Kickin’ It Old School Style: Old Town Kissimmee, FL

Lisa Fritscher January 2, 2015 No Comments

Car and Ferris Wheel

Old Town is well known for its classic cars and vintage Ferris Wheel. Thanks to Leigh Caldwell of Flickr for the great photo!

In the Orlando area, things change rapidly. The theme parks are constantly updating their attractions rosters, pulling the plug on old favorites in exchange for newer, faster and more thrilling experiences. Hotels change ownership at a dizzying pace, and that roadside attraction you loved on your last visit might be a condo complex when you return. Thankfully, the region is also home to a few venerable locations that have withstood the test of time. Kissimmee’s Old Town is one of my favorites.

About Old Town
Built during the 1980s, Old Town was just one of many Highway 192 attractions designed to lure tourists visiting Walt Disney World. The complex struggled during the 1990s and early 2000s, as Disney and Universal Orlando developed into multi-day experiences complete with their own nighttime entertainment districts. In recent years, however, Old Town has undergone a rebirth. The shopping, dining and entertainment complex is open during the day, but it really comes to life at night. There is no charge for admission to Old Town, although the rides and attractions are separately priced.

Our Experience
Encompassing several short, easily walkable blocks, the pedestrian-only Old Town is a fanciful recreation of a town square. I have visited numerous times with various combinations of friends and relatives. It is a great spot for families, a fun place for an old-fashioned date night and a relaxed venue to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Much more laid back than the theme parks, it is the kind of place that is equally fun whether you stay on the move or kick back and people-watch.

Old Town is definitely a destination rather than a place to run through in an hour. I typically spend between four and six hours there, beginning between 5 and 7 p.m. The shops, rides and attractions are normally open until 11 p.m., but exact hours vary by season. The bars and restaurants generally stay open later, again depending on the season.

Old Town Rides

The rides are located at both ends of the complex. Thanks to Jared of Flickr for the terrific photo!

Rides and Attractions
Carnival rides are located at the front and back of the complex. Offerings are standard fare and largely geared toward children, though adults are welcome on all but the smallest. The Ferris Wheel provides an excellent view of the 192 strip, which is particularly pretty at night. A rock climbing wall, adventure ropes course and zip line are also available, and are great for all ages. Old Town also offers more extreme adult and teen-oriented rides in the Vomatron and the Slingshot—two death-defying experiences, not actually run by Old Town but located next to the Checkers at the front of the complex, that I refuse to set foot on. I love thrill rides, but I have my limits! Attractions include the Legends haunted house, an arcade, a shooting gallery, lazer tag, bumper cars and even a mechanical bull.

Shops and Restaurants
The shops run the gamut from t-shirts to theme park merchandise to handcrafted Asian souvenirs. A particular favorite is Black Market Minerals, a vast space dedicated to gemstones of every variety. A 1950s store and a 1970s hippie shop are filled with the typical mix of genuine nostalgia and kitsch, while the gourmet popcorn shop does a booming business year round.

Streets of Old Town

The streets of Old Town are like a fanciful town square. Thanks to Leigh Caldwell of Flickr for the excellent photo!

Restaurants range from fast food to full service, although casual dress is definitely expected everywhere. Whether you prefer pizza or sushi, hot dogs or Tex-Mex, Old Town caters to a wide range of appetites. Many of the restaurants provide take-out service, and benches and tables are plentiful throughout Old Town. This makes it easy to feed the kids their favorites while the adults enjoy something slightly more upscale. Of course, ice cream and other treats are available throughout the complex.

Concerts and Car Shows
Part of Old Town’s rebirth has been a renewed dedication to free events. A concert stage sits roughly in the middle of the complex. Every Wednesday night is the Little Darlin’s Doo Wop tribute to the music of the 1950s and 1960s. On Friday nights, the All American Muscle Car Cruise showcases American-made muscle cars from 1964 and later, and American classics from 1988 and later. On Saturday nights, the highly popular Classic Car Cruise shows off the finest in vintage automobiles from 1974 and earlier, including a number of very early, fully-restored, antiques. Sunday nights bring Old Town Gone Country, with country bands taking the stage. Bigger car shows and additional concerts are held throughout the year, and admission is nearly always free.

Tips for Parents
Old Town is the kind of place where you can spend a lot of money, or almost no money at all. Set ground rules with your kids before your visit, whether you instruct them to pick out one toy (perhaps from the vintage recreation toy store) or give them a maximum dollar limit. Decide in advance whether rides and attractions are on the agenda, and how much you are willing to spend.

Old Town has quite a few bars, and drinking is permitted throughout the complex. Although I have encountered only a handful of drunks in all my visits, be aware that this is a possibility. If you are concerned about your kids’ exposure to alcohol, consider visiting during the afternoon rather than the evening. However, be aware that many venues are closed on Mondays, and others do not open until evening even on the weekends.

Parking can be a challenge, especially on weekend nights. If you are staying along 192, consider walking. Otherwise, plan to pay $10 for preferred parking or circle the free lots until you find a space. I have never completely failed to find a spot, but I have ended up parking between the Red Lobster and the mini-golf place down the street.

avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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