Take to the Skies in Kissimmee

    By Amy Shepherd Nance

    Take your vacation to the skies with activities that include hot-air ballooning, flight simulators and more.

    What do Peter Pan, Willie Wonka and Frank Sinatra have in common? All invited the young-at-heart to fly. Whether it's in spirit or in Wonka's fantastic machine, flying is fascinating, and Kissimmee-St. Cloud's friendly skies are spinning with possibilities. From working museums where aviation history is on display to hot air balloon tours of Disney country, Kissimmee-St. Cloud invites the whole family to take to the skies. So doff your pilot's cap and secure your seatbelt.

    You can't get any closer to the real thing than at the Kissimmee Gateway Airport, where commercial planes taxi, take-off and land to the amazement of young and old alike. Though the thrill of watching the aircraft make their daily rounds is undeniable, this airport offers much more than the average spectacle of flight. Steer the kids over to Warbird Adventures, where the planes aren't just for show-and-tell. Man a Warbird, also known as the Texan. These North American T-6 Trainers aren't waiting in the wings over at Warbird Adventures; they're flying!

    Not an aviation buff? You will be after the folks here take your family above and beyond, letting you have a go at the controls. Known as the Pilot Maker, the T-6 Trainers have seen their share of newbie pilots, and offer an unparalleled guided flight experience. Strapped snugly into the cockpit, you can take off, land or just glide smoothly. Want to impress the kids? Perform loops, rolls and wing-overs to really lift their skirts. A well-secured camera records the entire adventure.

    Try a bird of a different feather and coast over Disney country in a helicopter. The four-seat Robinson 44 zips along at about 110 mph, offering the family a chance to tour Kissimmee-St. Cloud from the air. Getting comfortable in the cockpit? Sign up for a flying tutorial. Here, too, you can hover, take off and land.

    Next, climb aboard a majestic hot air balloon. Think of it as an ode to the famous children's story of the red balloon. The high-flyers at Bob's Balloons make use of 100 take-off and landing sites in the central Florida area to cater directly to your family's needs. If the wind is right, the balloon can even take off from your backyard.

    Just a hop, skip and a jump away, Fantasy of Flight beckons. Soon to be home to a ropes course and zip line, this aviation-oriented park in Polk City offers a different kind of transport: time travel. Treat the kids to a multi-sensory tribute to flight as you move through significant moments in aviation history. There are re-enactments of WWII bombing missions and model cockpits to explore as well as an impressive collection of actual aircraft. There are soldiers in bunkers and wind tunnels and plenty of excuses to pretend you're on an important mission. Mom and Dad will love the Compass Rose Diner, an Art Deco-styled reminder of the Golden Age of Flight. Schedule your visit to coincide with one of the site's many fly-ins.

    Once your whirlwind expedition in the skies over Kissimmee-St. Cloud is complete, trade tall tales with the family. Count yourselves a part of Peter Pan's crew and take the Balloonist Prayer to heart. Kissimmee-St. Cloud offers many ways to come fly with them.


    Hot air balloon rides with Bob's Balloons, which has a hundred landing sites spread throughout the state.

    - Contributed Photo


    Kissimmee-St. Cloud invites the whole family to take to the skies. So doff your pilot's cap and secure your seatbelt.

    - Contributed Photo