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If you think of Kissimmee as just a nice place to sleep before heading off to theme parks in Lake Buena Vista and Orlando, you're completely missing out on this city's unique appeal.

Kissimmee was once a hub for citrus packing, ranching, and rail traffic, and it's left behind many reminders of its Old Florida roots. You'll see it in the rodeos, the historic "Cracker" architecture of Osceola County Historical Society & Pioneer Village, and the annual Kowtown Festival — Kissimmee's nickname comes from the old practice of using cattle to "mow" the grass streets here.

You'll feel the small-town vibe in the shops of the historic downtown. And you'll feel a twinge of nostalgia when you step out into the great outdoors, which are never more than a few miles away. Tucked behind the grand resorts and golf courses are miles upon miles of unspoiled nature, complete with lakes just waiting to be explored by airboat or kayak — not to mention one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the United States!

Shingle Creek Adventure Challenge

April's Shingle Creek Adventure Challenge takes intrepid teams of two, three, or four through the wilds of Kissimmee's 456-acre Shingle Creek Regional Park. The triathlon-like event includes a 23-mile bike ride, a five-mile run, and a three-mile kayak or canoe paddle.

Big Toho Airboat Ride

Let's face it: Central Florida is pretty much one big swamp, with the humidity to match. Catch a cool breeze on a Big Toho Airboat Ride through Lake Jackson, part of the Kissimmee River State Park. You'll sit pretty while sighting local wildlife, including wading birds, deer, wild pigs, and the ever-popular Florida alligator.

Bald Eagle Spotting

You might be surprised to find out that Kissimmee has the largest nesting population of bald eagles in the Lower 48! October marks the start of the nesting season, and they'll remain here until their eaglets leave the nest in about May. A great place to spot them is the Nature Conservancy's 12,000-acre Disney Wilderness Preserve, where you'll often see other wildlife, like the rare Florida panther.

Kissimmee Sunshine Regional Chili Cook-Off Festival

January brings the Kissimmee Sunshine Regional Chili Cook-Off Festival to the Kissimmee Civic Center. And these home chefs mean business: The cook-off is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, and winners advance to the ICS World Championship!

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The best properties Kissimmee has to offer.