Orlando is a premier vacation destination, but it's also centrally located, making it one of the best states for day trips! Here are 21 epic day trips from Orlando that we know you'll love. Quickly drive from coast to coast, check out hidden gems, and escape the high-density tourist areas.
Tourists flock to Orlando, with the city being home to Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. That means it's also quite pricey. You'll pay top dollar while in Orlando. However, traveling just a few hours away via car can save money. You'll also be able to experience local gems. Day trips are worth considering solely because of the money you'll save.
21 Best Day Trips From Orlando
Since these day trips require driving time, and Florida is a toll road state, consider purchasing a SunPass. You'll save time at each toll plaza and zip on by in the SunPass lane.
1 – Cocoa Beach
There are a few reasons why Cocoa Beach is at the top of this list! Everyone always asks where the closest beach to Orlando is, and it's Cocoa Beach. Secondly, it's home to the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. You can't drive to Orlando without passing the infamous Ron Jon billboards.
Cocoa Beach is on Florida's Space Coast. The namesake comes from all of the rocket launches nearby. It's also home to Port Canaveral, where you can easily hop onboard a cruise ship to sail away.
My favorite must-do Cocoa Beach activity is walking along the boardwalk at sunset. There are a couple of spots to grab a cocktail on the boardwalk, and it's an excellent spot for sunset photos.
2 – Kennedy Space Center
To piggyback off Cocoa Beach, the Kennedy Space Center is another great day trip from Orlando. Guests can experience NASA history, see current SpaceX projects and learn with hands-on exhibits.
Our family loves the “Behind The Gates” Kennedy Space Center bus tour. It's a 40-minute behind-the-scenes tour where guests can get in-depth looks at space technology – such as the Vehicle Assembly Building. The bus tour is equally informative as it is exhilarating.
3 – St. Augustine
Discover the rich history of Florida's Historic Coast when you visit St. Augustine. The drive time from Orlando to St. Augustine is less than two hours.
Visitors can sip from Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth, take a ghost tour, or relax on 42 miles of beachfront. Kids seeking adventure love the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, where they can get an up-close encounter with different native reptiles.
4 – Lake Nona (Near St. Cloud)
The Lake Nona neighborhood is a beautiful and quick escape from the hustle and bustle. Visitors can experience a holistic retreat within this scenic Orlando suburb.
From nature trails to upscale shopping, there's something for anyone that wants to retreat. The city sits on the picturesque Lake Nona, which covers 17 acres and offers a nice shorefront. Enjoy recreational activities around the lake and finish your day in Lake Nona by dining at a chef-owned restaurant.
5 – Tarpon Springs
Most Central Florida visitors don't even realize there's a quaint seaside town just south of Tampa filled with Greek culture. Greek diving crews visited the city of Tarpon Springs and fell in love with the town that reminded them of home. Today, many Greeks maintain the religion, architecture, and food of their native country.
Beach-goers, foodies, and art connoisseurs will find endless things to do in Tarpon Springs. A must-do is spending time on the sponge docks. The dock is near Greek restaurants, and guests can watch fresh sponges come up, which they harvest from the ocean. Tarpon Springs is famous for their sponges.
6 – Clearwater Beach
Tourists flock to Clearwater Beach for the crystal-blue Gulf of Mexico water, but there's so much to do beyond the beach. About 1 1/2 hours from Orlando, Clearwater is one of my favorite day trips from Orlando!
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a nonprofit aquarium dedicated to its team helping marine animals. Visitors can see dolphins, sea turtles, otters, pelicans, sharks, stingrays, and much more.
Another non-beach favorite is watching a game at BayCare Ballpark. The park is also where the Philadelphia Phillies host their spring training. Grab a hot dog and watch a game at sunset.
7 – Tampa Bay
Even though Orlando has plenty of amusement park fun, you can find even more thrills in Tampa Bay at Busch Gardens. It's a unique concept that combines an animal park with big coasters on the amusement park side.
The park spans 335 acres and offers 27 unique roller coasters – including the world record for the fastest multi-launch roller coaster. The park has an African habitat with over 12,000 animals and a Busch Brewery. It's worth the day trip from Orlando.
8 – Winter Park
Fashionistas will love a day in Winter Park, Florida. The city is known for its green spaces and outdoor shopping districts. Head to Park Avenue for a charming cobblestone street with upscale boutiques and farm-to-table restaurants. It's the place to be seen in Winter Park.
Winter Park is also known for its variety of art. Head to The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art to admire the world's most comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany's creations. Or catch a Rollins College show where performing arts take center stage in their historic theater.
9 – DeLand
Located between Orlando and Daytona Beach, DeLand is a historic small city with fusion architecture to admire. Stately red-brick buildings, Greco-Roman columns, and magnificent oak trees make Deland a photogenic town.
Check out De Leon Springs State Park for an adventurous Floridian experience. At the park, you can dip 25 feet down to the mouth of the springs, which releases about 16 million gallons a day. DeLand is a great day trip from Orlando if you want the “true” Florida experience.
10 – Sarasota
A Gulf Coast city, Sarasota offers pristine beaches and quirky fun. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota allows visitors to look inside the Ringlings – the family behind America's most famous circus.
The museum houses old costumes, wagons, and the world’s largest miniature circus. Circus fans can also tour the Ca' d'Zan Mansion. It's a 56-room Venetian Gothic palace that the Ringlings' called home for many years. You'd never know there were such interesting things to do beyond Sarasota beaches – but there are.
11 – Daytona Beach
Daytona offers 23 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline, and the city is such a fun playground for families. Families can pack up their car with beach gear and find easy beach access to enjoy white sands and ocean waters. It's one of the only beaches that visitors can drive on.
The famous Daytona racing tradition continues year-round and offers much more than race-day excitement. Track tours at Daytona International Speedway and awe-inspiring displays at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America drive excitement for visitors of all ages, any time of year. Daytona race history runs deeper than NASCAR.
12 – Crystal River
Have you ever dreamed of swimming with Florida manatees? Head to Crystal River, just a few hours west of Orlando, for the ultimate day trip. The warm Gulf waters are the perfect spot to snorkel with the manatees. Experts will guide you through the adventure and teach you how to get an up-close glimpse as you swim beside the manatees.
Crystal River is also famous for its bay scallops. Float over shallow waters as you search the seagrass beds for scallops. Harvest an entire bag of scallops to enjoy later. Local restaurants specialize in cooking your catch.
13 – New Smyrna Beach
The New Smyrna Beach area is the perfect day trip from Orlando if you're a surfer. The city has 17 miles of white sand beaches that are famous for the waves to catch. With the ocean on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, New Smyrna offers an escape from the Central Florida heat.
The tidal marshes and lagoons of New Smyrna offer a fascinating ecosystem too. Small sharks, such as bonnethead, bull, spinner, blacktip, and the Atlantic sharp-nose, swim to the lagoons, where they stay until adulthood. Kids love exploring the lagoon wildlife.
The Marine Discovery Center of New Smyrna Beach offers educational programs for kids of all ages. They don't want visitors to “fear the fin!”
14 – Blue Spring State Park
With emerald springs feeding the Wekiwa River and lush tropical hammocks, the Blue Spring State Park is the perfect escape – only minutes from downtown Orlando.
The spring is more than a scenic area for canoeing and swimming; it’s a place where families can admire boardwalk manatees, which is excellent for little ones. Manatees love the 72-degree spring; guests can see hundreds from November through March.
15 – Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs State Park is a haven for hikers with over 15 miles of trails. Enjoy river swamps and dry sandhill terrains along the trails. Some animals you may encounter while enjoying the trails include the Florida black bear, white-tailed deer, bobcat, gopher tortoise, turkeys, and many other bird species.
The trails are multi-use, so it's open for horseback riding and bikers. When you're ready to cool off from the hike, rent a kayak or canoe to explore the Wekiva River.
16 – Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Weeki Wachee Springs is most famous for its mermaid shows, spring-fed water park, and beautiful clear blue water. The Weeki Wachee Springs cave system is one of the deepest underwater cave systems in the world. The spring flows into the scenic Weeki Wachee River, making it a paradise for kayaking and paddleboarding.
Take a boat tour and float down the Weeki Wachee River. Kids love to see the crystal-blue water and listen to educational commentary from park rangers.
17 – Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park
You hear about sinkholes all of the time in the Florida news because they’re relatively common. Devil’s Millhopper, located near Gainesville, is the most unique sinkhole.
The reason? In the heart of a pine forest, a striking 120-foot-deep cavity leads down into a miniature rainforest. It’s so deep that the climate changes when you’re down there. It takes 132 steps to reach the bottom of the sinkhole.
Devil’s Millhopper provides tons of insight into Florida’s natural history. They’ve discovered fossilized remains of extinct species in the sinkhole. It's one of the most fascinating day trips from Orlando.
18 – Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The area has an old-time Florida feel because the local government monitors the type of buildings and businesses allowed on the island.
The white sand beaches are perfect for beachcombers, and you're almost guaranteed to see a dolphin when you look to the beach horizon. It's all about the outdoor fun when you visit Anna Maria Island. Parasailing, ziplining, cycling, and fishing are some of the most popular recreational activities.
19 – St. Pete
St. Pete is another great Gulf city just a few hours from Orlando. It has a thriving performing arts scene. Many working artists call St. Pete home, which adds to the eclectic art scene. Film festivals and live music performances are always on the events calendar in St. Pete.
The downtown area of St. Pete is easily walkable, too. Head downtown for shopping, dining, and numerous art galleries to admire.
20 – Bok Tower Gardens
Situated between Tampa and Orlando in Lake Wales lies a special place that’s always worth the drive: Bok Tower Gardens. Bok Tower Gardens is one of my favorite date night adventures and day trips from Orlando.
The gardens have an iconic 205-foot Singing Tower with lush garden paths underneath it. Plus, unique smaller gardens are the perfect spots to explore – like the whimsical Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden or butterfly gardens.
While the gardens bloom all year, I recommend visiting during Azalea season, where you'll see tons of color.
21 – Gainesville
Florida Gator fans will love Gainesville as a day trip from Orlando. Head to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to watch the University of Florida football team. It's wild when Florida takes the field. “The Swamp” comes to life, with 90,000 fans cheering.
Gainesville offers a fantastic tailgate scene on gameday. The party starts at 4 p.m. on the Friday before kickoff. Most gameday parking areas are $30, and you can tailgate in a sea of orange-and-blue fans. College football fans should take advantage of Gainesville's proximity to Orlando.