Kissimmee in Florida is the perfect place for kids to burn off some extra energy, thanks to its plethora of theme parks and outdoor adventures. Here are a few ideas for adrenaline-fuelled activities in the sunshine state that will thrill the whole family.
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Enjoy the magic of Walt Disney World Resort
Located just ten minutes from Kissimmeee, Walt Disney World Resort is actually four theme parks in one: the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Thrill seekers will want to head straight for the classic roller coasters Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, but there’s also the Rock ‘n’ Roll Coaster Starring Aerosmith in Hollywood Studios, as well as the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – a spooky elevator that plunges into the dark.
This autumn also sees the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios, a new zone that features edge-of-your-seat space trips in Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. And in December it will be joined by Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, a ride featuring an epic battle against the First Order.
Experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando Resort is made up of three separate parks only about 20 minutes from Kissimmee: Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the water theme park Universal’s Volcano Bay. Islands of Adventure is where you’ll find Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a new roller coaster that’s part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Narrated by Hagrid himself, this story coaster features drops, fire and all sorts of animatronic fantastic beasts.
And the thrills don’t stop there: Islands of Adventure is also home to the dinosaur-tastic Jurassic Park River Adventure, featuring a rampaging T-rex, and Skull Island: Reign of Kong, a multi-sensory ride that’s also packed with prehistoric beasties. And over in Universal Studios Florida you’ll find further thrill rides based on Transformers, The Simpsons, Men in Black and more.
Go on a marine adventure at SeaWorld Orlando
Head to SeaWorld Orlando to experience close-up adventures with dolphins, sea lions and a plethora of other marine creatures. Special behind-the-scenes tours let you see how trainers care for animals like penguins and manatees, and the sunken Dolphin Cove allows you to witness bottlenose dolphins frolic below the surface of the water.
The park is packed with thrilling rides, too, from the 117 kilometres per hour Mako roller coaster to the Infinity Falls whitewater rapids ride, which features the tallest drop on a ride of its kind in the whole world.
Explore the wonders of LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Built in 2011, LEGOLAND Florida is the second-biggest LEGOLAND park in the world, and it recently saw the addition of Lego Movie World. It features rides like the Lego Movie Masters of Flight, where riders board a triple-decker flying couch to be transported all across the world of the Lego Movie, as well as Unikitty’s Disco Drop, a freefall ride in Unikitty’s home of Cloud Cuckoo Land. And it’s all less than an hour’s drive from Kissimmee.
Fancy paddling with manatees? The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek in Kissimmee offers visitors the chance to go kayaking in the headwaters of the Everglades, and possibly meet the odd gentle grazing sea cow. The two-hour eco-tour is great for families, and you’ll learn all about the history of the creek as well as encountering its various exotic wildlife, like turtles, eagles, otters and possibly even an alligator. And if you’re feeling even more adventurous, try the night-time bioluminescence kayaking tour to experience the naturally iridescent waters of the Indian River Lagoon.
Ride a zipline across an alligator pit
If kayaking seems a bit too sedate, how about riding a zipline across a nest of alligators? The Screamin’ Gator Zip Line at Gatorland starts seven storeys up and will see you flying more than 350 metres through the air above the heads of 130 giant alligators. Gatorland is just a few minutes outside Kissimmee, and in addition to its terrifying zipline it features the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure, where guests board a custom-made, 3.5-metre-high off-road vehicle to splash through alligator-filled swamps.
Take an airboat ride through the headwaters of the Everglades
There are numerous operators running airboat rides across the headwaters of the Everglades, giving you a chance to skim across the waters of this pristine national park. Kissimmee Swamp Tours, just to the south of Kissimmee, provides the chance to see Florida’s wilderness in its natural state, and you may even glimpse endangered species like the whooping crane and snail kite, along with bald eagles, deer and, naturally, alligators.
Experience a close-up animal encounter
If you’d rather see wildlife up close rather than from an airboat, head to Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park, where you’ll find more than 200 native and exotic animals. Kids can feed baby animals in the Petting Zoo, and the park is also home to exotic creatures like lemurs, zebras, watusis, bobcats, two-toed sloths in addition to the ubiquitous alligators. But if you’re feeling a little more daring, you could always head to Gatorland for the Meet-A-Gator experience, where you can get up close to – and even touch – a real alligator.
Fly a classic Second World War plane
Stallion 51 in Kissimmee offers the chance to see famous Second World War fighter planes like the P-51 Mustang and T-6 Texan – and even fly them yourself. After some pre-flight training, you can take to the air in the dual-cockpit Texan, enjoying some acrobatic rolls and loops at the hands of an experienced pilot, and even taking the controls yourself. Best of all, there’s an on-board video camera, so you can see exactly how terrified you looked when you get back down to terra firma.
Take a balloon ride across the sunshine state
If careening around in a Second World War plane sounds a bit too exhausting, you could always take a gentle balloon ride across Florida instead. Bob’s Balloon Rides just west of Kissimmee is one of several balloon operators in the area, offering stunning aerial views of Florida’s wildlife and scenery. The seven-storey-tall balloons are operated by qualified pilots and make for an unforgettable holiday experience.