The Villages in central Florida is the fastest growing community in the United States.
Every year the population expands exponentially.
Why? Because The Villages is situated in one of the best locations in Florida – within easy reach of Orlando, Tampa, Gainesville, Jacksonville, and not so far from the southeastern cities of Fort Myers and Venice.
The subtropical Florida weather makes this a favorite destination to visit and retire to, and despite being a new community, people just keep moving here.
While there’s not a whole lot to do in The Villages Fl themselves – except relax and watch the world go by – that’s exactly how the people living here want it to be.
But in the surrounding area and within a few hours’ drive in every direction, there’s always something exciting or interesting to visit and discover.
Here are the best day trips from The Villages:
1. The Lakes
The Villages is almost completely surrounded by lush, freshwater lakes.
Whichever road you take out of town, you’ll find yourself cruising past a lake or river.
Within this central area of Florida, there are literally hundreds of different lakes to explore – many of them are recreational zones and protected areas, where you can walk, hike, fish, or take to the water on canoes or kayaks.
The closest is Lake Sumter – just a few miles outside of town and surrounded on one side by Lake Sumter Landing, where you can eat, shop and enjoy the still waters that lie ahead of you.
Lake Miona Park is another beautiful spot nearby, where it’s easy to spend the day strolling around the edge or fishing in the reeds.
2. Cape Canaveral
On the east coast of Florida, about 100 miles away, is the iconic Cape Canaveral.
This is the famous home of NASA, where many rockets and satellites have been launched into space over the years.
If you are lucky or plan well ahead of time, you can arrange to see a launch, although these are, of course, quite rare.
It’s possible to visit the Kennedy Space Centre though, where in past years, space shuttles were launched into space – and other craft carrying human astronauts too.
The Kennedy Space Center has a visitor’s center which can be visited throughout the year.
It’s an interesting look at the history of NASA and the technology which allowed them to launch satellites and people into orbit and space.
3. Ocala National Forest
The Ocala National Forest is one of the best outdoor areas in the region.
It’s found just northeast of The Villages and is an incredibly diverse forest to explore.
There are huge tracts of pine trees, while within the protected area are enormous lakes, freshwater springs and a vast array of wildlife.
The National Forest covers over 600-square-miles of pristine nature, and it will take much more than a day to explore everything within the boundaries.
You can hike, swim, fish and enjoy the great Floridian outdoors at Ocala National Forest.
4. St Augustine
On the northeast coastline of Florida, you can visit the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the United States of America.
St Augustine traces its history far back to 1565 when the Spanish first began charting the Florida Peninsula.
The city today still has a distinctly Spanish look to it, with well-preserved colonial buildings and the sprawling Castillo de San Marco a major attraction.
St Augustine eventually passed into British hands, then became part of the US. Today, it is a flourishing coastal city with a rich and diverse history that’s just a day trip away from The Villages.
5. Daytona Beach
Daytona is more famous for its International Speedway Arena than for its beach, but you can visit the city and see both.
Daytona is found northeast of The Villages and if you are a fan of fast cars, be sure to check out the schedule at the arena to see this iconic sport in action.
You can also call into the Motorsports Hall of Fame to learn more about the history of motorsports in the US. If you love beaches, Daytona has one of the best on the east coast of Florida – there is a lot of competition to that title too.
Head to the coast to enjoy unparalleled stretches of long, white sand that never seems to end.
6. Crystal River
Just an hour away on the west coast of the Florida Peninsula, one of the most unique wildlife interactions is awaiting you.
This small town gets its unusual name from the fact that the river and bay here are comprised of absolutely clear water that’s fed from natural springs in the area.
The river and bay are beautiful, and it really is some of the clearest water you might ever see anywhere in the world, but the real stars of the show are the protected manatee that live year-round in the bay.
They are the permanent residents of a wildlife refuge and are looked after and studied in a natural but safe environment.
There are boardwalks around the bay which allow you to get as close as possible to these beautiful creatures without disturbing them.
7. Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee is a unique area of natural beauty to the south of The Villages.
The lake itself is the largest freshwater lake in Florida – it’s so large that it wouldn’t be possible to circumnavigate the whole lake on a day trip without spending the whole day driving.
But head to the lake’s gateway town of Okeechobee and explore the vast wetlands; walk to the edge of the lake to see this huge area of stunning scenery up close.
8. Palm Bay
Palm Bay on the east coast is the site of the spectacular Indian River.
This vibrantly blue river is really just a huge lagoon; it’s separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a series of equally beautiful but developed barrier islands that run along the coast and form a major part of the city.
You may be lucky enough to spot some interesting sea life in the lagoon, including manatees.
Beautiful Venice overlooks the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and is home to one of the most famous long piers in Florida.
Visit this small coastal community and walk out along their extensive pier for exceptional views along the shoreline, before strolling along to the equally spectacular Venice Beach to relax on the crisp, white sands.
10. Fort Myers
Fort Myers is just south of Venice and is the gateway to southwestern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Compared to much of the east coast of the state, this is very much an under-visited and underrated part of Florida.
The city itself is a great place for enjoying a drink and dinner at one of the many restaurants, while north and south along the coast are some the state’s best and quietest beaches.
If you have time, there’s plenty of coral off the coast and many protected marine reserves to explore and snorkel – including the colorful 10,000 Islands.
There are enough islands there to keep you returning day after day.
Despite being the largest city in Florida, Jacksonville never quite seems to be as well-known as the rest of the state’s many destinations.
It’s found north of The Villages and covers a huge area of land, meaning there is plenty to see and to do.
There’s an excellent coastline, a long riverside, and plenty of museums and galleries to explore.
It might not have the glitz or glamour of Florida’s more southern cities, but it is very much a true look at your average Floridian’s culture and lifestyle.
60 miles north of The Villages, Gainesville is the state’s college city, home to the University of Florida and Santa Fe College.
That makes it a busy and lively place, but more than this, it’s also a very green and outdoorsy city to visit.
Make sure to explore the unusual Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, where a strange depression in the ground is home to a unique, self-contained rainforest ecosystem.
Tampa might be a big city, but it’s a diverse place that never stops surprising visitors.
Found in the beautiful Tampa Bay on the western side of the Florida Peninsula, Tampa is a city that over the years has been developed by a multitude of different cultures from across the world.
Here you can find influences from everywhere – in the architecture, food, and languages spoken, from Cuban and Spanish to Italian and Seminole.
It’s always a delight to walk the streets and take in the atmosphere in Tampa.
Kissimmee is found just outside of Orlando, and really, this city is known for its location amongst the best of the world-famous theme parks found here.
There’s Universal Studios, Disney World is nearby, and many others too.
Don’t just head to the amusement rides though, because the overlooked city of Kissimmee itself is actually an intriguing place, found on the beautiful banks of the expansive Lake Tohopekaliga.
15. Orlando City
While most people associate Orlando with the nearby theme parks, why not head into the city itself to find out what there is to see? There are many museums, green and open parks, and much more in the way of culture than you might expect waiting for you in Orlando.