Best Day Trips from Orlando

Orlando is known to many as the ultimate vacation destination. Its world-class theme parks, mild weather, and legendary nightlife attract visitors from all over the globe. But O-Town residents may find themselves in need of a change of pace. And an enjoyable excursion doesn’t always have to involve the headaches of airfare, hotel bookings, or long-haul driving. Whether you are in the mood to get your adrenaline pumping, learn something new, connect with nature, or shop until you drop, central Florida may have more day trip options to offer than you knew. Read on to learn about exciting destinations that are all accessible within two and a half hours or less, driving from Orlando.

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Adventure and Thrills

1. The Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park

A dizzying list of adventure activities awaits you ninety minutes southeast of Orlando at The Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park. Visitors can choose from a range of multi-hour zip tours that will allow them to view natural wonders such as the enormous Big Cliff Canyon, Gator Lake, and more from a one-of-a-kind and thrilling perspective.

Horseback riding, gem mining, and kayaking are also available at this Sunshine State outdoor wonderland. Load up the kids or book a group event to float, fly, and ride through a day of fun together! This adventure park is open from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM every day except Monday and Wednesday. Please note that hours can vary depending on the season. Calling ahead before you hit the road is recommended.

Travel time: approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Orlando

Available activities: zip line tours, horseback riding, kayaking, gem mining

Unique features: multiple options for the zip line, horseback, and kayaking tours

Perfect for: groups, kids, couples

Things to know: open year-round, hours are subject to change

2. Nona Adventure Park

Splash the day away only thirty minutes south of Orlando at Nona Adventure Park. This aquatic playground offers incredible amenities, especially for the fitness-inclined. Kids, big or small, with energy to burn will love the Aqua Park, a floating obstacle course that sits atop Adventure Lake. Guests will have a blast on this floating play palace that offers challenging features such as a Whirlpool, Tire Run, Ninja Jump, and two “Mt. Rainers.”

Visitors can also learn to wakeboard or sharpen their skills by taking advantage of Nona Adventure Park’s equipment rentals and unique cable system to accommodate riders in a controlled environment. Lessons, rental packages, and access to the wake facilities are available for riders of all skill levels, including those brand new to the sport!

This aquatic adventure destination also hosts birthday parties, features a bistro, and offers summer camp opportunities.

Travel time: approximately 30 minutes from Orlando

Available activities: inflatable aqua park, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, climbing tower

Unique features: wakeboarding instruction, equipment rental, multiple packages available

Perfect for: kids, fitness lovers, groups

Things to know: open year-round, hours and availability are subject to change due to weather and other factors, and many pre-booking options are available online

3. Planet Obstacle – World’s Largest Indoor Obstacle Park

Are you looking for an indoor option that will keep everyone active and moving? Planet Obstacle has you covered. Its claim to be the “world’s largest indoor obstacle park” is not hard to believe when you try to take in all 50,000 square feet of equipment and facilities specifically designed for fitness and fun!

Park guests can zoom in from trampolines to aerial ropes courses to foam pits, ninja warrior courses, rock climbing walls, and more! Don’t forget to stop and refuel at the Sky Cafe.

Bring your family and crew of friends just twenty-five minutes north of Orlando for a day of active thrills, no matter what the weather outside decides to do. Everyone in your crew should sleep well after a day spent climbing, bouncing, and flying through a day of fun at Planet Obstacle!

Travel time: approximately 25-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: trampolines, aerial ropes courses, bumper cars, foam pit, ninja warrior courses, rock climbing

Unique features: a huge selection of indoor play options, a toddler area, and many features are offered to children as young as 3

Perfect for: kids of all ages, parties, groups

Things to know: open year-round, closed on Mondays

4. Tampa Riverwalk

Enjoy life at your own pace along the 2.4-mile Tampa Riverwalk, approximately two hours southwest of Orlando. Make the trek to this celebrated feature of the Big Guava, and enjoy a bike ride, Segway cruise, or simply walk among a wealth of entertainment, culinary and cultural highlights.

See cruise ships coming to and from Port Tampa Bay. Learn about the city’s history through locally maintained museums and artwork. Try something new aboard a water bike or water taxi.

The hardest part of your day might be trying to fit in all of the fun! Music lovers will enjoy the frequent live performances at various venues, including The Straz Center for the Performing Arts. When you get hungry you will have some of Tampa’s best restaurant options at your disposal, from fine dining to cheap eats. Your pup will love the dog park and exploring these amenities with you!

Travel time: approximately a two-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: scenic walking, biking, shopping, museums, live performances, restaurants

Unique features: easy access to The Florida Aquarium, Glazer Children’s Museum, and Tampa Museum of Art

Perfect for: families, couples, groups, foodies, solo travelers

Things to know: Friends of the Riverwalk host and promote events throughout the year. A current list is available here.

Does Tampa’s Riverwalk have shops?

Downtown Tampa’s Riverwalk features a wide variety of shops selling everything from unique souvenirs to fine art. To find one-of-a-kind items, stroll into any of the numerous nearby shops. In the Art District, you may find museum gift stores that sell anything from clothing to books.

5. Wild Florida Airboats & Gator Park

No one can say that they have truly experienced Florida until they have spent time exploring the wonders of the Everglades. One of the best options for doing so is only 45 minutes south of Orlando at Wild Florida Airboats & Gator Park. Guests can enjoy the park’s signature offering, airboat tours of the wetlands, in increments of thirty minutes to one hour. These tours offer up-close views of protected wildlife and environments in an authentic, natural setting.

Before or after your airboat ride, be sure and leave time to visit Gator Park where you can see, touch, and feed animals from Florida and the world beyond. This area specializes in encounters with tropical birds, two-toed sloths, and (of course) alligators!

Continue the fun by enjoying a drive-thru Safari Park tour. This option allows guests to encounter up to 150 forms of local and exotic animals. You could spot wildebeest, bison, zebras, giraffes, and more from the comfort of your vehicle.

Travel time: approximately 45-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: Airboat tours, Gator Park, drive-thru Safari Park

Unique features: check their website for exclusive offers for Florida residents

Perfect for: families, kids, and animal lovers

Things to know: a wide range of options are available for tours, groups, and packaging park experiences together, open and taking reservations year-round, and closed on Sundays.

What is the cost of visiting Wild Florida Airboats & Gator Park?

Price: $14 for adults and $10 for children (13 and up). Local Florida wildlife, exotic birds, and other animals from across the world are all on display for visitors to see, touch, and even feed at Wild Florida Airboats & Gator Park.

6. Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs is typically passed over in favor of Clearwater to the south, even though it is just as attractive. Tarpon Springs, Florida, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, is known as the “sponge capital of the world” for its extensive sponge industry. Because it was established by Greek immigrants, the historic downtown area has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Sponge Docks, located on the water’s edge, is famed for its seafood. If you’re in the mood for some adventure, go scuba diving or deep-sea fishing on a boat. Don’t worry if you’d prefer not to get wet — there are plenty of activities for landlubbers.

Does Tarpon Springs have any real Springs?

The Major, which spans a constant 300 feet and a distance of 0.5 miles to its confluence with the Anclote River, is the largest of Tarpon’s mineral springs; the other 10–12 springs within a radius of 50 feet are also important to the town’s reputation.

7. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Weeki Wachee was like any other Florida attraction when it first opened in 1947. Although it is now part of a state park, the landmark is still accessible to the public. You can only swim with mermaids like this in Florida. While the mermaid shows are the main draw to Buccaneer Bay, the park also offers riverboat tours, wildlife education, kayaking, and swimming in natural springs.

Do I need to make a reservation to go to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park?

You need to make a reservation in advance. Visitors to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park will want to spend as much time as possible on the Weeki Wachee River, enjoying the park’s natural beauty and the opportunities for both excitement and relaxation it provides.

8. Fort Lauderdale

Day visits to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are well worth the travel from Orlando because of the city’s vibrancy and culture. Take up some rays at one of the area’s beaches, stroll the seven-mile coastline, or explore the Everglades by airboat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a city known as the “Venice of America” because of its magnificent waterfront real estate and hundreds of miles of canals. Get as full as you can of all the tasty cuisine while you’re there!

There is a wide variety of restaurants to choose from in Fort Lauderdale, including numerous Caribbean and Latin American selections. One of my favorite annual gatherings takes place in Fort Lauderdale in April: the Tortuga Music Festival. This weekend’s country music festival will donate a portion of its revenues to the Rock the Ocean Foundation, which supports efforts to protect marine life.

Know that while a day trip to Fort Lauderdale is possible, the city is best explored through a weekend trip to south Florida. Hotels, to one’s relief, are not lacking in the variety department. If you’re looking for a beach hotel, I suggest you book a room at the B Ocean Resort.

9. Gainesville

Many Orlando residents and visitors take day trips to the “Swamp” and the University of Florida. The university’s campus is a delight for architecture and art lovers. Gothic structures draped with ivy, abstract sculptures, and signs proclaiming school pride abound. My favorite thing to do on campus is to go to a football game in the evening.

On-campus attractions also include the Butterfly Rainforest and the Florida Museum of Natural History. The museum houses a collection of zoological specimens that is among the best in the world. The downtown Gainesville area, away from the UF campus, is a hub for the city’s artistic and hippy communities. Take a trip to the stunning Kanapaha Botanical Garden and wander around the 1.5 kilometers of trails there.

A Day at the Beach

10. Canova Beach Park

Canova Beach Park awaits visitors who make the eighty-minute drive southeast of Orlando with over nine acres of white sand, pavilions, showers, fishing, and surfing. Plan a day of fun in the sun with your pooch who can enjoy the beach with you! (Don’t forget the leash.)

This seaside spot features ADA accessibility and free parking. Use it as the perfect destination for a family outing or group event. Or make the drive solo, and use the time to reconnect with nature and yourself. Either way, you can have fun and make it home in plenty of time to sleep in your bed!

Travel time: approximately 80-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: beach access, barbecue grills, picnic area, dog park

Unique features: ADA-accessible entrance, free parking, outdoor showers

Perfect for: families, kids, groups, pet owners, solo travelers

Things to know: open daily from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM, leashes and tags are required for a dog beach.

11. Daytona Beach and Boardwalk

Sometimes the atmosphere of one of the world’s most iconic beaches is what you crave. Orlando residents only need to drive about an hour northeast to arrive at such a destination: Daytona Beach. There they will find a massive shoreline that, at low tide, offers up to 500 feet of shoreline length for play and relaxation.

You can stake out a spot for the day to eat, swim, sip, and lounge away the hours. Great photo and people-watching opportunities abound at this popular vacation spot. If you need a break from the sand and surf, Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier is only stepped away offering restaurants, shops, rides, performances, and other entertainment.

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: swimming, surfing, bird and sea turtle watching, boardwalk

Unique features: ADA-accessible areas, public parking, lifeguards, and some pet-friendly areas

Perfect for: families, kids, groups, pet owners, solo travelers

Things to know: free access to pedestrians 24/7, cars allowed in specified areas between sunrise and sunset

12. New Smyrna Beach

Nestled between the Intracoastal Waterway and the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s east coast, New Smyrna Beach offers travelers from Orlando (especially those with canine companions) an exciting day trip option that is only one hour’s drive away.

This 17-mile-long white sandy beach has become an especially popular destination for surfers. Amateurs and experts alike are welcome to cruise the abundant waves and breaks.

Four-legged friends will find a warm welcome at Smyrna Dunes, the 73-acre dog-friendly beach at the northern end of New Smyrna Beach. The town also offers pet-friendly restaurants ready to spoil you and your pooch with excellent local fare.

New Smyrna beach has publicly committed to providing environmentally sustainable tourism experiences. Have fun at the beach and feel good about supporting a community that is intentional about supporting nature conservation efforts.

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: swimming, surfing, fishing, boating, dogs and dog lovers

Unique features: pet-friendly, NSB Trails (curated tourism experiences) available

Perfect for: surfers, families, kids, groups, pet owners, solo travelers

Things to know: the Visitor Center is open from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Monday – Friday

Is it worth going to New Smyrna Beach?

New Smyrna Beach isn’t the most well-known place to visit in Florida, but the city’s diverse wildlife and interesting history make it well worth a trip.

13. Playalinda Beach

In a state known for destination beaches, it can be a challenge to find a coastal space that feels like a real getaway. Playalinda Beach is ready to fulfill that need and it is only one hour east of Orlando.

Travelers seeking to enjoy beach life and relax in a truly natural setting will fall in love with this portion of the Canaveral National Seashore, a US National Park.

Featuring grassy dunes and miles of unspoiled seclusion, it’s the ideal spot for sunbathing, a family swim, or just some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of more populated areas.

The park serves as a protected habitat for fifteen threatened or endangered species. Keep an eye out and you might get to see some examples yourself, such as the leatherback sea turtle, crested caracara, or West Indian manatee.

Playalinda is a very popular spot for its unobstructed view of rocket launches at nearby Cape Canaveral. But it is available for soaking up the waves, sun, and natural setting any day of the year!

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: swimming, sunbathing, hiking, bird and animal watching

Unique features: protected wildlife habitats and landscapes

Perfect for: families, solo travelers, bird watchers, nature lovers

Things to know: The beach is open daily from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, updates on operating hours can be found here

14. St. Augustine Beach

Are you in charge of planning the next family or group beach trip and want to knock it out of the park? Look no further than St. Augustine Beach. Think of a beach-related amenity and, chances are, it’s abundantly available at this sunny paradise located two hours northeast of Orlando.

Swim, fish, surf, boogie board, cycle, and paddle board until your heart’s content taking advantage of the many rental and guide services available. Or just grab a beach chair and colorful umbrella, relax, and take in the views somewhere along the 42 miles of stunning, sandy coast. If you’re looking to spoil yourself during your day trip, there are plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options nearby.

Travel time: approximately 2-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: swimming, fishing, surfing, skimboarding, boogie boarding, and more!

Unique features: fishing pier, picnicking, a splash park, pavilion (reservations are available), restrooms, picnic tables, showers, visitor center, seasonally-staffed lifeguards

Perfect for: families, solo travelers, groups, couples, adventure seekers

Things to know: Driving and parking on the beach are allowed only between 8:00 and 7:30 pm during sea turtle season (May 1 – October 31).

Is it nice to go to St. Augustine Beach?

One of St. Augustine’s best beaches. There are sunny rooms, tropical restaurants by the water, and a beachfront park with an impressive fishing pier, pavilion, splash park, and sand volleyball courts.

15. Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is routinely ranked as one of the top beaches in the United States. A day excursion to the beach is possible from Orlando, where you may relax in the sun and listen to the waves. There are many surf shops and seafood eateries for those seeking the classic beach town experience. The locals highly recommend a grouper sandwich.

When is the ideal time to visit Clearwater Beach?

The months of October through December are prime time for a trip to Clearwater Beach. The weather is milder, there are fewer people around, and there are many fun seasonal activities to partake in if you visit during the fall.

Architecture and Museums

16. Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center

A ninety-minute drive from Orlando can bring visitors to Florida Southern College which boasts the largest single-site collection of architecture by the renowned Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center is part of the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, which also offers tours of the Wright-designed Usonian House and Water Dome.

The visitor center is the place to purchase a self-guided walking tour map which provides the locations and background information on the thirteen one-of-a-kind Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures in the care of the college.

Architecture buffs, Wright devotees, and lovers of beautiful design should take advantage of this nearby treasure trove!

Travel time: approximately 1 hour and a 30-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: exhibits, self-guided walking tour, guided tour of Usonian House

Unique features: the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright structures on a single site

Perfect for: families, couples, solo travelers, students, or appreciators of architecture and design

Things to know: The visitor’s center is open from 9:30 to 4:30 daily. Self-guided tour maps can be purchased for $5. Guided Usonian House, campus, and specialty tours are also available.

17. Museum of Arts and Sciences

Orlando residents who are seeking enrichment, inspiration, or a deeper understanding of history and art should take the one-hour drive northeast to experience the Museum of Art and Sciences at Daytona Beach.

History lovers can enjoy exhibits such as the world’s largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, fully restored antique train cars, signature pieces representing Chinese and Cuban heritage, and a gallery featuring fossils of prehistoric Floridian wildlife.

Those passionate or curious about art can explore the Dow Gallery of American Art, which features work that represents the cultural history of America from the Pilgrim Century to the Victorian Period. Napoleon Bonaparte’s bed and death mask can also be viewed, along with a stunning collection of Cuban folk art.

MOAS also offers a hands-on children’s museum and free admission on the first Tuesday of every month!

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: suggested itineraries for both history and art lovers

Unique features: planetarium shows, traveling exhibitions, artist demonstrations

Perfect for: families, couples, solo travelers, and anyone passionate or curious about art and history

Things to know: open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and Sundays from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

18. Modernism Museum in Mount Dora

Are you ready to deviate from the typical museum experience? A forty-five-minute drive northwest of Orlando can bring you a fresh take on the Modernism Museum in Mount Dora. This museum features inspirational work by artists and designers who have created functional objects in strange, beautiful, and unique ways.

You will see tables, chairs, staircases, and musical instruments created using materials, textures, and shapes that may never have thought possible

Previous exhibitions have included Esherick to Nakashima, which featured examples of ground-breaking furniture design and a celebration of David Bowie.

The museum also hosts events such as concerts, meditation, and yoga classes.

Be sure and pop in for an unforgettable meal at the museum’s acclaimed restaurant, 1921 Mount Dora.

Travel time: approximately 45-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: permanent and traveling exhibitions of truly unique modern design

Unique features: concerts, classes, special events

Perfect for: couples, solo travelers, lovers of beautiful and unusual design

Things to know: open Friday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

19. Valiant Air Command, Inc. Warbird Museum

Experience the colorful and fascinating history of vintage military aircraft by taking a 45-minute drive east from Orlando to visit Valiant Air Command, Inc. This non-profit warbird museum displays aircraft that can help guests experience the history of American aviation.

These expertly restored planes are a sight to behold and will help aviation enthusiasts of all ages make great memories together.

The museum also invites guests to view in-progress restoration projects (from an appropriate distance) at its restoration hangar and sponsors a program to help students understand the value and importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education through an aviation lens.

On the second Saturday of each month, Valiant presents a “Fly-in / Drive-in Breakfast” during which guests can arrive in the vehicle of their choice, enjoy a chef-prepared breakfast, and explore the museum for free. How’s that for an epic day trip?

Travel time: approximately 45-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: aircraft collection viewing, event space rental, STEM program

Unique features: restoration hanger VACSTEM education program,

Perfect for: aviation/military/history buffs, families, solo travelers

Things to know: open Wednesday – Sunday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

20. The Wizard of Oz Museum

You’ll have a feeling you’re not in Orlando anymore after you make the one-hour drive east and walk through the doors of the Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral.

Get lost exploring the over 2,000 pieces of memorabilia from the beloved L. Frank Baum’s novel and 1939 film. You’ll see your favorite characters depicted as dolls, figurines, holiday ornaments, and more. While many of these collectible pieces are left to be viewed under glass, kids will love the room that includes a collection of Oz-related toys and books offered for hands-on enjoyment.

Follow the yellow brick road to the immersive experience which will transport you into a three-dimensional recreation of Oz. Over thirty laser projectors are used to depict four different scenes from The Wizard of Oz in 360-degree images.

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: huge memorabilia collection, hands-on kids exhibit

Unique features: immersive art experience (with plans to expand in the future!)

Perfect for: dedicated or casual fans of The Wizard of Oz, families, children

Things to know: open daily from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Nature, Hiking, Wildlife

21. Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Take in the distinctive combination of plant and animal life that only central Florida can offer by making the 35-minute drive from Orlando to the Charles H. Bronson State Forest in Oviedo. This state-managed wildlife area is an over 11,000-acre hiker’s paradise. The state forest features a lush panorama of palmetto, palm, and oak trees.

There are routes on over 18 miles of hiking trails, 7 of which are part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. It’s an ideal location for spotting local animal species such as gopher tortoise, deer, alligator, turkey, and a host of local birds.

This wooded sanctuary is also a destination for horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. The website contains all the information you need to make your adventure there fun, safe, and memorable.

Travel time: approximately 35-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching, hunting, fishing

Unique features: section of Florida National Scenic Trail

Perfect for: families, couples, kids, solo travelers, nature lovers

Things to know: open to the public during daylight hours, trail maps and information are available at the visitor’s center from 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

22. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Setting out by foot is not the only way to experience the natural wonders of the Sunshine State. You might prefer to explore the wildlife of the wetlands with the help of two or four wheels. Make the 30-minute drive northwest of Orlando to encounter all that the wetlands of the northern shore of Lake Apopka have to offer from behind the wheel of your car or atop the seat of your bicycle.

The drive features over thirteen miles of incomparable views of local plants and wildlife. Don’t forget your camera so that you can join the community of photographers capturing stunning images of Floridian plants, animals, and habitats. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to park, stretch your legs, walk around, and take in the sights and sounds.

Cyclists are welcome to enjoy the scenic roads here as well. If you are bringing a bike, consider your choice of tires and other equipment carefully. Some portions of the drive include gravel.

It is recommended that drivers allow about two hours to enjoy all that the Lake Apopka Wildlife drive has to offer. An audio tour with in-depth information about local species and efforts to restore and protect the wetlands is available from the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Travel time: approximately 30 minutes drive from Orlando

Available activities: 13.5 miles of the scenic drive, with some optional routes

Unique features: unspoiled plant and animal habitats, dedicated roads for wildlife viewing, audio tour, multiple parking areas

Perfect for: families, couples, solo travelers, bird watchers

Things to know: no entry fee, open 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM Friday – Sunday

Does Lake Apopka Wildlife have alligators?

There are six major entry points to the lake, but the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is a big attraction. At least 367 avian species are known to frequent the lake’s habitats. There is a wide variety of animals that makes the lake and its surroundings its home, including alligators, bobcats, otters, and more.

23. Polk’s Nature Discovery Center

Journey one-hour northwest of Orlando for a day of fun-filled learning about the natural features and distinctive ecosystems of central Florida at Polk’s Nature Discovery Center.

Kids and adults alike can enjoy indoor programs and hands-on exhibits, rain or shine. Discover and learn about the wetland’s natural wonders by exploring the Exploration Lab, Land Through Time Theater, and more.

Ask the friendly and informative staff there for information about their self-guided educational programs, like Nature Bingo and the QR Code Hike.

The center is part of a larger protected environmental area, Circle B Bar Reserve. This facility, managed by the Polk County Environmental Lands Program, offers a wealth of hiking trails, picnic facilities, and dreamy spots for photography that can enrich your day trip even further.

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: hands-on exhibits, self-guided learning activities, resource room, kids classes, and programming

Unique features: field studies and hands-on learning workshops are available

Perfect for: kids, families, groups, nature lovers

Things to know: open from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday and from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM on Sunday

24. St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park

Some say there is no more powerful experience than surrounding yourself with trees. Find the peace and inspiration that only forest bathing can bring only two hours southeast of Orlando at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.

The dedicated staff at this state-managed preserve work tirelessly to protect the local wildlife and educate the public on conservation efforts. They also keep the place packed with fun amenities from hiking trails and picnic areas to paddle boating and mountain biking facilities. You can also unload your boat, saddle up your horse, or paddle away in your canoe to explore the river which is teeming with native critters and surrounded by beautiful, indigenous, longleaf pine trees.

You could spot manatees at the designated overlook and document sightings of local bird species such as the Florida scrub jay, red-cockaded woodpecker, and Southern bald eagle.

Travel time: approximately a two-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, horseback ridge, boating

Unique features: native wildlife viewing, longleaf pine forest, and private boat ramps available

Perfect for: families, couples, solo travelers, hikers, boaters, birdwatchers, equestrians

Things to know: open from 8:00 AM to sunset every day of the year, no entrance fee

25. Ocala National Forest

Hidden among widely-known tourist attractions that are known for rides, gift shops, and glitzy lights, is a natural wonderland where visitors can enjoy the greenery, lakes, rivers, and the peaceful sights and sounds of a national forest. Orlando dwellers will only need to drive one and a half hours northwest to experience the beauty and wonder of Ocala National Forest.

Guests can spend the day marveling at the over 600 lakes and rivers. Bring your snorkel, boat, fishing pole, or binoculars to make the most of this stunning natural display. There are also spaces for enjoying your ATV, motorcycle, or off-road vehicle.

Leashed pets are welcome in most areas. So, the whole family can enjoy the truly wild landscape of central Florida and all that it has to offer.

Travel time: approximately 1 hour and a 30-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: hiking, fishing, boating, swimming

Unique features: hiking trails, lake, and pond fishing, 200 miles of ATV/motorcycle trails, over 80 miles of trails for Jeeps and other 4-wheel-drive vehicles

Perfect for: kids, families, hikers, cyclists, off-road enthusiasts

Things to know: recreation passes and permits are only required in some areas, US Forest Service website has the most current information

What makes Ocala National Forest famous?

The jewels of the Ocala National Forest draw people from all over the world because they are close to both well-known theme parks and beaches with white sand. The Ocala area is a destination in and of itself. It has more than 600 lakes and rivers where people can swim, fish, snorkel, canoe, and boat.

Restaurants and Retail

26. Fisherman’s Village

Ready to treat yourself? Drive one and a half hours northeast of Orlando to visit Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. There you will find a varied selection of restaurants, boutiques, and local flair laid out across this idyllic resort and marina.

You may find yourself among families, couples, and individuals on epic vacations. But this amenity-laden hotspot offers plenty to make the day trip of your dreams. Kids will love the family-friendly dining options and shops like Laff Out Loud, which is stocked with fun toys and novelties.

While you’re there, consider enjoying a fishing charter or harbor tour from one of the many aquatic service providers available.

Come and see why folks from far and wide make Fisherman’s Village one of their favorite spots to dine and play.

Travel time: approximately 1 hour and a 30-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: shopping, restaurants, fishing, tours

Unique features: many shopping, dining, and entertainment options

Perfect for: families, kids, couples, fishing/boating enthusiasts

Things to know: open 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM Monday through Saturday and

12:00 PM – 6:00 PM Sunday

27. St. Armands Circle

Treasures are waiting to be uncovered at St. Armands Circle in Sarasota. Make the two-and-a-half-hour drive southwest of Orlando, and you will find over 130 shops, restaurants, boutiques, and galleries ready to fill your day trip with discovery.

Soak up the sea air and walk among the palm trees as you spend your day drifting in and out of the many shops that carry your favorite brands, essential gear, and fun ways to pamper yourself.

Make a day of it with a group of friends, the whole family, or for some alone time. You will come home satisfied by the delicious food and with a haul of great finds.

While you’re there, make time to enjoy the salon and spa offerings. Also, keep an eye on their website for information about special events like exotic car shows and musical performances.

Travel time: approximately 2 hours and a 30-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: shopping, dining, salon/spa facilities

Unique features: specialty shops, galleries

Perfect for: families, couples, groups, and solo travelers

Things to know: hours of operation vary, see website for directories and calendar of special events

28. Sherman’s Antiques

Connect to the past and find hidden gems in over 10,000 square feet of quality antiques at Sherman’s Antiques in Winter Haven. About one-hour southwest of Orlando, Sherman’s Antiques specializes in vintage dolls and toys, but also offers furniture, decor, and friendly service.

Find that unique gift or piece for your home among the vast array of items supplied by over 35 dealers.

Add a sense of adventure to your day trip by exploring an indoor/outdoor antique shopping experience where you never know what you’ll find!

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: antique shopping

Unique features: large selection of vintage toys and dolls

Perfect for: collectors, groups, solo travelers

Things to know: open daily, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday through Saturday and 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM Sunday

29. Winter Park Farmer’s Market

You may have seen and heard about many of the natural wonders of the Sunshine State. But have you tasted them? A short twenty-minute drive north of Orlando will allow you to do just that at the Winter Park Farmers Market. There, every Saturday morning, you will find one of Central Florida’s very best selections of plants and produce.

Central Park West Meadow hosts this weekly event that features dozens of vendors supplying everything from homegrown tomatoes to orchids to fresh seafood. Enjoy the atmosphere of the bustling market community, support some local small businesses, and come home to stock your shelves with local goodness.

Vendors are screened carefully to weed out excessively processed and widely mass-produced products. So, you can also enjoy peace of mind knowing that you are supporting real growers and makers of authentic, quality, small-batch goods.

Travel time: approximately 20-minute drive from Orlando

Available activities: shopping among local farms and vendors

Unique features: high standards for truly local, health-conscious vendors

Perfect for: foodies, families, healthy eaters

Things to know: open every Saturday from 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM at Central Park West Meadow

30. Lake Sumter Landing

What could be better for a day trip than all of your favorite retail brands, restaurants, and recreation options only steps away from a beautiful waterfront? Lake Sumter Landing offers all of this and more at The Villages, only a one-hour drive northwest of Orlando.

Every day of the year guests can shop and dine with some of the most popular brands available. These shops and eateries are conveniently located alongside fun events such as yoga classes, live music, and holiday celebrations.

Take breaks from shopping to stroll along the boardwalk. You might hear local musicians sharing their compositions or catch a parade going by. Every member of the family will find something to enjoy in this picturesque retail, dining, and entertainment destination.

Travel time: approximately 1-hour drive from Orlando

Available activities: shopping, dining, live music, movie theater

Unique features: waterfront setting, arranged around the beautiful Market Square

Perfect for: families, couples, groups

Things to know: hours of operation vary by location, and directories and calendar of events are available on the Lake Sumter Landing Market Square website

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