So you have had rode the rides at the attractions, you have played enough golf to make you a pro, and you have shopped at all the outlet stores. Now what? Well, how about getting into your car (or van), packing up the kids and hitting the road? Within 2 hours of Orlando, there is another world waiting for you. Whatever you decide, if you look for the “real” Florida, you will find it outside the themes and screams of the parks. North, South, East or West; the choice (once again) is yours.
Starting to the north, you will find the “World’s Most Famous Beach” and “America’s Oldest City”. Daytona Beach, Florida is known for being one of the few beaches in the world with sands firm enough to drive on. Known as the unofficial “Spring Break” party town (until several years ago when the spring breakers went further north), the Daytona 500 (in February), and Bike Week, this city has more to offer than meets the eye. Today, over 8 million visitors come to see this city and take advantage of the family-friendly beaches. On the beach you can visit the famous boardwalk, rent some jet skies, go kayaking, sail on a fishing charter or bicycle through the sand at your own pace. Cultural finds include the Halifax Historical Museum, the Museum of Arts and Sciences, the performing arts center and the Peabody Auditorium. The kids will love the chocolate factory and the planetarium. Other well known places of interest in Daytona is the Flea and Farmers Market which is open every Friday – Sunday and Daytona USA, where you can enjoy a half day of fun in a fast paced environment, even if you’re not a race fan. The best website for more details would be www.daytonabeach.com which is informative with both content and very simple to navigate.
Continue to head further to the north and you will reach one of my favorite destinations, St. Augustine, Florida (America’s Oldest City). Also known for their bed and breakfasts accommodations, you could easiely spend several days in this historic city. There is so much to see here; the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the Fountain of Youth, the lighthouse, San Sebastian Winery, and the infamous ghost tours. The food is excellent in the village area and the streets are lined with accommodations; that doesn’t even include the beach side of the city. Discount tickets and books can be purchased prior to arrival which can save you money along the way. The trolley tour is highly recommended since it provides further insight into the city though these tours (like them all), do cost extra. Stop at the Visitor’s Centers along the way and don’t forget too to use your AAA card if you are a member.
Start traveling towards the southeast direction and you will find yourself in fishing paradise; the Sebastian Inlet, Vero Beach and Ft. Pierce area. Experiencing beautiful state parks, visiting marinas, and plenty of boating and fishing are what you’ll be doing in this part of Florida. Snook and Redfish are in abundance here and if you are a surfer, the waves are waiting. Also known as the home of the Pelican Island (the first designated wildlife refuge in the United States), Sebastian also houses the Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum. Make sure that you can take advantage of the many boat tours, go camping if you have the gear, or picnic at the beach. Call 321-984-4852 for park information or visit www.floridastateparks.org
Head southwest and discover Tampa, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or go east, and you can visit Coca Beach and Cape Canaveral, home of the Kennedy Space Center. Explore places that you never knew; right in Orlando’s own backyard. Do something out of this world and watch the IMAX movie at the space center, get in touch with nature like fishing or kayaking, or participate in all the family friendly activities like the pirate’s cruise in Tampa.
Whatever you choose, day trips can take you away from the everyday routine and no luggage is required. Just a little imagination and enough gas to get you there.