OSCEOLA COUNTY STADIUM
If You Go ...
You would be well-advised to spend some time in a Disney theme park while visiting -- they are truly amazing experiences. I first visited Disney World four years ago, and to be honest I didn't know what to expect, but I ended up having a great time. This certainly isn't the most original advise or a secret to most of you -- after all, Disney World is one of the most popular places on the planet -- but the parks are worth the steep admission prices. The same thing goes for Sea World and Universal.
If you want the Disney experience without the high admission prices, head over to Downtown Disney. Yes, the world's largest Disney-merchandise store is here, but other hip stores makes up for it. There are also some good restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck's (go for the meatloaf), House of Blues, and Bongos Cuban Cafe. Pleasure Island is an adults-only area that feature eight clubs with a wide variety of offerings, including dance clubs, comedy clubs, and bars. Wandering around Downtown Disney is free; there's a cover charge for Pleasure Island.
Spring-training venues that are within easy driving distance of Kissimmee include Orlando's Cracker Jack Stadium (Atlanta Braves), Lakeland (Detroit Tigers) and Tampa (New York Yankees). A further trip, but still doable, could involve Clearwater (Philadelphia Phillies), Bradenton (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Dunedin (Toronto Blue Jays)
Where to Stay: There are a ton of hotels in Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista, and St. Cloud. You can stay somewhere in Disney World, such as one of the hotels along World Center Drive that are run by outside vendors and include such names as Hilton, Doubletree, Sheraton and Best Western. I've stayed at the Doubletree on World Center Drive and can recommend it. You'll rarely spend more than $200 a night on World Center Drive, with most of the rates at the $120-$150 range.
The prices go down even more once you leave the Disney World grounds. The Orlando and Kissimmee areas around Disney World features a slew of decent hotel with room rates under $100, with family suites at a hotel like the Clarion Suites running $130 or so a night. You may also want to check out resorts from the likes of Radisson and Hyatt. Virtually every brand-name hotel is represented between Sea World and Disney World.
There's another cluster of hotels around International Drive, north of Disney World. Can't say I can recommend these hotels: they tend to be on the cheaper side and should be considered only if you can't afford to spend more than $30 a night on a hotel room.
Finally, you may want to consider staying in Celebration, a Disney-planned community southeast of Disney World. I'm not going to get into the politics of Celebration (let's just say Disney has exerted a level of control over Celebration that has been dissected elsewhere), but I must admit that Celebration is an attractive community. The Celebration Hotel (700 Bloom St., Celebration) is located at the end of Celebration's main street and overlooks a small lake. It's decorated in a Florida plantation style; worth a look. And it's fairly close to Kissimmee, spring-training home of the Houston Astros.
Flying In: The closest airport is Orlando International Airport in the south-center of the city. While it's a bigger airport, it's fairly easy to make your way around, as a tram brings you from the gates to the central terminal. Just be warned that it's quite a hike from the gates to the terminals even with the tram.
You may also want to consider flying into Tampa and then driving to Orlando if the fare to Tampa is significantly cheaper. The drive is 79 miles and takes an hour and a half on I-4 -- which is not the best freeway in the world -- but if you can save $100 or so on your air fares, the drive will be worth it.