Kissimmee maybe not be situated on the ocean, but we are the Gateway to the Everglades®, which makes the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts. We are lucky enough to spot unique wildlife around our destination – we're home to the largest nesting population of bald eagles in the contiguous states – and we have some unique plant life that has evolved to live in our swamps and shallow waters. Here's our suggestion of how to nature-lovers should explore Kissimmee.
Stay at Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center – an amazing resort that brings the outdoors inside. The resort also features six restaurants, a spa, and a waterpark with four waterslides, a treehouse playground, and much more. The glass atrium of the resort covers 4.5 acres. Inside you'll find winding rivers, waterfalls, gardens, and even alligators. Take an hour to explore the beauty of the resort and maybe grab a drink by the pool in the Florida sunshine.
Now that you know how to navigate the resort, wander over to Old Hickory Steakhouse for dinner in the Everglades district. Designed to look like an old fishing shack – glowing lanterns, trees dripping with moss – you'll feel like you're dining outside, except for the air-conditioning! We highly recommend trying the cheese courses!
Get ready for your first Kissimmee-style adventure! Revolution Off Road offers a variety of off-roading experiences across their 220 acres of land, including Mucky Ducks, ATVs, buggies, fishing, and archery. A favorite is the Mucky Duck, an eight-wheeled amphibious vehicle that allows you to drive on land and through the water. WARNING: You will get dirty! Bring a change of clothes and expect to be there for at least two hours.
Next, hike at Disney's Wilderness Preserve. The 12,000-acre preserve was established with an agreement with the Walt Disney Company, but it's run by the Nature Conservancy, which protects lands across the country. Here at the preserve, you'll find a glimpse at what real Florida would look like – plenty of native plants, native wildlife and acres of habitat. It's a home for rare species like the bald eagle and the elusive Florida Scrub Jay.
After your explorations at the Wilderness Preserve, head over to downtown Kissimmee, just short drive away. The downtown area offers lots of locally-owned dining options, including the 3 Sisters Speakeasy. Not only does the restaurant have a great backstory, but they have great drinks, sushi, and delicious sandwiches – a spot sure to please a variety of tastes. After dinner, take a walk down to Kissimmee Lakefront Park, which borders Lake Toho, world renowned for bass fishing. Don't forget to check out the Monument of States, a pyramid-shaped tower commissioned to symbolize American unity. When you wander around it, you'll notice some oddities embedded, like a human skull!
Now that you've seen the shore of Lake Toho, it's only natural that you want to explore it by water! Today, you'll take a 5-hour paddling adventure through the headwaters of the Everglades into Lake Toho. The mid-point of your guided excursion is Makinson Island. The island has an interesting history – thought to be the birthplace of Chief Coacohee, once an exotic animal sanctuary, and now a site for camping and hiking. Because of its past, some of the flora and fauna you may spot on the island isn't native to Central Florida - think goats, cavy, and guava trees. The guide will provide a picnic lunch and give you some time to explore before you make your return trip to the Paddling Center.
After an adventure-filled day on the water, dining at MOOR, the newest restaurant at Gaylord Palms, seems fitting. The giant indoor sailboat allows you to take in Key West-style views of the saltwater lagoon.
Ziplining, horseback riding, and swamp buggies – oh my! Forever Florida is a cattle and horse ranch and wildlife conservation area that offers a ton of activities to do throughout the day. Choose your favorite activity, like the Thrill Pack. You'll depart from the Forever Florida welcome center via swamp buggy to the zipline platforms. The drivers are a wealth of knowledge about Florida history and the preserve. The Thrill Pack includes three challenges - the rollercoaster zipline, a racing zipline, and the Panther Pounce. After the fun is over, buggy back to the welcome center, where you can enjoy a delicious southern barbeque lunch!
Your day will end with a relaxing one-hour sunset airboat tour at Boggy Creek Airboats. The transition from day to night on the airboat ride allows you to see not only a gorgeous Florida sunset, but both diurnal and nocturnal animals.
On your final day, take flight on a hot air balloon ride over Central Florida. A particularly fun excursion for early birds, most flights take off around 7 AM, but be ready to arrive at 5:30 AM. This trip will give you a whole different view of our destination! The flights conclude with a champagne toast.
Your final meal at Gaylord Palms will be the sprawling brunch at Villa de Flora. A breakfast lover's dream, the brunch buffet includes make-your-own omelet stations, pancakes, pastries, and more! For more information about planning your vacation in Kissimmee, request a free destination magazine!