Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
For over 130 years, Kissimmee has been known for its sunshine and hospitality. But when Disney arrived in 1971, vacations became the cornerstone.
Dubbed “The Gateway to Fun,” Kissimmee offers world famous theme parks, championship golf courses, and countless opportunities for shopping, dining and entertainment – plus it’s a quick drive to Florida’s beaches for a relaxing sun holiday.
Who should go:
Just a half hour from Orlando, Kissimmee is a gateway to Orlando‘s magical theme parks – plus the city boasts its own local attractions too. With family-oriented accommodations and recreational activities of its own, Kissimmee offers both convenience and value for travellers seeking a Florida vacation.
A Kissimmee vacation wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the exciting theme parks nearby. From Walt Disney World Resort and SeaWorld Orlando to Universal Orlando Resort and LEGOLAND Florida, your kids (and the kids at heart!) are sure to have the time of their lives.
- Make memories at Walt Disney World Resort, including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (which includes the all-new land of Pandora, The World of Avatar.) Don’t miss Expedition Everest – where you can race through the Himalayan mountains on a speeding train or the new family-friendly Seven Dwarfs Mine Train inside Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park.
- Universal Orlando Resort is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (board the Hogwarts Express between them!), plus Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park. Find characters like Dr Seuss and Marvel Comics in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, plus thrilling coasters, children’s attractions, and simulator rides throughout the parks.
- SeaWorld Orlando is home to SeaWorld, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove. Get up close animal interactions in SeaWorld. Visit SeaWorld’s Waterpark, Aquatica, for wave pools and waterslides like Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, the tallest, steepest and only multi-drop tower in Orlando. At Discovery Cove, swim with dolphins, rays and tropical fish and hand-feed exotic birds.
- LEGOLAND Florida Resort was built for kids, featuring everything from theme park rides to a water park to shows and entertainment and hands-on building experiences.
- The Fun Spot America amusement park in Kissimmee and Orlando boasts coasters and family friendly rides, slides, go carts, bumper cars, an arcade, and more.
- Visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (about an hour from Orlando/Kissimmee) to watch a rocket launch, explore the astronaut hall of fame, and get your own astronaut training at the Micro-Gravity Wall with space shuttle simulations.
- Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay offers attractions like the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, aerial performances, roller coasters and rides, and over 12,000 animals.
In Kissimmee, you’ll find Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, Chocolate Kingdom, Museum of Military History, Cirque du Soleil , Old Town Fun Spot America, Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, and the haunted houses of Old Town Kissimmee. Experience ghost tours, hot air balloon rides, helicopter tours, museums, dinner shows and more!
There are plenty of opportunities to connect with nature in Kissimmee with hiking, biking, boating, and fishing.
- Forever Florida is a 4,700-acre cattle and horse ranch offering ziplining, horseback riding, trail buggy adventures, camping and Wild Rattlesnake – the zipline roller coaster! In addition to cattle and horses, you may spot alligators, turtles, colourful wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and even the endangered Florida Panther on your nature walk or horseback safari.
- The alligator capital of the world, Gatorland, is a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve where you can get up close and personal with alligators and crocodiles. The park offers gator shows, a free-flight aviary, petting zoo, natural alligator breeding marsh, and an exciting Screamin’ Gator Zip Line.
- Find rides and animal attractions at Green Meadows Petting Farm, where hands on learning is encouraged. Milk cows, ride a pony, take a train ride or tractor-drawn hayride, and say hello to the pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, and other barnyard animals you may come across.
- Enjoy year-round fishing on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes including Lake Tohopekaliga.
- Just off the shores of Lake Tohopekaliga is the small Lazy H Ranch offering a total horse experience.
- Airboat rides are available with Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, Wild Florida Airboats, and Spirit of the Swamp. Explore the Everglades on an airboat ride and spot tropical birds, turtles, and alligators. At Wild Florida Airboats and Wildlife Park in the Everglades National Park, tour swamps and marshes on the Dead River Kayak Adventure Tour or walk the bridge to cross the gator pond.
- Take a hot air balloon ride for a bird’s-eye-view with Orlando Balloon Rides.
- Fly military aircraft at the no-experience-required flight school and museum, Warbird Adventures. Stallion 51 and Maxflight Helicopter Services are other flight schools offering air excursions.
- Head to the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens for an afternoon of flora and fauna.
Kissimmee boasts almost 400 holes and over a dozen courses.
- Harmony Golf Preserve (Johnny Miller)
- Reunion Resort (Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer)
- ChampionsGate Golf Resort (Greg Norman)
- Public & resort golf experiences at Mystic Dunes, Falcon’s Fire Golf Club and Celebration Golf Club
- The 8,000 seat Silver Spurs Arena at Osceola Heritage Park (OHP) hosts everything from headlining acts to comedy shows to sporting and equestrian events.
- Catch a baseball game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, home of the Atlanta Braves.
- Take the family to Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament for a feast and watch a tournament of horse racing, sword fighting, jousting, and more.
- Visit the House of Blues in downtown Disney for a dining and musical experience.
- Enjoy live music, shopping, and casual to fine dining options at Universal CityWalk.
- Experience a speakeasy and cabaret style dinner theatre at Capone’s Dinner and Show.
- The Loop shopping center has over 400,000 square feet of retail shops.
- Find outlet shopping at Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores and Orlando Premium Outlets.
- Find boutique shopping along downtown Kissimmee, St. Cloud and Celebration.
- Find hundreds of options for souvenir shopping and luxury shopping at Disney Springs.
- Visit the Florida Mall and Mall at Millenia for all your shopping needs.
Stroll through downtown Kissimmee and see its family owned businesses, shops, and restaurants. Wander past the state’s oldest courthouse, sculptures, and murals – and don’t miss a visit to Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace for antique shopping. Susan’s Courtside Cafe and Joanie’s Diner are local favourites for breakfast. For lunch, stop by Savion’s Place, Broadway Pizza, Willy’s Wieners or Nature’s Table.
Kissimmee’s history as a cattle herding town is celebrated with a twice yearly rodeo. You can also find information about the area’s cattle ranching history at the Osceola County Welcome Center and Historical Museum, in downtown Kissimmee, as well as history about the area’s major shipping port and citrus industry.
Other Kissimmee museums include the Museum of Military History, and the Warbird Adventures and Air Museum. The Pioneer Village has original buildings from the 1889 homestead with artifacts, a sugarcane mill, blacksmith shop, and a 1900 general store.
Where to stay:
Visitors to central Florida choose Kissimmee because of the wide array of accommodations at a fantastic value. With over 50,000 guestrooms, there is family-friendly lodging to suit every budget. It’s the perfect choice when travelling with children because of its home away from home feeling. You’ll find accommodations with full kitchens, living spaces, and even laundry facilities. Kissimmee also has the largest inventory of vacation rental homes in central Florida, including townhouses and condos, making it great for retirees and longer stays.
The 1,506 square mile Osceola County was founded in 1887 and serves as the south/central boundary of the Central Florida greater metropolitan area, encompassing the city of Kissimmee and nearby St. Cloud (south-east of Kissimmee) and Celebration (north-west of Kissimmee).
Getting to Kissimmee is easy: most major airlines fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO), just 30 minutes from Kissimmee. Additional scheduled airlines may fly into Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) while charters and private jets can fly into Kissimmee Gateway Airport (ISM).
Most people rent a car upon arrival to easily get around the Florida area.