Kissimmee, Florida and the entire Central Florida region may be best known for the Disney theme parks, but there is so much more to be explored and enjoyed while you’re in the area. You can have an exciting vacation without ever putting on a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. For active families, adventure seekers or couples wanting a relaxing experience, Kissimmee has plenty to offer. The weather is mild year-round, although hot in the summer, but the welcome you’ll receive is warm 365 days a year.
1. Fish in the teeming, abundant waters
Lake Kissimmee, Lake Tohopekaliga, Lake Rosalie, Tiger Lake and many others claim to have the best bass fishing around. You can bring your own boat or rent everything you need and book a knowledgeable guide. Big Toho Marina is one of the businesses that would be happy to accommodate you. It is highly recommended, however, that you not attempt to swim in the lakes because of the alligator population. Just stay in the boat and wait to sample alligator in a restaurant, rather than being the alligator’s main course.
Ecotourism is fast becoming big business because of the vast numbers of wildlife found near Kissimmee. Many consider it to be a birder’s paradise.
2. Test your physical strength with zip lining and rope courses through the trees
For energetic climbers and outdoor lovers, Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park in Kissimmee is a well-equipped and popular facility with an extensive ropes course and aggressive safety policies. They offer five obstacle courses ranging from a kid’s level at a minimum altitude to the highest course at an advanced altitude requiring an advanced amount of skill. Tree Trek is situated in a natural pine forest and includes a 425-foot (129.5 meters) zip line.
3. Skim the waters on an airboat
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures will have you gliding at an exhilarating speed on top of the water of the Kissimmee River which eventually gets to the famous Florida Everglades. Boggy Creek offers rides of 30 minutes or an hour throughout the day, a sunset tour and a night tour. There is a more expensive option where you can actually drive an airboat yourself under the direction of a Master Captain. While you are awaiting your turn on an airboat, you can enjoy the Gator Pond to get a look at small and large alligators from a safe distance or watch Native American demonstrations in the reproduction of a village representing the Jororo tribe, often called the “Forgotten Tribe” of Florida. Visit the Tiki Bar for a cold drink or Boggy Bottom BBQ for a quick lunch.
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4. View the action and the nature from above the treetops in a hot air balloon
Kissimmee showcases its beauty through several companies offering sunrise hot air balloon rides. Most flights last an hour but could be slightly more or less depending on the temperature of the air and how long it takes the pilot to find a suitable landing field. Conditions have to be optimal, so if this is a big priority for you, book early in your trip in case your flight has to be delayed for a day or more.
Required conditions include a wind speed of no more than 6 knots (6.9 mph), no rain or storms within 100 miles (160.9 km), visibility of at least 3 miles (4.8 km) and a ceiling of at least 3000 feet (914.4 m).
Many consider a hot air balloon ride to be reserved for a special occasion such as an anniversary, a birthday or a Bucket List wish, but certainly “just because you’re on vacation” is also reason enough to enjoy such an experience.
Recommended companies in Kissimmee include Orlando Balloon Rides, Thompson Aire, Inc. and Bob’s Balloon Rides. Orlando Balloon Rides feature large baskets for up to 16-20 people, depending on the total weight of the passengers. Thompson Aire balloons usually have from 2-8 passengers. The baskets of Bob’s Balloons carry 4 or 6 passengers.
5. Bike the trails of a planned community
Celebration, Florida is a planned community that is a part of Kissimmee and Osceola County. It was founded in the mid-1990’s as a vision of the Disney corporation to represent American towns of yesteryear. It is made up of single family homes, luxury condominiums, a walkable downtown with stores and restaurants, plus walking/biking trails that meander past natural lakes, streams and typical Florida swampy areas on well-maintained paths. A good way to take in the community spirit of Kissimmee is with a guided bike ride led by a team member at Celebration Bike Rental located on Bloom Street. The pace is easy, and the sights are swoon-worthy. So swoon-worthy, in fact, that Celebration was named one of the 10 prettiest towns in America by Forbes.
After getting fresh air and exercise, you’ll want to head to the nearby lakeside shopping area to browse and sample the offerings at one of the 12 different restaurants. If you are a dog lover, be sure to notice the gourmet doggie bakery or go next door to grab a colorful macaron for yourself.
6. Shop, eat and learn in Historic Downtown Kissimmee
One of the first surprises you’ll notice as you walk down Historic Downtown Kissimmee’s Main Street are all of the Western and cowboy-related symbols. This is, after all, Central Florida and not the Old West. As it turns out, Florida actually has the longest ranching history in the United States with Osceola County being at the heart of that history. Ever since Spanish explorers brought cattle to Florida when they arrived 400 years ago, cowmen, or cowboys, have been tending to the herds. The annual Silver Spurs Rodeo began in Kissimmee in 1944 and is considered to be the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi River. Look up at the street signs to see hints of these traditions.
Have fun finding and photographing the interesting art installations scattered around town. Some are permanent, while others rotate from time to time. You might want to begin at the Visitors Center where you’ll see a larger-than-life horseshoe. Poke your head in the specialty shops to get a closer look at the various wares displayed in the windows. Old Town General Store, Old Town Leather, Branded Boutique and Wound ‘N Around are just a few of the many with alluring names.
A dizzying number of international cuisines are represented in the 26 eateries scattered around Downtown Kissimmee. Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Spanish, Mediterranean, Cuban, and Asian vie for attention alongside barbecue, seafood and more traditional Southern dishes. Pop into Limb Helados for a fruity, cool treat.
Anchoring Historic Kissimmee is the Osceola County Courthouse, which has the singular distinction of being the oldest courthouse in the state of Florida still in continuous use. In May of 1890, the County Commissioners accepted the keys to the new courthouse from the construction company, and it has been going strong ever since.
Also, don’t miss the Monument of States a few blocks away. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the people of Kissimmee craved a symbol of unity, so they began collecting rocks from every state in the Union. President Roosevelt heard about the effort and contributed his own stone to the monument. It is an impressive sight made up of an eclectic mix of granite blocks, quartz, boulders, fossils, pieces of buildings and such.
7. Enjoy uncommon luxury accommodations, championship golf courses and indulgent spa treatments at Reunion Resort
To be sure, there are seemingly unlimited chain hotels operating in and around Kissimmee, but if you’d like a true “home away from home” with some luxurious amenities to enjoy during your stay, be sure to consider renting a villa or a home in Reunion Resort. You can save money on restaurants by cooking in your own kitchen, and most of the rental homes have their own pools. A 24-hour-a-day shuttle service is available to take you to the many facilities on the resort grounds, such as restaurants, three golf courses, spa treatments, pickleball, tennis courts, fitness classes and the water park. In fact, there is so much to do, you might choose to stay on the property during your entire stay. The golf courses at Reunion, it must be mentioned, are signature courses designed by Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Some of the homes for rent are so luxurious and grand, you could have an entire family reunion or corporate event with plenty of bedrooms, bathrooms and amenities for a large group. The largest has 13 bedrooms. Some homes have game rooms, theater rooms, large outdoor kitchens or even a lazy river. All have guest comfort as the goal.
If you want to play golf but don’t plan to stay at Reunion Resort, you can choose from at least seven public courses. Celebration Golf Club, Champions Gate Golf Club and Falcon’s Fire Golf Club are probably the best known of the options.
A vacation destination away from the crowds
Kissimmee, Florida is in the middle of the action, yet it has many attractions that will help you avoid the masses if you choose to do so. In Kissimmee, visitors have the advantage of world-class dining, shopping and accommodations nearby, but they also have the beauty of nature and the opportunity to be active and adventurous. All of this makes it an extraordinary vacation destination, enticing many to return again and again.
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