After a long, cold winter, many families want to get out of town on spring break trips to warmer climates. Central Florida is a popular destination that’s known for magic—magic found all over the area, not just at the theme parks.
As kids get older, a day or two at Disney and/or Universal is great, but it turns out that Mother Nature gives the Fairy Godmother a run for her money when it comes to producing “oohs” and “ahhs” in Kissimmee and the surrounding area.
Find new thrills on an airboat tour
The Spirit of the Swamp airboat tours are definitely not something Chicago families can do at home, especially this time of year. If you have tween or teen thrill seekers, they’ll love that the boat goes exhilaratingly fast and that one of the goals of the trip is to spot gators.
Families on the tour also learn about the other flora and fauna, such as turtles and osprey, that call the swamp along Lake Tohopekaliga home. Thankfully, your captain knows the swamp like the back of his hand and can explain exactly what you’re seeing. It is surprisingly fascinating and beautiful.
Explore a different kind of water park
Central Florida is home to the headwaters of the Everglades, and they provide a different kind of water park experience. Whether it’s kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddleboarding, the Paddling Center at Shingle Creek offers a variety of ways to get on the water and explore the uniquely Floridian ecosystem first-hand. A variety of tours are offered, including a full moon tour and a historical tour.
Celebrate being in the sun
The unique community of Celebration is contained within Kissimmee and was originally created by Disney. While the company no longer owns the community, it still feels almost like a movie set with towering old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, a charming downtown and beautiful lakes. It’s a fun place to explore.
The best way to do so is to rent bikes at Celebration Bike Rental and hit the 10 miles of bike paths, which are blessedly flat. Older kids (and adults) will love all the views that are perfect for Instagram.
Out of this world adventures
After discovering the natural world, shift your focus to outer space. Head to Titusville, about an hour east of Kissimmee, to the Kennedy Space Center, home to Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Check out the new five-hour Astronaut Training Experience for kids 10 and older, which features a mission simulation that includes a spacewalk.
If Lunch with an Astronaut is available on your visit, take advantage of that memorable experience.
Where to stay
Gaylord Palms Resort is a great option. It offers multiple restaurants, including one on a boat anchored on an indoor lake, as well as an escape room and a water area featuring pools, slides and a surf simulator. It’s a good option for active families.
If the idyllic and quieter community of Celebration is more your speed, the Bohemian Hotel Celebration’s lakefront location offers lovely views and tweens and teens will appreciate the freedom to explore the downtown. It has a small pool and features local artwork and unique Floridian touches.
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.