Kissimmee US192

If you've decided to holiday in Florida, it's probable that you're going to visit the parks and attractions in Orlando. The Kissimmee area is south of the wider theme park area, very close to Disney, and west of the US192 interstate highway which runs north-South through Orlando and is home to a plethora of restaurants and shopping areas. Kissimmee is home to many of Orlando's best known holiday villa rental resorts. This is primarily because of its proximity to Disney but also it being zoned by the state as an area where short term property rental is permissible. This is not allowed further north which explains the lack of villa communities in the area surrounding seaworld and Universal, north of the Disney complex.

Fireworks behind magic kingdom castle at night

Kissimmee or International Drive

Two of the most popular places to stay are Kissimmee and International Drive. International Drive is closer to the Warner parks. It is busy and very touristy. It's one long strip of apartments, restaurants and bars. You don't need a car here as you can rely on the trolley buses that travel between the parks and International Drive all day, well into the late evening. The accommodation available is mostly in the form of hotels or serviced apartments. Kissimmee on the other hand is a town. It is literally a few minutes' drive away from Disney world and close to all the other parks. It is on the edge of the hustle and bustle and you get to experience the real America. It is much nicer if you have children because they aren't being overloaded with all the action and excitement all day long. Kissimmee has a good selection of nice villas, some even have swimming pools, which means at the end of a busy day, you can wind down by the pool and get a good quite night's sleep.

Stay in Kissimmee

Kissimmee is the closest area to Orlando's theme parks that offers short term villa rental resorts. Other than Emerald Island, other popular resorts are Windsor Hills, Windsor Palms, Formosa Gardens, Paradise Palms and Encantada. Nearby is the high-end Reunion Resort. You will need a car if you stay at Kissimmee, but then you have the freedom to explore and come and go as you please, without having to depend on the crowded trolley busses. Kissimmee is also in the Highway 192 area. This is the tourist corridor between the town and all the other attractions and is very easy to navigate.

Kissimmee villa resort community map

Downtown Kissimmee

On a practical level Kissimmee has everything you could need. Apart from great things to see and do and the proximity to the parks. It also has a medical centre and chemist shops if you need anything for the kids, or you fall ill yourselves. There are supermarkets if you want to buy food and cook for yourselves in the evening. Most villas have a garden with a barbecue area. If you have young children or you are coming in a large family group, then staying in a villa together makes more sense. Prices are about the same, or sometimes even cheaper than hotels and you get all the facilities which will make your stay more comfortable, such as a fridge and a washing machine. Kissimmee is also a great place if you want to do other things during your stay. The town has a large lake, which is utilised for fishing trips and boat tours. There's some beautiful parks which are ideal for children and a great place to have a picnic. You can visit Gatorland which is a fun zoo filled with alligators and crocodiles, or you can take an air boat ride through the swamps of the Florida everglades.

Shopping

Find charming boutiques, interesting accessories, and home furnishings in the downtown areas of Kissimmee and Celebration. For a bargain, Orlando Premium Outlets on International Dr, Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Ave and Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores are a must. At The Loop in central Kissimmee you'll find department stores, well known retailers, a selection of restaurants as well as a large movie theater. The Florida Mall is the largest major shopping center in the Orlando area. You ‘ll find Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, JC Penney Nordstrom and Dillard's as well a huge array of specialty stores. For high end shopping check out The Mall at Millenia.

Restaurants and Nightlife

In Kissimmee you'll find every kind of culinary experience imaginable from eat as much as you can diners to high end Asian Fusion cuisine. Kissimmee Old Town is a perfect evening stop for all the family with shopping, dining, and entertainment. Friday and Saturday nights feature the signature old car cruises. For late night entertainment head to Boardwalk at Disney or CityWalk at Universal for dancing, sophistication and all round fun.

Kissimmee old town clock

The Old Town

There is also the Old Town, which makes a change from the Disney attractions. There are old fashioned rides and plenty of places to eat and drink. The classic car parade which takes place at the weekend is very popular. You get the chance to see some beautiful classic cars and listen to live music. If you want to see more of Florida than just the parks and you prefer to be independent, then Kissimmee is the ideal spot to rent a villa and enjoy your American getaway.

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Florida comprises 4 main theme park areas. The Magic Kingdom brings to life all of your favourite Disney characters and stories from past and present. Centring around a fairy tale castle the park is home to myriad different rides from ghost castles to spinning tea cups. EPCOT brings the world to Disney in World Showcase. Stroll around a large lake and pass through various countries of the world. Sample the “local” food and beer and culture. Future World (EPCOT) takes the visitor through a series of expo style pavilions showcasing the wonders of science and technology. Experience the future at EPCOT through a series of fully interactive and visually stimulating theme park rides.

Disney characters in foreground of parade with Magic Kingdom castle in background

Hollywood Studios is dedicated to the Hollywood golden ages of the 1930s and 40s. A series of themed areas and rides take you back to the movies, stars, architecture, television shows and optimistic wonder Tinsel Town's heyday. The Animal Kingdom is the 4th of the main Disney theme parks and is themed entirely around animal conservation a cause close to Walt Disney's heart. A number of themed areas bring the message to life. Visit Africa and Asia and even go back in time in DinoLand U.S.A. to the Late Cretaceous Period on the DINOSAUR thrill ride.

Universal Orlando

Comprising two main theme parks Universal Orlando delivers a fully interactive and completely exhilarating march through your favourite myths and movies, cartoons and comic strips and brings to life some of your most memorable childhood tales. The Universal Studios theme park is a fully functioning real working film and TV production facility. Enjoy an array of rides, shows, movie sets and attractions. Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park is based around several “Islands of Adventure”: Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Lost Continent and Seuss Landing. Universal Orlando also includes the Wet ‘n Wild water park.

Universal Orlando skyline showing various rollercoasters

SeaWorld

Immerse yourself in the mysteries of the oceans at SeaWorld Orlando. Get up close and personal with Dolphins, Penguins, Manta Rays and much more. Enjoy the shows, rides and fully interactive SeaWorld experience.

LegoLand

The world's largest LegoLand theme park opened in Florida October 2011. Showcasing and celebrating the wonder of Lego through over 50 theme park rides LegoLand Florida is a perfect family day out for kids between the ages of 2 and 12.

Waterparks

Most waterparks now are in the main theme park resorts. Aquatica at SeaWorld offers up some of the steepest water slides through tunnels and mazes. Blizzard Beach at Disney is a waterpark based around a ski slope concept. At Typhoon Lagoon at Disney, experience 6 foot waves in the surf pool and get you up close and personal swimming with real sharks. Wet n' Wild on Universal contains 30 acres of slides, flumes and fun.

Planning Your Trip

Planning in advance is vital to ensure you have everything you need to plan a Disney Holiday. There are plenty of informational websites local to your part of the world which can prove invaluable in ensuring if you are travelling from Canada to get tips from fellow Canadians and if your base is the UK you want to consult a free orlando guide for brits travelling to Orlando.