As the reality of back to school and work are upon us, the sighting of green trees begins to turn vibrant colours, and warmer clothing starts to creep out of the closet; Canadians begin to countdown the days until warm weather, spending time outdoors and dining on patios will return. But you don’t have to wait long to enjoy all these coveted summer pleasures. The two Central Florida cities of Kissimmee and Orlando are the ideal pairing for a Sunshine State getaway. The ease of exploring two places in one visit allows for more fun times in the sun, exploring all these destinations have to offer. Speaking of ease, make your journey to and from the airport in a comfortable, reliable and environmentally sustainable, carbon-neutral chauffeured Blacklane car. It is the first ride service to offset emissions rides and chauffeurs’ clean vehicles between each ride, track your flight and wait an hour for free at all airport pickups!
Now you have arrived—in style, I might add—so let’s get the party started:
Kissimmee, Florida, is like the Libra in the zodiac sign; it provides the perfect balance of adventure and leisure. One minute you could be on an airboat tour with the wind zipping through your hair, and the next minute you could be strolling through Old Town, a homage to a time when crowds were a little smaller, lines a little shorter and the fun a little simpler. It is a family-friendly place that is more than just a shopping district—it boasts 18 acres of beautiful, tree-lined brick streets with more than 70 unique shops and restaurants.
Wild Florida is a triple threat as it houses the world’s only airboat tour, gator park, and drive-thru safari adventure all-in-one! Take an airboat tour through the tranquil Headwaters of the Florida Everglades and search for gators—trust me, they are out there—while enjoying being in the middle of nowhere and experiencing what Florida looked like 1,000 years ago. The pristine marshland hadn’t changed from when early pioneers settled here in the 1800s. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles, turkeys, wild boar, roseate spoonbills and more. After the tour, head back to the mainland and see more than 200 native and exotic animals inside Alligator Park, including a sloth named Arie, an alligator named Fluffy, a bongo named Zari and feed a giraffe named Leroy. Then to end your adventure, jump in a vehicle and enjoy the Drive-thru Safari Park!
Hunger will likely have kicked in by now, so a stop into Big John’s Rockin’ BBQ, serving world-famous wood-smoked BBQ for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, is sure to satisfy. This family-owned business is famous for their breakfast Brisket Biscuit and Super Sampler, which comes with pork, chicken, ribs, brisket, sausage and sides and don’t forget the sweet tea!
A relaxing afternoon can be your family’s next stop, and I have the perfect, most magical place for you and the fam to kick back and relax. Magic Village is a concierge-style, gated community just minutes from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Relax in the comfort of a 3- or 4-bedroom modernly furnished townhome that can accommodate up to eight guests—so feel free to bring grandma and grandpa along! The perks of staying in a vacation home make it the ideal setting for family and multi-generational travel. Experience the luxury of having your bedroom and bathroom, fully furnished living area and modern kitchen with a patio to enjoy a cocktail and cook a family BBQ while the kids enjoy some pool time. It’s like having all the services and facilities of a resort, with the comfort and privacy of a vacation home.
For an intimate and Italian-style dinner in a bright and lush setting, the onsite restaurant, Villaggio, takes you there. It is a place to enjoy a fine meal after a day of adventures beginning with an Italian staple, the bruschetta moving into a main course of delicious pasta options like freshly made gnocchi or shrimp risotto or for the meat lovers, veal parmesan. And who doesn’t want to try one of their many pizza options like Caprese, four cheese, Villagio or for a sweet pizza, Nutella with strawberry. It’s like going to Italy without leaving your seat.
A 35-minute drive will take you from Kissimmee to Orlando, so there is no need to relocate to a new property or hotel. Here, a new set of adventures await, and there is something new to discover each time you visit. Outdoor adventures ensue at Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park. Soar through the air on a giant 425’ zip line, take on 97 aerial challenges, including walking across bridges, taking you higher using swings, nets and ropes until you climb to 50 feet. There are even two kids’ challenge courses featuring 21 unique challenges.
Not only is the rhythm gonna get’cha, but at Estefan Kitchen Orlando, owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan, the Latin vibes and good Cuban food fill the room. So let the kids have a night in at Magic Village with the grand, and the adults can let loose. May I suggest a Luxury Mojito—Emilio’s favourite—which comes with a Havana upgrade of Bacardi aged 8-year-old rum followed by bacon-wrapped sweet plantains and the award-winning slow-roasted Cuban pork or steak, ending with a shared flan for two. Then, with another one of Emilio’s favourite drinks, let the Cuban entertainers serenade you as you sing and dance the night away.
Welcome to Gatorland, the Alligator Capital of the World! Visitors and daredevils can experience the thrill of riding the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, featuring 1,200 feet of high-flying adventure over Cuban and Nile crocodiles. Or, if land-based things are more your jam, jump into a 12-foot monster vehicle in Gatorland’s Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure, a harrowing and hilarious journey through Florida’s various ecosystems and water full of alligators. And, of course, a trip to Gatorland would not be complete without visiting the Alligator Breeding Marsh. Here you and the family will have an up-close encounter feeding the giant alligators. Gatorland originally opened as a roadside attraction in 1949, making this year its 73rd Anniversary. It features thousands of alligators and crocodiles, a breeding marsh with an observation tower, a free-flight aviary, nature walk, a petting zoo, educational wildlife programs, and more. Then, of course, there are many more animals to visit, including Dean, the 111-year-old tortoise, the rare white albino alligators, wildcats, birds, snakes, critters and a barnyard petting and feeding area. But Gatorland is also on a mission. A Global mission, in fact. Gatorland Global® was created in 2018 to provide a dedicated conservation program for Gatorland. Their mission is to Protect, Conserve, and Educate people on the importance of alligators and crocodiles to Florida’s ecosystems, to respect their power and beauty, and how to safely live with them in Florida and communities around the world.
The District GastroBar pays homage to old-world American taste and cuisine while infusing it with modern techniques using the sharing plate trend. This modern speakeasy features a nostalgic vintage ambience and an eclectic array of Prohibition pieces and 1940s-era inspired artwork with historic 1900 brick.
Take a Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour located on Lake Osceola in the quaint city of Winter Park—this peaceful aquatic ride takes guests on an hour-long guided cruise through three lakes and two narrow man-made canals on the tranquil Winter Park chain. Learn the history of Winter Park, Central Florida’s oldest community, founded by wealthy Easterners in the 1800s—a unique and different way to see Orlando.
Let the fresh air and warm sun from these two easily accessible, Central Florida cities bring your family down south for an unforgettable adventure!