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Located in the heart of Central Florida, Orlando’s convenient location makes it easy to go on a day trip many attractions in the surrounding area. Offering the perfect escape from the theme park crowds, you don’t need to take vacation days to explore some of Florida’s most picturesque landscapes at nearby beaches, natural springs, and state parks. Fill the gas tank and hit the road, as these are some of the best day trips from Orlando.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Spring Hill
The perfect place to experience Old Florida, Weeki Wachee is famous for its underwater theater and mermaid shows, located less than a two-hour drive from Orlando. Aside from its kitschy nostalgia, it is a beautiful state park where visitors can enjoy the 72-degree crystal clear waters. Perfect for a day of swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking, there is even an on-site water park with flume rides for the kids.
A perfect destination for a day trip, Sarasota is only 2 hours from Orlando and offers a string of eight stunning islands tucked away into the Gulf coast of Southwest Florida. You’ll find fascinating cultural attractions like The Ringling Museum and Marie Selby Botanical Garden appeal to the entire family, while you simply cannot beat a day soaking up the sunshine at the beautiful Siesta Key Beach.
Only a 40-minute jaunt north and you’re in Mount Dora, one of Florida’s beloved small-town charms. While the nature that surrounds Lake Dora is certainly appealing, the biggest draw to this area is the Renninger’s Antique Center & Farmer’s Flea Market, where visitors come to shop for vintage treasures. The Mount Dora Art Festival is the city’s popular annual event, while the array of outdoor cafes, galleries and wineries are perfect for a day trip away.
Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin
Drive two hours west past Tampa and you’ll find Caladesi Island State Park, nestled in the city of Dunedin. Located along the Gulf Coast, its white powdery sand, emerald waters, and lack of tourist crowds make this area feel like an off-the-grid slice of paradise. Regularly ranked one of the top beaches in the United States, it’s here that you are spoiled with natural beauty.
New Smyrna Beach
A favorite of Orlando locals, New Smyrna Beach is just a short one hour drive away from the city. Perfect for when you need a quick getaway to the coast, this alluring area boasts soft sand beaches and easy-going vibes that make it ideal for a day of swimming, surfing a, d boating. The Marine Discovery Center is another popular attraction, where you can find guided kayak and dolphin spotting tours around the Indian River Lagoon.
Blue Springs State Park, Orange Park
Located in Orange City just 45 minutes from Orlando, Blue Springs State Park is the largest spring on the St. John’s River. Covering more than 2,600 acres, this manatee refuge offers 72-degree temperatures that are perfect for cooling off on one of Florida’s hot summer days. Take a dip in the pale blue waters and soak in the views of the forested banks that surround you.
The oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is a great two-hour day trip for history enthusiasts. Founded in 1565, here you can walk along the cobblestoned streets in the National Historic Landmark District, walk the walls of the 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and climb the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum for a stunning panoramic view of the city below.
In less than two hours you can be in Tampa, a vibrant city with a long list of family-friendly attractions. Browse artwork at the world-renown Salvador Dali museum, relax on the award-winning Clearwater Beach, or cheer on the local Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy an afternoon of feeding giraffes at Lowry Park Zoo or observing manatees at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center.
Ocala National Forest, Ocala
Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in the opportunities at nearby Ocala National Forest. Known as the world’s largest sand pine scrub forest, it’s here that you can explore over 360,000 acres of hiking or take a refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters of Silver Glen Springs. One of the best places to experience Florida’s natural landscapes, this area is an excellent choice for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Fort White
Only a two hour drive up north and you’ll find yourself in Ichetucknee Springs State Park, one of Florida’s favorite summertime escapes. Home to an impressive nine crystal clear springs that span over six miles, here you can hop on a tube and float through the refreshing spring-fed waters, relax under the shaded hammocks in a kayak, or go cave diving at the Blue Hole Spring.
Wekiwa Springs State Park, Apopka
A journey that takes no effort to reach, Wekiwa Springs State Park is only 30 minutes outside of Orlando. Its pristine natural beauty makes it a popular day trip for locals and visitors alike, as it offers laid-back currents and stunning views of centuries-old trees. Grab your floaties and explore this 7,000-acre park, where floating along its 72-degree waters is considered a rite of passage.
Ginnie Springs, High Springs
Just a short drive past Gainesville and you’ll reach Ginnie Springs. Located in High Springs, it’s here that you’ll discover one of the clearest springs in the Sunshine State. Popular with swimmers, tubers, snorkelers, and divers, you simply cannot beat the lush landscape views. Underwater thrill seekers will want to add this destination to their list of must-see attractions, as it offers incredible freshwater dives and over 1,000 feet of subterranean passages for cave divers.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Homosassa
The most popular park in Homosassa, the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is an hour and a half from Orlando. If you’re looking for an afternoon of exploring local wildlife, then this is the place to be. It’s here that you can spot anything from a panther to a flock of flamingos, Florida’s “unofficial” state bird. Otters and alligators make regular appearances, while the park’s education center offers a range of fascinating hands-on exhibits.