops for adults in crafts such as calligraphy, weaving and crochet. Special events include Social Media Sunday where followers on social media are invited for free admissions and activities and are encouraged to share photos with the hashtag “history social.’ Happy Hours such as History in a Glass offer food and drink and keep the exhibits open after hours. A Speaker Series invites authors, local historians and others to speak on a variety of topics related to Florida history.
Past and Future Exhibits: The 67,000 square foot history center hosts a number of traveling exhibits from other prestigious institutions such as the Smithsonian Museum. Exhibits feature both local and national history and span a variety of topics from the Civil War to the Muppets. Current exhibits include “Threads of our Lives: Celebrating 75 Years of Weaving in Central Florida.” This exhibit explores the history of the 27,000-year old tradition of weaving, and more locally, the 75-year old Weaver’s Guild of Florida. “Leaving Vietnam: Building a New Life in Central Florida” uses oral histories, photographs and documents to tell the story of Florida’s “Little Saigon” neighborhood. “Kehillah: A History of Jewish Life in Orlando” uses artifacts and photographs to tell the story of the Jewish community in Orlando, and how they have kept their traditions alive.
65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando, Florida 32801, Phone: 407-836-8500