Kissimmee, Florida

Acceleration vacations in Kissimmee, Florida

By Christine Amorose Merrill

Most itineraries to Kissimmee are understandably driven by theme parks. But two local experiences—a Drive-Your-Own-Airboat at Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and the indoor course at Andretti Indoor Karting & Games—offer the opportunity to get off the ride, out of lines, and into the driver’s seat for an exhilarating, energizing change of pace. On my recent trip to Kissimmee, I opted to try out both—and was surprised by how much I loved the adrenaline rush.

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Skimming The Surface

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides is a chance to see the real Florida, a land of big blue skies and freshwater marshes and otherworldly wildlife. Being on an airboat is thrilling—whether mere feet away from a wild six-foot-long alligator, or humming over the flatwater at speeds of more than 35 miles per hour—but being on the lake, especially early in the morning or as the sun sets, is also incredibly serene.

I opted for the first ride of the day: a bit of research uncovered that alligators are most often spotted early in the morning. Although it’s plenty of fun to go on an airboat tour of the lake—keep a sharp eye out for gators, birds, and even cows—I enthusiastically chose the “You Drive” option. I not only got a more personalized tour of the lake—and extra time to admire whatever forms of wildlife struck my fancy—but I got to learn a lot more about how the airboat works. For example, a few fun airboat facts: it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1903, they’re still regularly used across the country as emergency rescue vehicles and the propeller can generate hurricane-force winds.

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More than anything, there’s an incredible adrenaline rush that comes from soaring across the open water and navigating around fields of reeds and mud flats. I didn’t expect to love it quite as much as I did! It seems pretty simple: push the lever forward to turn right and pull back to veer left, but it takes some serious forearm strength! Actually piloting the airboat was unforgettable.

I was also completely enthralled by all of the wildlife we encountered. We saw quite a few alligators, although it takes some serious effort to spot them: their natural camouflage is REAL. We spotted a bald eagle, great blue herons and even several cows from nearby farms, who wade chest-deep into the water to cool down on hot days.

Switching Gears

After my airboat ride, it was time to switch gears, and I found there are endless ways to have fun at Andretti Indoor Karting & Games. As I stepped inside, I immediately appreciated the hearty air conditioning system (a necessity in the Sunshine State) and was amazed by the sheer number of things to do. Of course, there’s a maze of indoor go-kart tracks to tackle—but there’s also a plethora of arcade games, an elevated ropes course, laser tag, a bar and restaurant, and a bowling alley.

I’d never been go karting before I found myself in Kissimmee, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect once I pulled my helmet on and lowered myself into the little electric go kart and waited for the “go” sign. I hesitantly pressed my foot forward on the gas to pull out onto the course, but quickly realized that all of the adrenaline (and most of the fun) comes from going just a litttttttle too fast down the straightaways and around the hairpin curves. It also takes a lot more arm strength than I expected to quickly and effectively turn the wheel, and a good bit of mental energy to navigate how to go as fast as possible while still navigating the sharp turns effectively.

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I was only on the track for about seven minutes, but it’s one of those sensations where it feels both incredibly long and all too short in the moment. And after I wrapped up my race (or races—once I started, it’s tough to want to stop!), there was still plenty to do inside Andretti. Thirst-quenching options included a cold beer or a Fast Lane Cocktail (there are excellent happy hour deals), or I had to choose whether to satisfy my appetite by digging into a hand-crafted pizza, juicy burger or plate of spicy wings.

My trip to Kissimmee was spent in the fast lane, in the driver’s seat. Whether I was out in the wildness of the Everglades or inside the AC at Andretti, my day accelerated into an incredibly good time.

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