Disney World is a magical place that nearly everyone falls in love with the moment they walk through the gates.
You’ve agonized over your dream Disney vacation plans for months; it is the happiest place on earth after all. So what happens once you’ve experienced all the magic and still have a day or two to spend in the Sunshine State?
You take a day trip, of course!
And the best part? Each of the following eight destinations are close to Orlando, so no additional hotel expenses will be added to your travel budget.
If you are traveling though, here is a round up of family friendly hotels in Florida where you will enjoy to stay as a parent too.
The closest day trip destination from Disney World is Downtown Orlando!
There’s always something going on at the Mad Cow Theatre and Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Choices range from musicals to ballet and concerts where visitors are always amazed by the spectacular shows!
For those looking for unique adventure, explore Lake Eola Park and take a ride on a swan-shaped paddle boat!
Pro Tip: Need help getting around? LYMMO allows visitors to easily experience the vibrant downtown area. And best of all, LYMMO is free! The LYMMO bus stops at major points of interest in the downtown area as well as connects to other transit systems.
Ponce De Leon Springs
Visitors might well regain their youth by taking a dip in the cool, clear waters of Ponce de Leon Springs where the water is a constant 68-degrees year round. This fun and easily accessible state park is only an hour’s drive northeast from Orlando.
You can snorkel, picnic, hike, dip your toes in the water or go for a swim.
For great grub, head over to Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill where you can order from the salad and hot sandwich menu or make your own all-you-can-eat pancakes right at your table! This one is my favorite!
Pro Tip: Leashed pets are welcome at Ponce De Leon State Park if you have your furry friend with you.
For an easy to reach beach on the Atlantic Ocean, check out Jetty Park Beach in Cape Canaveral!
Travel light while making a trip down to the beach because Jetty Park has vendors that rent chairs, umbrellas, paddle boards, boogie boards and kayaks. Unlike some other nearby beaches, Jetty Park has lifeguards on duty all year round. Safety first everyone!
Choose to spend your day working on your golden Florida tan, building an epic sandcastle, or surfing the waves.
If sand between your toes is not your thing, Jetty Beach features a 1,200-foot fishing pier, where you might spot dolphins, turtles and exotic fish.
The paved and lighted pier includes fish-cleaning tables with running water to clean and prepare fish for the ride home. Bring your own fishing gear or pick up fishing tackle and bait at the shop next to the dock. No fishing license required.
Pro Tip: For visitors with physical challenges, the pier is fully accessible and offers specially designed beach wheelchairs for use on both the dock and the beach.
Kennedy Space Center
A visit to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is just one small step (a 45 minute drive) from Orlando and is very close to Cape Canaveral if you’re inclined toward a two-for-the-price-of-one kind of day trip.
The complex is organized into Mission Zones where attractions and tours are grouped by chronological era. From the dawn of space exploration to current and ongoing missions, get an up-close, hands-on feel for the story of humans in space.
Pro Tip: Make use of the online Trip Planner. Answer three simple questions and receive a suggested itinerary based on your answers. Custom itineraries are also available.
Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring State Park is a designated manatee refuge and the winter home to a growing population of West Indian Manatees. Watch these gentle giants swim, rest and play in the warm 72-degree waters. Swimming or diving with manatees is not permitted however, and this rule is strictly enforced.
The spring’s crystal-clear water can be enjoyed by swimmers, tubers, snorkelers and certified scuba divers. Dives cannot extend past 5:00 p.m. so get there early and be sure to bring along a certified dive buddy.
Fishing, canoeing and boating are also enjoyed along the St. Johns River.
For landlubbers, Blue Spring offers a self-guided tour inside the historic Thursby House, built at the height of the steamboat era in 1872. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic at one of the numerous picnic areas or one of three covered pavilions.
Pro Tip: Watch the manatees courtesy of the Manatee Cam by Save the Manatee Club.
One of the more affordable vacation spots in all of Florida, there’s never a lack of fun things to do and see in and around Cocoa Beach, just an hour’s drive east of Orlando on Florida’s beautiful Space Coast.
Besides offering the best of sun and fun at the beach, you could hop on a boat for some deep-sea fishing.
There’s no need to travel to The Everglades – here is one of the most extensive network of mangrove tunnels we’ve seen in Florida where you can indulge in a relaxing kayak tour through Cocoa Beach’s beautiful Thousand Islands.
If a driving tour is more your style, view majestic cranes and wading birds while on the Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
For those wanting a bit of an adrenalin rush, hunt for gators on an exhilarating ride on an air boat on the St. Johns River.
Nature lovers will want to explore the amazing hammocks of mixed tropical and temperate vegetation while hiking through a fabulous Nature Trail.
Pro Tip: Top off your day trip to Cocoa Beach by enjoying dinner at one of the many dining spots on the beach, ranging from elegant to sand-in-your-shoes casual.
I’ve written about St. Augustine, America’s oldest city before, and since it’s day trip friendly and within 100 miles of Disney World, it’s a great destination to consider when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando.
Give your feet a rest and hop on a narrated trolley tour, horse-drawn carriage tour, or opt for a guided Segway tour and discover the amazing history of the area.
Discover little known facts about long-ago pirates who plundered the city, learn which Native Americans called St. Augustine home, or even ride with a paranormal tour that takes visitors to the most haunted buildings.
Pro Tip: For a unique and fun way to see St. Augustine’s most popular attractions, explore the area on a state-of-the-art, interactive small craft catamaran. Experience Castillo de San Marcos, the Great Cross, the Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, or Fort Matanzas up close and personal.
Located just 90 minutes from Orlando, Tampa Bay is Florida’s hub for craft brewing and a day trip for delicious, refreshing craft beer is near and dear to my heart.
For the nature lovers, numerous parks and preserves provide a peaceful escape from the noisy beach crowds, and a shady escape for summertime strolls and bike rides.
Pro Tip: Unwind with a cocktail or two and some delicious Cuban food in Ybor City. Just remember to drink responsibly!
Whichever day trip option you choose to be excited about, there’s no need for anyone to be disappointed at the end of a dream Disney vacation with these eight fun, close-by destinations.
Have you visited any of these day trip from Orlando cities? Are there other attractions that should be on the must-do list? Let me know in a comment below and pin this post for future reference!