Although the Magic Kingdom is right at your doorstep, the sights and sounds of Disney World aren’t the only things that make Kissimmee, FL an enchanting place. With the world’s most visited attraction just ten minutes away, kids are sure to love it. Locals will tell you there is plenty for adults to do too – and that often includes the theme parks – nothing like seeing fat Uncle Jerry with an ear to ear grin, a smoked turkey leg, and a mouse ear beanie.
Within the city though, residents have their own version of “Main Street U.S.A.” with tons of restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, bookstores, and bistros. Outside town, they’ll find an “Adventureland” full of hiking, kayaking, camping and water sports. Beyond that, there is a large concert arena, a professional sports stadium, and a shopping complex called “The Loop.” The city of 60,000 has a unique historic district downtown and is home to Florida Christian College. In all, Kissimmee is a friendly place with upbeat neighbors and a sunny Florida vibe. If you’re thinking about making your Kissimmee your next “Frontierland,” we can help you find the perfect place to live.
Kissimmee, Florida, located right on Lake Okeechobee, was once a booming steamboat town and home to the largest single landowner in the country. Here, a number of wealthy elites made money in the late 19th Century after a Philadelphia entrepreneur agreed to drain Florida’s southern lands in exchange for half the land ownership. Unfortunately, railroads came along a few years later and wiped out the steamboat industry, turning Kissimmee’s economy to cattle. For much of the next century it was economically depressed until Walt Disney picked the area in 1970s for the home of Disney World. With that came a deluge of tourism dollars and the city, and surroundings, magically transformed.
Today, tourists descend to the area, dotting all the main drags with T-shirt shops, themed boutiques, and souvenir stores. The good part of all of this is it has given the region— which otherwise relies mostly on cattle and citrus— an incredibly stable source of income. The downside is that with that tourism money has come higher prices for locals, as well as petty crime and bad traffic. The weather is always warm and sunny which many love but others find challenging without longer, distinct seasons. In the summer the heat can be stifling so access to pools and reliable air conditioning (Florida landlords must, by statute, provide AC – reexamine the keyword - reliable) are wise things to consider when looking for an apartment.
Unique to Kissimmee (and lots of Florida, for that matter) is that zoning laws are not as explicit as in many other places. There is no stringent segregation of commercial and residential zones and development is often mixed. Likewise, housing regulations such as story-size and style are very loose. You might find a beautiful, three-story home alongside something much different. Rental houses may be mixed with office spaces and commercial shopping. For this reason, it is especially important to do your research and visit in person, if possible.
Another aspect to consider is how traffic impacts your neighborhood. You will want to know where you will be working and where you will be spending your time before committing to a long lease (most places require at least a year – with sweet-spot leases including specials occurring with 13/14 month terms). The city is now sprawling and it will help to know which roads you'll have to travel on the reg when deciding on a location (traffic can also be seasonal with tourist migratory patterns). Taking a tour of the city for yourself will give you a better idea of what neighborhoods look like and which ones fit your tastes and needs best.
The West End of town is the touristy part of the city where all the shops and boutiques aimed at vacationers are centered. It’s en route to Disney World, Sea World, and all the other attractions. The drawback is traffic is even more brutal in this part of town. The plus side is many of the city’s nicest rentals are over here. Prices are higher but many argue the amenities are well worth it. Construction is new, the area is fairly safe and the schools are decent. More than half of the rentals on this side of town are short-term vacation homes but the remaining 40 percent go to full-time residents and with not too much work you should be able to find something. If you are in the market for large, modern apartment complexes or well-kept rental homes you will find a good selection here.
This part of town also has very nice sections though it is mixed with shabbier areas too. Some of the nicest homes in Kissimmee, for example, are near Neptune Road and Lakefront Park. Yet if you move farther north, MacLaren Circle is one of the worst parts of town with rundown units and high crime. To this end, it will be worth your time to do some research (though in general, sticking closer to the lake will yield nicer units). Like the West end, you won’t find many small apartment complexes— most are larger developments. There are also condominiums, townhouses and rental homes. Prices will be higher but the schools are good, shopping is close by and you won’t find as many tourists.
As you get farther east toward St. Cloud and the beaches, you find more retired folks and senior citizens. This means the schools aren’t very good over here so it’s not recommended for people with children. Closer-in on the East Side, the area is mixed. There are lovely places in east Kissimmee with new developments, as well as some more rundown structures. Drive around or talk to an area expert.
Like most of Kissimmee, this portion of the city has a mix of old and new development. Accordingly, you will find a mixture of prices, quality and styles. There are bigger homes with yards and garages. There are also tiny apartment complexes with few amenities. As you get farther south toward Ponciana, you get into the more Hispanic part of town. Prices here are even more affordable and crime isn’t bad. In fact, Ponciana rates better statistically on crime than many other parts of Kissimmee and has some extra vibrancy and nightlife options. For folks seeking cheaper rent, this could be a great option.
Transportation is not Kissimmee’s strongest draw. In fact, it is possibly its biggest deterrent. One woman at the Chamber of Commerce described the traffic situation as “horrendous," noting heavy congestion at rush hour and traffic jams throughout the day. There isn’t a “busy” time, she said, because it is “always busy.”
Others talked about how nightmarish it is to navigate even the smaller side streets, and constant construction plaguing the city. There are some public buses, but they do not keep a schedule envied by the Swiss. Bike lanes are few and far between— though there are some in certain parts of town—and pedestrian routes are not comprehensive. There are taxi cabs services but you will have to contend with the rest of traffic there. Kissimmee is a great place to live but if you move this way, be prepared to deal with this issue. One shining mouse-shaped beacon? Public works officials are currently in the process of building a commuter railroad that will pass through Kissimmee down to Ponciana. When complete, this should alleviate some of the rush hour congestion, around the year 2,315. Until then, enjoy Space Mountain if you desire to move about quickly.