My family loves traveling together, as much as possible. We’ve explored some of the largest theme parks Kissimmee has to offer, but on our latest trip we found the real magic exists in other parts of the city. My 11-year-old son and I had a fun weekend getaway, just the two of us, seeing Kissimmee from a local point of view. Next time you visit Central Florida, we recommend you take time to slow down and soak it all in with a classic vacation in sunny Kissimmee.
We booked an awesome vacation home at Reunion Resort, just a quick half hour drive from the airport. What we loved is that the property offers all the comforts of home with the amenities of a resort. Our vacation home had plenty of space for the two of us, with five bedrooms, 5.5 baths, a game room, and a private pool. My son loved challenging me to numerous air hockey games throughout the weekend and I loved the convenience of a backyard pool.
Staying on property gave us access to all of the Reunion Resort amenities. This includes restaurants, three signature golf courses, bike trails, a spa, a water park, fitness center, and nine swimming pools. We had plenty of amenities to enjoy at our own vacation home, but all of the Reunion Resort extras to round out our days.
Kissimmee Lakefront Park is a fun place to take a morning walk and check out the local wildlife. The park has a three-mile trail running alongside Lake Toho that we enjoyed strolling along and my son loved spotting alligators in the distance on the lake. He also took a spin on the park’s shaded playground, but kept returning to the elevated platform to see the gators. They’re just too cool to walk away from!
Fun Spot America—Kissimmee is a classic theme park with roller coasters, tilt-a-whirl, bumper cars, and even an arcade. Parking is always free and the lines were short. Brave souls will want to try the world’s tallest Skycoaster where riders can experience the rush of jumping off a platform and flying through the air over the park’s lake (similar to skydiving).
We spent some time exploring the traditional amusement park rides such as the Ferris wheel and arcade games, and I gave in to his request for cotton candy (it was vacation after all). This is one place we would come back to with the rest of the family!
Adjacent to Fun Spot is Old Town Kissimmee, an entertainment district with shopping, dining, attractions, and events. Every Saturday night is the longest running weekly car cruise, the Saturday Nite Car Cruise. Vintage car, antique, and unique hot rod owners come together to show off their classic beauties. My son wanted to take pictures of each and every car, but we settled for just a few of his favorites.
Celebration, Florida is a master planned community built by the Walt Disney Corporation in the early 1990s. With its charming homes, pedestrian friendly streets, shops, and restaurants, it’s an idyllic spot to spend a day. We had dinner on the patio at Columbia Restaurant overlooking the town lake, and watched everyone enjoying the Friday night concert in the town center. The restaurant serves delicious Cuban and Spanish cuisine, which this Puerto Rican gal loves. We had the fabulous paella Valencia and ropa veja. The servings are huge, and the location can’t be beat!
We also had a fun time renting bikes at Celebration Bike Rental. There are numerous trails winding their way through the community, and it was great to see such different scenery than what we have at home in Chicago. With plenty of lush greenery and trees lining the beautifully-maintained trails, it definitely felt like Central Florida. After a long ride we stopped for a treat at Wonderland Cookie Dough Co. The dough was delicious, and one scoop was more than enough!
Gatorland is the Alligator Capital of the World™, and it’s tough to argue that claim. What began in 1949 as a roadside attraction has grown to a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve. We entered the park near its giant, iconic alligator jaws, and that set the scene for transporting us to a different world.
The first thing we noticed were alligators sunning themselves on large wooden platforms around the park, I mean, they were everywhere! As we walked deeper into the park we realized there are plenty of other creatures too. There is a huge variety of birds, wild cats, snakes, reptiles, and tortoises throughout, but that’s only part of the fun.
We watched people sailing over an alligator pond at the Screamin’ Gator Zipline and then we had a chance to feed the gators. Though we were a bit nervous at first, we were quite secure with the three staff members protecting us. The second my son threw his first piece of raw meat at the gators he was hooked. He proceeded to throw piece after piece, making sure each alligator received his fair share. Afterwards, we took some awesome pictures, but I’m sure it’s an experience we’ll never forget.
Gatorland’s exhibits are very educational and the docents around the park shared their knowledge with everyone who asked. We checked out the daily shows, Gator Jumparoo and Gator Wrestlin’. My son loved seeing the gators jump out of the water (they jump pretty high) and watching the handler hold the alligator’s jaws closed with his chin. (That’s not something you should try at home). These shows were an amazing way to learn about the unique abilities of the alligators and marvel at the skills of their trained handlers.
Kissimmee, Florida may be known for the big theme parks, but we found plenty to explore off the beaten path. So on your next visit to the area, make time to see a different, classic side of Kissimmee.