Enjoy the "residents" of Lion Country Safari from a safe distance. Photo courtesy of Lion Country
Enjoy the "residents" of Lion Country Safari from a safe distance. Photo courtesy of Lion Country

20 Day Trips from Orlando for Families

Orlando is located in the central part of Florida, allowing residents and tourists to explore many other parts of the state, all within a few hours' drive. We've rounded up some of the best day trip ideas, all within a three-hour drive or less drive. From theme parks and zoos to state parks and beaches, these Orlando day trips are all just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

Bonus: Check out these cool car games to occupy the kids on the drive.

For more fun trip ideas, plan a visit to a local natural spring or to one of these beaches near Orlando, or book a night or weekend getaway at an Orlando area resort.

Day Trips From the Orlando Area

1. Bok Tower Gardens — Lake Wales

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 45 minutes
A Florida attraction since 1929, historic Bok Tower Gardens boasts 50 acres of serene gardens, hiking trails, and a 205-foot Singing Tower Carillon with daily live performances. For the kids, Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden features open-ended nature play, water features, a fairy house trail, doodle bug art area, and more.

2. Brevard Zoo — Melbourne

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour
Visit with more than 900 animals from all over the world at this 75-acre zoo, including cheetahs, giraffes, meerkats, monkeys, black bears, and many more. Kids can get “paws on” at the petting zoo, touch tank, playground, and water play lagoon.

RELATED: Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks

Thrill to a ride on the Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens. Photo courtesy of SeaWorld Parks

3. Busch Gardens — Tampa

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 40 minutes
With roller coasters, animal encounters, and Sesame Street, there’s fun for all ages at Busch Gardens. Thrill seekers can enjoy 10 roller coasters, while little ones can climb through Elmo’s treehouse and splash in Bert & Ernie’s watering hole. Busch Gardens is also home to more than 200 animal species, including tigers, gorillas, sloths, elephants, penguins, kangaroos, and many more.

4. Clearwater

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours 15 minutes
There is so much for families to do in the Clearwater area. Visit Winter, the star from Dolphin Tale, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, feed alligators at the Wildlife Discovery Center at John’s Pass, cruise on a pirate ship, or escape to the beautiful white sand beaches.

5. Daytona Beach

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour
Nicknamed the World’s Most Famous Beach, Daytona Beach lives up to the hype with many fun activities. Tour the Daytona International Speedway, splash around at Daytona Lagoon, and enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere at the Daytona Boardwalk.

RELATED: Best Florida Beaches Near Orlando for Families

Be on the lookout for minerals, arrowheads, and gems at Dinosaur World. Photo by Charlotte Blanton

6. Dinosaur World — Plant City

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 15 minutes
Little paleontologists will love this roadside attraction along I-4. Stroll through the park to see dozens of life-size dinosaur replicas, interactive exhibits, and shows. Plus, kids are sure to love the themed playground areas, fossil digs, and gem excavation.

7. Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park — Homosassa

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 30 minutes
This state park is dedicated to Florida’s native wildlife. Stroll the Wildlife Walk to encounter native animal ambassadors such as red wolves, manatees, the endangered Florida panther, black bears, bobcats, and alligators. The park is also home to the oldest hippopotamus in captivity. A Discovery Center, gift shop and café are also on site.

8. Gainesville

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours
Many people think of Gainesville as just a college town, but there are many activities for families in this north central Florida city. The Florida Museum of Natural History offers several fun interactive exhibits, as well as a can’t-miss Butterfly Rainforest with hundreds of free-flying butterflies. Families can also explore a limestone sinkhole and rainforest at Devil’s Millhopper State Park or visit with animals at Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo.

9. Giraffe Ranch — Dade City

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 15 minutes
Trek with a llama or ride a camel through this wildlife park and giraffe farm, featuring rhinos, zebras, hippos, and of course, giraffes. Other tour options include a drive-thru safari or Segway safari tour, and most tours include giraffe feeding.

10. Jacksonville Zoo — Jacksonville

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours 30 minutes
The Jacksonville Zoo has something for everyone in the family, with more than 2,000 animal ambassadors occupying more than 100 acres. Total Experience tickets are available for purchase and include unlimited train rides, carousel rides, a 4D theater, painter’s playground, and animal feedings.

RELATED: The Best Florida Campgrounds for Family Getaways 

Entertain the NASA fan in your life. Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center

11. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex — Merritt Island

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour
Enjoy an out-of-this-world experience just outside of Orlando. At this Central Florida attraction, get an up-close view of space shuttle Atlantis, strap in for a shuttle launch simulation, and celebrate the heroes and legends of NASA’s space programs. Little astronauts will love the new Planet Play attraction as well.

12. Legoland Florida — Winter Haven

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 30 minutes
Built for kids ages 2-12, Legoland includes a theme park, water park, and on-site themed hotels. Legoland’s main theme park features more than 50 rides and attractions, including a Great Lego Race VR coaster, double-decker carousel, safari trek, a "Miniland" complete with Lego replicas of scenes from coast to coast, and much more. At the water park, build a raft while floating around the lazy river, climb through the Joker Soaker water playground, and ride tubes down the twin chaser water slide. Legoland also recently announced a Peppa Pig theme park, coming soon.

13. Lion Country Safari — Loxahatchee

Distance from Orlando: 3 hours
This 600-acre drive-through safari and adventure park is home to more than 1,000 animals. Guests can drive along a 4-mile safari with animals roaming in open areas, often walking right up to the car. Afterward, explore the walk-through adventure park, featuring rides, animal encounters, a safari maze, mini-golf, and a water park.

14. MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) — Tampa

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 40 minutes
MOSI is a nonprofit museum dedicated to the advanced education of science, industry, and technology. Visitors can build a robot, explore a NASA mission, learn about the planets in the Saunders Planetarium, and get challenged with brain puzzles. There’s also a 36-foot high ropes course and a VR simulator.

15. Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum — Ponce Inlet

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 15 minutes
Climb 203 steps up a winding staircase to the top of the lighthouse tower (you won’t regret it – the view from the top is incredible). Other museum exhibits include a Woodshed Theater, Keeper’s Dwellings, Lighthouse Lens Exhibit, and a Cuban Rafts Exhibit.

16. Silver Springs State Park — Ocala

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 30 minutes
Experience Silver Springs on a world-famous glass-bottom boat, or kayak along the Silver River: You might even spot some of the hundreds of monkeys that roam wild in the Ocala Forest. Once a major tourist attraction, Silver Springs is rich in history, and features miles of walking trails, a museum, Cracker Village, restaurants, and a gift shop.

17. St. Augustine

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours
Known as America’s Oldest City, St. Augustine is filled with old-world charm. Families can explore the Castillo de San Marcos, visit Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, and climb the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Other attractions include the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Marineland Dolphin Adventure, and a Pirate & Treasure Museum.

18. Tom & Jerry’s Airboat Rides — Lake Panasoffkee

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour
Explore the headwaters of the Florida Everglades on a scenic airboat tour. Spot wildlife such as alligators, deer, wild hogs, and bald eagles. Guests can even hold a live alligator.

19. Weeki Wachee Springs — Spring Hill

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 45 minutes
This state park boasts a spring-fed water park (open seasonally), iconic underwater mermaid shows, boat tours, paddling, and more. On-site dining and tube rentals are available. Plan to arrive early as the park often reaches capacity.

20. Zip the Canyons Adventure Park — Ocala

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 15 minutes
Zip line at heights of 155 feet, across plunging canyons and over spring-fed lakes. Full moon zip lining tours, horseback rides, gem mining, and kayaking tours are also available.

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