As a general rule, if you’re visiting the Orlando/Kissimmee area of Florida it’s a fairly safe bet that at least one theme park might be on your ‘things to do’ list. I for one, have never (up until now) visited the area and NOT gone to either Disney or Universal at some point in the trip – with Disney usually being the main reason for the trip in the first place. BUT there’s a whole world of wonderful things you can do and could easily fill a week or more with entertainment without even stepping foot into a theme park. On a recent trip I got to experience a few of them so wanted to share my suggestions for things to do in Kissimmee with you – hopefully a little inspiration in case you’re planning your own trip to the area and maybe want a few days breather from rides and crowds at the parks.
Things to do in Kissimmee:
Go looking for Gators
Gators and Florida are almost as synonymous as Florida and theme parks. Going Gator spotting is pretty much an essential if you’re visiting the state and Kissimmee is a wonderful spot to do this – with swamps and creeks galore, perfect gator-spotting territory. There’s a whole host of ways to do this but there are two I tried and would recommend. One option is on an air boat – more on this in a moment – but the best in my opinion is going back to basics and having a kayak along one of the peaceful Florida tree covered creeks. It’s amazing that as soon as you get into a kayak that might be a stones throw from a busy highway but you feel a million miles away.
Kayak at Shingle Creek: paddlingcenter.com
Skim across swamps
As I mentioned above, airboats are probably one of the most recognisable but unusual methods of transport in Florida. Having been to the state (and other swamp-covered states many times) I had never experienced what it was like to go on an airboat. But on my recent visit to Kissimmee that was rectified and let me tell you IT’S AWESOME. I would 100% recommend doing this if you want to see some of the nature and wildlife you can spot in the swamp and marshy areas in a high-speed, wind-in-hair sort of way. We spotted all sorts from gators, to cows. There’s something really surreal about flying across the swamps – you feel like you’re in a boat and going to crash or get tangled in all the reeds and greenery or even hit some of the wildlife – but the propellor lifts you off the water so you’re literally skimming across the top. Top tip for airboats though – take bug spray, and be prepared to be sprayed with a little ‘eau de swamp’ as you skim around! All part of the fun!
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides: bcairboats.com
Like that Kardashian life
When I was a child and I came to Florida with my parents we almost always stayed in villas. There’s something a bit ‘home-from-home’ about staying in a villa when you’re on holiday rather than a hotel. You know, apart from the whole ‘pool and warm sunshine’ thing… Staying in a villa is an experience in itself – and there are some seriously WOW options. If you have a large family, or maybe travelling in a group then you could go for one of the Kardashian-level looking mansions (seriously, this term is justified) with multiple bedrooms, all with their own bathrooms.
Pool, hot tub and waterslide (of course) plus other entertainment like pool tables or ping pong. Plus kitchens fit to host professional chefs and cinema rooms if you want time to chill out. Staying in some of the villa options you can find in and around Kissimmee really are part of the fun and a perfect way to have a day or two just chilling in your MASSIVE VILLA and basically pretending you live there now.
You can check out the details of the incredible villa we stayed in HERE – it’s rented out by Jeeves Villa Rentals who have a huge selection to suit all budgets and party sizes.
Visit a picture-perfect town
When you’re in the area of Kissimmee I would definitely recommend stopping by the picture-perfect community of Celebration. Celebration is a community area that was created/founded in the 1990’s with the idea being that it was an extension of the ‘Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT)’ and a town that would be ‘worthy of the Disney brand and legacy’.
What has been created is a gorgeous neighbourhood, filled with pastel coloured white picket fence homes with perfectly manicured lawns and a pretty downtown area surrounding lake. It really is picture-perfect – it has a very calm and happy feel to the downtown area. Even if you just take a little drive through the area – it’s worth a look. But I would recommend stopping for lunch or dinner at Columbia and order the signature ‘Columbia 1905 Salad’, I’m not even a salad person and this was DELICIOUS. Oh and a cheeky mojito – that they make fresh at the table – SO good.
Be a monkey
If you fancy something a bit more pysical and outdoorsy then I’d recommend heading to Orlando Tree Trek. It’s basically the Kissimmee version of ‘Go Ape’ in the UK where you get the chance to don a sexy harness and climb into the tree tops and swing/jump/cling on for dear life between trees as you make your way around obstacle courses of increasing difficulty (height). If you’re not keen on heights they have some lower/less daunting options and they really take you through all the security so you know you’re totally safe when up in the trees. It was really fun and definitely something I’d do again!
Orlando Tree Trek: orlandotreetrek.com
Up up and away
Who knew you can take a hot air balloon trip in Kissimmee? I had never thought of it before! But going in a hot air balloon as been something I’ve always wanted to experience! Sadly we didn’t actually get to do this because the weather conditions on the day we were booked weren’t safe enough – but I’d still recommend looking into this.
If you’re in the area for longer than we were you can always book for an early day of your trip then you have scope to reschedule if weather conditions aren’t in your favour. But knowing what the area of Kissimmee is like, going up in a hot air balloon over it (at sunrise, no less) would be pretty spectacular. It’s very flat and covered in a lot of trees, but of course there are all sorts of landmarks and things to spot when up so high. If I remember right they’re not technically allowed to fly the balloon *over* Disney, but you will almost certainly spot it’s famous landmarks of Spaceship Earth (or ‘the Epcot ball’), Cinderella’s castle and maybe Tower of Terror. Definitely an alternative experience of the area and one I’ll 100% be looking to book when we potentially return to the area in January 2018!
Hot Air Balloon Rides: orlandoballoonrides.com
For more information on Kissimmee and things to do in the area : www.experiencekissimmee.com
Norwegian operates a year round direct service from London Gatwick to Orlando Airport
Fares start from £179 one-way in economy and £499 one-way in Premium including all taxes and charges.
To book visit www.norwegian.com/uk or call 0330 828 0854
I was a guest of Kissimmee & Norwegian for the trip