Try Something New: Gatorland in Orlando, Florida

Exhausted by the frantic pace of central Florida's theme parks? Gatorland is a delightful change of pace -- and only minutes away from those better-known attractions.

This 37-acre wildlife preserve is home to more than 1,000 alligators, 200 crocodiles and thousands of birds. It features a three-story observation tower overlooking a 10-acre breeding marsh and a 2,000-foot boardwalk leading through a cypress swamp to the Everglade's headwaters.

Daily shows include exciting demonstrations by alligator "wranglers" and up-close encounters with other Florida wildlife. Our favorite was the Gator Jumparoo Show.

We were astonished when these alligators--some nearly 14 feet long -- leapt almost 5 feet into the air to eat from a trainer's hand (below left)! We also tried fried gator nuggets and gator ribs at the snack bar and found them surprisingly tasty.

Gatorland bills itself as the best half-day attraction in central Florida, and our family agrees wholeheartedly. It's on U.S. Highway 441 on the southern edge of Orlando and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admission is $17.93 for adults and teens age 13 and up, and $8.48 for children ages 3-12. For details, call 1-800-393-5297 or log on to www.gatorland.com.

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