While Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando are all essential ingredients for any family’s Orlando itinerary, you will definitely want to take at least a day trip during your vacation to escape from all the crowds, hectic pace and total madness of these world-class theme parks. Fortunately, Orlando lies within an hour or so of a variety of diverse attractions where you can spend an afternoon far from the madding crowd.
The following list features 10 of the best Orlando day trips:
1. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Sure Busch Gardens in Tampa is another theme park but it draws fewer visitors (approximately 4.4 million annually) than Disney World, Universal Orlando or SeaWorld Orlando. In addition, Busch Gardens features some eclectic thrill rides and attractions such as SheiKra, Florida’s first dive coaster, which boasts two 90º drops at 70 miles per hour.
2. St Augustine:St. Augustine is a city on the northeast coast of Florida. It lays claim to being the oldest city in the U.S., and is known for its Spanish colonial architecture as well as Atlantic Ocean beaches like sandy St. Augustine Beach and tranquil Crescent Beach. Anastasia State Park is a protected wildlife sanctuary.
3. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Just 45 minutes East of Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center gives you and your family the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the incredible history of American space flight and view rockets and exhibits, tour launch areas, watch a 3-D space movie at an IMAX theater and much more.
4. Silver Springs: Billed as “ Florida’s Original Theme Park,” Silver Springs lies near Ocala and boasts colorful botanical gardens, animal habitats, live shows, rides, specialty shops and the world-famous glass bottom boat rides.
5. Florida Aquarium: Opened in 1995, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa is home to more than 10,000 aquatic animals and plants from all over the world such as alligators, tropical fish, sharks, stingrays and sea turtles, as well as interactive exhibits.
6. Lowry Park Zoo: Approximately 1,600 animals can be viewed in their natural habitats at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, which also features a Florida wildlife center, aviary, petting zoo, live shows and more.
7. Canaveral National Seashore: One of just 10 National Seashores in the United States, Canaveral National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped beach along Florida’s East Coast. Popular activities here include sunbathing, swimming, surf fishing, surfing and hiking.
8. Central Florida Zoological Park: Just a short drive up Interstate 4 in Sanford lies the Central Florida Zoological Park, which is home to hundreds of animals, including alligators, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and monkeys.
9. Daytona 500 Experience: Adjacent to the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona 500 Experience (formerly Daytona USA) features racing exhibits, motion simulator rides, the World Center of Racing Visitors Center and behind-the-scenes tours of the speedway.
10. : Nestled in downtown St. Petersburg, the Salvador Dali Museum boasts the most comprehensive collection of permanent works by famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali.