Does your perfect day include a family visit to a giant theme park or would you rather go to a smaller and less expensive attraction?
No matter your preference, there are hundreds if not thousands of fun getaways in Florida.
Orlando and Central Florida are home to some of the largest theme parks in the world.
Smaller attractions are scattered across the state. From water parks to roller coasters to giant Ferris Wheels, it can be found in Florida.
DAY TRIP 1
10165 N McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612. Tel: 813-884-4386
You will never get bored at Busch Gardens in Tampa.
It is a 335-acre animal themed park that contains 8 roller coasters, 3 water rides, and many other rides and animal attractions. The park is also adjacent to a sister water park, Adventure Island.
Busch Gardens has several themed areas and attractions such as Morocco, Congo, Nairobi, Edge of Africa, and Egypt. Animal habitats replicate the edge of Africa and the Serengeti Plain.
Some are walk-through exhibits where you can observe animals in their natural habitat. Bird Gardens is a free flight aviary where more than 500 tropical birds from all over the world make their homes.
You can hand-feed a kangaroo, and see crocodiles, meerkats, lions, hyenas, and hippos.
DAY TRIP 2
Daytona International Speedway
1801 West International Speedway Boulevard
Daytona Beach, Florida 32114. Tel: 800-748-7467
This famous race track features several events during the year such as the NASCAR Daytona 500, the former Firecracker 400, the Rolex 24, and many more.
If you are in Daytona at times other than race days, the Speedway offers tours on a first come-first served basis. Drive through the main entrance and follow the signs to the tours.
There are three basic tour types: Speedway, All-Access, and VIP. The tours range in time from 30 minutes for the Speedway to 90 minutes for the All-Access, and 3 hours for the VIP. Prices increase as tour time increases.
These are tram tours, and after the tour you can visit the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. You will see all kinds of stock cars, sports cars, and motorcycles.
DAY TRIP 3
5145 Harvey Tew Rd, Plant City, FL 33565. Tel: 813-717-9865
Nobody seem to know for sure why kids are so crazy about dinosaurs, but a visit to this place will convince you they are.
You will have a chance to wander around more than 150 replicas of the giant reptiles, displayed in their true size. Tyrannosaurus Rex is there, of course, along with even scarier creatures you may never have heard of.
There is the Boneyard that lets you uncover a life-sized dinosaur skeleton. You can also enjoy the Fossil Dig and pretend you are an archaeologist. The movie cave lets you learn about dinosaurs, and there is also a museum, gift shop, and children’s playground.
There is plenty of free parking in front of the attraction.
DAY TRIP 4
1486 Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, FL 32830. Tel: 407-939-6244
You will have no trouble at all spending an enjoyable day or two at Disney Springs, an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at Walt Disney World Resort.
The original complex opened in 1975 and has been expanded and renamed over the years.
Disney Springs has a fictional history that says it was settled in the 1800s by a cattle rancher.
The complex has 4 separately themed areas, each reflecting a different time in the fictional history of the town. Each of the themed areas has an architectural style typical of its period.
The complex contains shops and restaurants; a marina and transportation hub; a business district; an entertainment center; and artificial springs.
Admission is free to Disney Springs. Buses and water taxis operated by Disney Transport provide transportation between Disney Springs and other areas of the Walt Disney World Resort.
DAY TRIP 5
Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort
200 Epcot Center Dr, Orlando, FL 32821. Tel: 407-939-5277
Epcot is one of the 4 theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort.
It is a park that celebrates human achievement in technology, and it also features international culture zones.
It is divided into 2 main themed areas: Future World and World Showcase.
Future world has several pavilions that contain exhibits and rides exhibiting innovative technology. These include Spaceship Earth, Inoventions, Mission: Space, Test Track, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, The Land, Imagination, and a seasonal festival center.
The World Showcase resembles a permanent World’s Fair with 11 themed pavilions each representing a specific country. The countries include the USA, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, and Italy.
Each pavilion has themed architecture along with shops and restaurants typical of the country’s culture and cuisine.
DAY TRIP 6
Fun Spot America
5700 Fun Spot Way, Orlando, FL 32819. Tel: 407-363-3867
Fun Spot America is located on the busy International Drive entertainment corridor in Orlando.
It has 4 different go-kart tracks and 3 roller coasters.
The park also has 3 different thrill rides, including the Skycoaster. In this ride 1 to 3 riders are winched to the top of a tall launch arch then suddenly dropped toward the ground. They swing back and forth on a tether until finally coming to a rest.
It is like bungee jumping but safer.
DAY TRIP 7
Legoland Florida Resort
1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884. Tel: 888-690-5346
A LEGO is a plastic construction toy whose most popular form is that of colorful interlocking blocks, gears, figurines, and other parts.
LEGO pieces can be assembled to construct many toys like vehicles, buildings, robots, and more. The LEGO is what makes Legoland Florida Resort so popular with families with children ages 2 to 12.
Legoland Florida Resort is built on the former popular Cypress Gardens theme park. This 150-acre theme park preserves many reminders of the property’s history. Legoland has more than 50 rides along with dozens of shows, attractions, shops, restaurants, and a water park.
Everything in the resort is based on LEGO brands and characters. The resort also has two hotels: the Legoland Hotel with 152 rooms; and the Legoland Beach Retreat with 166 rooms in 83 free standing bungalows designed to look like giant Lego sets.
Daily events feature a live action water ski show that includes humans and LEGO costumed characters like Captain Brickbeard.
Fun things for the kids to do include building a Lego car and testing it on a digitally timed track.
DAY TRIP 8
8401 International Drive, #100
Orlando, Florida 32819. Tel: 407-270-8644
ICON Orlando is a giant 400-foot tall observation wheel in Orlando.
It can be seen for miles and is illuminated at night by colored lights. The wheel is part of the ICON Orlando 360 complex of shops, restaurants, and other attractions on International Drive.
It was formerly known as the Orlando Eye before being rebranded in 2018. The owners call it an observation wheel rather than a Ferris Wheel because the capsule in which you ride is stabilized and doesn’t swing back and forth.
The wheel has 30 air-conditioned passenger capsules, each with a capacity of up to 15 people. The view from each carriage is spectacular, and the ride takes about 23 minutes.
You can see area hotels, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, and downtown Orlando. At the top you can see Walt Disney World including Space Mountain, Spaceship Earth, and the Contemporary Hotel.
On clear days you may even see the Atlantic Ocean 48 miles to the east.
DAY TRIP 9
7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, FL 32821. Tel: 407-545-5550
Sea World Orlando is a theme park featuring three different parks: SeaWorld, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove.
Dolphins, killer whales, manta rays, sea lions, and other marine creatures are featured throughout SeaWorld and many perform in shows before audiences. You can get close to many of the animals and interact with them.
Discovery Cove is where you can swim with the dolphins and snorkel with a wide variety of sea creatures.
Aquatica is a large water park with slides and other attractions.
The theme park features 4 roller coasters, including Kraken (a floorless coaster), Manta (a coaster designed to mimic the movement of a manta ray), Mako, and the Shamu Express.
It is also home to the original Journey to Atlantis Water Coaster.
SeaWorld After Dark is a nightly program featuring a fireworks display, a sea lion show, and a performance by Shamu, the killer whale.
DAY TRIP 10
5th Street, Adjacent to Spook Hill Elementary School
J. A. Wiltshire Avenue, Lake Wales, Florida 33853
Spook Hill is a free optical illusion attraction that has been entertaining people for a very long time.
The illusion happens when you park your car at the bottom of the hill and put it in neutral. The car appears to be coasting slowly up the hill, defying gravity.
A white line has been painted on the street so you know where to park your car. If all goes as expected, your car will start its self-powered trip up the hill.
Although there are several folk legends about why this happens, the truth is that the lay of the land and growth pattern of the trees makes it look like up is down and vice versa.
It doesn’t matter to you because you still experience that mystical feeling of beating gravity at its own game.
DAY TRIP 11
Universal Orlando Resort
6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819. Tel: 407-363-8000https://www.universalorlando.com/
Universal Orlando is the second largest resort in Orlando with an annual attendance of 21 million, surpassed only by Walt Disney World.
It consists of 2 theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It also includes a water park called Volcano Bay, a night time entertainment complex called Universal City Walk, and six Loews Hotels.
The theme parks are each unique in their own ways.
Universal Studios Florida is made up of themed areas and attractions based on the movie industry. The 8 themed areas are designed to make you feel like you are on a movie set.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure consists of 7 distinct simulated islands, each themed to various adventures. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most popular attractions here.
Universal City Walk is located at the entrance. Visitors travel on moving covered sidewalks to either of the two main theme parks.
DAY TRIP 12
Walt Disney World Resort
Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando, Florida 32830. Tel: 407-939-5277
Walt Disney World Resort is the most visited tourist attraction in the world.
It covers more than 25,000 acres and features 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 27 themed resort hotels, 9 hotels owned by others, 7 golf courses, a recreational vehicle park, and many entertainment and shopping venues including Disney Springs.
The resort has an annual attendance of more than 52 million.
You can visit one or all theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The water parks are Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.
There are so many things to see and do that one could easily spend a month and not see it all.
There are always special events underway and Disney offers ticket packages to include one or more theme parks for 1 day or extended periods.
Their website is an indispensable resource to see what’s currently available. It changes on an almost daily basis.
DAY TRIP 13
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606. Tel: 352-592-5656
Weeki Wachee Springs and its mermaid show was one of Florida’s earliest pre-Disney attractions. It fell into financial problems in the years after Disney opened, but is now part of the Florida State Park System.
This saved the attraction, and you will be glad it did.
Mermaid shows are still being held, and Buccaneer Bay has been added, a water attraction with a giant slide that opened more than 30 years ago.
Don’t be surprised if you see other Florida natives swimming with the mermaids. These natives include turtles, fish, manatees, otters and even an occasional gator.
You can also rent inner tubes or kayaks and drift down the river.