click to enlarge Old Town

Photo via Old Town

Old Town

Despite living in theme park shadows, Kissimmee has emerged as a force of its own 

What could possibly be new in a city whose main attraction is called “Old Town”? Well, a lot, thank you very much! Kissimmee has seen huge changes in the past year – hundreds of Puerto Rican people fleeing the destruction caused by Hurricane María have resettled in Kowtown, further strengthening the bond with the island. And about Old Town? Two years of renovations and expansion has made the family attraction bigger and better. Despite living in the shadows of Disney and the rest of Orlando’s tourism conglomerate, Kissimmee has emerged as a force of its own but still retains the classical elements we love – cowboys, kitschy gift shops and a whole lotta gators.

Margaritaville Resort Orlando

8000 Fins Up Circle, 407-479-0950, margaritaville resortorlando.com

Welcome to the "island state of mind." Margaritaville, the 300-acre Jimmy Buffett-themed resort, opened in January with a 184-room luxury hotel, private cottages and a gigantic water park. Island H2O Live, which opens late this spring, plans to offer exhilarating drop slides, a lazy river, a children's area and a wave pool. With Margaritaville and the Gaylord Palms, Kissimmee is setting itself up as a staycation paradise.

Old Town

5770 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, 407-396-4888, myoldtownusa.com

After 30 years of charming visitors, Old Town was due for a facelift. The multi-million-dollar renovation, which celebrated its grand opening April 6, adds 12,000 square feet of retail space to make room for Froggers Grill & Bar, Shoney's Restaurant and Bobby's Garage Bar. A brand-spankin'-new 86-foot Ferris wheel was imported from Italy for the Highway 192 attraction, plus there's a lot more parking space so now you don't have to fight for a spot.

The Center Kissimmee

21 W. Monument Ave., 407-201-2544, thecenterorlando.org/kissimmee

The LGBT+ Center of Orlando expanded to Kissimmee last year by opening a second center for queer and transgender services. Kissimmee's first LGBTQ support center houses free HIV and Hepatitis C testing, support groups, a cyber center and counseling services.

Kissimmee Domino Club

Matador Tacos & Tapas Bar, 120 Broadway Ave., 407-913-5511, facebook.com/Kissimmee-Domino-Club-161600311441110/

A new way to relax: The Kissimmee Domino Club meets every Thursday at 5 p.m. inside Matador for delicious food, good drinks and the chance to darle agua al dominó with local political and business leaders.

SunRail

sunrail.com

SunRail finally made it out to the south part of Central Florida last year with four new stations in Meadow Woods, Poinciana, at the Tupperware company campus and in Kissimmee. The Kissimmee station in historic downtown is already pretty popular, thanks to the paucity of public transportation options.

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