Planning a trip to Walt Disney World but want to do some activities outside of the parks? Here are our top picks for the best day trips from Disney World that your whole family will love!
This list of the best day trips from Disney World was co-written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Guest post by Kim Swanson
Looking for the best day trips from Disney World?
If you’re anything like me, you know that Disney World in Orlando is a place where magic happens every day. But, did you know there’s a whole world of fun just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Mickey’s backyard?
Florida is jam-packed with cool spots, and they’re perfect for adding a little extra oomph to your Disney trip.
We’re talking about places where you can hang out with astronauts, catch some waves, or step back in time. And hey, more theme parks? Yep, Orlando has got those too!
Let’s check out the best day trips from Disney World. We’re about to mix up your Disney adventure with a little extra Florida flavor. Trust me, these spots are too good to miss!
1. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Ready to explore the stars? Just an hour from Disney, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a must-visit for anyone who’s ever gazed up at the night sky and dreamed of space travel.
Picture yourself wandering around the Rocket Garden, where you’re standing in the shadows of massive rockets that have soared into space. It’s awe-inspiring. And you definitely can’t miss the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit – it’s not often you get to see a real space shuttle up close and personal.
Curious about what a space launch feels like? The Shuttle Launch Experience lets you feel the thrill without leaving the ground. And who knows, during your visit, you might get lucky and meet an actual astronaut or witness the excitement of a live rocket launch.
The Kennedy Space Center is one of the best day trips from Disney World. Whether you are a space lover or not, this place is a must-see!
2. Universal Orlando Resort, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Ready for a quick hop from Disney to some movie magic? Universal Orlando Resort is just a 30-minute drive away and it’s like stepping onto the set of your favorite films.
This place isn’t just a theme park, it’s a whole universe of thrills and spills, spread across two theme parks: Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, plus an amazing water park, Volcano Bay.
Right in the middle of all the action is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Ever dreamt of strolling through Diagon Alley or wandering the halls of Hogwarts? Well, here’s your chance.
And don’t even get me started on the Hogwarts Express – it’s a ride straight out of your Harry Potter fantasies. Oh, and while you’re there, grabbing a butterbeer is pretty much mandatory.
But there’s a whole lot more to Universal than just wizarding wonders. You’ve got lands like Jurassic Park, where dinosaurs roam, and the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss that’s just too fun to miss.
Whether you’re there for the mega-cool roller coasters, the fun attractions, or the shows that bring your favorite movies and TV shows to life, Universal Orlando Resort is non-stop entertainment. It’s one of the best things to do in Orlando with kids!
3. Cocoa Beach
If you’re looking for a day trip from Disney World to the closest beach, Cocoa Beach is your go-to destination.
And getting from Orlando to Cocoa Beach is easy! At just about an hour’s drive away, it offers a welcome change from the bustling theme parks, with its laid-back vibe and picturesque seaside setting.
Cocoa Beach isn’t just another beach; it’s a hub for surf enthusiasts. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or keen to catch your first wave, this is the perfect place to dive into the surf culture.
The beach is dotted with surf shops and schools, making it easy for everyone to join in the fun. You’ll also have to pay a visit to the Ron Jon Surf Shop while here. It is the world’s largest surf shop!
But there’s more to Cocoa Beach than surfing. The Cocoa Beach Pier, extending into the Atlantic, is a highlight not to be missed. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely walk, savor some fresh seafood, or simply relax and take in the panoramic ocean views.
4. SeaWorld Orlando
Just around the corner from Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando is a whole different ball game of a theme park. Think of it as a splashy adventure where the ocean’s coolest creatures meet some seriously fun rides.
Over at SeaWorld, you’ll get up close with awesome sea animals like orcas, dolphins, and sea lions. It’s super cool to see them in action and learn a bunch of neat stuff about them through the park’s shows and talks. It’s not just about watching these guys do their thing; it’s about getting to know them.
And for the thrill-seekers, get ready for some epic roller coasters. We’re talking about heart-racing rides like Mako, Manta, and the super-cool Ice Breaker. These are the kind of rides that’ll have you screaming for more.
Got little ones? No worries! SeaWorld’s got plenty of kid-friendly fun, with milder rides and interactive areas where they can play and learn. And hey, don’t forget to check out the water rides. They’re a total blast, especially when you need to cool down from the Florida sun.
5. Clearwater Beach
Ready for some sun, sand, and a splash of crystal-clear water? Then take a day trip from Disney World to Clearwater Beach.
Located about two hours from Disney World this gorgeous beach is all about sugary white sand and inviting waters, perfect for a day of pure relaxation.
Clearwater Beach has a vibe that’s both laid-back and lively. It’s a hit with families thanks to the gentle, shallow waters that are just right for a swim or a bit of paddling around. And if you’re up for some action, there’s no shortage of water sports to dive into.
Take a leisurely walk along the Beach Walk, where you can shop for cool souvenirs or grab a bite with an ocean view.
As the day shifts into evening, Pier 60 is the place to be. It’s like a daily beach party where everyone gathers to watch the sunset, enjoy live music, and check out the local street performers.
While you’re in the area, a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a great way to add a bit of learning to your beach day. This place is all about marine life rescue and rehabilitation, and it’s a fantastic spot to get up close with some amazing sea creatures.
So, whether you’re lounging on the beach or exploring the local attractions, Clearwater Beach offers the perfect mix of chill vibes and fun activities.
6. St. Augustine
Next up, let’s take a little trip back in time to St. Augustine. It’s about a two-hour drive from Disney World, but stepping into this charming city feels like entering a whole different world.
St. Augustine isn’t just any old town; it holds the title of the oldest city in the United States, and it’s brimming with history at every corner.
Walking through the cobblestone streets of St. Augustine, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. It’s like a living museum, but way more fun. Don’t miss the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the country. It’s not just a bunch of old walls; the history here is really fascinating.
But St. Augustine isn’t all about history lessons. It’s got a laid-back vibe, with loads of cute shops, art galleries, and some seriously good places to eat. Whether you’re grabbing a snack from a street vendor or sitting down for a meal with a view, you’re in for a treat.
And for a bit of spooky fun, check out the ghost tours. They say this old city has a few lingering spirits, and these tours are a blast whether you’re a believer or just in it for the stories.
So, for a change of pace from the theme parks, St. Augustine is a perfect day trip from Disney World. It’s a blend of history, culture, and just plain old good times.
7. Everglades National Park
Ready for an adventure that’s a little bit on the wild side? How about an airboat tour through the Florida Everglades?
And here’s the best part: you don’t have to venture three hours away to the National Park to experience it. Right in the Orlando area, you can dive into the heart of the Everglades.
Imagine hopping onto an airboat and zipping across a sprawling landscape of marshes and waterways. It’s an exhilarating way to explore this unique ecosystem.
As you skim over the water, keep your eyes peeled for alligators sunbathing on the banks, watch graceful birds swooping through the sky, and maybe even spot a turtle or two.
These tours aren’t just about the thrill of speed and wind in your hair; they’re narrated by guides who are experts on the Everglades. You’ll learn all about the area’s wildlife and the critical role this environment plays in Florida’s ecology. It’s an adventure that’s fun, educational, and totally unique to Florida.
So, if you’re looking for a break from theme parks and want a taste of Florida’s wild side, an airboat tour through the Everglades is a must. It’s a memorable way to add some natural thrills to your Orlando trip.
8. Tampa Bay Area, including Busch Gardens
If you’re up for a little road trip from Disney World, the Tampa Bay area, just about an hour’s drive away, is a fantastic destination that offers a mix of urban attractions and natural beauty.
And a highlight for many visitors? Busch Gardens, an African-themed amusement park that combines thrilling rides with amazing animal encounters.
Busch Gardens is a roller coaster enthusiast’s dream. It’s home to some of the most adrenaline-pumping rides in Florida. But it’s not just about the thrills. The park also offers a unique chance to see exotic animals up close, making it a great spot for animal lovers and families alike.
But there’s more to Tampa Bay than just Busch Gardens. The area boasts beautiful waterfront areas, a vibrant arts scene, and a variety of shopping and dining options. The historic Ybor City neighborhood, known for its Cuban and Spanish roots, is a must-visit for its unique architecture, excellent restaurants, and lively atmosphere.
For those who enjoy a bit of nature, the Hillsborough River offers opportunities for kayaking and canoeing, providing a peaceful escape amidst the bustling city. And don’t forget the beautiful beaches – after all, this is Florida!
Tampa Bay is a diverse area that offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for excitement at Busch Gardens or a more laid-back exploration of the city’s many charms.
9. Blue Spring State Park
For a change of pace and a touch of natural beauty, consider a trip to Blue Spring State Park. Located just over an hour’s drive from Disney World, this hidden gem offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.
Blue Spring State Park is famed for its crystal-clear spring, which is a designated Manatee Refuge. During the cooler months, it’s a prime spot to see manatees as they gather in the warm waters of the spring. Observing these gentle giants in their natural habitat is a truly special experience.
But there’s more to this park than just manatees. The spring itself is a beautiful spot for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The water is an inviting shade of blue and maintains a constant temperature year-round, making it perfect for a refreshing dip.
For those who prefer to stay dry, there are plenty of other activities. The park has scenic nature trails ideal for hiking and bird watching. Canoeing and kayaking along the St. Johns River offer a peaceful way to explore the area’s natural beauty.
Whether you’re a nature lover or just looking to relax in a beautiful setting, Blue Spring State Park is a wonderful addition to any Orlando vacation. It’s a place where you can appreciate Florida’s natural wonders at a leisurely pace.
10. LEGOLAND Florida
If you’ve got little ones in tow, LEGOLAND Florida is a day trip dream come true. Situated just an hour from Disney, this LEGO-themed park is a paradise for kids, especially those between 2 and 12 years old.
This place is all about bringing the magic of LEGO to life. With rides that are perfect for younger kids, interactive LEGO building experiences, and even a water park, it’s a world designed for smaller hands and big imaginations. The rides are gentle enough for the young ones, but still fun enough to spark plenty of giggles and smiles.
The heart of LEGOLAND is Miniland USA, where entire cities are built from LEGO bricks. Kids are often amazed by the intricate details in these miniature creations. And for those little ninjas in your family, LEGO Ninjago World offers a fun adventure with lots of interactive play.
Legoland’s laid-back atmosphere means it’s less about the hustle and more about the fun, making it a relaxing day out for families with young children. It’s a place where the kiddos can lead the way and enjoy a world that seems made just for them.
The Wrap-Up: Best Day Trips from Disney World
And that’s our round-up of the 10 best day trips from Disney World. Each of these destinations offers its own unique flavor and adventure, showing that there’s so much more to explore beyond the gates of Disney.
Whether you’re into nature, thrills, history, or beach relaxation, Florida’s got a day trip that’s sure to enrich your Disney holiday.
What’s great about staying at a Disney World resort, like the amazing Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, is that you can enjoy the magic of Disney by night and then set off on a completely different adventure by day. It’s the best of both worlds – the comfort and magic of Disney with the excitement of exploring Florida’s diverse attractions.
So, next time you’re at Disney World, remember that a whole other world awaits just a short drive away. Pack a day bag, step out of your Disney bubble, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Kim is the founder of the family travel blog Traveling Swansons. She is a wife and mom of 3. She has a passion for everything travel and enjoys sharing her travel tips and resources with others.