City guides

Hidden gem day trips from Orlando

Discover the lesser-known escapes just a short drive away from the bustling heart of Orlando.

November 15, 2023
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5
 min read
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Last updated:
Jan 15
A view of the Orlando skyline.

Orlando, Florida, is renowned for its theme parks and bustling tourist attractions. But if you're yearning for a day away from the crowds, there's a world of hidden treasures waiting just outside the city limits. Dive into these top attractions that promise a refreshing break from the usual.

Mount Dora

Mount Dora is a delightful blend of Southern charm and Florida flair. Nestled among the rolling hills of Central Florida, this town offers a quaint and serene setting that feels like a step back in time. Antique enthusiasts will be thrilled with the myriad of shops lining its streets, while history buffs can embark on historic train rides that provide a unique perspective of the town's past. The picturesque lakeside views are perfect for leisurely strolls or romantic sunset moments. It's a place where time seems to slow down, allowing visitors to truly soak in its old-world charm.

Blue Spring State Park

A shimmering jewel in Central Florida, Blue Spring State Park is more than just a natural wonder. During the winter months, it becomes a sanctuary for manatees seeking warmer waters. Visitors can dive into its crystal-clear springs, which maintain a consistent temperature year-round, making it ideal for snorkeling and diving. For those who prefer staying above water, kayaking along the St. Johns River offers a chance to spot diverse wildlife. And if you're in the mood for a lazy afternoon, the park's lush green spaces are perfect for picnics and relaxation.

Cassadaga

Cassadaga isn't your typical town. Dubbed the "Psychic Capital of the World," this spiritualist community exudes an aura of mystery and intrigue. Beyond its reputation for psychic readings and spiritual healing, Cassadaga offers a rich history that dates back to the late 19th century. Visitors can join guided tours that delve into the town's origins, or they can wander freely, soaking in the unique energy that permeates the air. Whether you're a believer in the supernatural or just curious, Cassadaga promises an experience unlike any other.

Winter Park

Winter Park is a blend of urban sophistication and natural beauty. Located just a short drive from Orlando, this city boasts tree-lined avenues, upscale boutiques, and a vibrant arts scene that rivals larger metropolitan areas. The scenic boat tour is a must-do, offering a glimpse into the city's chain of lakes and the opulent homes that line their shores. Cultural enthusiasts will appreciate the array of museums and theaters, while foodies can indulge in a diverse culinary scene that ranges from gourmet eateries to cozy cafes.

Canaveral National Seashore

Escape the commercialized beaches and head to Canaveral National Seashore, where nature reigns supreme. This stretch of coastline offers pristine beaches untouched by commercial development, making it a haven for those seeking a more authentic beach experience. The dunes are home to a variety of wildlife, and the waters are teeming with marine life, from playful dolphins to nesting sea turtles. With miles of unspoiled sand and surf, it's a place where you can truly disconnect and immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural world.

De Leon Springs State Park

At De Leon Springs, history and nature come together in a harmonious blend. The springs have been a gathering place for centuries, from Native Americans to Spanish explorers. Today, visitors can dive into its refreshing waters or embark on a boat tour that offers insights into the area's rich past. The De Leon Springs Heritage Site allows guests to explore the cultural and historical significance of the area, featuring exhibits and interactive activities. Along with this, the park's lush trails and serene picnic spots provide a perfect setting for visitors to relax and connect with nature.

Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest is a vast expanse of natural beauty that beckons outdoor enthusiasts from near and far. With its sprawling pine forests, crystal-clear springs, and serene lakes, it offers a plethora of recreational opportunities. Hiking trails wind through diverse ecosystems, providing glimpses of wildlife in their natural habitats. Anglers can cast their lines in the forest's many lakes and streams, while campers can find secluded spots to set up camp under the stars. It's a place where nature's wonders are on full display, waiting to be explored.

Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens is a testament to the harmonious union of nature and architecture. Nestled amidst beautifully landscaped gardens, the majestic singing tower stands as a beacon, its carillon bells serenading visitors with melodic tunes. The gardens themselves are a horticultural masterpiece, with meandering pathways leading to tranquil ponds, vibrant flower beds, and scenic vistas. It's a place of reflection and serenity, where one can find solace amidst the beauty of nature and the melodies of the bells.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine isn't just a city; it's a living museum. As the oldest city in the U.S., it's steeped in history that spans over four centuries. Every cobblestone street, historic fort, and ancient building has a story to tell. Visitors can embark on guided tours that delve into the city's storied past or explore at their own pace, discovering hidden gems along the way. The eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and attractions ensures that there's something for everyone, from history buffs to shopaholics.

Crystal River

Crystal River is more than just a city; it's an aquatic playground. Renowned for its resident manatee population, it offers visitors the unique opportunity to swim alongside these gentle giants. But beyond its aquatic adventures, Crystal River boasts a rich tapestry of history, nature, and local charm. Explore its archaeological state park, paddle through its mangrove-lined waterways, or delve into its local arts scene. It's a destination that offers a diverse array of experiences, ensuring that every visit is memorable.As you can see, Orlando's surroundings are rich with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. So, the next time you're in the city and feel the urge to explore beyond the theme parks, remember this list and embark on a journey off the beaten path. Safe travels!

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