Our daughters were just five and eight years old when I first visited Florida. They, of course, were super excited to meet their favourite characters at Disney and we were wowed by the blue skies and sunshine! Win win.
Roll on ten years and the family needs had changed somewhat. Mickey and Donald were out and in their place came the scariest rides and shopping!
Another decade on and I was back in the fun-capital of the sunshine state with a group of travel, family and lifestyle ‘Influencers’.
The majority of them had been to the States but not to Florida and if they thought I was going to take them to the theme parks, they had another think coming.
This time round I had an alternative Florida’ in mind with lots of outdoor adventures and activities from kayaking and hot air-ballooning to zip-lining and airboat rides.
And to make sure we all got to know each other well, we were staying at a fabulous villa in Kissimmee, a city in the heartland of Florida.
This was a former cattle ranching and citrus industrial town until tourism and land development started to trickle in from neighbouring Orlando. And it is easy to see why considering the convenient travel distance from this city to the theme parks.
But you don’t need Disney, Universal and SeaWorld to enjoy Kissimmee. This place has its very own attractions and experiences just waiting to be unravelled.
Location is pivotal in making the most of your holiday. We all know that the place you choose as a base matters a lot – especially if you’re one to wake up early and do crazy, fun activities.
The luxury villa in Kissimmee, courtesy of Jeeves was literally out of this world. We all felt like A listers on an MTV crib tour.
It had a baroque-style double staircase, eight – YES EIGHT – bedrooms, each decorated in luxurious fabrics and colours, with their own on-suite bathrooms. One master suite had an opening directly onto the pool.
And to top it all off was the most glamorous kitchen/dining area and a private cinema/indoor activity room!
The outdoor living space was just as amazing, a pool with its own water slide, hot tub and a barbecue area and loungers. Jeeves offer a range of villas, from two bed-room to 12 bed-rooms with amazing amenities, including children’s themed bedrooms. It really is a home from home experience.
But don’t worry, if you prefer a hotel rather than a villa, Kissimmee has literally hundreds to suit all budgets, some offering their own golf courses.
We had some exciting activities to do and would highly recommend the following to make memories!
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
Airboats are the most popular way to explore the Florida Everglades as you soar across the open waters at speeds reaching 45mph spotting an abundance amount of wildlife including alligators and American Bald Eagles.
We charged across the water and through the reeds, our guide expertly swooshing it round so that a hearty spray flew into the faces of those sitting at the front.
Boggy Creek also offer night tours and is suitable for all ages and are also handicap accessible.
Kayaking at The Paddling Center
Kayaking at Shingle Creek offers breath-taking views and the opportunity to come face to face with alligators. We had a personal experience as our path was blocked by an alligator and caused great chuckling from the rest of the group.
One of our highlights of our trip to Kissimmee!
The Paddling Center location is literally minutes away from the major theme parks and resort hotels, so including this in your holiday itinerary can be easily done. I am already getting ready for my next trip as they also offer ‘Catered Camping’ on Makinson Island in Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho), an overnight Eco-Tourism adventure experiencing the ‘Real Florida Attraction’ nature.
Hot Air balloon
The best way of all to truly appreciate Florida’s vastly varied landscape is by taking a hot air balloon ride. Plan to book this early on in your holiday to avoid disappointment. This activity is based on perfect weather for take-off as safety is a top priority. Seeing the balloons ascend the previous morning, I know how disappointed the group were when the ride was cancelled upon arrival due to winds. Another reason to come back again!
Orlando Tree Trek
The last activity we squeezed in before sadly leaving Kissimmee was Tree Trekking, a challenging aerial obstacle course set high atop the trees in a natural pine forest.
The group enjoyed the challenge whilst I watched in amusement as the group tackled Tarzan swings, nets, ropes and finally plunging on a zip line!
It certainly brings everyone together helping each other around the course and for those that are not partaking you enjoy the fun from the ground and by being the official photographer. More memories!
Kissimmee has a lot of fun attractions to offer every kind of visitor: from families and couples to groups of friends on a well-deserved getaway!
I can’t wait to bring my family and grandson Leo back to Kissimmee! He can kayak with his grandma!
For more information please visit www.experiencekissimmee.com
We flew with Norwegian who fly from London Gatwick to Orlando all year round, with three flights per week in the summer (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) and a Saturday flight in the winter. Fares start from just £179 one way in economy and £499 one way in Premium (including taxes and charges).
For more information and to book, visit Norwegian.com/uk
Silver Travel Advisor recommends American Sky