Kissimmee's prime location near the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios makes it a popular home base for park hoppers. For a brief escape from the amusement-park hustle and bustle, the shops along downtown Orlando's Ivanhoe Row are filled with antiques and unusual finds, such as kitschy vintage clothing and Mickey Mouse's childhood report cards. Closer to the hotel, shoppers can stroll down the clean streets of Celebration, Florida, a Pleasantville-esque community designed by the folks at Disney. Pastel-hued specialty shops along tree-lined boulevards hawk home goods, clothing, candy, and jewelry. Fewer than 2 miles from the resort's doorstep, the Walt Disney World Resort's four theme parks and two water parks draw visitors from around the world. Disney's Hollywood Studios recreates the magic of Tinsel Town with décor influenced by the 1930s-era silver screen. Housed in a reproduction of Grauman's Chinese Theater, The Great Movie Ride journeys through legendary moments in cinematic history, including scenes from The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Singin' in the Rain. At the 300-acre Epcot park, the World Showcase presents the culture, architecture, and cuisine of 11 countries.
Houlihan’s chefs unite diners with mouth-seeking meals culled from a menu of inventive recipes produced with local and all-natural ingredients and flanked by expertly crafted cocktails. Savory lunches arrive tableside in 15 minutes or less, swiftly occupying chompers with midday delicacies such as So-Cal fish tacos with tilapia, chipotle mayo, honey-cumin dressing, and pico de gallo ($8.95–$10.95). Dinner announces its approach with sophisticated cocktail heralds including wines, martinis, and specialty mojitos in flavors such as guava, raspberry, pomegranate, and snozzberry ($6.75–$7.75). Garlic-herb cream cheese nuzzles into the center of savory chicken breasts served over gold mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day ($15.95–$18.95), and wild mushrooms romp through a blend of cheeses within corn tortillas blanketed by smoky mozzarella sauce in the wild mushroom enchiladas ($13.95–$15.95). Crisp calamari crowns napa cabbage and banana in the University Boulevard location's popular calamari salad ($14.95), with an aromatic banana-ginger vinaigrette that's also sold in incense form.
Nestled in the shadows of ancient oaks and towering cypress trees, Kissimmee Bay Country Club's 18-hole course takes golfers through 6,486 yards of fairways and greens lined with serene water hazards. In total, the course features a dozen ponds that come into play on nearly every hole, challenging players to try forced carries and other crafty shots. The verdant course also peppers a dash of wildlife into rounds, as sand hill cranes are often spotted along the fairways and waterways. Before taking to the course, golfers can warm up their swings at the driving range or motivate golf balls by showing them how easily they can be replaced at the pro shop.
Course at a Glance:
Liquid Bar & Grill serves up an eclectic menu marrying fine dining staples with casual favorites. The fresh menu brings together appetizers, sandwiches, meats, and more in a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves. Distinctively seasoned fried calamari eases eaters into any meal ($9.99), and buffalo blazing wings shake taste buds awake with mild or hot sauce ($8.99). A 12-ounce new york strip steak brings a taste of Manhattan ($17.99), and mahi-mahi comes poached, blackened, grilled, or broiled ($15.99). Fettuccine alfredo pairs the rich Italian classic with sensible broccoli for a balanced, colorful plate ($11.99). Lunchers can cap off a club sandwich and fries ($8.99) with a dessert such as the homemade bread-n-butter pudding ($4.99). A large selection of wines and specialty cocktails invites guests to unwind as they pen family cheers to perform in line at nearby Walt Disney World.
As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
A self-described “gastrolounge,” Hammerheads Beer & Wine Bar serves up creative, satisfying pub dishes alongside craft beers and frozen cocktails. Its dishes add a subtle, upscale twist to pub mainstays: croissant sliders are filled with bourbon pulled pork, and corn dog balls are wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon before meeting their fate in the deep fryer. Boneless chicken wings and their cousins, tempura-battered chicken nuggets, are carried to tables atop beds of savory waffle fries or sweet potato fries.
Alternating red and yellow walls create a cheery atmosphere, as does the collection of framed paintings and pictures scattered throughout the pub. Regular karaoke nights challenge patrons to lock vocal cords with their buddies and demonstrate their crowd-pleasing prowess by making up choreography to accompany each song. Hammerheads also offers a variety of entertainment options each week, including movie nights and live music.