Orlando is a one of the most popular destinations for families, couples, friend groups and solo travelers. In other words, if you travel the southeast United States, you’re bound to end up in Orlando at some point or another! While Orlando itself has hundreds if not thousands of interesting tourist activities, it’s also nice to get away from Disney World and the tourist traps to see the rest of Central Florida. Next time you’re in Orlando, try out a few of these fun day trips!
1 Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center is the perfect place to take your family for both fun and learning. Explore the mysteries of space as you see historic launch pads, real rockets, and moon exploration memorabilia. Even better, you can take a flight simulator and watch an IMAX film about space! This is a stellar activity for travelers of all ages.
2 Blue Springs State Park
Come meet some of Florida’s most adorable gentle giants—the resident manatees. Every winter, hundreds of these water mammals come to live in the warm waters of Blue Springs State Park. You can snorkel, take a boat tour, or watch from on land. This is an unforgettable experience!
3 Tampa Bay
Take a break from Orlando when you head to beautiful Tampa. Only an hour and fifteen minutes away from Orlando, Tampa is a whole new world. You can enjoy the beautiful bay area by walking, jogging or biking along the edge. Or, get another round of theme park fun at Busch Gardens. Tampa is also home to professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Rays. If you want to experience Tampa’s historic Cuban culture, head to the Latin Ibor City area for great food.
4 Mount Dora
Mount Dora is a peaceful getaway that’s not too far from the busy streets of Orlando. This lovely historic village has plenty to do! Antique shopping in the downtown area, fishing, and relaxing by the lake are just a few of the many local activities. Festival goers flock to the town for the Mt. Dora Art Festival in February and the Mt. Dora Craft Fair in October.
5 Crystal River
This is another manatee destination. Here, you can actually swim with the manatees! Pull on your wetsuit and snorkel mask, because interacting with these creatures is an experience of a lifetime. (Remember that you are NOT allowed to touch them!) Scalloping season is also a big draw, running from June to September. If you’re not keen on getting wet, you can also take a kayak trip over the manatees. When you’re done with the wildlife excursions, take a nature walk through the state park.
6 Saint Augustine
The city of Saint Augustine is a great place to visit if you’re staying in Orlando and want to explore a little. America’s oldest continuously occupied city, St. Augustine offers a glimpse of Florida’s Spanish-era past. Fort Matanzas is one of the coolest places to visit here. You can see a real fort and learn about the history of the area. The historic downtown, Colonial Quarter, and Vilano Beach are no less enjoyable.
7 Lowery Park Zoo in Tampa
Zebras, elephants, tigers, and dinosaurs! Lowery Park has all of this and more. We’re actually not kidding about the dinosaurs, either. The Dinos Alive! exhibit is set up like a prehistoric forest where great lizards rule the land. Get close to a roaring t-rex or a dining iguanodon, if you dare. Are you brave enough?
Disney World is awesome, but if you have been there and done that, it’s time for a new theme park to enjoy. Whether or not you have kids, head to LEGOLAND for some serious fun. You’ll love the thrill rides, the giant LEGO blocks, and the over-the-top decorations in the park!
9 Weeki Wachee Springs
Have you ever seen a live mermaid? No? Well, be prepared to witness magic! Weeki Wachee Springs has a huge mermaid tank where you can watch these magical beings perform synchronized swimming routines. This old-school park also offers boat and kayak trips on the Weeki Wachee River. For the adrenaline junkie, there is also a flume ride. If you’re just looking for some relaxation, Buccaneer Bay also has a beach area with umbrellas.
10 Daytona Beach
There’s a whole lot to do in Daytona Beach! The most famous, of course is the Daytona International Speedway. If you’re not into race cars, though, you can still enjoy plenty of other activities, like Daytona Beach Pier and Sunsplash Park. A visit to “The World’s Most Famous Beach” takes about an hour from Orlando.
11 Bok Tower Garden
Head to Lake Wales for a visit to this European-style garden with an Asian twist. The huge bell tower features concerts twice daily, and the grounds provide a fun, safe place for kids to run and play. Make sure you have some change so you can feed the fish for a quarter! At an entrance fee of $12 per person, this is a great budget-friendly vacation activity.
12 Wild Florida
Florida’s most menacing creatures are the main attraction of this nature center and petting zoo. When you visit Wild Florida, you can take a boat ride through the gator-infested Lake Cypress and watch an alligator show to experience these scary beasts from a safe distance. If you get your fill of alligators, visit the zebras and deer at the petting zoo for some gator detox.
13 Lakeridge Winery
Of all the wineries in Florida, this one is the most fun! It has the traditional winery activities, like winetasting and tours, of course, but there’s even more to enjoy. Check the schedule of events to see if there are any interesting things happening here while you’re in town—from car shows to country music to wine stomping days, there’s an endless string of fun to be had here.
Don’t spend your whole Orlando vacation inside Disney World. There are plenty of other great attractions within an easy drive. Day trips from Orlando will show you the real Florida and give you a break from theme park overload.