When you visit some of the world’s most famous theme parks, sometimes you forget that there is so much to do in the neighboring Kissimmee area. There is something for every budget, age, and interests. There are even hot air balloon rides! Even though I did not get to try one, during a recent trip collaborating with Experience Kissimmee, I realized there is never enough time to explore all the incredible fun options you will find in this beautiful Florida area. From wine tastings to airboat sunset tours, from penguin encounters to delicious food, your family will truly enjoy every second of your vacation.
- Always check the attraction’s website or social media channels for special offers (Florida residents, teachers, and veterans may also qualify for special discounts)
- Pack comfortable shoes that you have already broken in
- Keep in mind you will need sunscreen year round
- Bring a waterproof poncho in case it rains
- Plan on taking hundreds of pictures.
Top 10 things to do in Kissimmee and Central Florida area
- Wrestle an alligator: Gatorland provides affordable family fun while showcasing thousands of alligators and crocodiles. Guides will gladly answer your questions and enlighten you with cool facts. For example, did you know crocodiles and alligators lose 3,000 teeth during their lifetime? For an extra fee, you can even “wrestle” an alligator. Also, don´t miss your chance to see four extremely rare “white” alligators. The free-flight aviary, petting zoo, one of a kind animal shows, and natural alligator breeding marsh will ensure your day will be unforgettable. They even have a zipline.
- Enjoy a day simply relaxing: after exploring the parks and everything the area has to offer, it’s great to relax at a great resort. The Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate has 36 holes of championship golf, seven restaurants and enjoy 15 acres of pools and recreation activities including the 850-foot lazy river. The breakfast buffet is wonderful and offers a wide variety of gluten-free selections and even has a honey bar.
- Learn and delight yourself with a wine tasting: the new Island Grove Wine Company is a sustainable fruit winery with approximately 3,000 square feet of meeting space, including special rooms for the bridal party to get ready for their special day. It also has a wine and beer bar where you can get delicious bites for reasonable prices. The chicken sandwich is outstanding!
- Kick off the day with a delicious brunch: Even if you’re not a guest at the resort, stop by Villa de Flora at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet with an Italian atmosphere and discover why the Orlando Sentinel awarded Villa de Flora the Critic’s Choice for Best Brunch.
- Explore the “real Florida” by airboat: Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures can show you the headwaters to the Everglades. You can even be your own captain! Plus, you’ll get a chance to visit the Native American Village and see how the original Americans used to cook, hunt and live many years ago. Pro tip: book the sunset tour for incredible views. Available 7 days a week during daytime business hours at the Southport location.
- Interact with penguins: SeaWorld Orlando is known for its one-of-a-kind attractions, thrilling coasters and up-close animal interactions. However, the penguin encounter is incredible. Not only do you learn more about these beautiful birds, but you also get to pet them. You´ll be surprised by how soft their feathers are. You can book the Penguin Up Close Tour here for $60. Park admission is required and separate. There are also other behind-the-scenes tours and attractions. Younger guests will also be delighted by their favorite Sesame Street friends including Elmo, The Count, Cookie Monster and more.
- Get your adrenaline fix: Orlando Tree Trek offers adrenaline junkies Kissimmee’s most thrilling tree top experience. I thought all they had were 425-foot zip lines but they also have Tarzan swings, bridges, nets, ropes, trapeze and more.. They’re an action-packed adventure! They have different courses for adults and children, but keep in mind that not everybody might be thrilled at the prospect of hanging bridges and nets. Pro tip: get the water package so you can stay hydrated during the rope and bridge course.
- Enjoy a blast from the past: At the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum you can see what Kissimmee was like before the arrival of the major theme parks. You’ll get to stroll through four distinct natural habitat exhibits all within the comfort of air conditioning.
- Satisfy your pizza cravings. At MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Company the pizza is made with few and fine ingredients and accessible to everyone. They even offer gluten free options! Pro tip: save space for the Nutella calzone. It’s big enough to share and worth every single calorie.
- Delight your taste buds with the best of Southern cuisine: celebrity chef Art Smith offers his world-famous specialties at Homecomin’ at Disney Springs. Don´t miss his fried chicken, which is the best I ever had, flaky biscuits and his incredible Hummingbird cake. It truly is a treat in itself! Reservations are strongly recommended. Also, the restaurant features a notable wine list curated by master sommelier George Miliotes, and handcrafted cocktails made with moonshine.
Bet you didn’t know a few of these options on this list! Honestly, there is so much to do in the Kissimmee area. It´s just a matter of figuring out what you really want to do during your vacation and what mood you’re in.
Photos: Jeannette Kaplun