Lake Buena Vista or Kissimmee – Which is Better?

As you begin to plan your trip to Orlando you’ll likely come across accommodation options in both Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee. While there are just 12 miles between these two cities, the one you choose will greatly impact the type of vacation you have and the amount of time you spend travelling to and from your accommodation to nearby tourist attractions.

Having visited Orlando more than ten times in the past decade, we recommend staying in Lake Buena Vista if you plan to spend the majority of your time at Walt Disney World or Kissimmee if you’re on a budget and want a more diverse range of accommodation options and nearby things to do.

The major problem with staying at Lake Buena Vista is that the city is actually owned and operated by Walt Disney World and is only home to an estimated ten permanent residents. As such, the majority of the accommodation here is on-site at the Walt Disney World Resort or a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel.

In contrast, Kissimmee is a significantly larger city and isn’t part of the Disney ecosystem. Subsequently, you’ll find a broader range of accommodation options, restaurants, stores and entertainment options here that are typically better suited to those on a budget, or those who don’t want to spend their entire vacation staring at Mickey Mouse.

Location

Lake Buena Vista is located just off the I-4 and is home to Disney Springs, Typhoon Lagoon, several Walt Disney World hotels and a number of Disney Good Neighbor Hotels. While Lake Buena Vista is owned and operated by Walt Disney World, the resort’s theme parks are actually located in the adjacent Bay Lake.

However, given the consistent Disney theming along the roads here, you’d be forgiven for assuming that they are very much the same place. The distance from Lake Buena Vista to nearby attractions and facilities is;

  • Magic Kingdom Ticket & Transportation Center: 5.2 miles
  • EPCOT: 2.9 miles
  • Animal Kingdom: 6.7 miles
  • Hollywood Studios: 4.9 miles
  • Universal Orlando: 11.6 miles
  • Orlando International Airport: 20.3 miles
  • Sanford International Airport: 45.3 miles
  • Nearest Target: 6.6 miles (Flamingo Crossings)
  • Nearest Walmart: 6.3 miles (N Old Lake Wilson Rd)

Keep in mind that while Lake Buena Vista is relatively small, the exact distance to any of the attractions and facilities above will vary depending on exactly where in the city you are staying or travelling from.

Given the distance between the four Walt Disney World theme parks and Lake Buena Vista, it’s easy to see why I recommend staying here if you’re planning to spend the majority of your vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The city of Kissimmee is located southeast of Lake Buena Vista and is connected to Orange County by the 192 and the S John Young Pkwy. Being a larger city you’ll find more accommodation options, stores and restaurants here and although limited there is some public transport and walking paths.

However, given the distance between Kissimmee and the major theme parks, you’re going to need a hire car or several Lyfts and Ubers when staying here. The distance from Kissimmee to nearby attractions and facilities is;

  • Magic Kingdom Ticket & Transportation Center: 17.7 miles
  • EPCOT: 13.5 miles
  • Animal Kingdom: 16.4 miles
  • Hollywood Studios: 13.8 miles
  • Universal Orlando: 17.6 miles
  • Orlando International Airport: 18.4 miles
  • Sanford International Airport: 49.6 miles
  • Nearest Target: 6.5 miles (W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy)
  • Nearest Walmart: 4.1 miles (W Vine St)

Keep in mind that the exact distance to any of the attractions and facilities above will vary depending on exactly where in Kissimmee you are staying or travelling from.

While the roughly 17-mile distance from Kissimmee to Orlando’s major theme parks doesn’t seem like much, the daily commute of around 40 minutes each way can add stress to what should be a fun and relaxing vacation.

These longer journeys will require you to either rent a car or take an Uber around Orlando.

Therefore while accommodation is typically better value for money in Kissimmee when compared to Lake Buena Vista the added cost of car rental, gas and parking at both your accommodation and at the theme parks can make the difference between the two far smaller.

As such if you do decide to stay in Kissimmee then you’ll want to research the cost of rental cars, gas and parking at Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World and any other attractions you plan to visit during your trip and add that cost to your budget for Orlando spending money.

For a long time, I found driving in Orlando (and the US generally) too scary and stressful. Subsequently, we travelled around Orlando in either an Uber or a Lyft.

Depending on several factors including; the number of people you’re travelling with and how many days you plan to visit the theme parks, ride-share services can work out cheaper than renting a car.

Accommodation

There are just a handful of accommodation options at Lake Buena Vista. All of which are either Walt Disney World owned and operated or Disney Good Neighbour Hotels.

The Walt Disney World on-site hotels include Old Key West, Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans which are typically DVC properties and therefore well suited to those looking for a Disney suite suitable for large families.

However, these hotels also come at a higher price point when compared to the nearby Disney Good Neighbour Hotels. These hotels have a free shuttle to the Walt Disney World theme parks and typically come with many of the similar perks you’d get when staying in a Disney property.

best hotel in lake buena vista

Hilton Orlando
Buena Vista Palace

This official Walt Disney World four-star hotel is just a five-minute walk from Disney Springs and has a pool area complete with a lazy river and cabanas.

If you’re not planning on visiting Walt Disney World during your trip or if the Walt Disney World theme parks don’t make up a large portion of your vacation then I would not recommend staying in Lake Buena Vista.

In my opinion, you pay a premium for staying in Lake Buena Vista given how close you are to the Walt Disney World Resort. Therefore if that’s a perk you don’t need, you’re going to find better value-for-money hotels in Kissimmee.

If you do choose to stay in Lake Buena Vista and the Walt Disney World Resort makes up the vast majority of your vacation then I would not recommend getting a hire car unless you plan to take a day trip to the likes of Kennedy Space Center or one of the beaches near Orlando.

Even then, I’d only recommend hiring the car for a day or two and using Uber and Lyft should you want to go to any of the nearby shopping malls, stores or the likes of Universal Orlando and SeaWorld as it will likely work out significantly cheaper.

It’s not necessarily the cost of the hire car that’s expensive, but more the cost of parking at both your hotel and the theme park / attraction.

With an estimated 120 hotels and 50,000 vacation rentals, you’ll find the accommodation you need in Kissimmee. Home to some of the most kid-friendly hotels in Orlando, there’s everything from budget motels to five-star luxury resorts available here.

In fact, with so many fantastic options to choose from it can feel somewhat overwhelming to find the right hotel in Kissimmee. To combat this I recommend filtering your search by price point or amenities.

best hotel in Kissimmee

Reunion Resort & Golf Club

The three-star Reunion Resort & Golf Club boasts a whopping 11 outdoor swimming pools, a children’s water park and 3 on-site golf courses.

For example, you may want to stay in a hotel that offers a shuttle to Universal Orlando, a hotel that has two-bedroom suites for extra space or even one of the few hotels in Orlando with a lazy river.

When it comes to filtering your options by price it’s important to remember that there could potentially be value in selected amenities. For example, many hotels have a free breakfast and shuttle to Walt Disney World.

Even if you grab breakfast at one of the cheap restaurants in Orlando, you’re still going to be looking at around $10 per person. This means if you’re a family of four, spending anything less than an extra $40 a night on a hotel with a free breakfast is going to save you money in the long run.

The same goes for hotels that offer a free shuttle to Universal and Walt Disney World, if that means you don’t have to spend money getting a hire car or an Uber then it’s worth an extra $25 – $40 a night at least since you’d be easily spending that otherwise.

Ultimately, if you’re travelling to Orlando on a very tight budget you’re going to find the best cheap hotels close to Disney World and the other nearby theme parks in Kissimmee.

Things To Do

Aside from hotels, the vast majority of Lake Buena Vista is Disney Springs, a free-to-enter entertainment district that features a range of stores, and attractions and is home to some of the best places to eat in Orlando for families.

We typically visit Disney Springs as a family on an evening, as it’s a great place to relax and explore. However, you can also find plenty of indoor things to do here on a rainy day if you’re looking to keep the kids entertained.

Some of our favourite things to do at Disney Springs include;

  • Bowling at Splitsville
  • Tasting flavours of the world at the Coca-Cola Store
  • Building models at the Lego Store
  • Watching a film at the AMC cinema

A couple of miles north of Lake Buena Vista you’ll find the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, which are perfect for picking up discounted souvenirs and clothing. Meanwhile, just south of Lake Buena Vista, you’ll find Celebration, a master-planned community and census-designated place that was originally developed by The Walt Disney Company.

Much like accommodation, the cost of dining and activities in Lake Buena Vista is higher. As such if you’re looking for budget-friendly things to do in Orlando, you’re more likely to find them in Kissimmee.

Given that Kissimmee is a larger area and doesn’t have to meet the high Disney standards you’ll find a number of familiar fast-food chains and restaurants here that make dining out more affordable. These include;

  • Dennys
  • Waffle House
  • IHOP
  • Chick-fil-A
  • McDonald’s
  • Red Lobster

Kissimmee is also home to several of the best attractions in Orlando for adults and families alike including;

Meanwhile, nearby you’ll also find the Kissimmee Old Town which hosts free weekly car shows and the Kissimmee branch of Fun Spot America, a small amusement park.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have you still got questions about whether Kissimmee or Lake Buena Vista is right for you? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions first-time visitors have.

How Far Is Lake Buena Vista From Kissimmee?

There are 12 miles between Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee with a car journey between the two locations typically taking between 20 and 40 minutes depending on traffic.

How To Travel From Kissimmee To Lake Buena Vista

The best way to travel from Lake Buena Vista to Kissimmee is in a car or using a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft with the journey typically taking between 20 and 40 minutes depending on traffic.

Public transport between Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee is available, but is incredibly limited and requires at least one change and a total journey time of between 80 and 120 minutes.

How Far Is Lake Buena Vista From Disney World?

Lake Buena Vista is Disney World. Despite visitors and locals alike using Orlando when referencing Walt Disney World, the resort is actually situated across Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake.

Subsequently, the distance from Lake Buena Vista to the four Walt Disney World theme parks is;

  • Magic Kingdom Ticket & Transportation Center: 5.2 miles
  • EPCOT: 2.9 miles
  • Animal Kingdom: 6.7 miles
  • Hollywood Studios: 4.9 miles

How Far Is Kissimmee From Disney World

The city of Kissimmee is located 13 miles from Walt Disney World. Although given the size of both Kissimmee and the Walt Disney World Resort, the distance could be as high as 20 miles.

Is Disney In Orlando or Kissimmee?

Despite many visitors (myself included) referencing Orlando when talking about Walt Disney World, the resort is actually situated across Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake. Subsequently, the distance from Orlando to Walt Disney World is around 15 miles and the distance from Kissimmee to Walt Disney World is around 13 miles.

How Far Is Lake Buena Vista From Orlando?

Lake Buena Vista is located 18 miles south of Orlando, with the majority of the journey typically taking place on the I-4.

What’s The Closest Beach To Kissimmee?

The closest beach to Kissimmee is Cocoa Beach which is located 65 miles away and takes roughly 80 minutes in the car. If you don’t have a hire car but would still like to visit Cocoa Beach then I recommend booking this day trip which comes with transfers and optional extras.

What’s The Closest Beach To Lake Buena Vista?

The closest beach to Lake Buena Vista is also Cocoa Beach which is located 70 miles away and takes roughly 90 minutes in the car. If you don’t have a hire car but would still like to visit Cocoa Beach then I recommend booking this day trip which comes with transfers and optional extras.

Orlando Travel Planning Guide

๐Ÿฅ Should I Buy Travel Insurance for a Trip to Orlando?

If you’re travelling to Orlando for vacation, then travel insurance is recommended. Basic travel insurance coverage with Safety Wing averages between $5 – $10 per day and offers peace of mind.

However, if a trip to Orlando isn’t part of a vacation. For example, you live locally. Then travel insurance isn’t likely to be necessary.

๐Ÿš˜ Do I Need to Rent a Car for a Trip to Orlando?

You don’t need to rent a car for a trip to Orlando (you can use rideshare services instead). However, a hire car will make your trip to Orlando significantly more convenient.

I personally use Discover Cars to find the best car rental deals when visiting Orlando. Discover Cars allows you to compare different companies and cars to find the best prices.

๐Ÿจ Where to Stay in Orlando?

Deciding where to stay in Orlando can be incredibly overwhelming. Having visited Orlando several times over the past decade, I’m going to try and make it as simple as possible.

When booking accommodation in Orlando, I use either Booking.com or Hotels.com. However, for large families and groups, VRBO is my number one choice.

๐ŸŽŸ๏ธ Where To Buy Orlando Theme Park Tickets?

If you are visiting a theme park in Orlando, then you’ll need to purchase theme park tickets. If you’re based in the US or Canada, I recommend Klook for your Orlando theme park tickets.

Klook consistently has the most competitive prices. There’s also a range of different ticket options to suit all budgets and requirements.

Meanwhile, if you’re based in the United Kingdom. Then I recommend buying your Orlando theme park tickets from AttractionTix.

I personally use AttractionTix when purchasing theme park tickets. Thatโ€™s because AttractionTix has the most competitive prices and incredible customer service.

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