Florida is the US capital of sunshine, world-famous theme parks and oranges, right? That’s only part of the story as Florida also has cosmopolitan cities, secret beaches, enough golf to satisfy a PGA tour pro, diverse cuisine and adventure and nature around every corner of the state.
Kissimmee is a hidden gem located about 20 miles south of Orlando in Central Florida’s Osceola County and is also minutes away from Walt Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks. There is also plenty to explore without having to leave the city borders. Discover the outdoor activities, wildlife and unspoiled nature that make Kissimmee an unforgettable adventure.
Here are five ways to get in tune with nature on your next trip to Kissimmee…
If you’re in search of ecological diversity, pristine landscapes and plenty of exotic flora and fauna, Kissimmee’s the place to visit. And there’s no better way to take in the scenery than on foot, hiking along one of the city’s popular trail networks.
The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a 12,000-acre conservancy located on the headwaters of the Everglades. With over 1,000 animal and plant species – and not a Mickey Mouse in sight – it’s ideal for birdwatching, getting in touch with nature and relaxing off the beaten path. Look out for turkeys, sandhill cranes, raptors, wrens, warblers, wood storks, bald eagles, gopher tortoises and bats.
If running through nature – rather than taking it all it in at a leisurely pace - is more your speed, Kissimmee has plenty of trails to tempt seasoned runners and joggers alike. Try the three-mile paved trail along the shores of Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho) at Kissimmee Lakefront Park for stunning views and occasional alligator spotting, or combine your run with wildlife-watching at Shingle Creek Regional Park. The swampy Reedy Creek has three trails, including one along the boardwalk, where you can enjoy your jog along cypress-shaded paths.
Fancy a bike ride? The Osceola Loop Trail is a firm favourite that lets you go on or off-road and takes you along the banks of Lake Toho, Kissimmee and St. Cloud.
Freshwater fishing is a favourite pastime of locals and tourists alike, and with over 80,000 acres of water in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes to fish in, there are plenty of secluded spots to enjoy a peaceful boat trip and to try to land a catch of the day.
Head out onto the pristine waters of Lake Toho, Lake Kissimmee and Lake Hatchineha in the hopes of catching largemouth bass, speck, shellcracker and crappie. Lake Kissimmee is particularly renowned for bass fishing and offers plenty of public boat ramps for easy access to the waterways, as well as wading spots for fly fishermen. And while you’re waiting to reel in the big boys, be sure to enjoy the views – the postcard-perfect backdrop and wildlife (yep, we’re talking gators) is off the hook.
You can tour the headwaters of the Everglades from Kissimmee, where you can see nature at its most unspoilt. An airboat – which typically holds anywhere from five to 10 people for a more intimate experience - gets you up close and personal with the local wildlife, including endangered bird species, turtles and alligators.
Shingle Creek Regional Park is a scenic nature reserve that’s part of the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. The perfect destination for a little peace and tranquillity, you can rent a kayak and enjoy the canopies of cypress forests, while spotting birds, turtles and alligators. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can also rent a canoe or stand-up paddleboard for a water-based workout. You won’t get any more connected to nature than this.
Celebration, Florida is one of those picture-perfect places – tree-lined streets, pastel-hued buildings, scenic trails – that looks like it’s come straight out of a movie set. Originally developed by the Walt Disney Company, the master of happy places, Celebration offers the best of small-town America-with a modern twist.
Since Celebration was developed as a planned community, the town is meticulously designed as a series of easily walkable – or bike-able – neighbourhoods. Celebration is known for its nature trails; take the bike path down Celebration Boulevard towards Celebration High School, where it turns off into a conservation area with birds, deer, turkeys and otters.
You can also bike along downtown Celebration, which has handy bike racks in the town centre, or follow the half-mile trail along the downtown lake. With trails running from half a mile to six miles, there’s something for every level of cyclist out there. Check out this map
created by the Girl Scouts of Celebration to check out all the different options to try.
British Airways’ KIssimmee holiday villas offer all the convenience and comfort of home, with the freedom to come and go as you please. Combine your villa holiday with some of the area’s outdoor activities like cycling, fishing, canoeing or an airboat tour of the headlands of the Everglades and make the most of all that Kissimmee has to offer. To find out more about Kissimmee, visit wemakeholidays.co.uk.