Florida may once have been linked with the progressive Beat Generation, but now it is more associated with perma-tanned residents, Art Deco architecture, huge plates of Caribbean influenced dining and larger than life theme parks; however you can visit the state on your own terms and dip in and out of these stalwarts whilst making the most of the vast and breathtaking surroundings.
Whether you’re looking for cocktails, shopping, exploring or exhilaration, Kissimmee has it all. You may even see a cowboy; as before it became the vacation home capital of the world, it was nicknamed “Kowtown,” after the cowboys who herded the cattle on the ranches.
In fact, ranches were an important part of the local economy until the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in 1971 brought tourism to the area. The theme park was so successful the brand soon expanded and developed a small town called Celebration, which was designed as an urban oasis. Completed in 1996, the houses have timeless Old Florida architecture and are set within picture book surroundings which visitors can explore via 26 miles of sidewalks and boardwalks. As one of the most affluent places in Florida, it is home to countless celebrities, and many visitors come for the weekly Farmer’s Market, picnics on the lake or to try the legendary “1905” Salad from the famous Columbia Restaurant. You can also book a guided bike tour with Celebration Bike Rentals or admire the peaceful Lake Rianhard view from the deck of the town’s charming Bohemian Hotel.
Fashionistas take note! Kissimmee also boasts some first class shopping villages which are filled to the brim with designer merchandise at desirable prices. If you’re a tad intimidated by the size of the Malls, you can book in for a personal stylist experience at the Mall of Millenia, and you will be treated like a Queen with a clothes rack stocked with an edit for your perusal, and champagne on tap! Alternatively, try Orlando Premium Outlet if you’re travelling with teens as it has popular brands at a fraction of the RRP.
Whether you’re travelling with family or a group of friends, undoubtedly the best way to enjoy the state is by having your own home for a week or two. Jeeves holiday rentals offer luxurious homes that have up to twelve bedrooms (most with an en suite), outdoor pool, jacuzzi and gym. The kids won’t have time to quibble over the activities in the extensive games rooms and huge cinema screen, and you can be fully self-sufficient with the state of the art kitchen, barbeque grill and fire-pit. A laundry room is a handy addition and you can also request a nanny, butler, private chef and daily cleaner.
Each home offers ample parking, so you and your guests can pick a car up from the airport and be settled in with a welcome glass of champagne in the pool in less than an hour. I stayed in the gated community in Reunion, and it was the ideal base to explore.
No home is too far away from the famous theme parks, but not being a huge fan of rollercoasters, I gathered all my courage and opted for Universal Studios so I could visit Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books. Admittedly not all rides were intimidating and if your crew crave excitement, it is well worth booking a VIP pass, as you will be escorted past all queues which cuts out a lot of time, and you also get a guide for the day who is a fountain of knowledge and fun facts.
However you don’t have to be on a high-adrenalin alert for your whole vacay! Head to Margaritaville for a day at a beach club (albeit manmade), and enjoy an iced Margarita in the sun whilst being serenaded by live music. Non-hotel residents are welcome and you can book a day pass to enjoy the facilities which also include a Spa, which is highly recommended if the kids want another day at the Parks. When they are exhausted, head to the peaceful Disney Springs, which boasts a large lake, an abundance of restaurants and end your visit with the exhilarating Cirque Du Soleil show, which is bound to take your breath away, for a holiday you will never forget.
For further information on Kissimmee, visit www.experiencekissimmee.com
The 10-bedroom Treehouse Mansion at Reunion Resort & Spa costs from £1086 per night. The property sleeps 36. To book, visit www.jeevesfloridarentals.com and search for property code W338J. View the property here.
Virgin Atlantic flies direct between London Heathrow and Orlando with return fares from £442 per person, including complimentary food, drink, inflight entertainment and taxes. For further information visit www.virginatlantic.com or call 0344 8747 747. This fare is available for departure on selected dates throughout 2023. Prices given are correct as of 16th March 2023 and are subject to change.