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Tuesday,  June 18, 2024 7:42 PM 

Five things PAX learned about Kissimmee, Florida


Five things PAX learned about Kissimmee, Florida

On a recent media trip to Kissimmee, Florida, PAX discovered that this city south of Orlando is the perfect jumping off point for travellers looking to check any number of things off their travel bucket list.

Kissimmee has thousands of luxury vacation homes at ridiculously low prices, and all located just 30 to 60 minutes away from a slew of activities, including helicopter and balloon rides, theme parks, and the great outdoors.

Here are five insider tips to help your clients get the most out of their Kissimmee/Orlando experience:

Disney is a no-fly zone

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“You can’t fly over the Magic Kingdom since 9-11,” pilot Dave Anderson told us, but that was okay. In this land of roller coasters and water slides, the real magic was lifting off in a helicopter at MaxFlight Helicopter Services. We were able to skirt along the edges of Disney, which was the only way to get a sense of just how much land the theme park owns. It leased out chunks of it to housing developments, but there is still plenty of room for expansion, including the new Star Wars theme park, now under construnction. The Federal Aviation Administration does allow fly-overs of all the other theme parks, giving us views of Sea World’s killer whales, Universal’s Diagon Alley, and we still got great shots of the 'Tree of Life' at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Big bravery comes in small packages

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At Forever Florida’s zip line park, safety came first as we were strapped into our harnesses, but the prospect of launching off a 65-foot high platform was still terrifying. In fact, a young girl with her family from the UK burst into tears, and begged to back out. With a bit of encouragement, she psyched herself up, saying, “I can do this, I’m going to do this,” and she did. When it came time to do the controlled freefall, literally stepping into open air while attached to a metal cord, I drew on her bravery to take the plunge. “This isn’t a thrill experience,” we were told, “This is a mental challenge,” with an approximate 3/5 bail rate from participants. Terrifying and awesome.

No palm trees in the front yard

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Kissimmee and its surroundings is in itself a surreal experience. Much of it was built specifically for tourists to have the “perfect” vacation, which gave it an odd artificiality that was mildly alienating, yet great at the same time, because it could be so picture perfect. During our bike ride through the town of Celebration, originally built by Disney, Celebration Bike Rental’s Scott Kratka took us past artificial lakes with winding concrete paths, into protected marshlands with raised boardwalks, and pointed out four enormous homes (at least one was owned by a “Brazilianaire”), which were the only houses allowed to have palm trees in the front yards. “Disney didn't want Celebration to feel like Florida. He wanted it to feel like any-town USA.”

“Problem” alligators need a home too

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Ever wondered what happens to Florida gators that are corraled from swimming pools or other public sites? If they're lucky, they're bought by Wild Florida. Here, the main attraction is skimming along Florida’s untouched Everglades on an airboat, going fast enough to apparently yank one woman’s wig right off her head (the driver caught and returned it, we’re told). Unlike most airboat businesses, Wild Florida owns their own land, and have invested in a small but enjoyable zoo/sanctuary for a variety of rescued or donated exotic animals. That includes a “zorse” (zebra/horse), a “zonkey” (zebra/donkey), and of course, alligators.

$50 can take you around the world

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When we went to Epcot’s Food & Wine festival, I doubted that my $50 gift card was going to take me very far. Epcot’s pavilions showcased a variety of countries (Canada’s had totem polls and a mountain waterfall, Mexico had a Mesoamerican pyramid etc..). For the food fare, each pavilion had a small pop up serving a few regionally-inspired dishes. After three hours of wandering from one to the other, I was happily stuffed from small servings of a variety of dishes, including Japanese spicy sushi rolls, Canadian wild beef filet mignon, and Irish warm chocolate pudding with cream liqueur custard.

For more information, visit experiencekissimmee.com.

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