“Traveling to Florida with the kids? You must be going to Disney!” It’s true. I don’t think there’s been more than a single time that we’ve gone to Florida and not visited Disney World. It’s a given when you’re traveling with kids — a must-do and must-see. The problem with most family vacations to the Kissimmee region, though, is that Disney overshadows the surrounding area.
Disclosure: I’m a huge Disney fan. My kids adore Disney, and Disney World is their favorite place, but they’ve never been outside the park, which is a shame — Kissimmee has so much to offer! Several months ago, during a press trip to Kissimmee, I was introduced to the world of Florida — sans Disney, and you know what? It was amazing. So amazing, that my husband and I are talking about bringing the family to Florida for a full week so that we can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Stay in Your Own Private House 1 of 7
You'd think that staying in a vacation home would be ridiculously over-priced right? Six bathrooms, eight bedrooms, a full kitchen, dining room, games room, private pool — and that's just to start. Believe it or not, staying in a vacation home can cost you much less per week than staying at a resort and the comfort level (dare I say it) is even more posh.
Global Resort Homes has a ton of different options depending on your family size and preference. They are also within a short drive to Disney World!
Photo credit: Global Resort Homes
Sit on a Gator 2 of 7
Yes, that's a real alligator! Gatorland really surprised me. You'll find all sorts of things to see and do here, including plenty of alligators, shows, birds and chances to feed and interact with various animals. I didn't try the gator fritters served at the snack bar, but my friends insisted they were delicious!
Zip Line 3 of 7
While you're visiting Gatorland, be sure to check out their Screamin' Gator Zip Line. Glide across 1,200 ft of zip line while the gators swim below you. It's exhilarating and oh so fun! This is one activity that although completely safe, is suited for the older kids and adults.
Photo credit: Life in Pleasantville
Watch the Sun Rise From a Hot Air Balloon 4 of 7
Check off that bucket list must-do and splurge on a hot air balloon ride! It's hard to put into words just how incredible this experience is. Although you are floating quite high up, the ride is smooth and slow, giving you plenty of time to really absorb the beauty of your surroundings. Our ride with Orlando Balloon Adventures was incredible!
Drop From The World’s Tallest Sky Coaster 5 of 7
You'll find the world's tallest sky coaster in Kissimmee, Florida at Fun Spot. Full disclosure: I almost chickened out. It took everything I had to get suited up for this one, and I'm so glad I did it. What. A. Ride. If you're looking for a mega thrill, this is most definitely it!
Fun Spot has plenty of other attractions and activities for kids and adults of all ages. It's also across the street from the chocolate factory!
Learn How Chocolate Is Made 6 of 7
Ahhh! The sweet smell of chocolate! The Chocolate Kingdom is as close to Willy Wonka as you'll get while you're visiting Florida. As soon as you walk in the door, you'll be surrounded by the intoxicating smell of chocolate. It's a great place to pop in for a sweet treat, or if you have time, take the factory tour and learn all about the history of chocolate, why, where and how it's made!
Shop ‘Till You Drop 7 of 7
I've been to plenty of factory outlet malls in my life, but the Orlando Premium Outlets blew them all away. I spent a couple of hours here and it was barely enough to skim the surface. You'll find every shop under the sun here including Burberry, GAP, Banana Republic, Gucci, Lululemon and hundreds more!
Psst, be sure to leave extra space in your luggage! There were several families that were visiting Florida from overseas and they bought extra luggage at the outlets to accommodate their new purchases.