Set out on a classic Florida vacation that features new and old, with stops at iconic theme parks, white-sand beaches and unforgettable hidden gems.
Charting a course from Central Florida to the Gulf of Mexico coastline, this Florida getaway features two home bases – Kissimmee and Bradenton – plus activities for all ages and travel groups. You’ll experience world-famous attractions, small-town charm, beautiful beaches and exciting boat tours. Catch a flight into Orlando International Airport, rent a car and check in to a beautiful vacation rental in Kissimmee (just a 30-minute drive away) to begin your vacation.
Theme Park Thrills at Walt Disney World Resort
Kick off your adventure at the famed Walt Disney World Resort. Fuel up with a big breakfast in your fully appointed vacation rental kitchen or grab a quick bite on your way to Magic Kingdom Park. With jaw-dropping rides, parades, performances and dining – all starring the most beloved Disney characters and scenes – this theme park truly earns its nickname “The Most Magical Place On Earth.” Movie buffs will love Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with its attractions and rides like the massive Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance experience, where riders narrowly escape legions of stormtroopers. Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy lets fans of the Cars films enter a state-of-the-art racing simulator, complete with an immersive wrap-around screen. Other options for your theme park day include Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park or Epcot. Each park has plenty of thrills to fill a whole day and more, but consider enjoying an evening at Disney Springs for shopping, dining and more.
Families exploring Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort
Outer Space, Plus a Florida Tradition
Find magic of a different sort just an hour’s drive away at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, where more than 30 exciting NASA and outer space-themed exhibits await. The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame gives visitors a glimpse into the journeys of real-life space heroes through compelling displays, while Path to the Moon highlights the journey into the technology that kept Apollo astronauts safe on their voyage to the moon. When hunger strikes, there’s no need to leave the center — the Orbit Cafe or Moon Rock Cafe are located right on site. For a total win-win, parents can kick up their feet and enjoy a glass of beer or wine at the Planet Play Lounge while kids learn about space nearby. Once you’ve had your fill of all things galactic, drive an hour back to your basecamp in Kissimmee, and head out for the night to Celebration Town Center. Stroll the picturesque downtown, then have dinner at one of Florida’s most famous restaurants, Columbia. The Celebration location is part of a small chain of Spanish restaurants that date to 1905. You’ll feel transported to Sevilla with its immersive decor and century-old family recipes like the Red Snapper Alicante and fan-favorite “1905 salad.”
The Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
A Paddling Adventure and Old Town Kissimmee
After an epic two days, take it a little easier on day three. Spend some time reconnecting with nature at The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek, where you can join a two-hour cypress forest kayak tour. You’ll navigate the headwaters of the Everglades and get up close with local wildlife such as turtles, birds of prey, alligators and even the occasional otter. Spend the rest of your day at Old Town Kissimmee, strolling around the historic district’s quaint shops and restaurants. Grab dinner at Tony’s Antojito’s for a taste of authentic Puerto Rican fare, or dig in at the family-friendly A &W Restaurant serving up classic diner foods like burgers, root beer and shakes. For an even quicker bite, try Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, then watch the sunset over Kissimmee from the Ferris wheel. Colorful lights from nearby attractions illuminate the night sky from above.
Couple walking through Old Town Kissimmee
Old Florida Charm in Bradenton
Check out of your vacation rental and drive 2.5 hours southwest to your next destination, encompassing the growing city of Bradenton and its beach destinations, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. For the adults and older kids in your crew, take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go horseback riding on the beach along Palma Sola Bay. Children of all ages will enjoy the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature with its two floors of interactive exhibits, Mosaic Backyard Universe exploration area and wonderful planetarium. Take a break from exploring to check in to the Legacy Hotel, a modern, luxury boutique hotel located next to the IMG Academy, the esteemed multi-sport training complex. Enjoy a soak in the heated, resort-style pool before dinner in downtown Bradenton. Opt for landmark restaurant Pier 22 with its menu of scratch-made favorites and Manatee River views or the crowd-pleasing Oak & Stone, which serves artisan pizza and dozens of craft beer varieties, then take a stroll along the Bradenton Riverwalk.
Watching the sunset from the Bradenton Riverwalk
Island Life on the Gulf of Mexico Coast
Your second day in the area is all about the beach, specifically the white-sand shores, charming cottages and rustic piers of Anna Maria Island on Bradenton’s Gulf of Mexico coastline. Explore the heart of Bradenton Beach on Bridge Street, with its spectacular water views and hometown appeal. Laze away the day on sugar-sand beaches, admire the emerald-green waters from the pier, and nab that one-of-a-kind souvenir to take back home. Soak up the sun as you dine al fresco at one of the many eateries nearby. The Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar is loved by locals and tourists alike, and the chic Beach House Waterfront Restaurant is nestled right on the beach, making it a perfect spot to catch the sunset and unwind at the end of your day.
Romantic moment walking along one of Bradenton’s white-sand beaches
Ecotourism in and Around Bradenton
Grab a quick bite to eat at your hotel and hop on an early morning fishing charter or wildlife-watching cruise with Five O'Clock Charlie Boat Tours. You’ll see dolphins, manatees and sea birds, or try your hand at catching a fish or two in the diverse estuary waters surrounding Tampa Bay. After the charter, head back to Anna Maria Island for a fresh seafood lunch at local-favorite The Sandbar Restaurant or a freshly made smoothie and sandwich under a canopy of palm trees at North Shore Cafe. Next, roam Anna Maria Island’s historic Green Village on Pine Avenue, a unique district of lovingly preserved commercial and residential buildings, one of only 100 places worldwide to reach platinum LEED status and have a net-zero campus. Housed within are a bakery and boutiques, as well as nearby historic homes to meander. End your time in the Bradenton area at Robinson Preserve, where you can climb the 16-meter observation tower for a bird’s-eye view of this coastal wetland habitat teeming with native wildlife and plant species. Finally, it’s time to rest up at your hotel and prepare for your return trip home; Tampa International Airport is just an hour away, or make the 2.5-hour drive back to Orlando International Airport.