Visiting Central Florida with your family? What are you going to do for fun?

Okay, that’s probably a crazy question for most people. Central Florida is the theme park capital of the world, so chances are high you’re going to spend some time visiting our world-famous attractions, from the four parks at Walt Disney World Resort, to Universal Orlando’s two theme parks, to SeaWorld Orlando’s trio of adventure and water parks. (Feature photo: Forever Florida by Experience Kissimmee on Flickr)

Amazingly, though, Central Florida has so much more to offer. So if you need a break from the miles of walking and massive scale of the theme parks, consider these comparatively petite attractions. Right in Kissimmee, you and your family can ride some roller coasters, get in touch with nature, or take a trip back in time. Here are some of our favorite attractions in the Kissimmee resort area.

Old Town and Fun Spot America offer family-friendly amusements, shopping, and thrills for all ages. Photo: Experience Kissimmee/Flickr

Old Town and Fun Spot America offer family-friendly amusements, shopping, and thrills for all ages. Photo: Experience Kissimmee/Flickr

Fun Spot America: This family-owned amusement park has two locations, one near Universal Orlando Resort, and one in Kissimmee, closer to Walt Disney World. At both of them, you can experience thrill rides, Go-Karts, a fair-style midway, and family-friendly rides. Orlando’s location features an outpost of Gatorland, with an exotic animal park which includes alligators and other reptiles, exotic birds, and aquariums. Got a birthday in the group? Check the Fun Spot America website for details on free entrance on your birthday!

Old Town: Adjacent to Fun Spot America’s Kissimmee location, Old Town is a themed shopping and entertainment district with unique shopping, dining, and family-friendly events.

Multi-generational families especially benefit from Old Town’s line-up, which truly includes something for everyone. Stores offer selections from around the world, with Egyptian, Chinese, and Japanese shops alongside locations featuring Disney collectibles, nostalgic Americana memorabilia, and leather goods. There’s even a portrait gallery for some time-traveling photo fun—dress up in full costume for an “antique” family photo!

Events at Old Town are perfect for all ages, with bands, classic car nights, and holiday festivals. Get their full schedule at the website.

Orlando Tree Trek: Climb into the treetops and experience wild Florida from above—right in Kissimmee! Orlando Tree Trek is an adventure park unlike any other in Central Florida, featuring zip lines, swinging logs, suspension bridges, nets, and other unique adventures high in the trees. No experience is necessary; instructors match you up with the course right for your experience level, and get you prepared for a fun, safe experience. Heights range from 10 to 50 feet, but if you’d prefer to stay on the ground, there’s plenty of room for observation (and a snack bar). Orlando Tree Trek offers families and friends a truly unique way to make vacation memories. Find out more at their website.

Forever Florida: With some similar attractions to Orlando Tree Trek, Forever Florida also offers back-country experiences on horseback, a unique “zip line roller coaster,” and the Panther’s Pounce, a 68-foot controlled free-fall adventure. Forever Florida is located in rural St. Cloud, Florida, about thirty minutes from the Kissimmee resort area, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the tourist scene turns into ranch land and wilderness. Day-trippers can discover old Florida on the Wild Coach Adventure, which takes participants on a two-hour nature tour including a historic ranch homestead featuring Florida Cracker Horses and a herd of Spanish Colonial cattle. Wildlife spotting ranges from wild turkeys to black bears, along with alligators, deer, and more than 200 species of birds. Live out your cowboy daydreams with a trail ride, or if you’re an experienced rider, try the Rawhide Roundup and actually learn to sort cattle from horseback. Find out more at their website.

Shingle Creek Regional Park: Craving an escape from the hustle and bustle of the tourist district? Amazingly, right in the middle of the 192 attractions corridor, Kissimmee offers a quiet retreat in Shingle Creek Regional Park. This important waterway is one of the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, but here in Kissimmee it’s an unassuming, cypress-lined creek—ideal for kayaking through natural woodlands, spotting birds of prey and other wildlife.

The best way to experience Shingle Creek is by canoe or kayak, but biking and hiking boardwalks are out there, too! Photo: Experience Kissimmee/flickr

The best way to experience Shingle Creek is by canoe or kayak, but biking and hiking boardwalks are out there, too! Photo: Experience Kissimmee/flickr

The park is divided into several outposts; the easiest to reach is Steffee Landing, which is right on US 192, the main highway. This spot includes parking, a kayak outfitter, and restrooms, plus a raised boardwalk for a stroll in the woods. At the northernmost outpost of the park, Babb Landing, you’ll find a pioneer homestead, where you can see how early Floridian settlers lived (without air conditioning!). For an in-depth look at Shingle Creek’s kayaking and hiking offerings, read this review at Paddle Florida. You’ll also find great suggestions on how best to enjoy the park at TripAdvisor.

Gatorland: The granddaddy of Central Florida theme parks, Gatorland has been showing off Florida’s native animals (and a few exotic extras) since 1949. Today the park is over 100 acres, and old-fashioned favorites like the Gator Jumparoo Show (an alligator leaps into the air to grab food right out of a trainer’s hand) and the Gator Wrestlin’ Show now jostle for your attention with new attractions like the Gator Gauntlet, a zip-line ride right over a marsh filled with alligators.

Meet alligators of all sizes at Gatorland! (Photo: inazakira/flickr)

Meet alligators of all sizes at Gatorland! Photo: inazakira/flickr

Hungry for serious gator action? Reserve your spot on the Gator Night Shine tour, which explores the alligator marsh by flashlight. Elsewhere at the park, you’ll find exotic birds and native Florida animals, including deer and reptiles. There’s also a splash zone for kids, offering plenty of ways to get soaked on a hot summer day without jumping in with the alligators! Visit Gatorland.com for more details, park hours, and tickets.

With a little bit of everything, from thrill rides to old-fashioned Floridian fun, the Central Florida area is bursting with excitement for families. Theme parks are just the beginning!

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