Kissimmee, Florida is 22 miles south of Orlando and 12 miles southeast of Walt Disney World. The correct way to pronounce its name is kiss-IM-mee.
Its population is about 77,000, and it is the County Seat of Osceola County.
A couple of lakes in the Kissimmee area are Lake Tohopekaliga and East Lake Tohopekaliga. Locals simplify things by calling them "Toho", as in Lake Toho.
Until recent years the main route to reach Kissimmee from Orlando was on US-441, known in Orlando as Orange Blossom Trail and in Kissimmee as Main Street.
Much of the traffic that originally focused on the combined US-441 and US-17 through old downtown Kissimmee has been bypassed by the construction of John Young Parkway, a major road that passes west of downtown and carries traffic south into US-17.
There are now many roads leading to Kissimmee and you can consult the Google map at the bottom of this page for more information.
The city limits extend along US-192 westerly to State Road 535 and beyond to several main routes to the Disney resort area.
The original name of the city was Allendale, named after Confederate Major J. H. Allen. He operated the first cargo steamboat along the Kissimmee, named Mary Belle.
The name changed when the city was incorporated in 1883.
Kissimmee had a strategic location during the early days of Central and South Florida economic development.
It is located on the north shore of Lake Tohopekaliga, one of a a group of lakes that form the headwaters of the Kissimmee River.
The actual headwater is in nearby East Lake Tohopekaliga. The river flows south through Lake Cypress, Lake Hatchineha, and Lake Kissimmee. From there it flows down to Lake Okeechobee.
The river was originally 134 miles long, and 103 miles were between Lake Kissimmee and Lake Okeechobee.
Kissimmee began to boom shortly after Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia based his 4,000,000 acre drainage project in the city.
Disston had contracted with the financially strapped State of Florida to drain the acreage. In return, he would receive half of all lands he successfully drained.
Disston's large dredging and land speculation efforts created a demand for a shipping industry to transport people and goods down the Kissimmee River system to Lake Okeechobee.
Kissimmee even had a shipyard and built some of the steamers that plied the river.
This boom period didn't last long. The railroads began to come into the area and steamship operations couldn't compete.
To top it all off the Panic of 1893 created a huge depression and the giant freezes of 1894 and 1895 wiped out the citrus industry.
By the turn of the century, Kissimmee and Osceola County began to focus more on open range cattle operations.
Raising cattle is still an important factor in the life of Kissimmee, St. Cloud, and southern Osceola County. This fact can be observed in the annual Silver Spurs Rodeo held in Kissimmee.
It was at one time one of the largest rodeos in the United States and still bills itself as the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi River.
Like many other Florida locations, Kissimmee is a "tale of two cities." The way it is, and the way it was.
I call these two entirely different cities Touristy Kissimmee and Historic Kissimmee.
When you head south from US-192 through the welcome gate into historic Kissimmee, things begin to quiet down. There are many historic buildings and attractive old trees.
Main Street merges into Broadway, and both thoroughfares have landscaped boulevard medians.
The busy John Young Parkway bypasses the historic downtown area which means it is a quiet place to visit.
One of the oldest businesses on Broadway is Makinson Hardware. It was established in 1884 and is reported to be the oldest retail hardware store in Florida still in operation.
One of my favorite places to visit in historic Kissimmee is the Monument of States. It is unlike anything I've seen before.
I have been awed by it since first seeing it in the 1960s.
It was inspired by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
A retired doctor (Charles W. Bressler-Pettis) was president of the Kissimmee All States Tourist Club. This club's membership was mostly retired senior citizens.
He and a friend got together and designed a monument whose construction was to include at least one rock from each of the states in the United States of America.
The mission of the monument was to demonstrate the unity of America.
It was built mostly by volunteers, including many older people from the tourist club and was dedicated in 1943 by U.S. Senator Claude Pepper of Florida.
Another favorite downtown spot is the historic Osceola County courthouse.
Kissimmee has done a good job of creating open space and parks along the shoreline of Lake Tohopekaliga.
There are plenty of walkways, green spaces, and good opportunities for just relaxing.
Kissimmee Lakefront Park is the showcase of historic downtown Kissimmee. This park has a fishing pier, walking paths, picnic pavilions, a playground, and lots of shade trees.
Kissimmee was affected more by the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971 than any other Central Florida city.
The population has exploded from 7,100 to 77,000 in the years since the theme park opened.
Touristy Kissimmee is generally the stretch east and west of town along US-192 that extends through Kissimmee from St. Cloud and west to the Disney resorts.
This is the route that is heavily traveled by tourists who enjoy more reasonable dining and lodging prices than what they can get at the Disney resorts.
What was once empty pastureland and woods for miles along US-192, US-441, and State Road 535 is now a never ending parade of neon lighted tourist gift shops, motels, restaurants, smaller tourist attractions, and other businesses.
These ventures are designed to serve the needs of tourists visiting central Florida's theme and amusement parks who number in the millions every year.
Walt Disney World Resort attracts the largest number, with its four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Then there is the Universal Orlando Resort, with its three theme parks, including the movie-themed Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, a large water park.
Also popular is Seaworld Parks and Resorts Orlando, with its three parks: Seaworld Orlando, Discovery Cove and Aquatica.
Fun Spot America is a smaller amusement park group, with parks in both Kissimmee and Orlando. They do not charge admission to enter, but instead charge for rides, unlike many of the other parks.
For those wanting to enjoy outdoor activities away from the big amusement parks, Kissimmee has a themed miniature golf spot, Pirate's Island Adventure Golf, and Spirit of the Swamp and Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures offer airboat rides and family fun.
For those looking for outdoor adventures that are more adventurous, Gatorland is a park where you can learn about alligators and crocodiles, enjoy a petting zoo, and go zip-lining over the alligator marsh.
You can also take a hot air balloon ride, a scenic helicopter ride, or try sky diving.
The mix of old and new in Kissimmee and surrounding areas makes it a perfect place to visit as there is something for everyone, no matter their interest or activity level.
One of the more interesting venues is Old Town.
This is an open-air walking district and entertainment center with more than 70 different shops, restaurants, bars, and amusement park rides.
The complex is a good imitation of a classic Old Florida town with a lot of period architecture and unique storefronts.
One of the more popular rides here is the 86 foot tall Ferris Wheel.
Another nearby point of interest is the town of Celebration. This is an actual master planned community created by Disney.
Citizens of Celebration live and work in a pleasing architectural environment that captures the spirit of classic old Florida and American neighborhoods.
Although the master planned community of Celebration is not in Kissimmee, it is close enough to deserve a visit.
Learn more about Celebration, Florida.
Old Town Kissimmee - 5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746 - Enjoy a walk around the classic American town and enjoy carnival-style rides, live music, and delicious food.
Gatorland - 14501 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837 - Get up close and personal with Florida's most famous reptile at this wildlife park featuring gators, crocs, and snakes.
Kissimmee Lakefront Park - 201 Lakeview Dr, Kissimmee, FL 34741 - Take in the stunning views of Lake Tohopekaliga, go fishing, or relax in one of the many picnic areas or benches.
The Disney Wilderness Preserve - 2700 Scrub Jay Trail, Kissimmee, FL 34759 - Explore Florida's natural beauty with guided nature walks, bird-watching, and hiking trails.
Osceola County Historical Society - 4155 W Vine St, Kissimmee, FL 34741 - Delve into the rich history of Kissimmee and Osceola County with guided tours and interactive exhibits.
Fun Spot America - 5700 Fun Spot Way, Orlando, FL 32819 - Enjoy thrilling roller coasters, go-karts, and other amusement park rides at this family-friendly attraction.
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament - 4510 W Vine St, Kissimmee, FL 34746 - Step back in time to the medieval ages and witness jousting, sword-fighting, and falconry while enjoying a delicious meal.
Airboat Rides at Midway - 28501 E Colonial Dr, Christmas, FL 32709 - Glide through the swamps and wetlands of Florida on a thrilling airboat ride and get up close with gators, turtles, and other wildlife.
Celebration - 610 Sycamore St, Celebration, FL 34747 - Visit this charming town designed by Disney and enjoy a stroll through the picturesque streets, quaint shops, and delicious restaurants.
Museum of Military History - 5210 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746 - Explore the military history of America with a collection of artifacts and exhibits showcasing military vehicles, uniforms, and weaponry.
The Florida Mall - 8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809 - Shop until you drop at this large shopping mall featuring a variety of stores and restaurants.
Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park - 7625 Sinclair Rd, Kissimmee, FL 34747 - Climb, swing, and zip-line your way through this exciting outdoor adventure park.
Capone's Dinner & Show - 4740 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746 - Experience the excitement of the Roaring Twenties with a delicious dinner and interactive show.
Chocolate Kingdom - 2858 Florida Plaza Blvd, Kissimmee, FL 34746 - Learn about the chocolate-making process and taste some of the delicious treats at this unique attraction.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition - 7324 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819 - Explore the famous shipwreck and see artifacts recovered from the Titanic at this educational exhibition.
Walt Disney World Resort - 1375 E Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL 32830 - Experience the magic of Disney with theme parks, water parks, and entertainment for the whole family.