TRAVEL & LGBT
Your Gay Disney Vacation Should Include More Than Theme Parks
We wanted to kick our summer off right and couldn’t think of any better way to do that than snow cones, caramel corn, and roller coasters! We partnered with Experience Kissimmee to create the perfect summer kick-off trip. Our goals were to find the perfect balance between the youthful theme park energy and battery recharging relaxation.
Yes, that lesbian Disney trip should be on your itinerary complete with your cute tee and Mickey ears. You know, do it got the gram. However, if you’re spending all your time at the parks you’re just simply missing out.
Transportation in Kissimmee, FL
Kissimmee is located in Central Florida, just 30 minutes from the Orlando airport. With visitors flying in from all over the world year round, Orlando Airport is one of the busiest in the country. That means tons of flight coming in and out every single day and an opportunity to snag a cheap flight.
Once you’re in town you have a couple options for getting around. The right option and then there’s what we did. We decided not to rent a car, to be honest, it wasn’t even a conversation. We are so used to using Uber to get around getting a car of our own hadn’t even crossed our minds. We quickly realized how to spread out things are and that Uber costs were adding up quickly. For reference, we paid about $50 to get from the airport to our hotel and about $8-12 dollars to get into the Disney area. If we could do it over it would be a no-brainer. While it is absolutely possible to get around without one it would be way more convenient and possibly cheaper to just rent a car. Keep in mind, much like the flights the area is used to visitors and you can find some incredible rental car deals.
Where to Stay in Kissimmee
Finding the perfect spot to call home for the week can make or break a vacation. Are you looking for the LGBT family-friendly resort with pools to splash in between days are the theme parks or is a quiet resort with full-service spa more your speed? Either way, you can find it in Kissimmee. Here are a few of our favorite options.
Melia Orlando Suite Hotel at Celebration
We spent 3 nights at the Melia Orlando Suite Hotel and could not have been happier. We were traveling with my Mom and it was really nice that the rooms were divided into two different sleeping areas. The balcony overlooking the gigantic pool was the perfect place to recap the day’s events or sip morning coffee. I even spent an hour out there just listening to the rain.
The one bedroom suite was more than enough room for the three of us to stay comfortably. My Mom slept on the pull out bed and said it was really comfortable. We loved the full kitchen set up and while we ate out most meals my mom noted how nice that would have been to have when traveling with kids. I’ve said it before but eating some meals in is really one of the best budget travel tips I can give.
The location was perfect for us, even without a car. We were under 10 miles from wineries, Walt Disney World, and shopping. Note, they do offer free shuttles to and from the theme parks. Also just a short walk from all kinds of restaurants. As always, I was pumped to get my fill of American food and immediately drug Meg over for a 5 Guys Burger.
Omni Orlando Resort
The Omni Orlando Resort is the type of place you could park your car and stay on the property your whole vacation without getting bored. If you decide to leave, you’ll find the Disney attractions are only a short drive away.
The resort itself has a wave pool, lazy river, and adult-only pools among others to fit the needs of every travel party. The outdoor space went through a recent update and is absolutely stunning.
They also have multiple on-site restaurants for you to choose from. Fun Fact: their Chef just won Top Chef for all the Omni resorts so don’t skip the food. If great food isn’t your thing, does anyone actually feel that way? You might be more interested in the for different golf course options. I’m telling you, you’ll probably have to fight the urge to just stay here your whole trip.
Sorting out accommodations when you’re traveling with a group can be challenging. There’s that balance between wanting to be together “all the time” but needing a little space to call your own. Vacation home rentals are the perfect solution. If you stay in Kissimmee you’ll be able to find properties big enough to fit the whole group. When looking for this type of accommodation I’ve often turned to Airbnb. However, I learned that many of the vacations home rentals come with hotel or resort style amenities. Including everything from breakfast and community pools to help with transportation. It’s possible to find homes as big as 6 bedrooms all the way to 2 bedroom villas.
Things To Do
Take a Kissimmee Airboat Rides
When we lived in the US and had cable I was obsessed with the show Swamp People. I have no idea why because I’ve never hunted or really even fished but that’s beside the point. When we showed up to Boggy Creek Airboats and heard the hum of the engine I was convinced I was about to star in my very own episode!
That’s not exactly how things went but I did love it. The drive took us out into the county down a road lined by cow pastures and weeping willows. We hopped on the boat with 8 other people and went skimming across the water. They do provide headphones for everyone on board but to be honest, it wasn’t as loud as I had expected. The captain did an awesome job of stopping often and pointing out different birds, trees and of course gators. To me, the ride felt much more smooth than a typical boat ride with almost none of the swaying back and forth. If you typically skip boat rides because of getting seasick this might be a good option.
Slow down with Wine Tasting
We spent a rainy afternoon at the Island Grove Wine Company Formosa Gardens sipping sweet wines. Raindrops bigger than my head started to fall and we knew it might be time to find an indoor activity. If you’re making a list of what to do in Kissimmee when it rains this spot ranks high on my list! The property is beautiful and the wines were delicious. We tried five different wines with the blueberry ranking at the top of the list. We sat for a couple hours sipping wine and nibbling on a cheese platter. It was the perfect change of pace for us.
Take a relaxing Kissimmee Spa Day
If Meg alone was in charge of itineraries every trip would include a spa day. If we rebranded to Spa Days Around the World or Dopes at a Spa would you read it? I used to try to get out of it say it wasn’t my thing but I’ve honestly come to love the spa experience. We visited the Mokora Spa at the Omni Hotel for an afternoon massage. Immediately upon entering the spa, I was struck by how amazing it smelled. I don’t even know what the scent was called but I know it’s the kind that makes you breathe a little deeper and feel your whole body slow down. I always have some concerns in gendered spaces but the staff was welcoming and respectful throughout our entire experience.
Check the bucket list with Orlando Hot Air Balloon Rides
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that take a ride in a hot air balloon is a box on a lot of bucket lists. Orlando balloon rides take you over swamps, orange groves and offer birds-eye views of some the most iconic theme parks in the world. Orlando Balloon Rides offers daily sunrise flights each lasting about an hour. Really are there many things more romantic than a hot air balloon!? Pro Tip: scheduling your ride on a weekday saves you $30 per person for the same experience.
Laugh your way through Fun Spot America-Kissimmee
I’m a sucker for amusement park rides and Fun Spot America-Kissimmee had all different kinds. The biggest, tallest, fastest thing you can find, I’ll wait in line for it. My wife, on the other hand, screamed a little on the kiddie coaster. We all have different fears.
I was happy to have my Mom there with us. She’s always been my go-to coaster riding partner. We got there just as a big storm passed and it felt like we had the whole park to yourself.
There is no gate admission fee so it’s a great option if you’re traveling with some non-riders. The $45 price point is also much lower than some other parks in the area.
Enjoy Golfing in Kissimmee
Little known fact, I was on the golf team for two years at a Division II University. They needed more kids to fill the team and a basketball teammate I really looked up to decided to play, so I followed along. No, I’m not great but I won’t completely embarrass myself either. I don’t get to play often because clubs don’t fit in a backpack but it’s something I really miss. The options for good courses in this area are really endless. You pick a course the fits your budget and skill level pretty easily plus the year-round good weather makes it more enjoyable.
Orlando Theme Parks
The Orlando theme parks absolutely deserve their own blog post but I’d be dropping the ball by leaving them out of this guide altogether. Full disclaimer we spent one day hopping between Disney Parks and one day at Universal Studios Orlando. While it was the perfect amount of time at the parks for the US it’s just not enough time to see everything.
Walt Disney World
We had the Disney World park hopper passes ($185) that give you access to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. We decided to visit Hollywood Studios because it’s the one I knew the least about and Epcot because its know for the best food. Getting to and getting between the parks was super simple. Each park has a designated rideshare drop off and pick up location so make note of where got dropped off. There are also free buses that run between the parks all day. There are signs everywhere so finding the correct buses is less overwhelming then you’re probably imagining.
We got to Hollywood Studios as the gates opened and beelined for the Rock n’ Roll Coaster. We practically walked on for a perfect start to the day. From there we walked around counterclockwise and enjoyed sharing stories of all the childhood memories that came flooding back. One thing that we really enjoyed was marking things on the map we wanted to find to take photos of or with. It gave us a loose plan and eliminated the what should we do next moments.
About mid-afternoon, the skies started to turn a distinct stormy grey so we popped in to grab lunch and hopefully wait it out. The pizza was good the waiting out the storm idea wasn’t as good.
At this point, we knew the rain was unavoidable and just embraced it. We hopped the bus to Epcot hoping to squeeze in a couple photos before the storm. We were operating on borrowed time and eventually, the sky opened up on us.
In my opinion, Epcot is the park to be at if it’s raining. We did buy some ponchos ($10) mostly to protect our camera and phones. I love the rain so I was kinda in my glory. Wandering in and out of countries we been looking for favorite foods mostly sharing stories and experience of our travels with my mom. Hands down my favorite stop was Morocco, no surprise here as it’s also high on my list of places I want to visit. The intricate tile work at the entrance made my heart flutter immediately. We ate a couple times as we wandered around with my favorite bite being baklava.
Eventually, we were waterlogged and starting to get cold so we wrapped up the day with a trip with a hot coffee at the Disney Springs Starbucks.
Disney Springs is outdoor shopping, unique restaurants, and performances all in a free of charge strip near the parks. We visited a few times and just enjoyed the energy. The shopping is fantastic, my favorite store will always be Goofy’s Candy Company. While you have to be outside a bit to go from store to store it was another great option for rainy Disney days.
Universal Studios Orlando
This is the perfect merge of Meg and Linds in a theme park! There were tons of fun rides, good snacks and allllll the Harry Potter. We did make a major rookie mistake and got there a bit late in the day assuming the park was open until 10-11:00. To our major surprise, the park was closing early for a special event and our day was cut short by a 6:00 closing time (we learned later that it was due to a special event).
I loved the park and the Express Pass was an absolute game changer! We eliminated so much of the wait time it made the overall experience a million times better. Overall 10/10 would spend the money again because it enhanced the experience that much!
The was my first real experience with simulator rides and I have to say the verdict is still out. While I thought they were fun the more traditional rides still have my heart. Does this mean I’m getting old?
My favorite part of the day was the time we spent doing all the Harry Potter things. I’ve never read the books or even watched any of the movies but the Harry Potter series had a huge impact on Meg’s life. Even though I know given the opportunity she would have swapped me out for her sister, her best friend Julia or her Uncle Mike I enjoyed seeing the excitement in her eyes. Watching her process that first sip of butterbeer and coming to the conclusion that it tastes exactly how she imagined.
My words could never do her experience justice so I’ll link some of hers. Also, if you’re not already following her on IG click follow.
“Butter beer tastes exactly like I imagined it – melted butterscotch topped with whipped cream. When I was young I had a rather shitty home life. There’s really no other way to put it. When I was 8 years old my mother was 24 and diagnosed with brain cancer. Thankfully, my father was not in the picture – that’s a topic for another day though. My point is that there were a few things going on at home and I was a kid that needed a lot of attention – shocking – I know 😂. At that point, my siblings and I lived two blocks away from a public library so we spent a lot of time with librarians acting as free stand in babysitters. The Sorcerers Stone came out during my mother’s second round of radiation – one of the librarians stuck a copy in the arm chair beside me one day. I remember reluctantly checking it out and being completely enthralled by it while I was sitting in the hospital waiting room during one of my mother’s many MRIs. I passed that copy to my younger sister and from that point forward we were both hooked. We read every single book within days of it premiering. To the point that we waited at midnight at our local Barnes and Noble to get our hands on a copy first. Growing up libraries and books and Hogwarts were escapes. They taught me that it’s okay to be a little bit extra – it’s okay to have different values than my peers – and mostly it’s okay to have a personality that was just a little too big for the town you come from. For me, the books of my childhood are some of my only happy memories growing up. Sure, the HP books are fairytales like any other but the idea that so many adults would risk their lives to fight for good and to protect a small orphaned boy was a message that I really needed at that point in my life- which is why I couldn’t wait to see Diagon Alley at @universalOrlando. I felt like I’d spent so much time there that I already knew what butter beer tasted like – I’m happy to report that I was right.
Holler and Dash Biscuit House
We got so lucky that Holler and Dash was practically across the street from our hotel. I honestly can’t believe we only ate here once! The place is adorable and every single plate coming out of the kitchen looked good. There are so many good options I’m looking at the menu to write this and thinking why didn’t you try this and that and some of these. What I did have was a Chicken Holler, fried chicken, pickles, and cheddar on the most glorious biscuit with a side of tots ($8). Meg was equally as excited about her Pork Rambler, fried pork tenderloin, blackberry butter and fried onion straws on a biscuit ($8.50).
A really good American style breakfast is something that we often miss when were traveling internationally. Breakfast is Meg’s ultimate comfort food. Woodsby’s Cafe serves all the breakfast favorites we crave. I always tell people if you’re looking to save money while on a trip eat a big breakfast out rather than lunch. This especially holds true before you head into the notoriously expensive to eat theme parks. Eat your fill of biscuits and gravy or 3 pancakes for $5. They are open all day but the breakfast menu is what caught our eye.
Celebration Tea Room
The Celebration Tea Room is a-freaking-dorable! We walked passed it a couple times and almost didn’t notice it, I’m adding it here so you know to keep your eye out. They are open from 11:00-5:00 making it the perfect place to grab lunch or of course high tea. We sat in the colorfully decorated Wonderland Themed room. The walls were painted in beautiful murals and colorful lanterns hung from the ceiling. The tea menu is, of course, extensive and all teas can be served hot or cold. I selected a cold raspberry green tea that I absolutely loved. We shared a cheese plate ($7) if you want the full high tea experience it starts at $17.95.
Rosie’s Smokin’ Hot BBQ
Like all good BBQ joints, the smells of Rosie’s Smokin Hot BBQ greet you well before you’ll make it in the door. The prices are very reasonable and the portion sizes are great. The menu includes all traditional meat options like brisket, ribs and pulled pork plus sides like mac n cheese. I was most excited to see you could also get the meat in a burrito or on top of a salad. They do have lunch specials but go prepared to eat because it’s not a small meal.
The Edison is a steampunk themed restaurant located in Disney Springs. Space is large and open giving you a bit more of an intimate dining experience. We got there about 8 and it was obvious the crowd leaned more towards an adult crowd. The menu is super fun and the portions are generous. Meg and I had a heated debate over what appetizer to order, ultimately the Dancin’ Corn Dogs ($13) won over the DB ‘Clothesline Candied Bacon’ ($15). Obviously, there was no real loser in this debate. For our mains, I went with The Edison Burger ($22) and Meg had Organic Tomato Soup and Gooey Grilled Cheese ($20) both delicious. What really sets the Edison is they pride themselves on providing a great bar, live entertainment, and cocktails. Come in for dinner but absolutely plan to stay for drinks. The live entertainment starts at 9:30 we had an 8:30 dinner reservation and the timing worked perfectly.
Merida, the region of Mexico that we call home is located in the Yucatan. The Yucatecan and Mayan food of the region is distinctly different from what you’ll find in northern Mexico and many regions of the US. Long story short even though we call Mexico home I crave burritos and enchiladas like nobody’s business. The brightly colored Antojitos caught my eye walking into Universal Studios and when we left I knew right where to go for dinner. The restaurant is huge and you can tell in peak season it’s probably packed. Luck for us we caught it at the right time and were seated quickly. The interior is really cool with large murals on the walls and neon lights on the ceiling. We ate way too much of the complimentary chips and salsa before digging into our main dishes. Both Meg and my mom enjoyed the Chimichanga ($15.95) it was so big they easily could have split it. I had an equally large burrito but I finished it and regret has never tasted so good.
Gay Orlando Events
The events list for this area is long and heavily stacked for the first weekend of June. While there is plenty to do year round if you are looking to be surrounded by the community the beginning of June is the absolute best time to go. Every year thousands of LGBTQ people from all over the world head to Orlando for One Magical Weekend, Girls in Wonderland and Gay Days.
One Magical Weekend
This year One Magical Weekend is hosted by the magical boutique hotel B Resort & Spa. This is their 28th year of bringing all the LGBTQIA loves to the world-class Disney Resorts. The days and nights are absolutely jam-packed with events. Spend the weekend celebrating Pride in the most Magical Place on Earth.
Girls in Wonderland
Earlier this year Meg put together a list of the Best Lesbian Parties and Festivals and Girls in Wonderland was right near the top where they belong. The Grand Orlando Resort at Celebration located in Kissimmee is serving as your lesbian Disney weekend host. This party was created decades ago so the women of gay Disney weekend had a place to call their own.
Gay Days is also a gay Disney event that falls on the first weekend of June this year but make note in 2019 they are switching things up to August 13-19th. The DoubleTree Orlando – SeaWorld is the host hotel for the weekend with the parties happening around the pool. You’ll find pool parties, drag bingo and Disney park days along with the Gay Days Expo with over a 100 LGBT vendors showcasing their goods and services.
On June 9th at Lakefront Park in Kissimmee, you can attend this years PrideFest. This is the second year this family-friendly event is taking place with last years attendance topping 2,500 people. You can expect to find food trucks, live music and a whole lot of positive vibes.
MLS and NWSL Pride Night
Both the MLS’s Orlando City (June 23rd) and the NWSL’s Orlando Pride (June 16th) will be hosting pride nights this summer. Here’s why this is really important, Ashlyn Harris is the goalkeeper for the Pride and if we’re being honest she’s probably the current queen of lesbians.
For many LGBTQ people destinations marked as family-friendly are often the spaces that we feel most unwelcome. The reality is that many straight and cisgender people still feel that it’s uncomfortable or inappropriate for children and queer couples to share a space. Those unfair feelings are almost always intensified when trans and gender nonconforming people are involved. This is even more problematic as the numbers of lesbian families and LGBT parents are drastically increasing.
There is an intense need for LGBT friendly and family friendly not to be mutually exclusive. To be honest, we heard great things but just weren’t completely sure what to expect. As a couple without kids, we simply haven’t spent much time at resorts and hotels built with children in mind. We do however know that is changing, we have a niece on the way and I can almost guarantee her passport will be part of her first birthday gift. We’re going all in on this new aunt gig so this was something we talked about quite a bit.
While in the area, we noticed more than a handful of wandering eyes but as always it’s hard to tell the intent of the stares. We were however made to feel welcome by all the hotel, restaurant and activities staff we crossed paths with. There is only so much a venue or destination can do about the other guests’ microaggressions. We found both Disney and Universal Studios to both be very LGBT friendly. They both have easy to find gender neutral bathroom options and staff seemed to be trained to refrain from addressing people as ma’am or sir. We had a really great time and I think it’s safe to say once our niece is old enough to walk we’ll be back.
This post was made possible by the assistance of Experience Kissimmee. As always all opinions are completely my own.