You live in Washington, D.C., where the weather can get downright cold sometimes! You’d love to take a getaway to Orlando with the family, but is this feasible to do by car? What do you need to know?
Traveling from Washington, D.C. to Orlando by car requires you to drive south through the east coast. Along the way, you’ll go through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia before finally reaching sunny Florida. The entire trip takes about 12 hours.
Do you need some help planning your trip to Orlando from D.C.? Then allow me to be your guide! Ahead, I’ll present detailed travel information, including a recommended route, your drivetime, and lots of fun activities to do along the way when you need to stop and take a break.
Let’s dive right in!
The best route from Washington, D.C. to Orlando
Driving to Orlando from Washington, D.C. is an engaging tour of the United States east coast by car.
You’ll drive straight south and pass through four states before reaching Florida, which are Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The trip is best divided into at least three or four days of driving.
This way, you don’t have to worry about the kids getting cranky and restless, starting fights in the backseat. You’ll also ward off road fatigue.
Here is how I recommend reaching Orlando from D.C.
Washington, D.C. to Richmond
From your home of Washington, D.C., you’ll drive to the first state along your route, which is Virginia.
You’ll stop in Richmond, which is two hours from D.C. when you drive south (without traffic, of course).
Richmond is the state capital and a charming city known for its history.
If you and the kids get the chance to get out of the car and take a little stroll around Richmond, you’ll find a multitude of activities.
You can take in sightseeing tours, walk through the downtown area, visit arts and history museums, or witness the beauty of nature at a botanical garden.
Richmond to Rocky Mount
When you’re ready to say goodbye to Virginia, then it’s time to pile back into the car and continue the next part of your trip.
From Richmond, you’ll drive straight south to Rocky Mount, North Carolina. This leg of the journey takes two hours unless you get caught in traffic.
Rocky Mount between Nash and Edgecomb counties is a tranquil city with attractive natural views.
Between City Lake Park, Rocky Mount Hills, Battle Park, Sunset Park, and the Bridge Tar River Trail, you and the kids can lose yourselves in Rocky Mount’s beauty.
I do recommend staying for a while, as you’ve been on the road for about four hours already. There’s a lot of driving yet to be done, so you might as well call it a night in Rocky Mount and continue to South Carolina tomorrow.
Rocky Mount to Lumberton
It’s a new day and you and the kids are feeling rested, refreshed, and ready for the next leg of your journey. As you wish!
Fuel up the car and continue to Lumberton, another North Carolina city. This drive is again southbound with a slight westward curve so you can cut into South Carolina next.
You’ll be in the car for about two hours if traffic doesn’t slow you down.
Lumberton in Robeson County is known for its parks as well as museums, including the Exploration Station Children’s Museum for the kiddos.
Lumberton to Charleston
Lumberton was the last North Carolina stop on your route. At your leisure, you’ll drive south from there until you reach Charleston, South Carolina.
This is admittedly going to be the longest stretch of your trip, as your arrival time will be three hours.
Charleston is a highly sought-after destination. This port city is the home of the Battery and French Quarter districts, and it affords quaint sights such as pastel homes, horse-drawn carriages, and cobblestone-lined streets.
If you feel like you want to stay in Charleston for a bit, I’d suggest the same. It’s been another long day of driving, and I’m sure you and the kids are all tired.
You’ll also have more time to explore this lovely South Carolina city, so take advantage of that!
Charleston to Savannah
Drink in the elegance of a morning in Charleston and slowly make your way out of the city.
Once you’re back on the road, you’ll drive for about two hours southwest before reaching Savannah, Georgia.
The only thing separating South Carolina and Georgia is the Savannah River which this coastal city is named after. You’ll get great views of the river from the other side.
A lot of the design touches of Charleston carry over to Savannah, including antebellum architecture and horse-drawn carriages.
The parks here look like something out of a painting with their tidy lawns, especially Forsyth Park.
You should at least drive by the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist if you can’t visit, as its Gothic-Revival architecture is truly something else.
Savannah to Jacksonville
You’ll soon be in Florida! From Savannah, drive for two hours south to Jacksonville.
It’s a straight shot and an easy enough drive if you don’t get ensnarled in heavy traffic (here’s hoping!).
If measuring cities across the contiguous US by area, then technically, Jacksonville is the biggest. It’s also the most populated city in Florida.
Although you’re so close to Orlando now, you have a choice. You can either suck it up and drive for another two hours or stay in Jacksonville overnight and arrive in Orlando first thing the next morning.
Jacksonville is full of attractions that make visiting this city worth your time. Between the museums, the parks, the beaches, the zoos, and the amusements, the kids will be in a stellar mood!
Jacksonville to Orlando
Keep driving deeper into Florida by going south, and in about two hours, you’ll have made it to Orlando from Jacksonville. Congratulations! You’re here.
How long does it take to drive to Orlando from Washington, D.C.?
The route from Washington, D.C. to Orlando is quite clear-cut and even rather easy. However, it’s a multi-day trip, which tells you it’s going to be a long one.
Indeed, it will take you approximately 12 hours and eight minutes to reach Orlando from D.C.
That drivetime, keep in mind, does not include traffic.
I can’t say how much traffic you’ll get caught in, but what’s for sure is that there will be at least some.
You can do your best to stay away from traffic by driving outside of rush hours.
Even still, in more populated areas like Jacksonville, traffic is guaranteed to at least some degree. Thus, plan to add at least an extra hour to your overall drivetime and maybe two hours.
Activities for the family on the way to Orlando
If you don’t care so much about how long it takes you to get to Orlando, only that you get there within a couple of days, then you’re going to have an awesome road trip.
Between D.C. and Orlando are so many truly exceptional sights, attractions, and destinations that you may feel inclined to try to see them all. I certainly can’t blame you!
Here are some fun places to explore.
- Science Museum of Richmond
Since 1970, the Science Museum of Richmond has attracted crowds of kiddos (and their parents, of course) who want to learn more about the wonders of science.
The exhibitions will teach your children about many basic science concepts such as the value of skin, how speed works, and how light works.
Other can’t-miss exhibits are Green Science about eco-friendly living and The Hyperwall with local climate, social, and environmental science stories expressed through unique datasets.
Many exhibits are hands-on to engage kids!
- The Robins Nature Center at Maymont
Animals sure are incredible, and the whole family can foster a newfound appreciation at The Robins Nature Center at Maymont.
This wildlife center features a variety of wildlife habitats with creatures on display such as bison, owls, bobcats, red foxes, vultures, hawks, elk, deer, and black bears.
The entire valley is 40 expansive acres, as the wildlife center also houses Maymont Farm and The Robins Nature Center.
At Maymont Farm, kids can see goats, chickens, pigs, horses, donkeys, sheep, ducks, and cows.
Many animals are available for hands-on encounters, and your kids can even feed some farm creatures!
The Robins Nature Center features exhibits on aquatic animals, including the 34-foot River Reach centerpiece and digital pool touch stations.
- Putt-Putt Fun Center
If the weather isn’t cooperating during your time in Richmond, head to the Putt-Putt Fun Center and dodge the rain.
This indoor amusement center features an assortment of kid-friendly attractions such as mini golf, bumper boats, go-karts, and an arcade. It’ll be sure to be a fun time!
- Deep Run Park & Recreation Center
In nearby Henrico County is the Deep Run Park & Recreation Center, a public park that’s over 50 acres.
The park offers a playground with fun play equipment, hiking and nature trails, picnic shelters, fishing zones, a basketball area, and a recreation center.
Rocky Mount Destinations
- Sunset Park
Breathe in that crisp North Carolina air at Sunset Park, a public city park that’s sure to get the kids eager to jump out of the car.
Between the basketball courts, the onsite merry-go-round, and the mini train that spans the grounds, this 25-acre park has lots for the kids to explore.
The tennis and basketball courts are lighted, there’s a skateboard park, an 18-hole course for disc golf, and ice cream on the premises for purchase.
The Amusement Center, which is where the carousel and train are located, also features a spray play water park for kids under 40 inches tall.
- The Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences
For an educational experience the kids won’t soon forget, plan an afternoon at The Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences, a children’s museum.
On the arts side, you and the family can see more than 500 works in the permanent collection or check out the rotating art exhibits.
Next, it’s time to move on to the science exhibits, which culminate in the awesome Cummins Planetarium.
The planetarium can fit 50 guests who can learn about our planet during shows such as Earth Moon & Sun, Legends of the Night Sky – Perseus & Andromeda, Legends of the Night Sky – Orion, SpacePark360, and Zula Patrol – Under the Weather.
Oh, and did I mention the Cummins Planetarium does laser shows too? It does indeed! The shows are about 30 minutes apiece.
Some of the shows you and the family can check out are Laser Motown, Laser Michael Jackson, Colors of the World, Lasers of Oz, Laser Beatles, Laser Classic Rock, and Laser 101.
- Robeson County History Museum
Continue museum hopping at Lumberton’s Robeson County History Museum, a beloved installation in the city.
The museum is dedicated to all things Robeson County, including preserving and spreading that history to residents and tourists alike.
The museum is free to get into, and it isn’t such a large museum that you’ll spend the whole day here, perhaps an hour or two, tops. Give it a visit!
- Exploration Station
At the very least, I would recommend spending some of your time in Lumberton at the Exploration Station, a children’s museum that will ignite your kids’ curiosities.
The Exploration Station focuses on STEM concepts, which is short for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The interactive exhibits are both fun and educational, and with exhibits for kids as young as pre-K, the whole family will feel involved!
- Charleston Farmers Market
A regular part of Charleston culture since 1989, Charleston Farmers Market is a weekly event that features crafts, food, and vendors.
Hosted in Marion Square, the available wares change all the time. You’ll come back to see what’s in stock as well as for the festive atmosphere of this fun farmers market!
- Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
One of the most beloved kids’ museums in Charleston is the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.
The nonprofit museum has one mission, and that’s “to engage young children’s potential by inviting families of all backgrounds to explore environments and experiences that spark imagination and stimulate curiosity through the power of play.”
If that sounds right up your family’s alley, the museum is open six days a week except for Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sundays, the museum opens from noon until 5 p.m.
- Folly Beach County Park
In the summertime, there are few better places to be in Charleston than Folly Beach County Park.
The beach is sandwiched between the Folly River and the Atlantic Ocean.
Lifeguards patrol the beach and look out for swimmers. Besides the clear sands and warm waters, Folly County Beach Park also offers restrooms, dressing areas, and umbrella and beach chair rentals if you don’t have your own.
The beach is open from 8 a.m. until sunset and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
- Savannah Children’s Museum
Delight the senses at Savannah Children’s Museum, which is in Tricentennial Park.
This exclusively outdoor museum took over what once was the Central of Georgia Railway Carpentry Shop.
The exhibits offer a bit of everything, and with water play, story time, and arts and crafts, this museum is the perfect attraction no matter the age of your child.
- Tybee Island
When the beach is calling your name, visit Tybee Island.
This coastal community is a mere 18 miles from Savannah, so it’s easily accessible by car.
You and the children can splash along the surf, stroll the boardwalk, stay at the Hotel Tybee if you’re seeking luxurious accommodations, or enjoy a culinary tour of the area at Bernies Oyster House, Ben & Jerry’s, or The Crab Shack.
- Georgia State Railroad Museum
Also in Tricentennial Park is the Georgia State Railroad Museum, which is at the Central of Georgia Railway Savannah Shops and Terminal Facilities.
This is one of the only remaining places to see old Victorian railroad design and architecture.
Also on display are a portable steam engine (the oldest of its kind in the US), model trains, railroad stock, locomotives, shaft-driven machinery, and a turntable the kids can spin.
- Oatland Island Wildlife Center
The Oatland Island Wildlife Center showcases a wide array of animals. The kids will surely be engaged at every turn!
Here, they can spot albino red rat snakes, American alligators, bald eagles, grey wolves, great horned owls, red foxes, rabbits, nine-banded armadillos, and so much more.
Check the events calendar, as the Oatland Island Wildlife Center regularly hosts events and even has a Nature Pre-K program for the young’uns.
- MOSH (Museum of Science & History)
When in doubt about how to entertain the family, just MOSH!
I’m talking about the Museum of Science and History, of course.
The museum offers a variety of exhibits, including core exhibits such as Health in Motion: Discover What Moves You and Currents of Time: A History of Jacksonville & Northeast Florida.
The Creation Station is a signature exhibit. This maker space is a chance for your children to explore their creative and artistic sides.
A series of traveling exhibits pass through the museum as well, which means there’s always a reason for another visit!
- The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
Are your kids captivated by big cats? Then you absolutely must take them to The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, where all nature of big cats is on display.
The children can do more than look at ferocious creatures like lions and tigers. Night feedings are also available, although you just get to watch the feedings, not participate!
- Shipwreck Island Water Park
Beat the Florida heat at Shipwreck Island Water Park.
The park has rides for family members of all ages, including a lazy river, the Ocean Motion Wave Pool, the Pirate’s Plunge slide, the Splash Cove, the Tipping Bucket, and the very scary Tree Top Drop slide!
- Jacksonville’s “Hands On” Children’s Museum
Do your kids like to touch? I mean, whose kids don’t, right?
The Jacksonville “Hands On” Children’s Museum is perfect for your children. Here, they’re encouraged to touch as much as their hearts desire.
The exhibits onsite include the Fire & Emergency Rescue Station for learning about the duties of a firefighter, the Kids TV & Radio station for pretending to be a media star, and more.
What to do in Orlando
You’re finally in sunny Orlando, which means your vacation is now underway.
While you can always make a beeline for Disney World or Universal Studios, the high prices and long lines might both be a deterrent.
The following activities are sure to be less crowded and lower-cost!
Fun Spot America Theme Park
Fun Spot America Theme Park has locations throughout Florida, including in Kissimmee.
Of course, you’re in Orlando, and that means riding fun amusements like the Freedom Flyer coaster, the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, bumper boats, the Scrambler, or go-karts.
The kiddie rides include a funhouse, a carousel, the Frog Hopper, the Sea Serpent mini-coaster, the Happy Swing, and the Fun Slide.
An arcade is also onsite for playing games and maybe winning a fun souvenir!
WonderWorks is a thrilling experience like no other!
Kids can go through a variety of zones that trigger the senses such as the Space Discovery Zone, the Extreme Weather Zone, the Physical Challenge Zone, and the Light & Sound Zone.
The attraction also offers an indoor ropes course, a laser tag arena, and a 4D XD simulator ride.
Stay for The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show. You and the children can enjoy a magic show as well as unlimited soda, beer (for adults only!), salad, and pizza.
Escapology Escape Rooms Orlando
You and the family will work as one to get out of the challenges offered at Escapology Escape Rooms Orlando.
The games have some fun themes, such as:
- Narco (a drug-themed escape room maybe not best for the kids until they’re older)
- Antidote (find the cure!)
- Under Pressure (a submarine-themed escape)
- Mansion Murder (try to avoid spending life in prison)
- Lost City (seek and you shall find, the treasure, that is)
- 7 Deadly Sins (break the curse!)
- Star Trek: Quantum Filament (fix the USS Discovery)
- Murder on the Orient Express (a great whodunit)
- Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle Adventure (help Scoobs and the gang!)
Lake Eola Park
For some tranquility during your Orlando vacation, getaway to Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando.
The park features a 0.9-mile circular sidewalk walking path, flowerbeds aplenty, the nearby Walt Disney Amphitheater with consistent entertainment, and paddle boats for rent that are shaped like swans.
If you’re eager to plan a road trip to Orlando from Washington, D.C., I hope I’ve shown you in this guide how easy it is to get there.
Just be sure to set aside plenty of time and enjoy the trip, as it’s just as much if not more fun than the destination!