The Absolute Best Day Trips From Orlando
There are tons of things to do in Orlando that don't involve theme parks. (LINK) But if you are in Florida, you owe it to yourself to explore some of the magic that exists outside of Orlando. Gorgeous beaches sit just a short drive away to the east or the west coast of the state. Kennedy Space Center provides a deep dive into the space program that will change the way you view it forever. Cities such as Daytona Beach offer a look at race car history and an epic beach. Nature lovers will enjoy the thrill of the wildlife, flora, and fauna that are waiting an hour or two drive. Explore the world-famous Everglades by airboat, explore beautiful Bok Tower Gardens or canoe the Crystal River.
Florida is a large state. While Orlando, Walt Disney World, and the other theme parks like Universal Studios and the many attractions, great shopping, and dining can keep any family busy and engaged for weeks, there is so much more of Florida to explore. Why not take a break from the crowds (and the pricey admissions) and get out and explore more of Florida.
The biggest question is, where do you start? Here is our guide to some of our favorite day trip destinations, and they barely scratch the surface. The day trips you choose will depend upon your likes - but you are sure to find something for everyone from the beach babies to culture and history enthusiasts, athletes, and outdoorsmen to the world-class shoppers and people watcher. Florida has it all.
- Where can you drive to from Orlando, Florida?
Orlando, Florida, enjoys a superb central Florida location which means it's super simple to explore either the Florida coast, the Everglades, or many natural parks and historic sites. We'll stick to shorter trips that can be completed in one day with just a few hours of drive time for our guide. You'll want to have a rental care, at least for the is the portion of your Orlando vacation, although you may be able to do without it for the Orlando leg of your stay since the theme parks provide easy transportation and there is, of course, Uber. Some of our best day trips from Orlando follow.
Daytona Beach - What's a trip to Florida without putting your toes in the sand on a Florida beach? In just one hour by car, you can be in Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach has replaced Ft. Lauderdale as the home of "spring break" and is an excellent spot if you're in search of white sandy beaches. You can have the whole beach experience by driving down to the beach- one of the few places this is allowed. Lunch from the car and haul out the boogie boards or surfboards. With planning, you can arrange a manatee or dolphin watching excursion, then stroll the Ocean Walk Shoppes and enjoy the coastal views. Get ready for the complete beach town vibe. By the way, if the beach is not your thing, check out the Daytona Speedway, the sire of the annual NASCAR Daytona 500. This is one of the best day trips from Orlando,
Cocoa Beach - Calling all surfers or wanna-be surfers. Take a day trip to Cocoa Beach and visit the world's largest surf shop, the iconic Ron Jon's Surf Shop. With over 50,000 square feet, they have all things surfing and surfing life. You can rent bikes, or even take a surf lesson. The beach is clean, the water is warm, and the sunsets are amazing. Cocoa Beach has a nice little area with eclectic dining and drinking venues and manages not to feel too crowded. This is a great beach town getaway.
Kennedy Space Center - Less than an hour from Orlando sits Kennedy Space Center. This is the hub of our space launches. You'll meet real astronauts, get close to retired space shuttles, see the launch pad, and experience what weightlessness and space travel is. You may even get time after exploring Kennedy Space Center to drop down to Cocoa Beach for dinner on the beach before you head back to Orlando.
Clearwater Beach - Almost two hours away is Clearwater Beach. On the west coast of Florida and sitting on the Gulf of Mexico, this is one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast. With white sand beaches and stunning vistas, the beach is the main attraction. Take time while in Clearwater Beach to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to learn about the local sea life or have a cold one at Big Storm Brewing Company.
St. Petersburg Beach - Add some culture to that sand. Sitting 107 miles from Orlando, St. Petersburg has stunning beaches, with the bonus of lots of history. Enjoy historic hotels, museums, and a diverse and vibrant community. See the epic melting clock at the Salvador Dali Museum, which has one of the world's largest collections. Art fans will love the Museum of Fine Arts, and a drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is mandatory! Visit the historical and lavish pink Don Cesar hotel for a glimpse of the old world. St. Petersburg will not disappoint any visitor. For a beach bum or history buff, this is one of the best day trips from Orlando.
St. Augustine - At close to two hours, St. Augustine is a longer ride but undoubtedly worth it. St. Augustine, steeped in history, is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is packed with history. Take a ghost tour or trolley ride around the city to learn about the town's highlights and its founders. Visit the famous St. Augustine History Museum Castillo de San Marcos, or explore the former home of railroad and hotel tycoon Henry Flagler, which now serves as a local college. Visit the fountain of youth (no guarantees!) and stroll the cobblestone streets, or pop into one of the hip breweries or eateries for a real treat. Don't miss The Ancient Olive, where you'll find vats and vats of every kind of olive oil and balsamic you can dream up. Another of the best day trips from Orlando.
Blue Spring State Park - If you're ready for some outdoor activity that does not involve the beach, this park sits just 40 minutes from Orlando. It's a little different than many of the other parks in that it often has manatees. The manatees migrate to Blue Springs State Park in the winter from mid-November to mid-March when the water is warm enough for them. The water is spring water and so crystal clear, and in the summer months, you can swim or snorkel. Canoe and Kayak rentals are available in the winter for guided tours past manatees, ospreys, and alligators.
Alexander Springs Recreation Area - If you still want to take a swim in Florida spring water, this is the place. Alexander Springs is a paradise just 57 miles from Orlando and is in the Ocala National Forest. The gently sloped spring and warm water make for excellent family swimming. You can picnic or canoe. Spring is the best time to visit Alexander Springs to avoid crowds, who will be primarily Floridians, by the way. Ocala National Forest has 607 square miles and 600 lakes, campgrounds, hiking, and plenty of animals if you want to go further into the outdoors.
Mount Dora - Mount Dora is just 31 miles from Orlando and is an excellent getaway for antique shopping, strolling quaint streets, and visiting unique museums.
Bok Tower - Bok tower located in Lake Wales, Florida, is a 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary on Iron Mountain, one of Florida's highest points. It's a hidden gem offering peaceful gardens. The highlight is the "singing tower" carillon, and to add some weirdness, visit Spook Hill when you appear to roll uphill. This is located about one hour drive from Orlando and a welcome respite from the crowds and parks.
Legoland Florida - One of the best day trips for a family with little ones is LEGOLand. It is about one hour from Orlando in a lovely town called Winter Haven. Everything is LEGO-themed, from the water ski show to the dining, the rollercoasters, the hotel, and even the entertainment. Enjoy the park, with roller coasters and rides, Star Wars memorabilia, and LEGOLAND Waterpark. Your LEGO fans will love it!
Cassadaga - Calling all believers! Florida is known for being quirky. Did you know Cassadaga, Florida, is known as the psychic capital of the world? It is packed with psychics and mediums and offers up a different kind of "magic." The drive time of just over an hour from Orlando. They offer workshops where you can channel the unknown or schedule a private reading from one of the many resident psychics and mediums. You won't get this in Orlando!
The Best Day Trips from Orlando are Easy To Find
It's clear that armed with a tank of gas and a spirit of exploration, you can make a day trip to just about any kind of Florida experience you can imagine. The best thing about Orlando (other than Orlando) is its Central Florida location that puts history, museums, beaches, attractions, and fabulous destinations all just an hour's drive away. Visit Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, or one of the fantastic Gulf Coast Beaches like Clearwater Beach or St Petersburg Beach. You'll find an unexpected attraction, loads of history, and an unforgettable experience wherever your venture out from Orlando, Florida. Try to keep the trip within 100 miles, which should be easy. Pack up the right clothes for what you may come up against. Planning is excellent, but spontaneity is everything. And when you are in the sunshine state, anything can happen from rain showers to unexpected rainbows, inviting surf, or discovering a hidden gem. For more ideas check in with the Orlando Visitor Center