Living at the beach, I sometimes forget what the real South Alabama is like. A short drive from the beaches of Gulf Shores is the local gator farm, Alligator Alley. Boasting over 450 alligators, this farm is home to a range of the reptiles from young hatchlings to a huge 13 footer named Captain Crunch. If you want to truly experience the real south, this is a good way to start.
My first bit of advice is to watch for the entrance sign from Highway 59. There are billboards which state Alligator Alley’s location; unfortunately the road is marked with an easily missed small street sign on the corner. The entrance sign itself has a huge “turn here” indicator, but I almost missed the turn since it doesn’t give a good heads up on when. Since I’m better with landmarks, I look for the Baldwin EMC headquarters then immediately start making the turn.
Upon entrance of the parking you’ll find gravel, this will give you an idea what to expect inside the farm; more gravel. Be sure to plan for the right type of stroller for this terrain. The ticket booth/gift shop will hit you with air conditioning as soon as you hit the door. At the end of the park this will be a welcome feeling, since it’s also where you exit. Please be aware of the different admission prices that are listed. There is general admission to the farm, but you can add on additional experiences. A separate exotic animal exhibit which allows kids or adults to interact with various animals is not included in the general admission. There is a list of what types of animals that you can interact with and although I’d love it, I knew my wife and kids wouldn’t be so adventurous. However I do recommend getting some gator food, its only $4 a cup and you get to take home the cup as a souvenir.
Being from the South, it was hard even for me to take the heat there. The swamp was hot and muggy on the day we visited; you might select a different time of year or a breezy day to make your visit more enjoyable. The gators were very active. The gator enclosures are separated by ages between the babies and years 1 through 3. The full sized adult gators all go in the swamp area, which is natural swamp not artificial like the smaller enclosures. There were a handful of facts to read through at the enclosure stations. Although the enclosures have a paved sidewalk around the viewing area the main path between them is gravel. From the last enclosure to the main swamp is a fairly long stretch of gravel, meaning new walkers and strollers may have some difficulty.
Two of the main things you have to see are the swamp and the gator feeding. If you bought gator chow the swamp is the place to use it. Gator chow is about the same size as charcoal and smells like fish food, make sure once you’re done to wash your hands! Surprisingly enough the gators love the chow; they will go for it, search for it, and will start circling you if they know you have it. The boardwalks above the swamp are a good distance from the gators but still gives you a close enough feeling to them. The large trees in the swamp do offer shade from the sun or it could have been I was finally used to the heat. However the farm did have some fans on the boardwalk to help cool patrons down.
The feeding show is what most people come for and it is not to be missed. Feedings are three times a day and the gators know what times they are. The feeding area will normally be empty, however as the crowds line up, so do the gators. I was amazed at how many gators came out of the swamp. Some of the facts were interesting but this show was more for entertainment.
Alligator Alley is a good place to go for a couple hours to get away from the beach. Although it seemed small it still managed to offer a lot. The areas to view the gators were very well maintained, along with the property itself. The staff there was very friendly as well, as we were greeted by various staff even while walking around the farm. Had it not been so hot, I would’ve liked to stay longer; as this place gives you a real idea of how these animals really live in the wild.
This review is based on a complimentary visit to Alligator Alley. I received no other compensation and these opinions are entirely my own.
We visited in late summer - it was HOT. You have to walk. We took our 2 year old, no stroller, no water. :-( You see gators and they do have a decent little feeding show, but again hot and you are sitting outside. Our daughter was not really interested. She got bored & crabby. Might be good for older kids or those that really like gators. At the end there was a great photo opp to have your kids pic made with a gator. They let you take as many photos as you like - everyone was very nice. It was interesting but I wouldn't take my two year old again.