8 Perfect Day Trips From Orlando To Get You Out Of The Theme Parks

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Chances are, when you think Florida, you think Orlando. Or at least Disney. But there’s so much more to Orlando than Disney. There’s Universal, too. I’m kidding, today isn’t about either of those. It’s all about Orlando day trips.

While there are so many amazing things to do in Orlando, there are just as many amazing things to do within a two hour drive, which is what everything will be within on this list. A lot of it is outdoorsy but there are a few things that aren’t.

One thing that isn’t lacking in Orlando is hotels. And theme parks. And Walgreens/CVS stores. (Seriously, I’ve never seen so many of those stores in one place in my life.) But that’s not why you’re here.

When you come back from all these Orlando day trips, you’ll want somewhere nice and comfy to stay and you’ll have so many hotels to choose from whether you want to be near the theme parks or on the edge of town so you’re closer to other adventures. If you want something budget friendly and centrally located, the Rosen Inn International is perfect.

Marriott’s Grande Vista is great for families or groups since it has over 900 condos (and four pools!) The Celeste Hotel is a great modern looking choice on the northeast side of Orlando, perfect for those east coast day trips.

Aloft Orlando Lake Buena Vista is a great, hip mid-range option not too far from Disney if you’ll be visiting there as well (it’s also just a nice area). If you like to be self-sufficient (food-wise), Sonder at The Point is perfect. Finally, if you want something a little more luxury, Rosen Shingle Creek should definitely be considered.

All distances are from the center of Orlando and can vary based on where you’re staying and traffic. The times included will be give or take a bit but they will all be under two hours.

If you do decide to travel right now, please do so safely and at your own risk.  Wear a mask, wash and sanitize regularly, check any government regulations before going, and book accommodations with flexible cancellation policies, just in case. 

Map of Orlando day trips

This map will help you see where everything is in relation to Orlando and everything else. You may be able to combine a couple of them but most will be best done on their own. If you can do two in one, it’s Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and Cocoa Beach but the Kennedy Space Center will take a whole day.

Blue Spring State Park

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Distance from Orlando

Blue Spring State Park is about 40 minutes from Orlando. It’s an easy drive but if you go in the winter (the best time to see manatees there), I would make sure to get there early because it gets busy and you will have to wait.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because you can see manatees! At least in the winter. In the summer, it’s a great place to swim in the iconic Florida springs. If you want to see manatees and only have one day, this is closer than Crystal River. But if you want to swim with them, you’ll have to go to Crystal River.

What not to miss

The manatees, obviously. But also the boardwalk to the spring head that gives the park it’s name. You can tour the historic house in the park and do some swimming and kayaking year-round.

St. Petersburg area

Distance from Orlando

Ok, this is cheating because it’s two hours and three minutes, but if traffic is a breeze and you’re on the east side of Orlando, it would probably be less. This will also depend on where exactly you’re going (St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach, Fort de Soto, etc.)

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because you get to go to the beach and go shelling! Or you can explore St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Or Tampa. Or Fort de Soto. Or Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands. Or anything else around there that’s really awesome (lots of things, but that’s the next section.)

What not to miss

So, obviously what you do here will depend on what you like doing, but if I was going to advise you (which I am because that’s why you’re here) I would recommend taking a day trip from Orlando to Honeymoon and Caladesi Island State Parks.

These are beautiful white sand beaches with fewer people than Clearwater and St. Pete Beaches. You do need to take a ferry to Caladesi which means even fewer people. Shelling is great on both islands and it’s easy enough to get away from everyone else in the park.

An alternative would be Sand Key Park, Clearwater Beach, and Fort de Soto park for more beaches and shelling that you can just drive to.

Kennedy Space Center

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Distance from Orlando

You will find the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex 56 minutes directly east of Orlando. Another super easy drive and one you’ll want to start early in the day because even with just one day here, you won’t see everything.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because space! Who doesn’t love space? If you don’t love space, I’d love to hear why. But really, if you have an interest in space, this is a must-see on any Florida trip. I mean, they launch rockets here! History has been made here and you can see it all for yourself.

What not to miss

I would spend as much timer there so you can see as much as possible. And there is a lot. Make sure to watch the Heroes and Legends film and see that exhibit, do a bus tour and see the VAB (vehicle assembly building), see the Atlantis shuttle and the Nasa Now + Next exhibit.

There is so much more but those are easy to see. And, if you’re there when it’s happening, you can even see a launch! This is like, the top of my Florida bucket list. You can see the launch schedule here. You may even be able to see a launch from Orlando but it would be so much cooler up close.

Cocoa Beach

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Distance from Orlando

Cocoa Beach is just over one hour east and slightly south of Orlando.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

This is another one of those iconic Florida vacations. It’s not my number one place in Florida, but it does have some good stuff and I’d be willing to go back and do more there. You could easily explore Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge in one day.

What not to miss

Of course, you have to go to the actual beach. You could also do a little more driving down to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Wander around the cute town of Cocoa Beach, visit Ron Jon Surf Shop, explore the Cocoa Beach Pier, and even try surfing.

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

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Distance from Orlando

Just like the Kennedy Space Center, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is 56 minutes from Orlando. The scenic drive and manatee overlook will be a little different but about an hour as well.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because birds! And gators! And, uhh, other Florida critters! Oh my! Jut like space, who doesn’t love seeing wildlife? I’d also like to know why, if you don’t, so let me know. Of the five national wildlife refuges that I’ve been to in Florida, this is my favorite, for sure.

What not to miss

If you’re there in the winter, stop at the manatee overlook (but don’t get your hopes up too high). The main thing to do though is the 7-mile one-way scenic drive. This is where you’ll be able to see tons of wildlife, but mostly birds and some gators.

There is also a short boardwalk at the visitor center that is pretty nice. It’s short and easy taking you through a hammock forest.

Crystal River

Photo by David Hinkel, US Fish and Wildlife Flickr

Distance from Orlando

This is one of the further day trips from Orlando clocking in at one hour, forty three minutes. It’s probably not the most eventful drive but it’ll be easy.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because manatees! At least in the winter. Again. This is definitely one of the best places in Florida to see manatees and you can swim with them here! This is number two on my Florida bucket list, in case you were wondering.

What not to miss

Swimming with manatees, of course. If you’re not a swimmer though, you can still see them. Homosassa Springs State Park is also nearby as is Cedar Key and the Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge. Cedar Key would be pushing it, but if you’re really ambitious and don’t mind a longer drive back, you could probably do it.

St. Augustine

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Distance from Orlando

Just one minute less than above, St. Augustine is one hour and forty two minutes from Orlando, a little more if you’re going to the lighthouse.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because not only is St. Augustine just the cutest city ever, but it’s also the oldest city in the US! And even if you’re not a history buff (like me) it’s still really cool to visit with tons of things to do.

I mentioned Everglades City was on my “places I would live” list but I’d probably be willing to live here, too.

What not to miss

So many things! Climb to the top of the St. Augustine lighthouse, visit For Matanzas, see Castillo de San Marcos, walk around the old town, visit Anastasia State Park, relax at the San Sebastian Winery, and even do a ghost tour.

Cassadega

Photo by Lyndi & Jason Flickr

Distance from Orlando

Cassadaga is just 35 minutes from Orlando so it’s barely a day trip and more of just a fun place to go near Orlando. If you like the afterlife. This isn’t officially number three on my Florida bucket list, but it may as well be.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Ok, so I know this one isn’t perfect for everyone but if you’re a fan of ghosts, psychics, spirituality, or anything along those lines, this is a must visit. It may see ma bit cheesy but it’s one of those fun things you just have to do.

What not to miss

While you’re there, visit one of the even parks and meditation gardens in town, stop at the sSpiritualist Camp, and see one of the many psychics. If you’re feeling really adventurous and want a night away from Orlando, spend a night at the haunted Cassadaga Hotel.

Gainesville Springs

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Distance from Orlando

Gainesville is one hour and fifty minutes from Orlando but some of the springs will be a little more than that, but it’s well worth it.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because you can see a few springs easily in one day! There are tons of springs to choose from near Orlando but I really love the ones around Gainesville and High Springs. You can swim, paddle, and hike to your hearts content.

What not to miss

There are tons of springs near Gainesville and some of the best to see with limited time are Ginnie Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, and Blue Springs (a different one than earlier.) Kayaking the Ichetucknee River is always fun and Ginnie is one of the most famous springs in Florida.

If you want to hike in addition to swimming, Devil’s Millhopper, O’ Leno State Park, Sweetwater Wetlands, and La Chua Trail are four great options.

Have you been to Orlando? What is your favorite thing to do there? What is your favorite Orlando day trip? Have you been to any of these places? Which ones?

4 thoughts on “8 Perfect Day Trips From Orlando To Get You Out Of The Theme Parks

  1. This guide to Orlando is incredibly helpful. You’ve really thought through everything you need to know before planning a trip. Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad ou found it helpful and hope you get to visit soon 🙂

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