There is only one place on this earth where you can see a 15-foot crocodile underwater, look into the pink eyes of an albino alligator and zip line above a park full of wild reptiles.
The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park is well worth the trip from the Amelia Island area, offering your family an experience you’ll never find anywhere else. I love to take my children there to learn about the animals and explore the beautiful park. It is a zoo in and of itself, with lemurs, a Komodo dragon, a python, exotic birds and others in addition to the reptiles. And while it’s named for its huge alligator population, it’s also the only place in the world where you can see all 23 species of crocodiles.
My favorite is Maximo, the 1250-lb. crocodile who rules the roost in his own habitat that includes a deep pool of water and some land where he grudgingly gets a little exercise when prodded by his trainer. Supersized crocs like Maximo are actually at a high risk of obesity and all the health problems that come with it, so the Alligator Farm has the croc “work” for his food a little by walking or jumping to get it. Most of the time, though, he’s in the water, which makes it especially cool that they have an underwater viewing area. The croc is 15 feet and 3 inches long… more than triple my own height! (Yes, I am short, but that is still super long!)
Another great feature is that they offer keeper talks and shows every day. You learn so much by watching these keepers — albeit a bit crazy, since they’re often right in with the animals — as they feed them and interact with them. They also have a hands-on program designed for kids in their theatre.
The park has something for every age. For little ones like my two toddlers, they have a kids’ zone that includes play equipment and picnic tables. For the “big kids” (ages 10 and up), they have the recently-opened Crocodile Crossing, two zip line courses that take visitors from tree to tree above the exhibits. There are different levels of difficulty depending on your preference. I’ve never tried it, but during our last visit we saw all kinds of folks, from kids to grandparents, wooshing through the trees above us from time to time.
The Alligator Farm also offers a lot of special features including events, educational camps, and a monthly Parents’ Night Out, when the kids participate in activities and eat supper at the park while their parents go out on a date. Their website and Facebook page are great resources to keep you up-t0-date, and of course Mamamelia will always keep you posted in our events calendar and weekly e-newsletter!
If you want to go:
Where: 999 Anastasia Blvd., St. Augustine, FL (Close to the St. Augustine Lighthouse)
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 365 days a year
Cost: Varies, but, as of this writing, it was about $22 for adults, $11 for kids, and there were discounts for military, AAA, seniors and groups.
Amenities: There are several easy-access restrooms throughout the park, lots of benches, and a great dining area with a kids’ menu.
For more information: Call the park at 904-824-3337 or visit their website at alligatorfarm.com