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Editor Pick

Best Day Trips from Orlando

Updated: June 14, 2024

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Sherry Mims

Table of Contents

With entertainment galore, Orlando is a convenient destination to use as a base to discover what else Florida has to offer. With beaches, AAA GEM attractions and fun events just a short drive away, consider these fun day trips (and other nearby places to go) in Central Florida. Venture inland to experience the beauty of Lake Wales, indulge in antiquing in the charming town of Mount Dora, immerse yourself in the vibrant city life of Tampa or savor the sophistication of Winter Park. From the exhilarating launches at Cape Canaveral to the thrilling track at Daytona Beach, each place to go is a new adventure and invites further exploration.

These destinations provide a multitude of experiences, but it may be tricky to fit them all in. To hit the highlights, consider taking the leisurely Central Florida Road Trip — encompassing many of these suggested stops in one convenient scenic drive.

Cape Canaveral

Supporting space exploration since the early 1960s, this “Space Coast” destination is a must-do. Complete with rockets, exhibits and multimedia presentations, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex provides an overview of the American space program, including the missions and notable achievements such as the creation of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Sign up for a specialty tour to step into the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building, and then learn about the future of space travel. (There are a number of opportunities to watch a rocket launch as well; check the calendar for the latest confirmed dates.)

Nearby: Port Canaveral is one of the busiest cruise ports in Florida; find travel inspiration and deals on AAA.com/TripCanvas.

Daytona Beach

The “World’s Most Famous Beach” roared into the popular imagination in the early 20th century and still revs up visitors due to all the fun things to see and do. The area’s shoreline offers visitors the rare opportunity to drive on hard-packed sand for a small fee. The tradition of stock car racing started nearby, although these days you’ll need to head toward Daytona International Speedway for shows and races. But when Main Street’s full of bikers and their custom rides, it’s a good bet that Bike Week or Biketoberfest has arrived — although you’ll find the souvenir shops and bars in Daytona Beach open any day.

Nearby: New Smyrna Beach is a crowd favorite. In addition to waves that draw beachgoers and surfers alike, there’s a happening downtown with a flourishing arts scene.

Lake Wales

Waterskiing is not the only spectacular thing to do in this area, which features numerous lakes, murals in downtown and a signature attraction. With Bok Tower Gardens and its 60-bell carillon, editor Edward Bok realized his dream of building one of the most beautiful places in the country “second to none” with the help of well-known architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. The AAA GEM features lush gardens, water features and an adjoining Mediterranean-style mansion, Pinewood Estate (El Retiro). Lake Wales also features some interesting convergences. In 2004, hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne blew through within 44 days. Then there’s Spook Hill, an optical illusion on North Wales Drive at Dr. J.A. Whiltshire Drive that seemingly causes vehicles to roll uphill when drivers park and shift to neutral.

Nearby: The brick-filled art, rides and seasonal events at Legoland Florida Resort in Winter Haven is a short jaunt — especially appealing if you’re traveling with kids and trying to avoid the crowds at Orlando theme parks.

Mount Dora

This picturesque town in neighboring Lake County is where to shop for antiques or specialty items. Renninger’s Florida Twin Markets (20651 US 441) is said to be one of the largest flea and farmers markets in the state and is especially busy on holiday weekends. Downtown Mount Dora, located off Lake Dora, is a popular romantic destination and offers many fun things for couples to do, including shopping, dining at local restaurants and attending shows at IceHouse Theatre Company. Go on a boat tour or stay at a bed-and-breakfast for a personalized touch.

Nearby: Historic Sanford is hopping with family-friendly breweries, food places and shops. Then walk along the Sanford Riverwalk beside Lake Monroe.

Tampa

First, take I-4 westbound to spend a day in the cultural hub of Ybor City. This is where to find the best local restaurants, many with Cuban and Spanish influences, as well as entertainment and nightlife. Alternatively, head toward Downtown Tampa, off Ashley Drive for some fun things to do with kids. The Glazer Children’s Museum is next to the Tampa Museum of Art and the Tampa Riverwalk, a free route to some of the city’s best events, attractions and places to eat along the Hillsborough River. Armature Works — a food hall—and trendy u-le-le are among the highlights in the booming Tampa Heights district, where you can grab a water taxi for convenience (or fun)!

Nearby: A Clearwater Beach day trip from Orlando offers fun in the sun as well as access to Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Winter Park

Pet-friendly cafés and boutiques line charming Park Avenue. Winter Park is a window-shopper’s paradise, especially if you’re into art. Take a comprehensive look into the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany at The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which features stained glass and other objets d’art from Tiffany and other noted American artists. If you visit in March, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival is not to be missed; featuring 225 artists and more than 350,000 attendees, it’s the ultimate day-trip destination.

Nearby: Maitland's Enzian Theater allows you to dine while you’re watching independent films and cult classics — part of a perfect Orlando date night. The arthouse theater is also the site of the annual Florida Film Festival.

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Sherry Mims

Sherry is an experienced #AAAEditor and former journalist who enjoys writing informative travel articles and reviews. Her commitment to making meaningful connections with people and places fuels her work for AAA. Favorite activities range from skiing to backpacking abroad and taking ghost tours.

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