Thanks to its many spectacular theme parks, Orlando is one of the most-visited cities in the world, so it makes sense to base yourself here during your time in Florida. However, there are plenty of wonderful things to see in the surrounding area as well, and many of them make great day trips. Snorkel with manatees in the Crystal River Springs, visit the historic city of St. Augustine, or head to the Florida Everglades to take an airboat ride and spot endangered wildlife. If you'd rather be by the ocean, Daytona Beach, Clearwater Beach, and Ormond Beach are all an easy drive away. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
Situated on the Atlantic Coast, Daytona Beach is best known as the location of the Daytona International Speedway, which hosts the Daytona 500 NASCAR race every February. The city is undoubtedly at its busiest during this time, but it's a fantastic place to visit during the rest of the year as well, and popular activities include strolling along the Daytona Beach Pier, enjoying the summer concerts held at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, and go karting at the Daytona Lagoon water park. The beach itself is excellent for swimming and surfing, but it also features hard-packed sand that can be used to driving in certain areas.
2.Kennedy Space Center
Outer space undeniably holds a mysterious appeal, and the Kennedy Space Center is an incredible place to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most fascinating aspects of space exploration. Learn about some of history's most important astronauts in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, stand in the mission-command center of the rocket that landed on the moon, or take a stroll through the Rocket Garden, where you can see an incredible collection of rockets from various NASA missions. To make your experience even more interactive, hop aboard the Shuttle Launch Experience to see how it would feel to blast off into space.
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3.Blue Springs State Park
Set along the St. Johns River, Blue Springs State Park is a beautiful destination that also happens to be one of the largest winter manatee refuges in the state. The 72-degree water is perfect for swimming, but visitors can also take a guided boat cruise down the river, rent a canoe or kayak, or hike along the Pine Island Trail. Swimming is not permitted between November and March when the manatees come to spend the winter here, but lucky swimmers might get a glimpse of one during the off-season, and snorkeling equipment is available for rent if needed.
2100 W French Ave, Orange City, FL 32763, Phone: 386-775-3663
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4.Bok Tower Gardens
Occupying a spectacular 250-acre property that includes Iron Mountain, one of the tallest peaks on Florida's peninsula, the Bok Tower Gardens are a wonderful place to relax. The centerpiece of the property is the 205-foot Singing Tower, a carillon with 60 bells that was built on the garden's highest point. Short concerts are held twice a day, but even if you don't manage to catch one, you can enjoy the beauty of the property's 50-acre contemplative garden, go for a walk along the Pine Ridge Nature Trail, or take a guided tour of the Pinewood Estate mansion.
1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-1408
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Florida spoils you for choice when to comes to beautiful beaches, but if you're looking for soft white sand and turquoise water, few places can compare to Clearwater Beach. The waterfront boardwalk offers plenty of wonderful seafood restaurants and cafes, but the real draw here is the warm, inviting water, which is perfectly suited to swimming no matter what the time of year. Thrill seekers can also go parasailing, stand-up paddleboarding, or jet skiing, but if you'd rather relax and lounge on the beach, it's easy to rent a beach chair or even a private cabana.
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6.Crystal River Springs
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Located along the coast of Central Florida, the Crystal River Springs are known for their wonderfully warm water, which remain at a temperature of 72 degrees year-round. The springs attract approximately 600 manatees migrate here for the winter when the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico begins to drop, and it's one of the only places in the world where you can swim with these gentle giants. There are a handful of springs to choose from, but the best is the Three Sisters Spring, which features a boardwalk, kayak rentals, and guided snorkeling tours.
123 NW US Highway 19, Crystal River, FL 34428-3930, Phone: 352-586-1170
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7.De Leon Springs
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De Leon Springs isn't as well-known as many of the other springs in Central Florida, but it's located on a beautiful 625-acre state park that makes the perfect day trip destination. Swimming in the warm spring water is one of the most popular pastimes here, but the water is also great for scuba diving, snorkeling, and canoeing or kayaking. If you'd rather stay on dry land, you can stroll past centuries-old cypress trees on the short, paved Nature Trail, or if you're looking for a bigger challenge, go for a hike on the Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail.
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Founded in 1876, the city of DeLand is fondly known as the "Athens of Florida", a nickname it received because of its rich history and culture as well as its pioneering spirit. It's the proud home of the elegant Stetson University, but tourists are more likely to enjoy visiting the Stetson Mansion estate, browsing the exhibits in the Museum of Art - DeLand, and exploring the city's downtown streets. If you want to spend some time outside, you can take a boat ride out to Hontoon Island or rent a canoe and go for a paddle in the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.
A mysterious sinkhole that was created when the roof over an underground river caved in, Devil's Den is a prehistoric spring dotted with stalactites, fossils, and other rock formations. Visitors must descend a flight of stairs to get in the water, which remains a comfortable 72 degrees year-round and is primarily used for scuba diving. Snorkelers are welcome in the water as well, but due to the spring's small size, swimmers are not permitted. Scuba and snorkel equipment is available for rent if you don't have your own, and facilities include changing areas, cabanas, and picnic tables.
5390 NE 180 Ave, Williston, FL 32696, Phone: 352-528-3344
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, Michigan beaches
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Disney World is one of the biggest attractions in all of Florida, and with its convenient location only 16 miles away from Orlando, it's a wonderful place to go for a day trip. Spread out over almost 40 square miles, the park boasts more attractions than you could ever see in a single day, but that also means there's truly something for everyone. Visit Cinderella Castle, get your heart pumping on one of the many thrill rides, or snap some photos with the park's costumed actors. On a hot day, you'll also probably want to cool off in one of the two water parks.
Boasting more than 19 miles of pristine sand beaches, Flagler County is the perfect place to get a taste of Old Florida. There's plenty of space on the beaches for visitors to spread out and sunbathe or play beach sports, and the water has some of the best surf waves in the state. However, there's an excellent selection of things to do away from the beaches as well, including hiking trails, nature preserves, and world-class golf courses. Birdwatching enthusiasts can also explore the Great Florida Birding Trail, where they'll have the chance to see more than 400 different species.
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Consisting primary of tropical wetlands and forests, the Florida Everglades are sprawled across 1.5 million acres in the south of Florida. One of the most popular activities here is taking an airboat ride across the swamps, but if you'd rather stay off the water, there are more than enough scenic driving routes and boardwalks to keep you entertained for the entire day. The Everglades are also home to hundreds of different animal species, some of which are endangered, and if you keep your eyes open, there's a good chance you might spot alligators, dolphins, crocodiles, or manatees.
Home to the sprawling University of Florida, Gainesville is a vibrant college town that doesn't feel quite like anywhere else in Florida. The surrounding area boasts more than 30 miles of hiking and cycling trails, and you can also visit the Florida Museum of Natural History to learn about the flora and fauna that inhabit the area now and that have lived here in the past. Other interesting attractions include the Harn Museum of Art, the spectacular Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, and the Historic Haile Homestead, which features an elegant plantation house built in the 19th century.
14.Homosassa State Park
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Established to protect Florida's native wildlife, Homosassa State Park has been a popular tourist attraction since the early 1900s. It's home to a diverse range of animals, including Florida panthers, alligators, and black bears, all of which are kept in natural settings where they can be spotted by park visitors. It's certainly worth taking some time to explore the park's network of walking trails, but you also need to make time for the beautiful Homosassa Springs, which is home to a large manatee population. Swimming in the spring is not permitted, but there is an underwater “fishbowl” observatory that makes a perfect viewing spot.
4150 S Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa, FL 34446, Phone: 352-628-5343
If you're ready to take a break from the bustling energy of Orlando and other major Florida attractions, the tiny town of Lake Placid is the perfect place to kick things into a lower gear. There are 27 beautiful lakes in the surrounding area, but don't forget to spend some time strolling around the charming downtown core, where there are almost 50 colorful murals splashed across various building walls. Depending on what time of year you come, you might also be able to catch one of the town's many special events, which include a Caladium Festival in July and a Grape Stomp in August.
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Although you'd expect it to be an island, Merritt Island is actually part of a peninsula on Florida's eastern coast, and it used to be a launch spot for NASA rockets. The area is no longer used for this purpose, but it's now home to the Kennedy Space Center, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Florida. The Space Center is the biggest reasons for visitors to come to this little corner of the state, but nature lovers will also want to spend some time in the nearby Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which offers excellent hiking and wildlife watching opportunities.
With its vibrant energy and its spectacular beaches, Miami is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the entire country. It's tempting to head straight for the beach, but if you can resist the allure of the sun and sand for a few hours, you'll discover that the city has plenty more to offer. The Wynwood Arts District is overflowing with art galleries and incredible graffiti murals, and the cigar shop-lined streets of Little Havana will make you feel like you've been transported a world away. If you want to shop or dine, consider heading to the trendy Design District or to Bayside Marketplace.
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Nestled amidst the rolling hills to the north of Orlando, Mount Dora is a quaint little town with a relaxing Old Florida atmosphere. The downtown core boasts an excellent selection of boutique shops and delicious dining options, and the town is a particularly good place to visit if you love to shop for antique treasures, as many of the downtown stores are filled with nostalgic trinkets, heirloom jewelry, and everything in between. If you don't find anything you like downtown, you can also head to Renninger’s, a massive antique market set on the outskirts of town.
19.New Smyrna Beach
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Not far from the Canaveral National Seashore, New Smyrna Beach is a funky surf town best known for its white sand beaches and its excellent waves. However, it's still worth visiting even if you're not a surfer. The Smyrna Dunes Park is a wonderful place to stroll and swim, and it also happens to offer fantastic views of Ponce Inlet and its iconic red lighthouse. Downtown, the Canal Street Historic District is filled with unique boutique shops, art galleries, and locally-owned eateries, and the Marine Science Center is an educational stop the entire family can enjoy.
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20.Ocala National Forest
As one of the southernmost forests in the United States, the Ocala National Forest offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation no matter what the time of year. Much of the 600 square mile forest consists of unique sand pine scrub, and there are miles and miles of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails for visitors to explore. However, not all of the forest's recreational opportunities are on land; hundreds of springs, rivers, and lakes are dotted throughout the forest as well, and many visitors come here to paddle along the meandering canoe trails and swim or snorkel in the springs.
The former home of business magnate John. D. Rockefeller, Ormond Beach is an upscale resort town with a charming small-town atmosphere. The beach has the same packed sand found on the nearby Daytona Beach, and although some people come here to race along the sand, visitors looking for a more peaceful experience will find it down at the north end of the beach. Swimming, fishing, and sunbathing are some of the most popular ways to spend the day, but visitors can also tour the Rockefeller Casements mansion, window shop on Granada Boulevard, or spend some time at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens.
22.Silver Springs State Park
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Home to one of the largest freshwater springs in the entire world, Silver Springs State Park has been welcoming tourists since the 1870s when it was first established as a tourist attraction. The best way to enjoy the spring itself is to take a glass bottom boat tour, which perfectly showcases the crystal-clear water and its beautiful aquatic wildlife, but there are all sorts of other things to do in the park as well. Stroll through the gardens surrounding the spring, visit the Silver River Museum to learn about the area's history, or rent a kayak and paddle down the peaceful Silver River.
5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488, Phone: 352-261-5840
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Known for being the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is a historic city on Florida's northeast coast. The brick-lined streets, Spanish colonial buildings, and horse-drawn carriages give the city a decidedly European feel, but the many miles of sandy beaches just outside the city serve as a perfect reminder that you're in Florida. Exploring the historic streets and lounging on the beautiful beaches are two of the best things to do here, but there are plenty of exciting attractions as well, including the 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos, the Gilded Age Alcazar hotel, and the iconic St. Augustine Lighthouse.
Tucked in between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, St. Petersburg is a wonderfully sunny city with a vibrant arts scene. Many of the city's top attractions can be found along the waterfront; the Dali Museum boasts an incredible collection of surrealist art, the Chihuly Collection art gallery is full of unique glass sculptures, and the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg features a collection of artwork spanning 5,000 years. These attractions alone could easily fill an entire day, but you can also admire the beautiful Sunken Gardens, relax on the beach, and explore the trails in the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.
25.Weeki Wachee Springs
One of the most magical destinations in Florida, the Weeki Wachee Springs are a family-friendly destination located along the Weeki Wachee River. The park is best known for the live underwater mermaid shows that have been taking place in the aquarium-like theater since 1947, but there are many other activities for visitors to enjoy as well. The Buccaneer Bay waterpark features a lazy river and a handful of waterslides, and wildlife programs are held several times a day. Visitors can also explore the beautiful river by joining a boat cruise or renting a canoe or stand-up paddleboard to explore on their own.
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Orlando, FL
- Daytona Beach, Photo: jovannig/stock.adobe.com
- Kennedy Space Center, Photo: Wimbledon/stock.adobe.com
- Blue Springs State Park, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Bok Tower Gardens, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Clearwater Beach, Photo: Mariakray/stock.adobe.com
- Crystal River Springs, Photo: James White and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- De Leon Springs, Photo: Michel Emile/stock.adobe.com
- DeLand, Photo: SR Productions/stock.adobe.com
- Devil’s Den, Photo: allexxandarx/stock.adobe.com
- Disney World, Photo: Klaus Nowottnick/stock.adobe.com
- Flagler County, Photo: Roger/stock.adobe.com
- Florida Everglades, Photo: Studio Barcelona/stock.adobe.com
- Gainesville, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- Homosassa State Park, Photo: JEROME LABOUYRIE/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Placid, Photo: charliewinters/stock.adobe.com
- Merritt Island, Photo: Stephen Meese/stock.adobe.com
- Miami, Photo: tomalu/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Dora, Photo: petert2/stock.adobe.com
- New Smyrna Beach, Photo: Jim Engelbrecht and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Ocala National Forest, Photo: gadzius/stock.adobe.com
- Ormond Beach, Photo: Stephen/stock.adobe.com
- Silver Springs State Park, Photo: JEROME LABOUYRIE/stock.adobe.com
- St. Augustine, Photo: VIAVAL/stock.adobe.com
- St. Petersburg, Photo: Mariakray/stock.adobe.com
- Weeki Wachee Springs, Photo: George/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Ana/stock.adobe.com
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