There’s so much to do in Orlando, however you may wish to step away from the theme parks for a day and see what else Florida has to offer. We highly recommend mixing day trips from Orlando into your holiday itinerary. Whether you’re looking to relax of Floridian beaches, explore the natural forests and lakes or become an astronaut at Cape Canaveral, we have you covered! You’ll need to rent a car or go on an organised excursion for our suggestions. We suggest renting a car to save money and explore the open roads at your own leisure.
See below for our top 12 excursions and day trips from Orlando.
1. Mount Dora
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~50 mins
Escape the long queues of the theme parks and tourist central for a taste of local life. This small central Florida town is a beautiful place to visit. Wander amongst the 1940’s style Floridian homes, say ‘hi’ to the friendly locals in the many boutique gift shops and enjoy an ice cream by the lake. The town has several nice restaurants, a museum and an extensive collection of classic cars.
We like to think of Mount Dora as the set of a traditional American movie, showing non-Americans what life is like in rural Florida. The people here are friendly, and you’ll love the peace and quiet after an active holiday in Orlando. The locals have regular events and arts fairs, so be sure to check out what’s on before planning a visit. Read more about Mount Dora on their tourism website here.
2. Kennedy Space Centre and Cocoa Beach
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~1 hr
Cape Canaveral on the east coast was the pioneering location of the Apollo space flights and NASA’s launch pads have been based there ever since. Drive over to Kennedy Space Centre for an impressively close look at the launch sites, old mission control centre and decades of space shuttle memorabilia and equipment. The centre is highly interesting for those that like space and space travel, but even suits those that only have a slight interest. There’s plenty of interactive exhibits and cool things to see whatever your age and two IMAX theatres. You’ll come away with a fountain of space facts and cool pictures. You may even be lucky enough to see a shuttle launch!
Just down the road from the space centre is Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast. It’s a nice place to relax in the sun after spending a day visiting NASA. Go for a walk on the beach, dine in one of the many bars and restaurants or go shopping for surf clothes and souvenirs on the boardwalk. It’s one of our favourite day trips from Orlando and is a good mix of beach relaxation with an awesome attraction.
3. Clearwater Bay / St Petersburg beaches
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~1 hr 45 mins
In our opinion, Clearwater is one of the closest places you can drive to from Orlando for the nicest beaches. It’s a long strip of beaches with many bars, shops and restaurants to keep you entertained on an evening. Go for a sunset strong along the pier with your loved one before dinner, or get active on the beach with water sports during the day.
South of Clearwater you have St Petersburg, a quieter beach area that’s more catered to adults, as opposed to the resort-style of Clearwater. Both areas have equally as impressive white-sand beaches with plenty of luxury beach hotels that aren’t too expensive. If you’re travelling with the whole family, rent a beachside villa or apartment and wake up to amazing views across the sand every morning.
4. Watch a sports game
The atmosphere of an American sports game is electric, whether you’re attending a Little League baseball game or seeing professional NBA basketball stars. Booking tickets to an American Football, basketball or baseball game is an excellent alternative activity when visiting Orlando, and there’s plenty of teams to choose from! Here are some of our recommendations. You can drive to the stadiums in a couple of hours or less.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs are a short drive south-west in Tampa. Enter their huge stadium to be greeted by a pirate ship that fires its cannons every time the Bucs score a touchdown. Expect cheerleaders, a great atmosphere and some world-class American football – they play in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. Book tickets well in advance and arrive early for the ‘tailgate’ party.
Orlando Magic – Based in Orlando’s downtown Amway Centre, Orlando Magic are a professional NBA team that’ll give you an action-packed ball game from start to finish. Grab a hotdog and popcorn and take a seat for a game that’ll have you on the edge of the seat. The half-time show is particularly good fun!
UCF college sports – If you don’t want to pay top dollar to see the pro’s in action, college sports are an equally as good option and the atmosphere can be more authentic. College football is very popular in America! The University of Central Florida (UCF) have an excellent sports programme and frequent football, basketball, baseball and many other sports games take place all season. Anyone can pay to watch – simply buy tickets on their website and rock up to a home game. **insert link**
5. Visit Blue Springs State Park
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~1 hr 10 mins
Venture into the natural outdoors and see just how stunning Florida’s nature is. Blue Springs State Park is a short drive north of Orlando and the place where a lot of locals spend their weekends – you won’t find many tourists here! Go for a walk amongst the trees and luscious scenery or enjoy a picnic on the grass (stopping off at Walmart on the way for picnic supplies). They also have BBQ’s you can use if you bring firelighters and charcoal.
One of our favourite things to do at Blue Springs is tubing down the river. Float down the stream at a leisurely pace and marvel in awe at the animals. Huge manatees swim underneath you, occasionally popping up for air, and many species of birds glide overhead. Another cool activity to check out is kayaking on the large lake. You can rent all of the equipment at Blue Springs so all you have to do is arrive and be eager for an adventure! It’s one of the top Orlando day trips for nature lovers!
6. Daytona Beach
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~1 hr 30 mins
Daytona Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the US. It attracts families in the summer and is a popular spot for college students on Spring Break. It’s also the home of NASCAR speed racing, volleyball tournaments, music events, festivals, golfing and much more – there’s a lot going on here! Although life on Daytona Beach can be a little crowded, there’s a lot to see here and it has something for everyone.
Go for a walk on the boardwalk and check out the amusements, pull up your car next to the beach and have a picnic or just relax on a glorious stretch of beach that covers 23 miles. Although Daytona may not be as pretty and untouched as other Floridian beaches, it’s an all-in-one beach resort town that will entertain families, couples and friends alike.
7. Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~40 minutes
Florida is alligator central and you’ll definitely want to catch one of these amazing creatures in action in their natural habitat. The best way to do it is boarding an air-boat for a guided tour of the marshlands. Whilst you can find several air-boat operators, Boggy Creek Air-boat Rides is the top-rated and most popular option. Board an air-boat with your family for an adventure into the swamp!
The boat ride last between 30 minutes and 1 hour and you’ll get to learn about the history of the lakes, explore hidden marshes of gators and enjoy speeding across the lake. The tours consist of fast-moving scenic tours of the marshlands and brief, comedic talks at key points of interest. You can fit up to 17 people on a air-boat so take your whole family!
8. Visit the colonial town of St Augustine
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~2 hrs 5 mins
St Augustine is a stunning colonial city that lays claim to being the oldest city in the USA. Its Spanish heritage has left behind a magnificent fortress and colonial buildings between the old city walls. See the many sights of the town, including monuments, a beautiful church, fortresses and other remnants of its rich history.
When your feet are tired, relax on the white sands of St Augustine Beach or retreat to nature and have a picnic in the nearby Anastasia State Park. We recommend a trip to St Augustine for culture lovers, however kids will also be at home if you stop by the Wildlife or Zoological Parks and leave plenty of time for afternoon beach activities. Although St Augustine is one of the day trips from Orlando that takes a significant drive, it’s well worth the journey.
9. Zipline Adventure park – Orlando Tree Trek
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~20 mins
Florida’s plains and forests give you a fresh sense of the great outdoors and they’re great places to explore. One of the best ways to have fun outdoors is driving to one of several Central Florida outdoor adventure parks. Orlando Tree Trek is just south of the theme park areas, set in a secluded forest.
Zipline through the trees, climb ropes and generally have fun being an outdoor daredevil in this unique attraction. It’s nice to take a step out of the busy tourist centre and enjoy nature and you’ll have fun here whether you’re with small children, teens or simply want a cool bonding experience with your partner.
10. Say hello to the local wildlife at Gatorland
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista:
Technically, Gatorland is a theme park; but unlike the high-speed rollercoasters of Orlando’s other top theme parks, Gatorland is all about meeting ferocious alligators and reptiles. It’s a 110-acre wildlife park that prides itself as the ‘alligator capital of the world’. Cross treetop walkways and raised water platforms to see crocodiles, alligators, tropical birds, snakes and tortoises in their natural environment, or enjoy one of the many interactive attractions.
You can whizz across the forest on ziplines, take to the terrain on a giant wheeled 4×4 for a guided tour, or see one of the many interactive shows. These include gator feeding, gator wrestling and getting up close and personal with one of these intriguing reptiles. Oh, and audience participation is encouraged!
11. Take a tour of Celebration
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista:
Celebration is a community that was custom-build by Disney as a model neighbourhood for its most senior executive employees in the early days of Disney World. Today, it’s an impressive town full of pristine streets, schools and a beautiful lake. Rated one of the best places to live in the US and an exclusive post-code, the town has become a tourist attraction itself.
Drive through Celebration to marvel at the perfectly homely streets and houses – it’s like something out of a movie. Stop by the lake for a leisurely walk, have lunch in a quaint café or browse the many gift and antique shops of the town centre. It’s a peaceful place to visit and provides a welcome getaway from the active attractions of the nearby area. We personally love the arts and crafts shops, where you’ll stumble upon unique decorations that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
12. Miami day-trip
Drive time from Disneyworld/Lake Buena Vista: ~3 hrs 30 mins
This recommendation isn’t for the faint of heart as it’s quite a trek for a single day, however Miami is well worth visiting if you can. Many people opt to spend a night or two in the city as the one-way drive takes just under 4 hours, however if you get up early, day trips from Orlando to Miami are definitely achievable.
Miami is an eclectic city full of character. It has beautiful beaches with a clash of cultures from all over the America’s and the nightlife and food scene is superb. Spend your day here wandering the shores of South Beach and the marina, stop by the top-rated Wynwood Walls Museum for local arts and crafts and head to Little Havana on the way home for delicious Cuban street food. Your time is limited so we recommend picking 3 attractions/areas and making the most of it! Admittedly, Miami has much more appeal to adults than families, so if you have kids, you may want to consider a more family-friendly excursion!
We hope we’ve inspired with some of the best day trips from Orlando on offer. Take a step back from the theme parks for a road trip adventure to some of the other areas of Florida. There’s a lot to see and do in the state and you’ll get some much-needed relaxation from Orlando, returning to the happiest place on earth at the end of the day!
If you have any suggestions to add to our list, be sure to let us know!
Check out our other Orlando holiday guides
- The ultimate guide to booking an Orlando holiday for the best prices
- Orlando 2-week itineraries for everyone
- Orlando theme park comparison guide