20 Fun Day Trips from Orlando, Florida in 2024

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Are you looking for some things to do around Orlando that don’t involve theme parks? We have good news for you: Many of Florida’s best attractions make perfect day trips from Orlando.

Whether you want to relax on a beach, see the Florida wildlife, join an Everglades airboat safari, watch a rocket launch into space, or swim with manatees, you can do it all on day trips from central Florida.

And bonus—they won’t cost nearly as much as tickets to Walt Disney World!

🏆 Don’t have time to read the whole article? No worries! The most popular Orlando day trip is this Kennedy Space Center Trip with Transport.

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Best day trips from Orlando Florida

In this article, we’re focusing on the best day trips from Orlando by car. Most of them are within a 2- to 3-hour drive from the Theme Park Capital of the World.

For your convenience, you’ll find all the destinations listed according to travel distance from downtown Orlando. The first location is the closest.

But not everyone who’s visiting Orlando will have a car or want to rent one. If that’s you, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve also included links to relevant day tours for your convenience.

💲 Want to stretch your travel dollars? Get the Go Orlando City Pass! With two options to fit your sightseeing goals and budget, you can visit many of Orlando’s best attractions for free or at a discounted rate! See the full list of attractions here.

1. Wekiwa Springs State Park

Drive time: Approx. 35 minutes

boardwalk through the forest in Wekiwa Springs State Park

Just a few minutes from Orlando, Wekiwa Springs State Park is a conveniently located attraction for nature lovers. The park has a large river that is fed by natural springs and various trails that visitors can use to see local wildlife and explore the area.

This is the perfect Orlando day trip if you like outdoor activities. Off-road bicycle trails, birding, camping, horse trails and horseback riding, fishing, geo-seeking and geo-caching, hiking, and paddling on canoes and kayaks are all available here. Guided kayak tours are also on offer.

It’s also a great area for snorkeling because the spring water is so clear. The underwater visibility is fantastic.

2. Mount Dora

Drive time: Approx. 40 minutes

Lighthouse at Mount Dora

The city of Mount Dora in Florida’s Lake County oozes with southern charm and is known as the ‘Festival City’. It’s also popular with antique collectors and enthusiasts as it has several antique shops in the downtown area.

Some of the popular things to do in Mount Dora include adventure tours across Lake Dora and along the Dora Canal, which can be done in a 2-person powered CatBoat.

Guided Segway tours also offer an interesting way to get around the small town, and if you’re up for a spooky adventure you can join a Mount Dora Ghost Tour.

3. Blue Spring State Park

Drive time: Approx. 45 minutes

Kayakkers at Blue Springs State Park

From mid-November until March each year, hundreds of manatees gather around Blue Spring State Park.

The warm spring waters are crystal-clear, which makes kayaking in the park an unforgettable experience. You can paddle around the biggest spring on St Johns River and get up close to manatees—and a lot of other Florida wildlife too, like bald eagles and osprey, river otters, turtles, and maybe even a ‘gator or two.

While the manatees are the park’s main attraction, you can also enjoy a wide range of other experiences. They have a playground for children, an interpretive exhibit, and a nature trail, and you can visit Thursby House which once hosted steamboat passengers who traveled along the river.

There’s also birding, boat tours, fishing, hiking, paddling, picnicking, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, and tubing. Trust us, you won’t be bored!

4. Wild Florida & the Florida Everglades

Drive time: Approx. 50 minutes

hands holding a small alligator. Child in the background watching. Wild Florida is one of the best day trips from Orlando 

Wild Florida is one of the most family-friendly day trips from Orlando. This adventure park offers airboat tours into the Florida Everglades, up-close encounters with alligators, and even a drive-thru safari.

Exploring the Everglades National Park’s headwaters, swamps, rivers, and marshes on Wild Florida airboats is an unforgettable experience.

The Gator Park boasts over 200 different species of animals and the safari drive-thru is a great way to see some native and exotic animals like bison, zebra, oryx, and giraffes.

5. Ocala National Forest

Drive time: Approx. 55 minutes

Trees in Ocala National Forest. Water in background

Spanning 607 square miles, the Ocala National Forest is the second-largest protected forest area in Florida, the southernmost protected forest in America, and the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River.

Nature lovers will enjoy exploring this large forest with its hundreds of lakes and ponds, streams, and two rivers. You can take part in many different outdoor recreational activities here, like dune buggy rides, boating, canoeing, skiing, and nature walks.

Popular canoe expeditions travel along the crystal clear waters of Alexander Spring Creek, Juniper Creek, Salt Springs, and Silver Glen Springs.

The forest is also known for its great backpacking and hiking with a variety of different trails. Some of the best-known trails here include the Bear Swamp Trail, Juniper Springs Nature Trail, and the Yearling Trail.

6. Canaveral National Seashore

Drive time: approx. 1 hour

Birds on the sand at Canaveral National Seashore

Only about an hour’s drive from Walt Disney World, Canaveral National Seashore has an expansive 25-mile-long stretch of pristine beach, dunes, and a large lagoon. This is an undeveloped barrier island along Florida’s east coast and is home to hundreds of plant and animal species.

You can enjoy walking along coastal nature trails, fishing, boating, canoeing, swimming, surfing in the Atlantic Ocean, and learning about the history of Cape Canaveral.

You may be lucky enough to see some of the area’s endangered wildlife here, such as loggerhead turtles, leatherback sea turtles, West Indian Manatee, Southern bald eagle, and the Florida scrub jay.

ⓘ TIP: The John F. Kennedy Space Center—where visitors go to watch rocket launches and visit the visitor complex―is located along the southern part of the Canaveral National Seashore barrier island. That means that sometimes the area will be closed to visitors when launches and other space activities are taking place.

7. Cocoa Beach

Pier at Cocoa Beach Florida

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour

This family-friendly East Coast beach town is the best known along Florida’s Space Coast. Cocoa Beach is a combination of a tech hub and a surfing town, which makes it popular for both business trips and leisure travel.

The fantastic waves at Cocoa Beach make it a surfer’s paradise. You can rent a board and take surfing lessons, spend a day on the sand, or simply go shopping at the legendary Ron Jon Surf Shop, the largest surf shop in the world.

There’s also an abundance of exciting adventure activities suitable for both families and couples on a romantic holiday. The options range from golf and fishing to relaxing at a spa, parasailing, exploring the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier, or simply chilling on the beach.

Because it’s the closest beach to Orlando, day trips here are super popular. Plus, it’s also within easy reach of museums and historic sites, as well as the highly popular Kennedy Space Center. Cocoa Beach also offers a vibrant nightlife with live music venues, beach cafes and bars, and many restaurants.

8. Daytona Beach

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour

Formula race cars at Daytona Beach Racetrack

Daytona Beach is a city that lies northeast of Orlando. It is well known internationally for motorsports as well as for offering a range of family-friendly entertainment options. 

Daytona is often called the ‘World Center of Racing’ as it’s home to the famous Daytona International Speedway and hosts various motor events each year. These events include Speedweeks in early February which attracts hundreds of thousands of NASCAR fans for the opening of the Daytona 500.

Even when there’s no race on, visitors flock to Daytona Beach to enjoy a beach day, swimming, surfing, and relaxing on its superbly packed sand. Other activities include sailing and eco boat tours, the Daytona Beach boardwalk, and visiting the Daytona Beach Pier and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. The Daytona Lagoon water park is also popular with families as it has a range of thrill rides.

ⓘ BUDGET TIP: That Go Orlando City Pass we mentioned before? It also includes free admission to Daytona International Speedway along with a 60-minute tour of the grounds and entry to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

9. New Smyrna Beach

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour

boardwalk leading down to New Smyrna Beach at sunrise

New Smyrna Beach is known as one of the best surf towns in the world. This chilled-out beach town is located along the Central Atlantic Coast of Florida and is known for its distinctive coastal architecture, art galleries, and its pet-friendly parks.

It’s a wonderful place to relax on the beach, enjoy a wildlife eco-tour, go surfing, or go fishing … but we should mention that it’s also quite famous among motor racing enthusiasts for the New Smyrna Speedway.

10. Kennedy Space Center

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour

One of the best day trips from Orlando is to watch a rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center. 

Named after the former US president, John F. Kennedy, the Kennedy Space Center is a fascinating place to visit for any budding astronomers, astronauts, or cosmologists. That’s because the US launches rockets and space expeditions from here.

Even when there aren’t any space rocket launches taking place, you’ll be mesmerized by the many exhibits at the Center. Top exhibits include artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, a two-hour Shuttle Launch Experience, a Rocket Garden tour, and the two-hour bus tour of the Kennedy Space Center and Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Kennedy Space Center is one of the most popular day trips in Florida. To avoid the long ticket lines, book your tour ahead of time.

BUDGET TIP: The Go Orlando City Pass includes entry to the Kennedy Space Center’s permanent exhibitions and displays, admission to the IMAX theater, and a Kennedy Space Center tour.

11. Bok Tower Gardens

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour 20 minutes

Bok Tower reflected in the water

Centrally located between Orlando and Tampa, Bok Tower Gardens comprises almost 50 acres of spectacular botanical gardens that were designed by the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. This biodiverse eco-attraction is home to over 100 species of birds and is a designated site on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Open 365 days a year, Bok Tower Gardens are also home to a large children’s garden (Hammock Hollow), an impressive Mediterranean-style mansion (Pinewood Estate), and an iconic Art Deco carillon (the Singing Tower).

As a visitor, you can enjoy the serenity and expansive beauty of the botanical garden and relax, have an outdoor picnic, or take part in an eclectic mix of weekly events.

12. Crystal River

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

manatee in everglades national park

Crystal River is a coastal city in the heart of the Nature Coast, located along the Gulf of Mexico in west central Florida. Nicknamed the “Home of the Manatee.” Crystal River has an abundance of warm springs (including the famous Three Sisters Springs) and a large pristine waterway at Kings Bay.

Crystal River is one of the only places you can swim with manatees in the wild, which makes it one of the most unique day trips you could hope for. Swimming with these gentle giants will certainly create some wonderful memories!

It’s also within close proximity to the beautiful Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Crystal River Preserve State Park, and the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, so you can’t get bored.

This nature lovers’ paradise offers a range of outdoor activities. These include swimming, diving, boating, playing golf, kayaking, paddle boarding, water skiing, fishing, and going on nature walks. Scuba diving is also popular.

13. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

clear water at Homosassa Springs

The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a natural area with a diverse range of plants and animals. The area’s natural springs and river create a unique habitat for a range of captive and wild animals that can be seen here. These include the endangered Florida panther, black bears, bobcats, flamingos, alligators, red wolves, manatees, and the whooping crane.

Popular activities at this park include birding along the Pepper Creek Trail (which is accessible by wheelchair), exciting Geo-seeking and Geocaching activities for enthusiasts, and hiking. There are also various picnic pavilions and elevated boardwalks for wildlife viewing.

ⓘ TIP: If you have limited time, this Orlando day trip covers four popular Florida attractions in one day: Homosassa Springs, Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins, Weeki Wachee, and Tarpon Springs.

14. Tampa

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour 40 minutes

Historic Ybor City is a good Orlando day trip 

Tampa is the biggest city in the Tampa Bay area and is a vibrant urban hub on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Tampa has lots of cultural attractions – from bustling shopping districts like Hyde Park and vibey nightlife areas like Ybor City.

Speaking of Ybor City, it was once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World,” and you can still watch cigars being hand-rolled here. The Historic District is a National Historic Landmark.

In Tampa, you can visit the Florida Aquarium, ride the wild rollercoasters at Busch Gardens, laugh at animal antics at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, or explore outdoor recreational areas like Hillsborough River State Park and Lettuce Lake Park. The city also offers interesting museums like the Tampa Museum of Art and theme parks like Busch Gardens and Adventure Island.

BUDGET TIP: The Go Orlando City Pass includes free entry to ZooTampa at Lowry Park, the Water Play area, and the zoo’s kid-friendly rides.

15. Weeki Wachee Springs

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour 45 minutes

Clear water in Weeki Wachee Springs

Would you like to see a real-life mermaid? Well, you can do just that at Weeki Wachee Springs! It’s famous for its daily mermaid show!

This natural spring has pristine, clear waters that are perfect for paddling adventures on a kayak or boat cruise. It’s also home to the deepest freshwater caves in the country!

You can swim and snorkel in the spring waters and learn about Florida’s incredible wildlife. Families will enjoy the waterpark at Buccaneer Bay.

16. St. Augustine

Drive time: Approx. 1 hour 50 minutes

Spanish architecture in St. Augustine

The city of St. Augustine has a long history, dating back to Spanish settlement in 1565. It still maintains its European charm and character – from its cuisine and historical Castillo de San Marcos to its Spanish Colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages.

Some of the top attractions in St. Augustine are the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the hop on-hop off trolley, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, Fort Matanzas, and the Lightner Museum.

Saint Augustine also has gorgeous beaches that are miles long, excellent restaurants, world-class art galleries, and a range of boutique shops and live music venues.

17. Tarpon Springs

Drive time: Approx. 2 hours 20 minutes

Sponge covered boat in Tarpon Springs Florida, a popular day trip from Orlando

This city on the Gulf of Mexico, in Pinellas County, is known to have the highest percentage of Greek Americans in the USA. As such, the city’s culture is infused with Greek heritage and cuisine. It’s also known as the “sponge capital of the world” because of its sponge industry.

A golf cart tour of Tarpon Springs will take you past its many art galleries, museums, shops, and beaches. And of course, you can also enjoy fishing, kayaking, diving, shell hunting, boating, and walking through its waterfront parks.

We always enjoyed walking through the sponge shops and having lunch at one of the Greek restaurants. The food is always delicious … though nothing comes close to the authentic Greek salad we enjoyed in Greece.

18. Clearwater Beach

Drive time: Approx. 2 hours 30 minutes

cabanas and lifeguard station on a white sand beach in Clearwater Beach Florida. Palm Tree in foreground

Award-winning Clearwater Beach is one of Florida’s most popular beaches and is a world-famous attraction. The water temperature is warm year-round and is also clear. Hence the name. In fact, it was recognized by Trip Advisor as the top beach in the USA in 2018.

The town of Clearwater Beach itself has a quaint atmosphere. It is home to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (where you can meet Winter, the dolphin from the “Dolphin Tale” movies), and has a range of great restaurants and boutique shops.

There are a host of water-based activities you can take part in here. Walk along the half-mile beach, swim, surf, take a Sea Screamer Boat Ride, or watch a spectacular sunset from one of the many beach bars.

19. Sarasota

Drive time: Approx. 2 hours 30 minutes

Woman copying a photo in chalk onto the street in Sarasota florida
During the Sarasota Chalk Festival, artists draw on Main Street and nearby buildings.

Sarasota will keep you entertained, whether you enjoy lazing on the beach, wildlife watching from a boat on the Gulf, or indulging in the host of cultural attractions on offer. That’s why we’re recommending it as a top day trip from Orlando.

When we lived in Sarasota, we enjoyed visiting Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to see manatees, sharks, and other marine life. Our other favorite spot is Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a 15-acre garden on the bay that still feels like the private sanctuary it once was. They have an outstanding collection of orchids and air plants from all over the world as well as a fantastic orchid shop.

Sarasota is best known for its various keys – including Lido Key, Otter Key, Coon Key, Siesta Key, and Longboat Key. The brilliant blue waters and dazzling white sands along the coast are mesmerizing.

The rest of Sarasota is full of art galleries, museums, boutique shops, restaurants, and performing art venues (like Sarasota Opera and Florida Studio Theatre) – which is why it’s known as the Cultural Coast. Don’t miss out on its many cultural festivals. Sarasota’s annual St. Barbara Greek “Glendi” festival is in February, the Sarasota Film Festival takes place in April and then the Sarasota Chalk Festival happens in November (photo above).

20. Lion Country Safari

Drive time: Approx. 2 hour 50 minutes

Lion seen from car window

Situated on almost 600 acres of land and home to almost 900 animals, Lion Country Safari offers a 4-mile safari drive-through and a 55-acre walk-through adventure park. All attractions are included in the ticket price.

Some of the animals that you can see on safari include the giant-sized Aldabra tortoise, Brazilian tapir, ostrich, gemsbok antelope, wildebeest, chimpanzee, giraffe, zebra, and even the mighty African lion.

The adventure park offers a range of fun mechanical rides and water attractions, animal encounters, shopping, gemstone mining, mini gold, water slides, and more. 

This safari park is located in Loxahatchee, which is 20 miles west of Palm Beach.

BUDGET TIP: The Go Orlando City Pass includes admission to both the drive-through safari and walk-through adventure park.

Florida trip planning links

Having lived in Florida for years, we know Florida well. It’s a big state, and it can take a ridiculous amount of time to get from place to place by car.

If your bucket list of Florida attractions is all over the state, we suggest that you split it up. You can do all of South Florida on day trips from Miami, and then use a few Orlando day trips to check out the northern half of the state.

Whatever your travel style, our goal is to make it easy for you to navigate Florida and enjoy the state’s attractions and activities hassle-free.

Here’s a list of resources that will seriously help you organize your trip planning.

Guidebook: This Florida travel guide is a best-seller on Amazon.
Flights: Florida is served by 3 airports: Miami (MIA), Orlando (LAG), and Newark (EWR). Compare prices before you book.
Accommodation: Booking has amazing deals. Check Vrbo for apartments.
Airport transfer: Pre-book transportation to your hotel from the airport
Getting around: The best way to get around Florida is by renting a car.
Travel visas: Do you need a visa to visit the U.S.? Check here.
Travel insurance: You need coverage for medical emergencies, cancellations, flight delays, baggage delays, lost luggage, etc. Check prices here.
Tickets & tours: Find dozens of fun ideas on GetYourGuide and Viator

Orlando day trip packing list

Family loading up a car for a day trip

Orlando’s subtropical climate means that it is usually warm all year around, and sometimes the heat is downright oppressive. It can also rain quite often. Here’s an essential list of things to pack and take along on any day trips from Orlando:

Final thoughts about Orlando day trips

If you are pressed for time when staying in Orlando, remember that our day trips are ordered by proximity. You may also like to consider day trips that include transport because it will be easier and quicker to get around. Try to also combine several day trip destinations into one day to save time.

Don’t forget to buy a Florida guidebook before you go! Orlando is close to many exciting nature areas and state parks, beaches, cultural and historic sites, and adventure activities that make it the perfect base for exploring the best of Florida.

ⓘ Read all our Florida articles: We’ve covered Florida spring break destinations, the best spots in Miami for Nature Lovers, the best day trips from Miami, fun day trips from Orlando, and how to do an Everglades day trip from Miami. We also have an article for people looking for warm winter vacations in the USA.

Photo credits: Ashley Edwards, Andrew Roberts, SpaceX

10 Best Day Trips from Miami, Florida

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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