Since opening a decade ago, Wild Florida has quickly become one of the region’s best-kept secrets, but the Kenansville-based wildlife attraction has been working to ensure it is no longer secret. This year has been defined by the success of their new drive-thru safari park
and expansion plans
that will more than double the size of the lakefront attraction. For some tourists, the drive across Osceola County might be too much; for them, Wild Florida has announced a new partnership that will bring the excitement of the rural attraction much closer.
Gaylord Palms has always been known for its large atrium-enclosed gardens, some of which are home to live animals and exhibits dedicated to Florida’s nature and history. As of December, the animal exhibits are now presented by Wild Florida
Image via Wild Florida
Some of the Wild Florida gators now seen at Gaylord Palms
The biggest animal exhibit is the gator spring habitat in the central St. Augustine atrium, home to 20 alligators. On Tuesdays and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m., hotel guests can watch a member of Wild Florida’s “Croc Squad” feed the alligators.
Nearby in the Everglades atrium, six baby alligators, known as hatchlings or “grunts,” are on display. The Sawgrass Place cabin in the swamp-themed Everglades section is also home to four snakes.
Thankfully the snakes are already at the exhibit, as many of Wild Florida's other snakes passed away in a recent fire that destroyed the snake exhibit in their Gator Park. In a post shared on Facebook
, Wild Florida said, "It breaks our heart to lose these beautiful animals." They also noted, "This incident will not interrupt our normal business operations and we’ll be fully open tomorrow, Dec 14th. Fitting end to a rough year...2020 will always be remembered as a rebuilding year!"
Guests staying at Gaylord Palms can experience up-close animal encounters with animals from Wild Florida on select days. All of the new Wild Florida exhibits and experiences are complimentary to overnight guests.
"We are very excited that Wild Florida is our new wildlife partner because they provide a one-of-a-kind experience for our guests," says Gaylord Palms general manager Johann Krieger. "Their family-friendly experiences allow our guests to learn more about Florida's diverse ecosystem and get up-close with unique animals, all while exploring the rest of our resort's distinctive environment."
The Wild Florida animal experiences are just some of the resort's attractions. A $150 million update
and expansion kicked off in 2018 that has updated nearly every inch of the resort, which is home to nearly a half-million square feet of meeting space. For those wanting to experience even more wildlife, a VR-based scavenger hunt allows guests to learn about endangered animals while exploring the 4.5-acre atrium.
Through Jan. 3, the resort hosts several holiday events
, including a Christmas movie-themed pop-up walk-through experience, an indoor snow play area, and nightly indoor Christmas light shows.
Details and tickets to these events can be found on their website. All shows and attractions, including the gator feeding, require guests to wear masks and remain physically distanced. Reservations and more details can be found on the Gaylord Palms website