Florida Gators – Up Close In The Everglades

So before moving I thought the Everglades was just a protected area somewhere in south Florida with alligators.  Little did I know that the Everglades covers the majority of south Florida, basically most of the land, not near the beach.  It’s a critical ecosystem to the area and a must-do for anyone who needs a break from a beach day.  A trip to the brochure rack at a Visitor Center will offer up several options for tours of the Everglades in an airboat.  If you’ve never been in an airboat, you have been missing out.  It’s half of the fun!

Everglades 1
Who knew the Everglades was so beautiful?
We chose to visit the Everglades Holiday Park  It was under an hour drive from Ft. Lauderdale but, literally in the middle of nowhere. Drive until you think you are lost and drive 5 more miles.  You’ve arrived!  The park has tours every 20 minutes so you don’t have to entertain yourselves too long while you wait.  The airboats are covered for passengers – a nice touch for moms low on sunscreen – so you don’t have to sit in the blazing Florida sunshine while you look for wildlife.  The boats skim the water as you tour through the sawgrass looking for gators.  At times, the guide puts the boat at full throttle and it will make even the manliest of men giggle like a schoolgirl.  We loved it.  Not only will you see alligators up close in their habitat but also, you’ll see and learn about many of the beautiful birds that live in the Everglades. 

Everglades 2
Air boats lined up for tours
After the tour head down to see the Gator Show performed by The Gator Boys.  We haven’t seen their show on the Animal Planet but apparently they have a gator wrestling following because several fans were in attendance with autograph books.  Our Gator Boy wrestler was actually a girl and it was impressive to see her handle a 300+ lb alligator.   The show was stressful at times, especially when she put her head in the gator’s mouth (kids do not try this at home!) but, entertaining and a great way to see the reptiles up close.  They hammered home the best way to handle an alligator in the wild.  STAY AWAY.  After, don’t miss the chance to hold a baby alligator for a small extra fee. 
The park also welcomes fishing off the dock so if you have your rod with you, hang around a bit and see what is biting. 
If you need a pick-me-up before you hit the road, head to the gift shop and grab a Yoohoo, beef jerky or chips.  It ain’t Whole Foods folks.  We also had to pick up a gator koozie souvineir. 

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“Mom, are you sure he can’t bite?”
All in all, a great afternoon stop and a lot of fun for all generations because there wasn’t too much walking but, plenty to see.  Your little gator enthusiasts will be enthralled! 
Quick tips for busy moms:
  1. Check web sites or visitor brochures for discounts
  2. Plan on blocking off 3-4 hours for this adventure
  3. Bring snacks and water to hydrate
  4. Bring extra cash for tips for the boat drivers and post-tour treats
  5. Gas up before you leave civilization, it’s in the middle of nowhere.
  6. When in Florida don’t forget the sunscreen!

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