We all know Orlando’s main pull is Disney World and all its magic but as crazy as it might sound, even the biggest fans of theme parks need a break from Mickey and his friends. Fortunately, Orlando offers many other fun activities for those in need of something different or just a step away from all the Disney hype, so here are 5 great day trips from Orlando you shouldn’t miss!
A day trip out of the city is one of the best adventures you can think of. The first thing you have to do is to rent a car in Orlando and start exploring. You may choose an Orlando vacation package if you’re travelling with friends or family members to have a fixed itinerary and minimize some expenses while having fun, or you can go about planning it on your own.
The Kennedy Space Center, for example, is one of the main day-trip destinations, with its popular space shuttle launch experience and impressive exhibits related to rocketry and space. If you are a history buff or enthusiast, St. Augustine is also a must-see. This is the oldest European city based in the United States offering visitors limitless sightseeing and fun activities.
Nature and adventure lovers will also be pampered in the magic city, especially on the Gulf coast, where you can swim with wild manatees or visit a popular wildlife park. What’s more, it is not necessary to venture away from the city for an adrenaline-laden hydrofoil ride through the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. Day trips to the beach from Orlando are also popular. In less than an hour, you can sunbathe on the sand, surf some waves and swim in the clear water nearby beaches.
The Kennedy Space Center is one of the most popular day trips around the city and it is about an hour’s drive east of Orlando. This is for sure one of the best space centres in the whole of the United States, and it is not necessary to be a budding astronaut to appreciate the excellent attractions of this famous NASA facility. Packed with fun activities, from interactive rocket and launch platforms exhibits to IMAX cinema screenings, Kennedy Space Center will teach you everything you need to learn about the history of space travel.
If you want to see all the highlights of the Kennedy Space Center in one visit, sign up for the Kennedy Space Center Day Trip from Orlando. Favorite exhibits include the Atlantis space shuttle, with a two-hour shuttle launch experience; the 30-minute Rocket Garden tour; and the two-hour bus tour of the Kennedy Space Center and the Apollo / Saturn V Center.
For those wildlife lovers who don’t miss an opportunity to be in touch with wild animals, an underwater encounter with an endangered 1,500-pound West Indian manatee will be the most exhilarating experience. Just about 90 minutes by car northwest of Orlando, you will find the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge where these precious giants swim freely in the river’s warm waters. You even have the chance to swim and snorkel with them in their natural habitat in special tours led by wildlife experts in the park!! You can spot manatees at any time of year, but November through March is the best season, because they come here to escape cooling sea temperatures.
Also, to keep on with the wildlife vibe, just 10 minutes’ drive from Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, there’s the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. This is a 210-acre park where you can see and learn about the region’s wildlife, both in the water and on land. From Florida Panthers, bobcats, and black bears to white-tailed deer and birds such as blue herons and flamingos, this wildlife sanctuary is home to the most captivating creatures!
If history is what moves you then the St. Augustine town is a must see when in Orlando. Founded in 1565, this is the oldest European-settled town in the US garlanded with cobblestone streets and a characteristic Spanish colonial charm. Some of the favorite thing to explore here are the 17th-century fortress built to protect St. Augustinians from invading British troops, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument; Fort Matanzas; Flagler College; Lightner Museum; the tranquil Mission of Nombre de Dios; and the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, portraying breathtaking views of the city.
The town also offers plenty of cute boutiques and gift shops, as well as some superb restaurants, so shopping and dining are a delight. A tip to take into account; the town is about a two-hour drive from the tourist attractions of Orlando, so your car rental is mandatory if you don’t want to waste time with public transportation or extra money in expensive taxi services.
If you are in Orlando and what you really want is to experience a real adrenaline rush, I recommend an Airboat ride in the Florida Everglades. Zipping at high speed through Florida’s marshlands is the dream of any adventure lover! Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Tours is one of the closest to the city, about 25 miles south of Orlando. They offer the greatest rides through the Florida Everglades on six-seater boats that are the perfect size to venture into the narrow backwaters and go at a significantly fast speed.
Also, you will have the fortune of enjoying the mythical encounter with the Everglades most famous resident, the American alligator! Just keep your eyes peeled for the cunning creatures swimming along with their heads barely perceptible above the water – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Something that you cannot leave aside when vacationing in Orlando is the nearby stunning beaches. You have many options but one of the most famous is Daytona Beach, About 100 kilometres south of San Agustín. This is a city is known for its continuous parties (Spring Break!) And, obviously, everything related to motor racing. The love for vehicles is not only visible on the Daytona International Speedway, which hosts the annual Daytona 500 NASCAR race, but also on the beach: the crushed sand makes it possible for cars to reach almost the sea. Daytona Beach is a trendy place for spring break lovers, who come to enjoy 23 miles of golden sand beaches. What’s more, Daytona Beach Boardwalk has mechanical attractions, go-karts, video games, skill games, delicious food, souvenir shops and a “speed greeting” exhibition. This is a synonym of endless fun for the whole family!
Another option voted frequently as one of the best beaches in Florida is Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of México. Yes, is a little away from Orlando, about 2.5 hours by car but I promise you, it will be worth it. The beach extends for about 2.5 miles along the outer edge of a barrier island and backed by the surrounding resorts and residential areas. Visitors mostly enjoy lying on the soft white sand and swimming in the calm waters but you can also choose more dynamic activities like adrenaline-packed one-hour speedboat ride around the bay in the Clearwater Sea Screamer. You will also be able to embark on a trip from here to catch fish such as grouper, sea bass, snapper, and tarpon.
Last but not least is New Smyrna Beach. This is my favourite beach around Orlando as it is really serene and you actually get to rest and relax. This perfect spot is just one hour drive away from the city and it boasts pampers its visitors with soft sand beaches and an easy-going vibe that make it ideal for a day of swimming, surfing or boating.
You can even rent a bike and cycle along the hard-packed sand, or stay until dark and spot baby turtles hatching and making a break for the sea at a beach nearby.
What else could you ask for? Enjoy!