Whether you live in (mostly) sunny Orlando or are visiting, everyone needs a break from the traffic and rest days from the Parks or just a change of scenery. This guide caters for families with kids of all ages whatever their interests. From thrill seekers and culture vultures to nature loving adventurers and mini historians, these must do day trips from Orlando with kids has you covered whatever the weather. Swim with manatees and mermaids, explore beaches and kayak in aqua colored springs. Be thrilled with space, pirate museums and more. Here is our guide to the best day trips from Orlando with kids.
See Swimming Mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs
At Weeki Wachee Florida State Park, you can watch live mermaids swim in front of you (just like Elvis has), kayak or swim in the clear waters, sit on the beach or zoom down waterslides at Buccaneer Bay. A restaurant is onsite, beach chairs are available for guests and a kids’ playground is available too. Weeki Wachee is about a 1hr 40 minutes drive from Orlando. It’s a great day out for al the family, including toddlers.
Kennedy Space Center With Kids
Daily admission prices include:
- Space Shuttle Atlantis®
- Shuttle Launch Experience®
- Heroes and Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented by Boeing®
- Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour including Apollo/Saturn V Center
- Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted
- Astronaut Encounter
- IMAX® Theater 3D Films
- Rocket Launch Viewing (when available)
- Numerous Shows and Exhibits.
The hour or so drive down from Orlando is completely worth it and the Kennedy Space Center has plenty of parking. (Pay $10 at the gate).
Other highlights include the small water splash area and the space themed outdoor covered play area.
Another option for those with older kids is to organise a Space Pass entrance ticket with Get Your Guide which includes:
- NASA Space Pass
- Buffet style lunch with an astronaut
- Up-close explorer tour
- Admission to Kennedy Space Center
Note: Current guidelines require all adults and children over two to wear a face covering. Guests and employees must undergo temperature screenings prior to entry.
Visiting Crystal River means you can swim with manatees in the wild. My four and seven year old LOVED this experience of snorkelling with these gentle sea cows. There are several tours which provide wetsuits and snorkels enabling you to get up close to these gentle giants within their natural habitat.
We went with Captain Mike’s and appreciated how his team helped our four year old snorkel and enjoy the experience too. Don’t forget your underwater camera or Go Pro! If you’d rather not get wet, or go on the boat to observe, then during winter the Three Sisters Springs boardwalk is a good spot. Although you can often spot manatees throughout the year, peak season is from November to March. Crystal River is about 1.5 hours from Orlando.
Historic, cobblestoned St Augustine was founded in 1565 and is the oldest European settled town in the US. Visit attractions steeped in history with museums such as the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum or the 17th century fortress Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Kids will love the Pirate and Treasure Museum, an educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy. If you are local, you can even host a kids’ party there. The museum features over 800 real pirate artifacts, including the only treasure chest known to have belonged to an actual pirate – as well as one of only three original Jolly Roger flags left in the world! After all that excitement, head to town’s white-sand beaches and search for buried treasure or just relax.
St Augustine is about a two hour drive from Orlando and if you don’t have your car or hire car, then this easy St Augustine Day Trip from Orlando enables you to see most of the top attractions in a single day plus includes hotel pick up and drop off to several hotels in Orlando and hop on hop-off tram to tour the area (with free time catered for).
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is another place to spot manatees and see more of the local wildlife such as alligators, otters, crocodiles and a a rescued hippo.
Guests can enjoy a trail walk or have fun with interactive exhibits at the children’s education center.
Go on an Airboat Ride Adventure
Ever fancied zooming across the Everglades, a bit like the guy from CSI Miami? Ever since I saw him do that on TV, I wondered what it would be like, so when the opportunity arose to visit Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, we leapt at the chance.
The great thing about visiting Boggy Creek, is it’s not ‘just’ an airboat ride. Although that experience is thrilling, whilst you wait kids can go prospecting for fossils and semi precious stones. $6 for a huge bucket to sift through and discover ‘treasure’.
Ours included a huge chunk of amethyst and shark teeth! Also check out the baby alligator creche and experience the past Native American way of life.
The actual airboat ride was thrilling for all of us. We spotted 4 alligators, an eagle, a heron amongst other natural wildlife.
Good to know:
- If you have a really tiny baby it is probably not suitable as you need to wear ear defenders.
- When you stop to look in these tropical wetlands, there can be lots of flies so wear long sleeves. (Unlike us who didn’t prepare! It was just a mild annoyance – we didn’t get bitten.).
- Close to the city and only 25 minutes from Orlando attractions.
Car fans will be drawn to Daytona with the history of NASCAR, whereas all kids will love the traditional seaside charm of the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. Attractions included a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, slingshot and more carnival rides.
If you want to escape the heat and cool off, or are looking for a rainy day activity in Daytona, there are several options: The Museum of Arts & Sciences with a state-of-the-art planetarium and a children’s museum, Reptile Discovery Center, Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory or the Marine Science Center. Outdoor activities in Daytona include air boat rides and horse-riding at Shenandoah Stables. Daytona Beach is just over an hour from Orlando.
One of the most well known beaches for beautiful soft white sand is Clearwater Beach. Choose to ‘sit and flop’ on the beach, swim in the warm Gulf of Mexico. and promenade the sea front, or take a boat trip to see the dolphins or indulge in some water sports. From Pirate boat tours, to the adrenaline rush speed boat ride on the Sea Screamer or the slightly slowly paced but fun Little Toot, there are plenty of family friendly options. If you’ve arrived and the weather has changed, head to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. For evening entertainment, Pier 60 at the end of the beach has live music at sunset, street performers and plenty of restaurant options. It takes about 2.5 hours to reach Clearwater from Orlando.
Devil’s Den is a cave with crystal clear water where you can snorkel or Scuba dive to see the fossils. On cold winter mornings you can see steam, like smoke, rising from the chimney opening which gave the cave its name. The drive will take you about 1.5 hours from Orlando.
Merritt Island is home to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County and to the popular Cocoa Beach. After exploring the Kennedy Space Center head to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Titusville, Florida or the Manatee Cove Park. Other attractions include tree top treks, museums and hiking trails. Merritt Island is about 1 hour from Orlando.
New Smyrna Beach
New Smryna Beach has beautiful, white soft sand – perfect for little ones to play on and a relatively cheap or free day out from Orlando. Enjoy fishing, surfing, swimming or rent a bike and ride across the hard packed sand near the sea. Head to the Indian River Lagoon for some dolphin spotting boat tours or the Marine Discovery Center. If you choose New Smryna Beach as a staycation from Orlando, there are plenty of accommodation self catering options with the added benefit of potentially seeing sea turtles hatch at night – from May to November)
Florida is known for its many national parks, but the most famous is arguably the Everglades National Park. From abundant wildlife including ‘gators to other flora and fauna, it makes for a fun day out. There are lots of flies, so long sleeves are advisable.
Blue Springs State Park
Blue Springs State Park is another wonderful park with plenty of water sports activities for kids and adults alike. Ranging from swimming, snorkelling, tubing, canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding. (Currently closed for all water activities until March 2021 due to manatee season)
LEGOLAND Florida, is the largest in the world and filled with over 50 rides, splash zones, lazy river, wave pool, water slides, a DUPLO area for little ones, live shows, a botanical garden, hands on attractions and of course hundreds of Lego displays. A great place to spend the day which appeals to all the family. Legoland Florida is based in Winterhaven and is about about 1 hour, 20 minutes from Orlando
Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is impressive – giant lily pads, plenty of nature and walking trails, plus the tower it’s named after. After a climb to view the scenery, choose a trail. Kids can borrow binoculars, compass bubbles all in a backpack to help keep the sense of adventure going as you amble around. Bok Tower Gardens is about 1 hour, 25 minutes from Orlando.
Zoo Tampa (Lowry Park) is not just a zoo. As well as animals, there are rides, a splash pad for kids to cool off and other activities. Zoo Tampa is about 1 hour, 20 minutes from Orlando.
Miami is long road trip from Orlando – about 3.5 hours drive) but if you leave early to avoid rush hour you can make a full day and see most of the sites. Top spots of things to do in Miami include: Miami Zoo and Jungle Island, Miami Children’s Museum, Miami Science Museum, Art Deco Historic District along Ocean Drive, Miami Beach and South Beach.
For 100 things to do in Orlando see here.
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