6 Affordable Summer Break Day Trips from Orlando with Kids

When the summer heat is here it’s tempting to jump in the pool or hibernate in the icy chill of our air-conditioned homes, but there’s no better time to get out and explore. Near Orlando there are many marvelous (and affordable) offerings. Enjoy summer drives, see nature, and understand more about Florida’s history all as part of our round-up of kid-friendly summer day trips around Central Florida and beyond.

More helpful suggestions can be found in our 30 Ideas for Summer in Orlando.

Summer Day Trips Near Orlando

1. Apopka Wildlife Drive

Address: 2850 Lust Rd, Apopka, FL 32703
Open weekends (Fri-Sun) and holidays from 7am-3pm

If you want to “go for a drive” but not have to deal with the slog of driving back after a fun day out, try nearby Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, an 11-mile, one way drive through Central Florida wetlands.

Apopka Wildlife Drive as seen from windshield
Apopka Wildlife Drive image by Maria DiCicco

See alligators, and ample bird-watching opportunities, hike, bike or go on horseback around a two mile trail, or launch a canoe, kayak or motorboat at the McDonald Canal Boat Ramp. The gate to the drive is open weekends (Fri-Sun) and holidays from 7am-3pm, and cars must be out by 5pm. 

Expect the 11-mile drive to take well over an hour, because of the slow speed of cars riding in front of you. There are several opportunities to pull over, take photos, or visit an overlook or two. Bring car snacks and if you have them, bring binoculars! This is one of the best free things to do with kids in Orlando!

Alligator and Bird along Apopka Wildlife Drive
Apopka Wildlife Drive image by Maria DiCicco

There are toilets and picnic pavilions in the park, but I suggest you visit the nearby Nauti Lobstah restaurant, just 10 minutes away in Apopka. This great spot features New England favorites, and having hailed from both Massachusetts and Rhode Island in my youth, this place hits the mark. Try the classic Rhode Island clam cakes, a lobster bisque with sherry, or perhaps their scallops and mussels! It’s one of the best family restaurants in Orlando.

Child coloring at Nauti Lobstah Seafood Restaurant in Apopka
Nauti Lobstah Seafood Restaurant in Apopka image by Dani Meyering

2. Airboat Ride at The Black Hammock

Address: 2316 Black Hammock Fish Camp Road, Oviedo, FL 32765

Similarly, venture out to Lake Jesup, home of 13,000 relocated alligators and one wild airboat ride. Kids will love suiting up in earmuff headphones for the ride that whips through marshes and lake beds (warning, you may get WET!), making for a splashing good time.

White Birds Flying and Marshy Palm Trees seen from Black Hammock Airboat Ride
Black Hammock Airboat Ride image by Maria DiCicco

After the Black Hammock airboat ride, stop at the alligator exhibit where you can hold and pose for photos with an alligator, then have some backwater grub at the Black Hammock Restaurant before heading home down the slow back roads.

Bonus idea – Make an appointment to visit Green Acres Farm just a few minutes away, one of the fun petting zoos and farms in Orlando.

3. Downtown DeLand and State Parks

As surprises go, DeLand can be a buzzy one if you weren’t expecting much. Known mostly for Stetson University, the main drag of town passes right by their baseball fields, giving an air of Americana to the historic strip.

Much like Mount Dora or Sanford, this brick-laden town is full of boutiques and lovely restaurants like a personal favorite, De La Vega. Serving up interesting fusion tapas, this is the first place I had nopal (cactus), sending me down a foodie spiral to discover more Mexican eats in my travels. Their unlimited tapas brunch menu is actually pretty tremendous too, and at just under $24 a person, it’s a steal.

Kids will enjoy the finger food style of small plates, but you can also entice them with promises of visiting nearby Freedom Playground at Bill Dreggors Park (230 N Stone St), an epic wooden playground of grand proportions.

If tapas don’t sound like your family’s thing, there are plenty of other wonderful options for eats in town, or consider just up the road enjoying the De Leon Springs pancake house at The Old Sugar Mill Pancake House. A common favorite, get there early to beat crowds and enjoy a stroll around the springs and trails if you do have to wait.

Cook your own pancakes and enjoy a griddle topped table cooking event the whole family can get into.

Entrance Sign at De Leon Springs State Park
De Leon Springs State Park image by Maria DiCicco

But the fun isn’t over yet. After the playground, venture over to Blue Spring State Park, where hopefully the morning crowds have dissipated a bit, lending way to smooth parking experiences and a calming stroll through the park’s boardwalk.

Swimming Area at Blue Spring State Park
Swimming Area at Blue Spring State Park image by Dani Meyering

Along the boardwalk, kids can see fish and turtles, or even dunk in the water themselves! It’s a refreshing treat and guess what, there is also a playground! Parents may enjoy exploring the onsite historic homestead or renting a canoe or kayak.

There are also pontoon boat rides that launch from the far end of the park as well. For extra fun, see about getting a campsite or cabin in the adjacent campground!

Related post: The Best State Parks Near Orlando

4. Fort Christmas and Onward to Titusville

Straight down route 50 east towards Titusville, spend a fun-filled day at Fort Christmas in Christmas, Florida. Wander the old homes of the early Florida settlers called “Crackers”, see the old Christmas post office where you can postmark mail to Santa from “Christmas” Florida. Go inside the replica fort, full of Native American artifacts and items from the settlers who lived in the area.

Image of the outside of a wooden cabin at Fort Christmas Historical Park
Fort Christmas Historical Park Image by Maria DiCicco

Bring a picnic or grill out at one of the many awesomely big grills onsite, and let the kids enjoy the fort themed playground or perhaps visit the goats in the back corner of the property. 

There’s plenty to do at Fort Christmas and it is all FREE! Afterwards, you can choose to head into Oviedo just minutes away to see the lakeside fun and games at Oviedo on the Park, a waterfront area full of surprises, or venture further east towards Titusville.

In Titusville, find the Valiant Air Command air museum, worthy of about an hour of your time, then another five minutes east and you’ll find yourself at the Intracoastal Waterway. Enjoy a meal or drinks along the water, enjoy the air conditioning of Kennedy Space Center’s Planet Play, or continue venturing a little bit further to enjoy the many things to do in Cocoa Beach.

indoor play area Planet Play at Kennedy Space Center
Planet Play at Kennedy Space Center image by Dani Meyering

Other Summer Day Trips in Florida

5. Florida’s East Coast Day Trips

The East Coast is full of fantastic places to stop for nostalgic maritime eats on the water, water sports, and more. Check out the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach, Flagler and Vero Beach for guaranteed fun days out.

There are plenty of things to do with kids in Daytona Beach too!

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
Ponce Inlet Lighthouse image by Maria DiCicco

6. Florida’s West Coast Day Trips

Don’t count out the West Coast just because I-4 is a nightmare to Tampa! Just two hours away you can find a slew of amazing things to do, from Weeki Wachee Springs and their famous mermaid show, to St. Petersburg and the Glazer Family Playground at the Pier.

Tarpon Springs is full of old-time charm and Greek cuisine, while Plant City halfway to Tampa offers up trains, strawberries and lots of beer and wine opportunities at the local farms for mom and dad. Plus, Dinosaur World is a great pit stop along the way!

author avatar
Maria DiCicco
Globetrotting since 1995, Maria is a daughter, girl-mom and wife to a Spaniard. She is a karaoke wunderkind, natural born storyteller and creative writer. She’s a wine and gin enthusiast and charcuterie builder extraordinaire. Seeking to inspire others to “Travel More”, she shares travel advice, destination spotlights and more at her site AlwaysPackTissues.com.