15 Best Day Trips from Orlando

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Famously the home of the Magic Kingdom, Orlando is full to the brim with excited families year-round.

There’s more to it than just Disney, though: Orlando is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, gorgeous Florida beaches, and intriguing historical sights, too.

Orlando itself isn’t bad to look at, either – it’s not nicknamed ‘the City Beautiful’ for nothing.

There is certainly no avoiding the theme parks, though: Orlando is known as the theme park capital of the world, and it’s easy to see why.

Its sheer tourist appeal brings in over 68 million visitors a year – and you should definitely make sure that you are one of them.

Here are 15 of the best day trips from Orlando:

1. Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach, FloridaSource: Kevin J King / shutterstock
Clearwater Beach

As you might be able to tell by the name, Clearwater beach is a very aesthetically pleasing place.

White sands and turquoise water: what more could you want? This place has some of Florida’s most appealing coastline, and provides the opportunity for visitors to take a dip in the gorgeously warm Gulf of Mexico.

You can pack a picnic or take advantage of your surroundings by eating in one of the seaside restaurants overlooking the bay.

Sit back, relax, and get to work on that tan: you’re in Clearwater now.

2. Florida Everglades

Everglades National ParkSource: Andy Lidstone / shutterstock
Everglades National Park

One of Florida’s most popular natural attractions is its everglades.

Not only is there beautiful flora and fauna to observe, there’s also a famous resident that you won’t want to miss – the American alligator.

Keep your eyes peeled for the cunning creatures swimming along with their heads barely perceptible above the water – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

You’ll explore the everglades by airboat, and you may also get the chance to watch an animal handling show, to see the real experts at work.

3. Kennedy Space Centre

Kennedy Space CentreSource: NaughtyNut / shutterstock
Kennedy Space Centre

Surely one of the best space centres in the whole of the United States, the Kennedy Space Centre is packed with fun activities, from interactive exhibits to IMAX cinema screenings.

There’s more than enough to keep you and the kids entertained for the day.

You can touch a piece of moon rock, experience what it’s like to take off in a shuttle through the magic of cinema, and get the chance to view a fully restored Saturn V rocket.

There will also be the opportunity to learn about the history of space travel, right from the day Neil Armstrong took ‘one small step for me, one giant leap for mankind.’

4. Disney World

Disney WorldSource: Photographing Travis / Flickr
Disney World

You could hardly take a trip to Orlando without carving out some time for Disney – even if just for an excitement-filled day trip.

Head to the Magic Kingdom to meet all your favourite Disney characters – Snow White, Cinderella, and of course Mickey Mouse – ride the rollercoasters, and join in the parades down the street.

Over six different themed lands, you’ll never experience a moment without delight.

Journey through the Wild West in Frontierland, forge a path through the jungles of Adventureland, or hark back to colonial times in Liberty Square.

This day trip is certain not to disappoint.

5. Miami

MiamiSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Home of the millionaires, Miami is a great option for a change of scene from Orlando.

From the skyscrapers to the beach, there is plenty to entertain – starting with the chance to sneak a peek at some of the most affluent houses around.

As a commercial, cultural and financial centre, Miami certainly has a lot to offer, from excellent fine dining options to a gorgeously pristine beach.

With the third tallest skyline in the US, it also offers some great photo opportunities.

6. Homosassa State Park

Homosassa State ParkSource: Jose Antonio Perez / shutterstock
Homosassa State Park

The 210-acre Homosassa State Park is not only home to abundant natural wonders, it also has an extra surprise hidden in its waters: manatees.

If you’re lucky you’ll spot them as you’re cruising along the river – though they are most often seen in winter.

Other wildlife around includes crocodiles and alligators, as well as otters, herons and flamingos.

The park even plays host to a rescued hippo.

The walking trails around the park also offer some wildlife spotting opportunities – panthers, bobcats and black bears all make their home in this park.

7. New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna BeachSource: James Pendleton / shutterstock
New Smyrna Beach

Here is the spot where all the locals escape to: New Smyrna beach is a hidden goldmine.

Soft, white sand and plenty of amenities are the biggest draw, as well as the excellent opportunities for fishing, surfing and swimming.

You can rent a bike and cycle along the hard packed sand, or stay until dark in summer and get the opportunity to view baby turtles hatch and make a break for the sea at a beach nearby.

8. Blue Springs State Park

Blue Springs State ParkSource: Adventures On Wheels / shutterstock
Blue Springs State Park

With another opportunity to get up close and personal with manatees, Blue Springs State Park holds appeal for the whole family.

The main attraction here is a kayaking tour, where you can paddle round the biggest spring on St Johns River, explore Snake River, and go for a quick look round on Hontoon Island.

Park your kayak for a while and marvel at the abundance of wildlife, from wild hogs to bald eagles to ospreys.

There are walking trails on the island too, and a fascinating Native American shell mound to be found at the end of the main one.

9. St Augustine

St Augustine, FloridaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
St Augustine

Release your inner pirate with this trip to the cobblestone streets of one of the oldest cities in the US, St Augustine.

The local Pirate and Treasure museum is its biggest attraction, and a thrilling place to spend a day trip.

There are plentiful interactive displays and one of the world’s largest and best collections of pirate treasures.

This place was named by the New York Post as one of the best museums in the world – reason enough to visit.

10. Lake Toho

Lake TohopekaligaSource: Jeff Holcombe / shutterstock
Lake Toho

Known as one of Florida’s best bass fishing spots, this is a great place to try your hand at the sport.

You can take a guided trip and learn from the experts, but if you’re feeling fearless (or you already know what you’re doing), head out on your own.

The professionals are sure to offer an excellent service, however, teaching you all the tricks or helping to improve your skills if you’ve already got a handle on it.

Either way, you can expect a pretty good haul by the end of the day.

11. Daytona Beach

Daytona BeachSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Daytona Beach

Something of a unique beach spot, Daytona was the birthplace of NASCAR racing, and these days plays host to the Daytona 500. It’s a bit of a spring-breakers haunt, so perhaps avoid around this time unless you’re a spring breaker yourself, but most of the year it’s a great escape from Orlando.

There’s an excellent beach boardwalk perfect for families, complete with games and carnival rides, and plenty of dining options along the beachfront.

12. Legoland Florida

Legoland FloridaSource: Joseph M. Arseneau / shutterstock
Legoland Florida

Okay, okay, just one more theme park – but this one is really special.

Themed around kids’ perennial favourite toy, Legoland Florida expands over 150 acres, and has over 50 rides to keep everyone entertained.

It’s only an hour away from downtown Orlando, and there are also plenty of options for younger children, which other places might lack.

If you’ve had your fill of rides, explored the botanical garden and caught a live show, you can cool off in the water park and float down the lazy river to round off the day.

13. Devil’s Den

Devil’s Den Spring, FloridaSource: www.devilsden.com
Devil’s Den Spring

Around an hour and a half from Orlando sits this intriguing natural attraction, the Devil’s Den springs.

33 million year-old fossil beds aren’t something you’ll find every day; and especially those that you can swim up to.

Devil’s Den is an underground cave with a natural hot spring and a chimney leading to the outside.

The steam rising through the chimney on cold mornings in the winter is what gave the place its name.

This underground attraction provides excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities, and is definitely a great day trip option from Orlando.

14. Gainesville

Gainesville, FloridaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Gainesville is a beautiful diversion from the bustle of Orlando, and proves that swamps can be pretty too.

Gainesville’s Kanapaha Botanical Gardens houses the largest bamboo collection in the state, and also has the biggest herb garden in the whole of the Southeast.

There are 24 different collections across the gardens, and all are reached from the paved walkway that stretches around the grounds.

Kanapaha also hosts many exciting events throughout the year, such as the Spring Garden Festival and the Moonlight Walk.

The Moonlight Walk truly is something special: the chance to wander through gardens illuminated by hundreds of artistically placed lights, to the soundtrack of live music.

15. Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower GardensSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Bok Tower Gardens

Hidden amongst beautiful gardens bordered by endangered plants is Bok Tower, an impressive monument whose bells chime each day at 1pm and 3pm.

It has stood since 1929, and around 60 bells take up the chorus when the clock chimes.

Around the gardens there are two wonderful walking trails, giving you the chance to meander in the tranquillity of your surroundings, or you could simply sit across the water from the tower and soak in the atmosphere.

Inside the tower itself, a history lesson awaits, as displays explore the story of how the tower came to be.

There’s also a chance to see the bells themselves in one of the rooms.

Finish off by climbing right to the top for a spectacular view of the surrounding scenery.

15 Best Day Trips from Orlando:

  • Clearwater Beach
  • Florida Everglades
  • Kennedy Space Centre
  • Disney World
  • Miami
  • Homosassa State Park
  • New Smyrna Beach
  • Blue Springs State Park
  • St Augustine
  • Lake Toho
  • Daytona Beach
  • Legoland Florida
  • Devil’s Den
  • Gainesville
  • Bok Tower Gardens