8 Best Orlando Day Trips Under 2 Hours Away

By Stephanie Trovato

From theme parks to beautiful beaches to world-renowned restaurants, Orlando, Florida’s central location offers options for relaxing and adventure-seeking alike. But sometimes, the best things are just a short road trip away. Think historic towns and unique sponge docks. Special manatee encounters and outer space thrills. Whatever your passion, check out a different side of Orlando with these eight day trips that will be sure to make the memories of a lifetime.

Not sure which RCI resort to pick as your Orlando home base? Try Vacation Village at Parkway (#4940), Club Wyndham Star Island (#C354), Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort (#8881), or Silver Lake Resort (#2610 and #6815).

1. St. Augustine

2 hours from Orlando

Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest European-settled town in the U.S. Enjoy strolling along the cobblestone streets in the National Historic Landmark District, browsing the local museums, and soaking up the Spanish colonial charm. Top things to see and do here include the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a 17th-century fortress built to protect St. Augustinians from invading British troops; Fort Matanzas; Flagler College; the Lightner Museum; the tranquil Mission of Nombre de Dios; and the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, featuring unparalleled city views.

2. LEGOLAND Florida

1.5 hours from Orlando

Just when you think you’ve done all the theme parks, LEGOLAND beckons. Kids ages 2 through 12 will love this 150-acre ode to all things LEGO, with more than 50 rides (many suitable for younger kids), live shows, and even a botanical garden. And, of course, LEGO is everywhere. The park includes LEGO building activities and a DUPLO-themed area for toddlers. You can also keep cool at the water park in season, with a wave pool, water slides, and Build-A-Raft lazy river.

3. Clearwater Beach

2 hours from Orlando

Frequently voted one of Florida’s best beaches, Clearwater Beach is a popular coastal escape with a relaxed vibe. This glamorous strip of soft, sugary sand, lapped by jade waters and backed by resorts and residential areas, stretches for about 2.5 miles along the Gulf of Mexico. Most visitors come here to relax on the soft white sand and swim in the calm waters, but if you’re looking for a little more action, the Clearwater Sea Screamer offers an adrenaline-packed, one-hour speedboat ride around the bay. Deep-sea anglers can also embark on a trip from here to catch species such as tarpon, sea bass, snapper, and grouper.

4. Airboat Tours

1 hour from Orlando

Visit the Wild Florida Gator Park to see lemurs, wild boars, sloths, zebras, and other charismatic creatures from around the world. Ranch buggy tours around the working cattle operation add to all the fun. Experience the gators up close on a zipping, high-speed airboat tour. Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides offers rides through the Florida Everglades’ headwaters on six-seater boats that are small enough to venture into the narrow backwaters. The captain provides a fascinating narration as you look for wildlife such as birds and alligators. High-tech headsets are provided, and tour lengths vary from 60 minutes to two hours. Love the wild side? Head all the way to Everglades National Park in this road trip guide.

5. Kennedy Space Center

1 hour from Orlando

The Kennedy Space Center is one of the city’s most popular day trips. You don’t have to be a budding astronaut to appreciate the excellent attractions at this famous NASA facility, including rocket exhibits, launch pads, astronaut encounters, 3D IMAX films, and a poignant memorial to NASA’s fallen heroes. Arrive as early as you can — there’s enough here to keep you busy for at least a full day.

6. Tarpon Springs

2 hours from Orlando

Along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, Tarpon Springs was named for the fish found in abundance in nearby waters. Its charming downtown center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors to the Historic District can stroll along brick streets while browsing in art galleries, antique stores, and specialty shops housed in buildings dating from the late 1800s. Stroll the working sponge docks, pick up some natural sponges for yourself, and then dine on authentic Greek food. Plus, the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts and Cultural Center offers theater, art, historical exhibits, concerts, and other quality programs.

7. Daytona Beach

1 hour from Orlando

If you’re looking for some beachside biker and motorsports action, Daytona Beach is an ideal Orlando day trip. Home of the famous Daytona 500 and the birthplace of NASCAR racing, this lively beach town is also a hot spot for spring breakers, who come here to bask on 23 miles of hard-packed beaches — it’s one of the few places in the country where you’re allowed to drive along a public beach. If you can’t make it to the famous Daytona 500, you can join a Daytona International Speedway tour or sign up to drive a race car along the track. The Daytona Beach Boardwalk provides family-friendly diversions, with carnival rides, games, shops, and restaurants.

8. Crystal River

1.5 hours from Orlando

If you’re a wildlife lover, few experiences are more thrilling than a face-to-face underwater encounter with an endangered 1,500-pound West Indian manatee. These gentle giants, sometimes called sea cows, swim in the Crystal River’s warm waters. Tours led by wildlife experts include a chance to swim and snorkel with the animals in their natural habitat.

*These vacations are limited and subject to availability.

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