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Vacation in Kissimmee, Florida

By Holly Rosen Fink, GoGirlfriend Contributor

Kiss the cold away with a visit to the Sunshine State

When I was invited to Kissimmee, Florida to experience the culture, restaurants and attractions, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew timing would be difficult for my family, as I’d been traveling a lot but I was curious about the town neighboring Orlando. And I was eager to escape the cold.

Living in New York, Florida is an irresistible winter escape.

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate

the grand lobby at the Omni Orlando ResortOmni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is a stately hotel ensconced behind formal arches. The welcoming, spacious lobby is adorned with ornate chandeliers and a marble floor overlooking a lazy river, pools, whirlpools, cabanas, a golf course and a perfect skyline view. The hotel is 16 stories of standard hotel rooms with 2 and 3 bedroom villas off to the side.

My king-sized room featured all the amenities you expect from a luxury hotel along with a soothing view of the pools. Unfortunately, it wasn’t warm enough to take a dip but just being away from the New York winter weather was good enough for me. My group dined at Zen, where I enjoyed unique, yummy Chinese dishes, as well as sushi on a boat (my favorite). The hotel is home to Mokara Spa & Salon and offers shuttle service to the Disney theme parks. They also offer great seasonal packages.

Visit Omni Orland Resort at ChampionsGate online or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. And read what other travelers have to say on TripAdvisor.

5 fun things to do in Kissimmee

1. Orlando Tree Trek

Orlando Tree Treking for top shelf fun!I’m always up for adventure and my trip to Orlando Tree Trek was filled with two hours swinging through trees, zip lining and navigating through obstacles in a 15-acre tree canopy. The park has 6 color-coded courses, each with obstacles that include Tarzan-like swings, ladders, suspended bridges, scramble nets, swinging logs, surfboards and more. I’ll admit I was nervous at first but with each conquered obstacle, I gained confidence.

The Trek is located at 7625 Sinclair Road in Kissimmee. The owners, a married couple who hail from Montreal, take great pride in what they do. It may seem off the beaten path, but it’s great exercise, a thrill for adults and kids as young as 7. They offer a course for children ages 7-11 that includes 2 courses and 21 games.

Visit Orlando Tree Trek online or connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. And read what other travelers have to say on TripAdvisor.

2. Osceola Country History Society’s Pioneer Village

Who knew that just miles from Disney sits a historical village comprised of authentic, original buildings from over a hundred years ago at Osceola Country History Society’s Pioneer Village? On my walking tour around the village with Al, our knowledgeable tour guide, I was introduced to an 1898 “Cracker House,” a 1900 general store, pioneer artifacts, blacksmith shop, sugar cane mill and an 8-acre pristine nature preserve under 100-year-old trees. It was a serene, tranquil break and a worthwhile educational visit for families.

Visit Osceola Country History Society’s Pioneer Village online or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. And read what other travelers have to say on TripAdvisor.

3. Boggy Creek Airboat Rides

Boggy Creek AirBoat AdventuresA highlight of my trip to Kissimmee was my ride on Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, where I had the opportunity to ride the waves of the headwaters of the Everglades, spotting wildlife all along the way. It was a cold morning but the ride was so exciting that I hardly noticed, and instead looked for alligators among the Florida everglades and ended with a chance to get up close and personal with a baby gator.

Visit Boggy Creek Airboat Rides online or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. And read what other travelers have to say on TripAdvisor.

4. Paddling Center in the Everglades

eco fun at the Paddling CenterAnother highlight of the trip for me was my paddling trip down Shingle Creek. The Paddling Center offers a helpful team to help choose and rent kayaks or canoes for one or two persons. Choose between a self-guided or guided tour through braided channels in a cypress forest along a 32-mile trail extending from Kissimmee to Wekiva Springs Street Park and from Orlando to Mascotte. The multi-use trail runs along Shingle Creek, which is the headwaters of the vibrant and lively Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem.

Visit The Paddling Center online or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter. And read what other travelers have to say on TripAdvisor.

5. Universal Studios

Hogwarts and Hogsmeade ... Naturally, a trip to Universal Studios is a must, especially since they added The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, complete with a life-size and incredibly realistic Hogwarts Castle. I loved joining Harry Potter addicts waving Harry Potter wands and rode the new Dragon Challenge roller coaster and imposing Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which cast its shadow over the town of Hogsmeade. The cobbled street of shops and attractions including Madam Malkin’s Robes for All, is where wannabe wizards can pick up their uniform – looks just like the movie.  Kids can select a wand at Magical Menagerie and Ollivanders and use them interactively throughout the Wizarding World. My favorite part of the experience was arriving at Diagon Alley via the interactive Hogwarts Express, an English steam locomotive which features such attention to detail it will impress even the most die-hard train spotter. You can even see yourself jump through the wall of the train to board.

Traveling to Universal without the kids was a very different experience for this mom. There were no meltdowns, no constant need to stop for food and no complaints as I made my way around the park. But of course, I thought about them every step of the way as my daughter is a die-hard Harry Potter fan and my son is a thrill seeker. I look forward to a return trip to Universal – me as their experienced tour guide.

Visit Universal Studios online or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. And read what other travelers have to say on TripAdvisor.

Exploring the culinary side of Kissimmee

I was so impressed by the variety of culinary options in Kissimmee, all with a tremendous amount of appeal to adults and kids alike. Here’s my short delish list:

Shula Burger

Shula Burger, KissimmeeIn the heart of Kissimmee sits Shula Burger, founded by Don Shula of NFL fame. Their Signature Burgers include classics or special burgers with caramelized onions, red peppers, mushrooms, swiss cheese or blue cheese, to name a few ingredients.

Visit Shula Burger online or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.

The Bohemian Bar & Grill – at the Bohemian Hotel Celebration

The Bohemian Bar & Grill is the polar opposite of nearby Disney. Located right on the lake, the atmosphere is laid back and relaxing with big, cozy chairs, swoopy chandeliers and a scrumptious menu that includes Citrus Glazed Scallops, the Bohemian Burger, Sauteed Mussels, Pan Seared Grouper, Crab Cakes and Filet Mignon Egg Rolls.

Visit the Bohemian Bar and Grill online or read what other travels have to say about them on TripAdvisor.   

Eleven – at the Reunion Resort

Eleven on the rooftop at the Reunion HotelFor a more upscale experience, head to the rooftop lounge at Eleven at Reunion Resort.  With 360 degree views including nightly views of Walt Disney World® Resort fireworks, the restaurant offers a delectable menu of prime cuts of beef and fish. I had the Bourbon Glazed Salmon with a sweet corn, which was delicious.

Visit the Eleven online or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.

Gaylord Palm’s Villa de Flora at Omni Resort

dining al fresco at the Gaylord PalmsWe had breakfast at Gaylord Palm’s Villa de Flora at Omni Resort. Voted Critic’s Choice for Best Brunch by the Orlando Sentinel, the meal, inspired by Mediterranean cuisine, was a treat. The Palms is built around a massive courtyard, separated into three Florida sections: Key West, St. Augustine, and the Everglades. Villa de Flora is located into the St. Augustine area of the courtyard and offers delicious, fresh food.

Visit Gaylord Palm’s Villa de Flora at Omni Resort and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.

Ever been to Kissimmee? What did you love about it? Any other gems to share? Drop a comment below or connect with the GoGirlfriend community on Facebook or Twitter.

About Holly Rosen Fink

Holly Rosen Fink ~ @HollyChroniclesHolly Rosen Fink is a Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Branding and Social Media expert with over 15 years’ experience increasing brand awareness and sales at leading publishing houses and media companies. She is the founder of theculturemom.com and is a current contributor to This Girl Travels, Ciao Bambino, Family Vacation Critic, The Broad Side, BlogHer and Women & Hollywood.

Last year she edited Come Closer: How Tourism is Shaping the Future of Nations and associate produced the off-off-Broadway hit The Best of Everything and the NYC production of Listen to Your Mother.

Disclosure: Holly went on a press trip to Kissimmee hosted by Experience Kissimmee to gather this information but all opinions are her own.

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