By Dalia Colon
So you're finally taking that epic family vacation to Orlando. There's plenty to do around O-town, but since you've traveled all this way, don't forget to check out a bit of what the rest of Central Florida has to offer.
Here are five family-friendly day trips from Orlando, all less than a two-hour drive.
1) Life's a beach:
Have some fun in the sun in Daytona Beach, where you can tour Daytona International Speedway, visit Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier, climb Ponce Inlet Lighthouse or just spend a lazy day at the beach. Drive time: about 1 hour.
2) Walk on the wild side:
ZooTampa at Lowry Park has been crowned America's No. 1 zoo by both Parents and Child magazines. With animal exhibits, shows, rides and even a splash pad for kids, it's easy to see what makes the zoo so family-friendly. After some fun in the sun, grab dinner in nearby Seminole Heights, a burgeoning historic neighborhood full of respectable-yet-kid-friendly restaurants. Drive time: about 1 hour, 20 minutes.
3) Block off time for this:
When it comes to theme parks, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios may be the big fish. But LEGOLAND Florida also deserves a spot on your itinerary. The Winter Haven attraction is the largest LEGOLAND in the world, with 150 acres of rides, hands-on attractions, restaurants, shopping and LEGO displays that'll impress adults and kids alike. Drive time: about 1 hour, 20 minutes.
4) Fun in bloom:
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is a site to behold, with a stately bell tower, walking trails and acres of lush Florida greenery. Depending on when you visit, you might catch a concert from the 205-foot "singing carillon" tower. For kids, be sure to borrow a complimentary discovery backpack stocked with binoculars, a compass, bubbles and activities to help little ones get the most out of their visit. And no matter your age, be sure to bring your good camera; there are photo ops at every turn. Drive time: about 1 hour, 25 minutes.
5) Swim with the mermaids:
At Walt Disney World, you might run into the Little Mermaid. And in the town of Weeki Wachee, you'll encounter actual mermaids -- well, about as close to real mermaids as it gets. At Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, catch synchronized swimmers wearing fins and performing a mermaid show. You can also enjoy a river boat cruise, canoeing and kayaking, animal encounters and more. Drive time: about 1 hour, 40 minutes.