Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lost Attractions: Jungleland Zoo

Just down the road from Xanadu sits a giant alligator in the middle of a motel parking lot, marking the site of the former roadside attraction called Jungleland Zoo. It hasn't been closed very long; it's not on the Lost Parks website, and some websites still show it open. According to Roadside America, it was originally called Alligator Safari Zoo.

As Jungleland Zoo, the attraction had a history of issues with the state for taking proper care of their animals, in fact in 1997 the attraction made headlines when one of its lions briefly escaped. It appears they closed their doors for good in 2002. So now the giant alligator, second in size only to Swampy the Giant in Christmas, Florida, sits in a pond of cement between a motel and Mexican restaurant, a giant symbol of another one of Florida's lost attractions.

The remnants of these former "tourist traps" are inspiration for me to visit the out-of-the-way, slightly cheesy attractions throughout the state. Once plentiful, they may all become history in the not too distant future, and that chapter of Florida's colorful cultural history may close forever...

This image, taken in the pre-digital age, shows elephants and gorillas at the base of the alligator.

Note the cement critters are now gone.

Former entrance to Jungleland Zoo

This is my TtV (Through the Viewfinder) image of the gator. It was created by shooting the image on the viewfinder of my old Argus camera.


  1. This is awesome and would certainly get me to pull off the road and snap a few pictures! Oh, and by the way, I caught a few minutes of Esther Williams on Turner Classics while channel surfing. The park looked great but then the story moved to New York so I lost interest. There's only so much Van Johnson a person can take...

  2. The NY stuff was pretty blah, unless you like mid-century furnishings and fashions, but the finale was an over the top Buzby Berkley spectacular with about 60 waterskiers and a helicopter. The best part was when a trapeze was lowered from the helicopter to Williams who was lifted up, dropped the skis, dived in from about 100 feet and miraculous found the ski rope again and suddenly her skis were on her feet again. Then she jumped over the conductor of a full band who playing around the ski ramp... And the scene with the famous Florida shaped pool was cool too. I heard it is full of icky green water now.

  3. Wow... looks like I changed the channel too soon!

  4. Good gosh this is cool... yeah, Florida here I come! :~) Love this post, Rick... and really dig your TTV shot, so fantastically surreal.

    Hey, I owe you an email. The week has been nuts, will be writing soon.

    Thanks again for such great content here!

  5. I worked at the Jungleland Zoo and they took extremely bad care of the animals. That is why I quit. I am very happy they are no longer in business and hope the animals are being better taken care of.

  6. Cheryl- thanks for much for your comments. I hope the animals have better care too.