Where to go on a weekend getaway from Orlando
January 15, 2013 6:42 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I (early 30's) are visiting my parents in Orlando for a week in mid-March. They have kindly offered to babysit our 2-year-old for a couple of nights. We will have a car and 2 nights to go somewhere. Where should we go?

Things we've thought about so far: The Keys sound cool, but it's too much of a drive. The snorkeling and small town beach kitch are really appealing. We're not really shopping and dancing people, but Miami might be interesting. We've looked into a flight to Nassau, Bahamas but we're having trouble figuring out what it's like. We travel a lot, and aren't afraid to explore. If the border controls weren't such a pain, we'd go to Havana. (We know there are flights there via Nassau, but we're anxious about having trouble getting back into the U.S. with a toddler waiting for us.)

We have a budget of about $1000. We're open to a flight, but only short, direct ones.

posted by thenormshow to Travel & Transportation around Florida (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I really love West Palm Beach. Check out what's available at that time. Much less chintzy than Orlando, and less crazy than Miami.
posted by xingcat at 7:13 PM on January 15, 2013

You will probably want to stay away from the major beaches due to spring break. If you want more of a low-key beach experience, I'd suggest Sanibel Island or Marco Island. Maybe book a kayak or jet-ski tour, do some para-sailing, etc.
posted by Wossname at 7:28 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Same drive time as Key Largo, but Savannah, GA is a really interesting town if you've never been. I was there in November and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. And Tybee Island is beach kitch all day long.
posted by outfielder at 7:36 PM on January 15, 2013

I live in a suburb of Orlando and grew up in central Florida. While I do not tend to think of the city as chintzy, there are certainly a few areas of town that are tacky and touristy. This is mostly on US-192 and International Drive.

If you are interested in the beach, there are obviously a number of options. I would recommend the Melbourne area, which is about 90 minutes away. There are a lot of small beach towns running up and down US 1. However, I don't think there is much snorkeling to be done because there aren't any reefs there. If you are interested in snorkeling, I would recommend someplace like Key Largo so you can explore the barrier reef. Key Largo is about an hour's drive south of Miami (or about 4.5 hours from Orlando). You can certainly get the small beach town experience in that area, too. I know you said the Keys are out but this one is just off the mainland and is where you should go if you want to do snorkeling.

But, keep Wossname's advice in mind. I am not much of a beach goer so I don't know which beaches might tend to be crowded. Hopefully, the college kids aren't interested in coral reefs.

On the west coast, maybe Tarpon Springs? It's a small, historic coastal town with the highest Greek percentage in the US. The downtown area also fits the small beach town kitsch nicely, and is a great place to be if you like Greek food.

I've been to Nassau a few times. I'm not that impressed with it. I would not recommend that you travel there.

On preview, Savannah is very nice, too.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:41 PM on January 15, 2013

The west coast of Florida has some beach kitsch as well (Tarpon Springs comes to mind - and on preview, I see others agree!). There are also some lovely little island getaway places like Cedar Key to the north or Sanibel/Captiva to the south.
posted by judith at 7:44 PM on January 15, 2013

You might consider traveling north up A1A instead of south to Miami. It's a much less stressful drive because you can do most of it without I-95 (which has zero scenic value).

* Cocoa Beach is about an hour east and is a cool little beach town. KSC is nearby and there's a neat little nanobrewery. Lots of watersports activities too -- kayaking in the mangroves, air boat rides, jet ski, stand up paddle, etc.

* St. Augustine is about two hours north and has the Castillo de San Marcos and historic downtown. Gets kind of crowded though in March. New Smyrna Beach is another tiny beach town along the way.

* Amelia Island is another hour and a half north and is another historic town, but much less crowded and low key than St. Augustine.

You could easily hit all of this in two nights. For snorkeling I would book a trip to the Caribbean.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:46 PM on January 15, 2013

Florida has a lot of fresh water springs that provide lovely destinations with unique wildlife, snorkeling, swimming and diving opportunities. At mid-March, you might still see manatees at Blue Springs, or catch the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs (and you can't get more "old Florida" than that!), both of which are within a couple hours drive of Orlando, but in different directions. There's amazingly (if you know Florida hydrology and the mechanics of the Florida Aquifier) even a warm, year 'round 87 degree F mineral springs, a couple hours drive southwest of Orlando, if the weather during your visit is too cool for beachcombing.
posted by paulsc at 8:47 PM on January 15, 2013

Daytona Beach is an easy drive East. Get a room in a nice hotel. Go to Ron Jon's, eat seafood.

Check out NASA/Space Center.

I'm not a fan of the Keys. Miami is fine, but for just a day or so, it's a bit of a schlep (about 5 hours each way on the Turnpike.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 AM on January 16, 2013

If you do drive up A1A, be sure to stop for a bit at Washington Oaks Park. It's one of the most gorgeous places in Florida. On the West side of the street is a large park with gardens and walking paths, and on the ocean side is this huge coquina shoreline. It's not a swimming beach, but an exploring beach.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2013

« Older Is there a specific word or phrase for the...   |   Fell for someone who lives far away. What now? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.