Common knowledge holds that you come to Kissimmee to do exciting, thrilling things—things that literally move you. But there’s a whole other side to the area that’s no less magical and inspiring. It comprises pristine lakes, verdant trails and abundant wildlife that offer the opportunity to vacation mindfully and recharge by spending time outdoors.
Take to the Trails
Thanks to two major conservation efforts, large swaths of land in and around Kissimmee have been restored to their spectacular natural state. The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve covers 11,500 acres and boasts 1,000 different species of plants and animals, from bobcats to river otters to red-cockaded woodpeckers. For a potent shot of serenity, bike the loop around Lake Russell and enjoy the longleaf pine forests and blooming Ixia flowers. At St. Cloud’s Twin Oaks Conservation Area, hike through the live oak hammocks, remnant cypress stands and freshwater marshes that dot this peaceful preserve.
Watch the water
Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho) and East Lake Toho are places for reflection. St. Cloud Lakefront Park on East Lake Toho is a gracious space with covered pavilions offering gorgeous views of the water. Hit the volleyball court on the sandy lakeside beach or let the kids explore the playground and splash pad. At Kissimmee Lakefront Park, settle in at a covered picnic table overlooking Lake Toho; the historic downtown Kissimmee location means you can grab a picnic meal beforehand at a local shop. Be sure to take in the miniature lighthouse, watch the birds and stroll along the romantic lighted boardwalk after sunset. get back to basics. Also spend some time in Shingle Creek Regional Park, an oasis of calm with hiking trails, a fishing dock and play areas. The park is poised to complete a 32-mile trail through the Kissimmee wilderness. A new Pioneer Village, featuring Florida Cracker homes, a blacksmith shop and a Seminole Village will let your family experience simpler times.
The Docks at Shingle Creek offers catered camping trips to Makinson Island, guided electric Duffy boat tours of Shingle Creek and a variety of snacks and drinks for purchase.
Find peace under the stars at a remote but upscale campground (there are two hot showers) at Forever Florida Camping, Zipline and Wildlife Adventures’ Tracy Branch Outpost. Expand your overnight camping experience in the wilderness with a restorative hike through a pristine ecosystem or a ride on horseback. At Tropical Palms, a range of RV sites in close proximity to the theme parks and other top attractions, plus amenities like Wi-Fi hot spots and cable, provide a calming home base for exploring the area. At Kissimmee RV Park, you’re minutes from historic downtown Kissimmee. With the Wi-Fi and activity hall, you’re never too far from the comforts of home.
Fishing & paddling
Lake Toho is positively teeming with bass. Anglers can ponder how best to snag a trophy fish in these beautiful waters, then head out to the piers and boat launches to cast a line—there are dozens of local outfitters, guides and facilities to help you. For another type of water experience, paddle the Shingle Creek Paddling Trail via The Paddling Center. Shingle Creek feeds into Lake Toho and kayaking here takes you through a cypress swamp so idyllic it could be in a Disney film. Spot the ibises and white egrets picking through the palmetto palms along the channels and snap some keepsake shots of the vistas and the birds. If you’re seeking a slightly more extreme paddling adventure, rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard at The Docks at Shingle Creek.