If you fancy a break from the theme park hubbub the options for day trips from Orlando are practically endless. Here’s a rundown of things to see and do away from the city that will have you feeling like a Floridian in no time.
Ideally located in the middle of Florida, Orlando has loads of easy-to-reach day trip destinations on its doorstep. Most of the trips we’ve included here are within 100 miles of Orlando – so you should make it there and back on one tank of gas.
Beaches and islands
Lap up the Daytona Beach attractions
Daytona Beach is just an hour’s drive from the city and it’s one of the most popular spots for day trips from Orlando. You can park right on the beach so it’s ideal if you’re packing a picnic or carrying watersports equipment, as you won’t have to lug it around with you. There are 23 miles of golden beaches to choose from, as well as fantastic attractions for all the family including a splash park, an entertainment center and dozens of restaurants, bars and arcades. The region is also home to the Daytona International Speedway where you can check out the visitors’ center and drive laps around the historic 2.5-mile-long track in an authentic stock car.
Spot manatees at Merritt Island
For a short, fun-packed trip from Orlando, head to Canaveral National Seashore – it’s just over an hour away from Orlando. You can while away the hours frolicking in the warm clear waters or exploring the pristine beach and boardwalked sand dunes. Pack a picnic for lunch and when you’re done you can take a trip to the nearby Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge where you’ll see manatees, alligators and birds of every kind.
Catch the waves – and a rocket launch!
Day trips from Orlando don’t get much better than catching waves on a beautiful beach, with the potential for catching a rocket launch at the same time! If you head to Cocoa Beach Pier or one of the many other Space Coast beaches, you’ll get a great view of a live rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center. All of the Space Coast beaches are within 100 miles of Orlando so you’ll easily make it there and back on one tank of gas. You can see a list of all upcoming launches here.
Go kayaking through the Thousand Islands
If you’re staying in one of our villas close to Disney World it’s a one-hour drive east to Cocoa Beach and the stunning Thousand Islands region. Cocoa Beach is the go-to area for Orlando day trips, packed with plenty of shops, restaurants and attractions. The beach itself is a mecca for surfing and water sports and it’s home to Ron Jon’s, the world’s largest surf shop. If you want to check out the local wildlife you can go on a guided kayaking tour through the surrounding canals and islands.
Hit the Gulf Coast
If you want to hit the Gulf Coast beaches they’re located west of Tampa, around a 2-hour road trip from Orlando. There are scores of beaches and bays to choose from, all with emerald waters, brilliant white sands, picturesque sand dunes and ample opportunities for fishing, wildlife-spotting and pure relaxation. For beach day trips from Orlando, the easiest ones to reach are around Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Sarasota.
Tours and excursions
Take an airboat tour
Airboat tours in Orlando are an exciting way to spend a day, or even a weekend, discovering Florida’s fascinating wetlands and swamps. Black Hammock Adventures offers some of the best airboat tours in Orlando with various rides around gator-infested Lake Jesup. Orlando Airboat Tours offers 2-hour and 4-hour airboat tours from Kissimmee all the way to Shingle Creek, the headwaters of the Florida Everglades.
Day trips from Orlando to Clearwater Beach
You can escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a day trip from Orlando to Clearwater Beach. Its about a 2-hour trip, but when you’re there you can make the most of the white-sand beaches, or break up the day with optional extras like a speedboat rides or deep-sea fishing. Organised excursions are a great way to go, with an early morning pick-up from selected stops around Orlando and a late-night drop off after a long day out. You can book day trips from Orlando to Clearwater Beach for around $65 per person.
Ride high on a helicopter tour
You can get a bird’s eye view of Orlando’s most famous resorts and attractions on a helicopter tour over the city and its environs. There are an array of Orlando helicopter tours to choose from including flights over the theme parks with a full commentary from your pilot. You can also fly further afield and take in the Butler Chain of Lakes, which is home to thousands of alligators – and mansions owned by famous celebs.
Soar above the city in a hot air balloon
Check out Orlando from a whole new perepective in a hot air balloon, taking in everything from its world-famous attractions and theme parks to its orange groves, forests and swamps. You can book a sunrise ride from around $165 per person including resort pick-up and drop-off, a champagne toast, post-flight snacks and a souvenir flight certificate.
Explore the Everglades
If you fancy taking a ride on the wild side of Florida we recommend an Orlando Everglades tour. The stunning wilderness of the Everglades is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in the world, and there are a number of ways to discover its various regions. You can spot alligators on a day trip along the Tamiami Trail, or take in views of the Shark Valley area from a 65ft observation tower. West from Shark Valley is Everglades City, a boat-launch site close to the scenic Ten Thousand Islands region. There’s also the Big Cypress National National Preserve with 40 miles of trails for walking, hiking and cycling. The Oasis Visitors’ Center has great exhibits for guests of all ages, and there’s an alligator-spotting area with a viewing platform, a restaurant and opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking and canoeing. This is one of our favorite day trips from Orlando.
Tours from Orlando to Miami
You can take a 1-day tour from Orlando to Miami which includes a shopping stop at the buzzing Bayside Marketplace in Downtown Miami, as well as a cruise over to Star Island followed by a trip to the famous Miami Beach and South Beach areas. If you book an Orlando to Miami tour, you’ll be picked up from a stop near your resort at around 6am and typically dropped off at 11pm.
Day trips from Orlando to Bahamas
You may not make it there and back in a day, but if you’re looking at weekend trips from Orlando you can take a 3 or 4 night cruise from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas.
Visit the alligator capital of the world
Get up close and personal with alligators galore at Gatorland in Kissimmee. This 110-acre nature park is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles as well as an aviary, a petting zoo, a splash park and a 1,200-ft-long zip line. You can see 4 of the largest known alligators alive, and other attractions like an alligator wrestling show and up-close encounters with gators, snakes and other reptiles. Gaotland is located on Orange Blossom Trail just a few miles from Disney World.
A day trip to Universal Studios
You may need a few days to get around all the parks at Universal but it’s well worth the trip if you’re in town. You’ll marvel at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, journey through legendary worlds at Islands of Adventure and enjoy thrills and spills at the Volcano Bay water park opening in May 2017. For even more entertainment plus great dining and nightlife head to the Universal Citywalk complex.
Do Disney in a few days
No trip to Orlando would be complete without at least a few days at Disney World. Located just south of Orlando in the charming town of Kissimmee, this is one of the most popular spots for Orlando day trips. There are 4 exciting theme parks, 2 water parks, numerous golf courses, a camping resort and masses of shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. If you’re staying in one of our villas in Orlando, you’ll be located just a few miles from Disney’s main entrance.
Have a family day at Legoland
It’s a bit too far to be considered an Orlando theme park, but if you’re looking for short trips from Orlando then Legoland is a top choice – especially if you have kids under 12. Located in Winter Haven a short drive south of Orlando, it’s home to a 150-acre theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, plus gorgeous botanical gardens and a water park.
Spend a day at Disney Springs
The Disney Springs complex at Walt Disney World is a great way to spend the day – and it’s free to get in. This bustling waterside promenade is home to an abundance of shops and restaurants as well as loads of family-friendly entertainment like livemusic shows and street performances.
Hit the water parks
You can have a splashing time on a day out at one of Orlando’s many and varied water parks. There’s Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, as well as Universal’s Volcano Bay. SeaWorld’s Aquatica water park is a top spot for Orlando day trips, and there’s a great water park for younger kids at the LegoLand water park.
Shopping and spas
Get big discounts on designer brands
The Orlando Premium Outlets are the best discount shopping malls in Orlando. One is located at Vineland Avenue and the other is on International Drive so you can probably get around them both in one day, if you fancy it. If you want to combine some serious retail therapy with your Orlando day trips, these malls offer shoppers discounts of up to 65% on designer brands like Diesel, Giorgio Armani and Burberry, to name just a few.
Shop ’til you drop
As well as the Premium Outlets, Orlando is home to the high-end Mall at Millenia near the northern end of International Drive. The Florida Mall is another top spot for shopping – it’s the largest indoor shopping mall in Central Florida. If you head to Downtown Orlando you’ll find even more shopping centers as well as boutique stores, department stores and specialty shops.
Relax with a spa day
If your idea of the perfect Orlando day trip is taking time out at a luxury spa, you’ll find plenty to choose from. There’s The Spa on Edgewater Drive, offering an array of day spa services such as massages, nail services, facials, skincare, waxing, body treatments and spa packages. If you’re staying at Reunion Resort you can head to the on-site Boutique Spa for a relaxing treatment, or a whole day of pampering.
Discover Winter Park
Winter Park is just a stone’s throw from Orlando and it’s packed with parks, shops, restaurants and nightlife. You can spend the day shopping along Park Avenue, or get a great deal on fresh local produce at the weekly Winter Park Farmers’ Market.
Sightseeing & nature
Step back in time at Fort Christmas
The fascinating Fort Christmas Historical Park features a full-scale replica of the original Fort Christmas which was built in 1837 during the Second Seminole Indian War. There’s a traditional Florida ‘Cracker’ house as well as 8 pioneer homes, a schoolhouse, a sugar cane mill and other historic farming equipment. The site is located in the town of Christmas just off County Highway 420, well within 100 miles of Orlando.
Visit the Museum of Seminole County History
You can learn more about Seminole County history at this fascinating museum in Sanford. There are more than 20 rooms of exhibits, maps, photographs and memorabilia relating to the history of Seminole County, which was the historical gateway to Central Florida.
See 50 acres of exotic gardens
Head to the Harry P. Leu Gardens for a day out in beautiful botanic gardens featuring flowers from all over the world. This 50-acre estate is also home to hundreds of picturesque flower gardens, a butterfly garden and the fascinating Leu House Museum.
Check out Church Street
Church Street is Orlando’s historic downtown district where you’ll see some of America’s oldest buildings and neighbourhoods. There are frequent concerts on the bandstand at nearby Wall Street Plaza and there are dozens of restaurants, bars and nightclubs to check out.
See a national landmark
Located around 30 minutes from Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens is home to an historic carillon tower as well as acres of beautiful gardens, a kid’s play area and a bird sanctuary. The focal point is the gothic 205-foot tower housing one of the world’s finest bell carillons. Bok Tower Gardens is a perfect spot for day trips from Orlando, located in the rolling countryside around Lake Wales.
Marvel at Florida’s oldest tree
If you take a trip to Big Tree Park you’ll see the remains of the ‘Senator’ tree which was the oldest and largest cypress tree in the world. Sadly it was destroyed by fire, but a memorial site has been set up around its massive stump, and a huge clone tree has been planted nearby. The park is located at Spring Hammock Preserve in Longwood.
Take a break at Lake Eola Park
Lake Eola Park is a huge 43-acre oasis in the heart of downtown Orlando. You can spend the day relaxing by the beautiful lake, which is home to graceful swans, and enjoying views of the city’s iconic skyline. If you visit at the right time you can enjoy one of the many free concerts at the amphitheater, or pop by the farmer’s market on Sundays.
See a mermaid show
Known as one of Florida’s most unique natural attractions, Weeki Wachee Springs is a top spot for Orlando day trips. This stunning state park features a vast clearwater spring with live ‘mermaid’ shows, a water park, boating lakes and equipment rentals.
Located west of Orange City, Blue Spring State Park is a popular destination for day trips or even weekend trips from Orlando. Available activities include canoeing, scuba diving, kayaking and tubing in the crystal clear springs, as well as hiking, fishing and camping in the surrounding parklands. During the manatee season from November to mid-March the park becomes a winter haven for hundreds of migrating manatees.
More day trips from Orlando
Drive down to Tampa Bay
The 80-minute drive down to the the Tampa Bay area is one of the best road trips from Orlando. This region encompasses Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and is a popular destination for day trips on account of the many things to see and do once you’re there. You can visit Busch Gardens Tampa, the area’s best-known amusement park, or you can take to the idyllic Gulf beaches. There’s the historic Latin quarter Ybor City, as well as several other thriving downtown areas.
Spend the day at Treasure Island
You can plan a fairytale day trip from Orlando to this beautiful Gulf Coast island. The area got its name from an early hotel owner who claimed to have discovered chests of treasure buried on the beach. Today the island’s main draw is its 3-mile stretch of powder white beach perfect for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling and water sports. It’s also famous for its sprawling waterfront entertainment complex complete with a restaurant, bars, a tiki deck and multiple music stages. From Orlando, you can reach Treaure Island by car or coach in just under 2 hours.
Hang out at a unspoilt island
Caladesi Island State Park just north of Clearwater is one of the few remaining undeveloped islands along Florida’s Gulf Coast. You can spend the day sunbathing on its white powdery beaches and feeling as if you’re on your very own desert island. There’s a walking trail for nature hikes and bird watching, as well as kayaking trails, picnic pavilions, a marina, a snack bar and a souvenir shop. Entrance fees are around $2 per person and ferry fees are around $14 per adult from Honeymoon State Park. You can check out the opening hours and fees here.
Discover Naples, Florida
It’s a bit of a trek but if you’re looking for the best road trips from Orlando, they don’t get much better than this. If you take the I-4 west from Orlando towards Tampa and then the I-75 south, the journey should take around 3 and a half hours. Once you’re there you’ll find plenty of high-end shopping and dining options, as well as great golf courses, a historic downtown area and the iconic Naples Pier. The city is fringed with miles of beaches with calm waters and sugar-white sands – some of the best are Clam Pass Park and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. You can combine Naples Florida day trips with visits to the nearby areas of Marco Island, Everglades City, Cape Coral and Fort Myers.
Take a tour from Orlando to the Kennedy Space Center
You can take an out-of-this-world day trip from Orlando to the Kennedy Space Center with a Gray Line Kennedy Space Center Tour. This 1-day trip is within 100 miles of Orlando and includes roundtrip transporatation from the Orlando and Kissimmee areas, as well as an admission ticket, entrance to the visitor complex and a professional tour guide. You’ll have access to restricted areas and you can even meet a real-life astronaut.
If you’re thinking of booking an Orlando vacation and you need advice on the best places to stay then contact us today. Additionally, our dedicated concierge team can arrange any added extras you need such as great-value car hire. You can see all of our Orlando villas here.