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Thursday,  June 13, 2024 3:11 AM 

Luxury and value, just south of Orlando, in Kissimmee, FLA


Luxury and value, just south of Orlando, in Kissimmee, FLA
Kissimmee at sunrise

“Stretch your loonie in Kissimmee!” was the slogan on the website experiencekissimmee.com, encouraging Canadian visitors to the Florida city. PAX got to see the value Kissimmee offers first-hand, during a recent media FAM to the city, which is just a 30-minute drive to Orlando’s many theme parks.

Nicknamed “the vacation home capital of the world,” Kissimmee has 10,000 vacation home rentals to choose from. We stayed in the new Encore Club section of Reunion Resort, a beautiful vacation residence that is managed by Jeeves Holiday Homes.

IMG_8060.jpgThe pool at our vacation home.

Our place had eight bedrooms – space enough for three families – including two themed rooms for kids: one based on the movie Frozen, and the other inspired by the Star Wars franchise. The other bedrooms were modern, and there was a movie room (with two rows of theatre-style seating), a billiards table in the upstairs common area, and a swimming pool outside. The development also had a “club house” with a gym and its own substantial private water park. The cost is $350-$400 (USD) per night for the entire house.

IMG_8064.jpgThe 'Frozen' room at the house - perfect for any Elsa and Anna fans.

Jeeves’ other accommodations range from two bedroom apartments to 16 bedroom mansions complete with bowling alleys and Turkish baths. There were also plenty of optional add-ons, including the ability to hire a personal chef; we enjoyed shrimp bisque, filet mignon, and vanilla bean creme brûlée, prepared by Elemental Chef Elijah Durham.

According to Jeeves Home Manager Jodi Prior, their goal is to always say yes to clients. “We once transformed a house into a synagogue,” she says. As far as partnering with travel Canadian travel agents, Prior recommends agents contact Jeeves first as they are particular about client contracts.

We enjoyed breakfast one morning at the Market Street Café, an upscale diner in the nearby town of Celebration. This town was built by Disney so that their employees had somewhere close by to live. According to Nori Rodriguez, communications manager at Experience Kissimmee, they “make it snow nightly” during the winter. Steps away we took a bike tour with Celebration Bike Rental, guided by Scott Kratka (you can also do a self-guided tour with a map) past enormous houses, artificial lakes, and along boardwalks through protected marshlands, where we spotted blue herons, orange trees growing wild, and in the evening “you’re almost guaranteed to see deer.”

IMG_8088.jpgGo as part of a guided tour or on your own.

For a birds-eye view, we joined Max Flight Helicopter Services for a ride, which is the only helicopter company in the area that is licensed to do night flights (great for seeing Disney World’s fireworks show). If you go during the day though, like we did, you'll have the opportunity to see the "hidden Mickey." Located on the very edge of Disney’s property, this is a forest in the iconic shape of Mickey’s face and ears. It’s “hidden” because you can only ever see it from above.

IMG_8173.jpgThe "hidden Mickey" from high above.

Clients might also be interested in Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival (mid-September to mid-November), taking an airboat ride with Wild Florida (and then feeding their rescued alligators or having an “interactive experience” with some of their other rescued wildlife), and ziplining at Forever Florida.

The only outfit in the U.S. with a “roller coaster” zip line, Forever Florida also raises their own grass-fed beef and visitors can also become a “cowboy for a day.” Travel agents, take note - the company says it “would love to work with more Canadian agents” and offers a 25 per cent commission.

For our farwell dinner we were taken to the lively Mango’s Tropical Café, a 55,000 square foot bar and restaurant that features Latin dancers and a Michael Jackson tribute artist. The trip wrapped up with a misty sunrise balloon ride, hosted by Bob’s Balloons, and a hearty and healthy breakfast buffet at Trevi’s Restaurant (part of Omni Hotels & Resorts). The omelettes were amazing, and they even had gluten-free paleo muffins.

For help with Kissimmee bookings and commissions, agents can email Danielle Dunn at DDunn@experiencekissimmee.com.

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