Day Trips From Orlando
Orlando offers plenty of wondrous, unforgettable experiences to keep you busy during your visit. In fact, it would take more than 120 days to enjoy them all! Still, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that incredible adventures can also be enjoyed throughout the Central Florida region — including many that offer fun in the sun and fresh air just a two-hour drive or less from Orlando.
Unique Florida Attractions East of Orlando
Canaveral National Seashore
Part of the U.S. National Park Service, Canaveral National Seashore is one of the most gorgeous stretches of beachfront in the country. Starting in New Smyrna Beach, it runs 24 miles south to Titusville, just north of Cape Canaveral, all about an hour east of International Drive.
Learn more: Orlando Ecotourism
In addition to protected beaches that are untouched by anything other than Mother Nature and frolicking visitors, Canaveral National Seashore is home to more than 1,000 plant species, 300-plus varieties of birds and, from April through October, loggerhead sea turtles. It also offers views of launches from Kennedy Space Center.
East Coast Beaches
A trip to Orlando offers beach-lovers the best of both worlds, with majestic Atlantic Coast beaches just an hour east of International Drive and tranquil Gulf Coast beaches about 90 minutes to the west. For great surfing, head east to locations such as Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and Cocoa Beach, to name a few. While you’re there, you’ll have fast access to a bounty of acclaimed seafood restaurants serving up some of the freshest catches in the state!
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
For more than a half-century, space exploration has been a thrilling part of the American experience, and you can learn about its history and see where we’re going next at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) in Merritt Island, about an hour east of International Drive.
Part of an active spaceport with regular launches, KSCVC features iconic, actual spacecraft, including classics such as Space Shuttle Atlantis, a Saturn V rocket and an Apollo capsule, plus new additions like a SpaceX Dragon capsule and the Orion spacecraft from EM-1. Displays are built around distinct Mission Zones with lots of hands-on interaction, including Heroes & Legends, Race to the Moon, and Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other. KSCVC also provides a look at the future of American space travel as NASA works to take us to Mars and beyond. You can even meet actual spacefarers with the center’s “Dine With an Astronaut” program when available and, on select days, view live rocket launches!
Unique Florida Attractions West of Orlando
There’s no doubt that Orlando has the world’s best water parks, but Adventure Island is one you’ll want to experience, too. Part of the SeaWorld® family, Adventure Island adds to the fun with 30 acres of high-speed thrills and tropical, tranquil landscapes. It’s about 90 minutes from International Drive.
Long before Central Florida became known for theme parks and attractions, the citrus industry drove our economic engine — and in 1956, its leaders built the Citrus Tower in Clermont, about 30 minutes west of International Drive, as a testament to their work.
Standing 226 feet tall, the Citrus Tower was designed to provide an unbeatable view of miles and miles of surrounding orange groves, which were largely replaced by suburban neighborhoods in the ensuing decades. Regardless, it’s still a fun place to visit, with lots of retro appeal for anyone who’s interested in Florida’s past.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Drawing tourists since the early 1900s, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located about 90 minutes west of International Drive, and an hour north of Tampa. It has two main attractions: the namesake springs and manatees, which can be found in the area from mid-November through late March.
The park offers special manatee programs, too, and encounters with other forms of native Florida wildlife are also available. It has much more for outdoors people to enjoy, including hiking, geocaching, boat tours, birding and picnicking.
Manatees of Crystal River
Located on Florida’s west coast, about 90 minutes west of International Drive, Crystal River is a small city with about 3,000 residents. But each winter, the population grows considerably when hundreds of mystical, majestic manatees flock from the Gulf of Mexico to Kings Bay, which is fed by a cluster of approximately 50 warm springs.
Even during warmer months, more than 100 manatees live in the area, making Crystal River an unbeatable place to see them in their natural environment. What’s more, it’s the only spot in the U.S. where you can legally swim with the gentle giants!
West Coast Beaches
On Florida’s west coast, beaches at Fort De Soto Park, Clearwater Beach, Anna Maria Island, Treasure Island and others offer relaxing white sands and smooth, peaceful waters. As with beaches on the east coast, you can also look forward to fresh catches at a variety of highly rated seafood restaurants.
Unique Florida Attractions North of Orlando
Ocala National Forest
Covering more than 600 square miles, Ocala National Forest is the southernmost forest in the continental U.S. and the second-largest nationally protected forest in the country. It also boasts 600-plus bodies of water, including more than a dozen lakes, all just 90 minutes north of International Drive.
For many visitors, Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs, Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs are Ocala National Forest’s main draws, thanks to crystal-clear water that’s consistently 72 degrees. Popular activities include swimming and fishing, but there’s lots of fun to be had on land, too, with camping, hiking, picnicking, birding, and even horseback riding and four-wheeling as options.
Rock Springs Run State Reserve
Despite the “Springs” in its name, Rock Springs Run State Reserve does not provide opportunities for swimming. However, more than 17 miles of trails make for great bicycling, hiking, geocaching and horseback riding through pristine pine scrub, flatwood, swamps and shoreline, all about an hour northwest of International Drive.
Didn’t think to bring a horse with you to Orlando? No problem — you can rent one while you’re there, and canoe and kayak rentals are available, too. You can also take advantage of equestrian camp sites, as well as primitive camp sites on Rock Springs Run that are only accessible by canoe. Hunting is permitted on select weekends from September through January.
Wekiwa Springs State Park & Wekiva Island
First thing’s first: Wekiwa and Wekiva are pronounced the same, with the latter spelled the way they sound. Approximately five minutes apart, Wekiwa Springs State Park and Wekiva Island are both about 40 minutes north of International Drive and provide access to the Wekiva River — but outside of that, they’re very different attractions.
Learn more: Natural Springs in Orlando
Located at the headwaters of the Wekiva, the 7,000-acre Wekiwa Springs State Park offers a full slate of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and swimming. It also has a playground area for kids. Wekiva Island, on the other hand, is closer to a full-featured day resort than a nature park. Whether you want to play on the water, get in a few games of volleyball or cornhole, or just unwind with great food and tropical drinks, it has you covered!
Unique Florida Attractions South of Orlando
Bok Tower Gardens
One of Florida’s oldest attractions, Bok Tower Gardens is about an hour south of International Drive. Dedicated in 1929, the National Historic Landmark is best known for its famous, 205-foot, art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower. It also includes nearly 50 acres of elegant gardens that surround Pinewood Estate, a 20-room, Mediterranean-style residence built in the 1930s.
Learn more: Orlando Arts & Culture
Open 365 days a year, Bok Tower Gardens is a must-visit for nature-lovers, with opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, photography, picnicking and even geocaching. Similarly, the Singing Tower and Pinewood Estate will appeal to history buffs and anyone who appreciates exceptional architecture. True to its name, the Singing Tower rings out every half hour via its 60-bell carillon, and daily concerts are held at 1 and 3 p.m.
Learn more: Orlando History
Monument of States
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, a retired Kissimmee doctor named Charles W. Bressler-Pettis was inspired to create a one-of-a-kind monument to elicit pride and solidarity in his fellow Americans. As he was also involved with promoting local tourism, he wanted to build something that would draw crowds, too — and hence, the Monument of States was born.
Located about 30 minutes southeast of International Drive, and listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Monument of States consists of approximately 1,500 stones from around the world, with one outwardly-facing stone for each of the 48 U.S. states that existed at the time of its construction. Assuming you’re not from Alaska or Hawaii, snap a photo of your state’s tribute the next time you’re in the area!
Ever put your car in neutral, only to have it mysteriously roll backwards … and uphill? You can at Spook Hill in Lake Wales. Or, maybe you’ll just think you’re experiencing it courtesy of one of the world’s most perplexing optical illusions.
Whatever the truth is, you’ll find Spook Hill about an hour south of International Drive, complete with a legend involving a Native American warrior and a massive alligator. Just keep an eye out for ghosts while you’re there!
All drive times calculated using 9 a.m. Saturday as a time of departure. Actual drive times might vary.