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Orlando may be landlocked in the center of the state, but spring-fed lakes and quaint oak-shrouded villages abound in this part of Florida. And the nearest beaches – including one of Florida’s most pristine stretches of sand at Canaveral National Seashore on the Space Coast – are less than an hour’s drive from downtown.

Day Trips from Orlando

Bok Tower Gardens

A tranquil escape in Lake Wales with botanical gardens, a nature preserve, and the eight-acre, Mediterranean Revival-style Pinewood Estate. At its heart is the Singing Tower, a 205-foot Gothic and Art Deco structure that contains a 60-bell carillon used to serenade the grounds daily. Live bands perform during the summer.

54 miles south of Orlando, FL, www.boksanctuary.org
Tags: family | architecture | day trip | gardens

Florida's Space Coast

Home to the Kennedy Space Center and the family-friendly sands of Cocoa Beach, it's the closest spot for an ocean dip from Orlando. Cocoa Beach is the state's best-known surfing spot, and a good place for lessons. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the adjacent Canaveral National Seashore are bird-watching heavens.

40 miles east of downtown Orlando, FL, www.space-coast.com
Tags: beach | family | historic | culture | day trip


This small fishing community dating to the 1840s is ground zero for natural encounters with Florida's endangered manatee population. Boat tours take snorkelers into the water with these gentle aquatic mammals, and the nearby Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park maintains an underwater observatory for viewing manatees and thousands of fresh and saltwater fish.

93 miles northwest of Orlando, FL, www.homosassaflorida.com
Tags: family | off the path | day trip

Legoland Florida

In October 2011, Legoland Florida will become a little boys’ dream destination in Winter Haven, 45 minutes southwest of Disney. The 150-acre theme park geared for the 2 to 12 set will feature more than 50 Lego-focused rides, shows, and activities, with nearly everything either constructed of those interlocking plastic blocks or designed to appear as if they are. Roller coasters, tot-sized Lego vehicles, and a climbable castle are among the attractions.

1 Legoland Way, FL, 877-350-5346, florida.legoland.com
Tags: family | day trip | amusement park

Mount Dora

Bountiful antique shops and cozy inns are the main draw at this quaint lakefront town of 11,000, and its hilly, winding streets provide a charming antidote to Florida's flat terrain. The first weekend in February brings more than 300,000 visitors for the two-day Mount Dora Arts Festival.

30 miles northwest of Orlando, FL, www.mountdora.com
Tags: family | day trip

Ocala National Forest

Sandwiched between the Ocklawaha and St. Johns rivers, this 383,000-acre forest contains the world's largest concentration of sand pine scrub and more than 600 rivers, lakes, and springs. Fishing, canoeing, hiking, and swimming in the crystal-clear fresh water of Alexander Springs make this a recreational paradise.

40 miles northwest of Orlando, FL, www.ocalacc.com
Tags: family | hiking | day trip | swimming | fishing

St. Petersburg

Artsy St. Pete provides the laid-back yin to Tampa's urban yang, with gorgeous, white-sand beaches, numerous barrier islands that encourage exploration by kayak, and a world-class museum devoted to Salvador Dali's works. Check out surrounding communities such as Tarpon Springs to see Greek sponge divers or quirky Gulfport, which hosts frequent art walks.

107 miles southwest of Orlando, FL, www.floridasbeach.com
Tags: beach | kayaking | art | day trip


Big-time roller-coaster thrills and wildlife encounters await, courtesy of Tampa's Busch Gardens Africa, while Cuban flavors permeate downtown Tampa's Ybor City entertainment district. The family-friendly Florida Aquarium and Channelside retail/dining plaza are positioned close to the cruise-popular Port of Tampa. For more information, see our Tampa Travel Guide.

85 miles southwest of Orlando, FL, www.visittampabay.com
Tags: beach | family | art | day trip | zoo

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