When taking a Disney vacation, filling your time with activities that don’t require leaving Walt Disney World property is easy. Between spending time in Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, the Disney water parks and the Disney Resort hotels, you’re never short of something to do. But sometimes, we have the desire to explore somewhere new. It’s also refreshing to try a new restaurant, browse different shops or spend time in nature. But where should you visit to spend some time outside of Walt Disney World?
There are many popular places to visit in Central Florida, including:
- Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral
- Universal Orlando, including Universal Studios theme park and Islands of Adventure theme park
- SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove
- Orlando Premium Outlets
- Florida Mall
- Mall at Millenia
- Daytona Beach
- Cocoa Beach
- Busch Gardens
However, there is also a list of places that we love to visit and explore when choosing to spend a day away from the Disney Parks that are less well-known. Having access to a car makes it easier to explore different places. However, there are some places that are close enough to access while keeping the cost of a Lyft or Uber journey down. Here are our favorite places to visit for a day trip outside the Walt Disney World Resort.
If you’re looking for a picturesque street lined with shops to browse and restaurants to dine in, you’ll want to visit Winter Park. Winter Park is around 30 minutes from Walt Disney World, and traffic dependent on the I-4. Park Avenue is a cobblestoned and tree-lined street where you will find a selection of shops and boutiques to explore and a selection of local restaurants to eat in. Our favorite is The Briarpatch for breakfast.
Winter Park is surrounded by twelve lakes, making it a boating and paddle-boarding paradise. The pristine waterways offer you the opportunity to see plenty of wildlife, as well as admire the multimillion-dollar mansions that are located on the shores. If you’re looking for a combination of fun and relaxation, take advantage of the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour available to visitors. Alternatively, join a paddle board tour, and learn a new skill while exploring.
Not to be confused with Winter Park, Winter Garden is just twenty minutes west of Lake Buena Vista. The historic downtown of Winter Garden offers many shops and restaurants on the West Orange Trail. Stop by the Garden Theatre to enjoy live music performances if you visit during the weekend. For those of you needing a one-stop shopping experience with all your favorite brands, visit the Winter Garden Village. Visit Winter Garden on a Saturday morning, and you’ll browse the Farmer’s Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Just over 90 minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort is a small city known as Vero Beach. It’s located on the Atlantic Coast and is known for its mix of peaceful beaches, nature tours, museums, hotels, large shopping malls, and historic downtown.
Did you know that The Walt Disney Company has a beach Resort in Florida? Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is part of the Disney Vacation Club. However, you don’t have to be a Member to stay here. Reservations can be made on the Disney Travel Company Website. Consider extending your Disney experience by staying for a night. The Disney Resort hotel’s location on the beach offers a gorgeous opportunity to watch the sunrise. Depending on the time of your visit, you may even be lucky enough to see the baby turtles making their way to the ocean after hatching.
Less than ten miles from the Walt Disney World Resort is a little town called Celebration. The community was once owned by Disney and is a pretty town that offers scenic walking routes and a quaint town center to explore. If you’re looking for a morning away from the Disney Parks, head to Celebration. There is a selection of cafes and restaurants to dine in for breakfast before embarking on a walk around the nature trail by Lake Rianhard and the residential streets. Alternatively, stop by for lunch, followed by a browse in the shops lining Market Street. Celebration is also a beautiful place to visit for an evening. Enjoy a sunset walk from the Celebration Lakeside Park before dining in one of the restaurants on Front Street or Market Street.
If you are hoping for a little extra, we recommend visiting Celebration on a Sunday. You can browse the Celebration Farmers Market stalls between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Alternatively, enjoy a round of golf at the Celebration Golf Club. Tee times are available to book online.
If you’re looking for adventure, around two hours from Walt Disney World is St. Augustine. St. Augustine is a city on the Atlantic Coast of northeastern Florida. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and has continuously been inhabited since then, making it the oldest European-established settlement in the United States. St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest city, with history and a quaint feel. When exploring the brick-lined streets, you’ll see centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards, an old fort, horse-drawn carriages, European buildings, and much more. You can pick souvenirs in the thriving market shops and dine in various restaurants. Many restaurants are on the waterfront, offering beautiful sea views while you enjoy your meal.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Around ninety minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort is Clearwater Beach. This location is often a popular destination for Guests of Lake Buena Vista. In particular, we recommend a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. If you and your family have ever watched Dolphin Tale (2011) and Dolphin Tale 2 (2014), you’ll be familiar with Winter and Hope, the dolphins, and Rufus, the pelican.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is where some of these movies were filmed. They are also home to the stars of the movies. While Winter, unfortunately, passed away recently, Hope and Rufus (known as Ricky) still call the aquarium home. Many other animals have been rescued and now also reside in the aquarium. This is your opportunity to see the animals of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium who call it home and those currently being rehabilitated with the view of being released back into the wild as soon as they are ready. You can also learn about the fantastic work that the aquarium carries out to help injured animals throughout each year.
Have you visited any of these places yet? If not, make time during your next Disney vacation to explore somewhere new.