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Holiday Happenings in Kissimmee, Florida

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Kissimmee calls itself the Vacation Home Capital of the World® for obvious reasons. The city resides in the heart of Central Florida’s theme parks—Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, Gatorland, Wild Florida, and more. You can find any type of lodging, from boutique hotels such the ette hotel and resorts such as Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate to condos and vacation home rentals. 

I visited a next-level vacation mansion rental that is an attraction unto itself. The 9,384 square foot, 9-bedroom home resides in Reunion Resort and Golf Club, a luxury vacation home community, and belongs to the Jeeves Florida Vacation Rentals

They call this home the Entertainment Mansion and as I enter the home, the bottom of the staircase catches my eye, an homage to nearby Disney parks. The mouse cut-out window reveals a vignette of Mickey and Minnie cozying up on the sofa, one of many unexpected visual surprises and secret rooms that await. 


Experience Kissimmee Florida hosted a Holiday Showcase at the vacation mansion, bringing together area attractions and vendors for those wanting to “vacation like a Floridian during the holidays. 

The home’s modern, organic decor exudes a warm invitation to enjoy all of its amenities.

The family room and dining room are open to the resort-style pool and outdoor living spaces overlooking the Reunion golf course.

This is a house built to entertain from the inside out!

In the kitchen, I find Executive Chef Issac with Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate cooking up braised chicken and brussel sprouts, a holiday leftover recipe, a culinary sampling of his skills. The resort is hosting holiday dinners and special deals, including its Sweet Traditions package. 

After sampling a chocolate cocktail, another one of Chef Issac’s specialties, I head upstairs to explore the home’s thematic rooms and secret doors that lead to arcades.

The sports-themed entertainment room mimics a sports bar with memorabilia and TVs on all walls. Guests planning to tee up on Reunion’s greens can appreciate the home’s golf simulator to warm up, and practice their swing. 

One kid’s room feels as if I’ve stepped into Disney’s animation movie, Moana with handpainted murals and a lifesize figure of Moana herself.

A bamboo-clad wall opens to reveals an arcade outfitted with old school video games. 

 

The arcade connects to another kid’s room that mimics the movie set of Guardians of the Galaxy, a spaceship recreated with sleeping quarters. 

Outside, I spy a baby gator, a special Gatorland guest at the holiday showcase.  Brandon, the gator expert, introduces me to “Fluffy,” a 3-year-old gator that makes appearances as a Gatorland ambassador. 

“Gatorland has been around since 1949. We are one of Florida’s original attractions. People come to Central Florida for two things—to see a big mouse and gators,” Brandon explains. Fluffy belongs to Gatorland’s younger generation. The oldest gator at the park, Pops,  is 73 years old. During the holiday season, Gatorland is hosting its third annual Holiday Ho Ho Ho-Down Christmas event on December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18.  The signature holiday event features live music, and festive displays with interactive characters like Gator Claus, his Merry Elves and Krampus Croc, along with festive food items for purchase.

In the outdoor kitchen, I found more wildlife, a king snake, a baby red-footed tortoise, and an emperor scorpion, all special guests of Wild Florida. Peter, a guide with Wild Florida, introduces me to Ricky, the king snake, one of many animal encounters the 170-acre park offers.

Wild Florida calls itself world’s only airboat, gator & drive-thru safari park adventure. More than 150 native and exotic animals roaming freely around the park, including species from the African savanna. Airboat rides take guests through the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. 

As the sun sets, I head over to Island H2O Water Park for a spectacular holiday lights display, Night of a Million Lights.

Dueling piano players, dancing lights on a 5-story water slide, and a snow globe you can step inside and take pictures are among the highlights as the water park transforms into a twinkling wonderland.

The lighting display originated in 2020 at Give Kids The World Village, an 89-acre nonprofit resort that provides critically ill children and their families vacation wishes. “In just two months, our volunteers and staff members put over a million lights in this water park,” Elise Boyles, from Give Kids The World Village explains.

Visitors do a good deed while enjoying this immersive holiday experience packed with plenty of photo opportunities,  activities, and live entertainment

The price of admission goes to support Give Kids The World Village. Night of a Million Lights runs from November 11th through January 1, 2023.

The next day, I visit ICE! A beloved Florida holiday tradition and iconic attraction, which returns after a two-year hiatus. This year’s theme is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! ™”

I button up my blue parka and step into the 9 degrees Fahrenheit ice exhibit, famous for its colorful, intricately carved ice sculptures depicting thematic scenes. 

Each holiday season, Gaylord Palms Resort hires ice sculptors from Harbin, China to carve more than 2 million pounds – or 1,000 tons – of ice into a holiday wonderland.

More than 40 ice artisans work approximately six weeks to create the nearly 20,000-square-foot frozen attraction.

ICE! at Gaylord Palms and Convention Center runs from  November 18, 2022, through January 1, 2023.

If you plan on taking photos with your cell phone, keep in mind that battery life is greatly reduced due to extreme temperatures inside.  

What to know if you go:

Kissimmee is a 25-minute drive from Orlando International Airport (MCO). If you are looking for accommodations offering an art, design, and wellness experience, I recommend staying at Kissimmee’s newest boutique hotel, ette Hotel.

Michelin Star Chef Akira Back brings his cuisine and mocktails to Salt & The Cellar restaurant and the hotel’s rooftop lounge, LIPA.

Food and drinks are culinary and theatrical experiences here as mixologists create mocktails at your table served in custom glassware, each one an alcohol-free work of art.

 

The independently owned boutique hotel offers authentic guest experiences, including its Laundry Museum.

A large glass wall opens to the hotel’s open-concept laundry facility so that guests can watch how the staff cleans, folds, and sorts towels and linens. Those who find doing laundry a soothing experience will appreciate the benches inviting you to sit and watch the staff at work in the Laundry Museum.

The hotel’s Book Room holds a private collection of art, architecture, design books, and limited edition books artfully arranged on bookshelves.

Guests can relax and read in the library or peruse pages of the hotel’s large collectible book in the lobby. 

To find accommodation deals and discounted attraction tickets for Florida residents and beyond, visit https://www.experiencekissimmee.com/deals.

Watch The Design Tourist Explores Kissimmee Holiday Highlights to learn more:

 

 

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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