Best Day Trip Escapes From Orlando
Kennedy Space Center
Approximate drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Next to actually sneaking aboard the next shuttle launch you’re not going to get a more interactive experience with what the boys and girls at NASA go through on a day to day basis in preparation for their journey into the great unknown. Kennedy Space Center is the perfect departure for those seeking a trek away from the “make believe” land of Orlando and into reality, albeit a reality concept that allocates billions into the inspiring search for “something” in the stars.
At Kennedy Space Center, you get the opportunity to take one small step onto launch sites, meet veteran astronauts, take-on training simulations, stare up at a monolithic shuttle, and if you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness an actual launch (great timing for an impromptu marriage proposal, fellas).
Directions From Orlando on State Road 528
Travel east on SR 528 to the SR 407 exit to Kennedy Space Center and Titusville. Take SR 407 until it dead ends into SR 405. Turn right (east) onto SR 405 and follow the signs for Kennedy Space Center. You will travel approximately nine miles on SR 405. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on your right.
Directions From Orlando on State Road 50
Travel east on SR 50 until you pass under the I-95 overpass. At the next intersection, turn right (east) onto SR 405 and follow the signs for Kennedy Space Center. You will travel approximately 11 miles on SR 405. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on your right.
Approximate drive time: 1 hour
Cocoa Beach is what people come to Florida for. Perhaps not the specific city per se, but this little beach town represents everything an image of the quintessential beach town is when one draws upon their subconscious for their perfect world destination scenarios. Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to Orlando and close enough to the above mentioned Kennedy Space Center that during a launch, one would be impossibly pressed to find a better position to lay out a blanket and watch the dramatic event unfold, putting the best of sunrises to shame.
There are many attractions in the Cocoa Beach vicinity that range from museums to mini-golf, casinos to racetracks, and go-kart theme parks to zoos, but keep in mind that with this Cocoa Beach recommendation we’re trying to send you away from the “packaged” experiences of Central Florida and into some serious relax time. Take a stroll on the 840 foot outreaching pier and stare of into the Atlantic, spotting dolphins and pelicans and throwing out a fishing line (on site rentals available) if you’re so inclined. Cocoa Beach is also the home of 11 time World Surfing Champion Kelly Slater, complete with a bronze statue erected in his honor, located at Triangle Park, on State Road A1A, across from the "Glass Bank" – a definite can’t miss photo opportunity.
Cocoa Beach is a beach town and is thus packed to the gills with surf, skate, and souvenir shops. There are also many charming boutique stores where you can find one of a kind fashions and accessories, as well as galleries featuring the works of individuals from within thickly rooted artisan community. Be sure to stop by Ron Jon Surf Shop, - the big kahuna of surf shops.
Every imaginable beach based activity is at your beckon call at Cocoa Beach but this is still Florida, and thus there are more than a few world class golf courses in the area for those that find solace on the green versus the golden sands, sand traps included.
Dining & Nightlife
There are nearly 30 nightclubs, pubs, lounges, and bars in Cocoa Beach with even more eateries in the area to accommodate the tastes of everyone.
There are many accommodations to suits the needs and budgets of anyone visiting this popular beach town but without question our favourite is the colorful and surf inspired Four Points Sheraton, convenient and steps from the beach. Rates starting from $105/night.
Silver Springs Nature Park
5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Silver Springs, FL
Approximate drive time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Every day, approximately 550 million gallons of crystal clear aqua pours into the springs of this natural Florida attraction, which has aided in creating one of the most unique eco-systems in the country. The highlight of Silver Springs is the Glass Bottom Boat River Tour where passengers get the ultimate view through the transparent (both boat and stream) surface of a diverse collection of fish, shellfish, alligators, turtles (six different species) and fossilized remains of crustaceans that inhabited these waters tens of millions of year ago.
Silver Springs also features Wildlife exhibits that include a peak at the rare albino alligator (also see Gatorland in Orlando), as well as the endangered Florida Panther, North American Black Bear, and brown furred Kodiak Bear.
There are an assortment of person-made rides and activities that includes The Lighthouse Ride - a towering 80 foot high carousel type contraption that spins guests around for a panoramic view of the nature park , as well as a Kid’s Playland, and reptile based shows.
For more information on Silver Springs, visit their website here
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Approximate drive time: 1 hour 30 minutes
At the heart of this 210 acre nature park is a 45 foot deep natural spring that reaches nine miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, which attracts a unique array of both saltwater and freshwater fish, in addition to all sorts of animals, birds, and reptiles. But the headliner attracting the most attention to Homosassa Springs is the misshapen blimp like manatee. The manatee love to cozy up in the relative sanctuary of the year round 72 degree springs of Homosassa River. Visitors come from all over the country to view these obese yet fascinating beasts of the sea via a floating underwater observatory or atop the springs where they are a literal arms length away from one’s touch.
For visitor information, follow the link here
Tarpon Springs, FL
Approximate drive time: 2 hours
Tarpon Springs is a historic fishing town in Florida known for having the largest Greek population in the U.S.. Next to the amazing eateries you can find in a village that combines fresh seafood with one of its best complementary ethnic cuisines, Tarpon Springs’ biggest attraction is found at the sponge docks - Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks District. The harbor here is home to one of the largest hauls of Sponge Bob Square Pants kin in the country. The industry here is so big that we’re surprised that the wacky yellow fella isn’t Tarpon Springs’ official mascot. City council could do well do suggest a theme park based on everyone’s favorite animated ocean bottom feeder, although there is a Spongeorama Museum and Movie House. All jokes aside, Tarpon Springs is severely charming and home to amazing people, sightseeing, dining, and shopping (especially for those with an eye for marine based collectibles).
The Tarpon Springs Aquarium is definitely worth a visit, where visitors can feed AND pet sharks and stingrays. Gulfstar Fishing offers deep sea fishing expeditions, and Spongeorama Cruise Lines will take you out for Dolphin Sighting. Bottom line, Tarpon Springs is a pure escape from Orlando and the other more bustling tourist destinations of Central Florida. Quiet, quaint, and a little quirky. Perfect.
Sponge Bob Square Pants Approved Attraction!