Gators, airboats and shopping outlets; JENNY PIPER discovers there is more to Orlando than its famous theme parks.
When you think of Orlando, Florida the first thing that will usually come to mind is theme parks. And of course they are the reason most visitors go to Orlando. Disney World with its six separate parks needs several days to explore. And Universal Studios also has three separate theme parks for guests to get their thrills and spills. But there is lots more to discover in Orlando beyond the theme parks.
For those who love to shop there are several outlets to try and nab a bargain. The ‘I-Drive District’ on International Drive offers an array of attractions and shopping opportunities with two Premium Outlet centres, one at the North and one at the south of the district corridor. The International Drive resort area is serviced by the I-Ride Trolley. There are two loops running north and south along the main road – International Drive, stopping regularly at attractions such as Icon Park, Sea World, Ripley’s Believe it or not, as well as dining and entertainment venues, and of course shops!
For those who want to get up close and personal with alligators then a visit to Gatorland is a must. Claiming to be the ‘Alligator capital of the world’ it is home to over 2,500 alligators and crocodiles as well as other animals such as bobcats, panthers, snakes and birds. See alligators of all sizes in various outdoor pools, or check out the hatchlings and small alligators in a protected baby Gator marsh.
There’s also other great things to do while you are at Gatorland. Take a ride on the ‘Stompin Gator’ a massive monster truck which takes visitors off-road and through the wild backwoods of the Florida wetlands and through a pond of wild alligators! Or challenge yourself with the ‘Screamin Gator zipline’. Standing over seven stories tall, the towers feature multilevel launch pads. With five separate ziplines, traversing 360 meters, the lines soar over 21 metres above the ground and participants zip over alligator marshes and through treetops. There is also a wheelchair accessible line for those with limited mobility.
But for the ultimate upclose encounter book the ‘Trainer for a day’ program where you can hold baby alligators, get a private feeding of the gators plus go behind the scenes and see what goes on when working with dangerous animals. Your small group gets to enter an alligator swamp and throw food to the gators! Don’t worry even though they are huge and look terrifying they are old and slow so you are unlikely to get eaten!
Another great quintessential Florida experience is an air boat ride in the Everglades. Away from the hustle and bustle of town and the theme parks, see some of Florida’s natural environment with its wetlands on an airboat tour through the wilderness of the Central Florida Everglades. Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures has a variety of tours to choose from. Whisk across the water while shooting between walls of tall grass. See a variety of amazing birds and maybe even spot an alligator hiding in the reeds and mud. While there visit the Native American Village and learn about the Jororo tribe and that once thrived in Central Florida and see how they survived on the swamps.
After discovering all these awesome other adventures in Florida maybe head to the theme parks, for some more thrills!