Daytona Beach lies along the Atlantic Ocean, about a third of the way down Florida’s East coast. It is riddled with nostalgia and memories of days gone by, yet also current and hip. While people my age (5o) remember Daytona Beach as the happening spring break hotspot, it has passed the baton years ago and is now an affordable family vacation destination with tons of things to see and do. From beautiful beaches to an incredible art scene, baseball to world-class auto racing, Daytona Beach is a perfect family-fun beach destination for a weekend getaway or vacation.
Exploring the Arts in Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach is becoming a major player in the art and culture world. The Museum of Arts & Sciences is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute. MOAS houses a planetarium, children’s museum, train and railroad station exhibit, and a giant ground sloth that is 13 feet tall. An extensive amount of Coca-Cola memorabilia from the Root Family’s collection is on display (the inventors of the Coke bottle). Other noteworthy items are the Cuban collection, Chinese art, and popular Americana displays. Visitors can enjoy free WIFI.
Right around the corner is the Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum. This one-of-a-kind gallery offers a beautifully displayed collection of Florida themed paintings, all from the Hyatt’s private collection. A permanent exhibit can be found in the Main Entrance Hall while six changing galleries lie inside the museum and upstairs. One changing gallery focuses on Florida weather.
Downtown Daytona Beach
Exploring downtown Daytona Beach is a must. There, you will find streets filled with boutique style shops, cafes, and the Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Daytona is home to the Daytona Tortugas baseball team, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The Tortugas play at the Jackie Robinson Ballpark April-September. Stop in the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory for a tour with yummy samples at the end. I am certain that your friends would love the chocolate flip-flops or fresh saltwater taffy as a Florida souvenir.
THE Place for Racing Adventures
A trip to Daytona Beach would not be complete without a VIP tour of the Daytona International Speedway. Though I am not a NASCAR fan, I loved my tour; anyone would! Driving on the speedway, while watching patrons drive the circuit, was pretty cool. There is also a photo-op, film, brief history, and top-notch gift shop. NASCAR’s history is very fascinating; it is hard to believe that one of the most watched sports originated right here in Daytona.
The Speedway hosts several races throughout the year, some bringing in 200,000 visitors. Events with stock cars, motorcycles, rallycross, and karting can also be found here. Dayton 500 and Rolex 24 are the most prestigious races.
Golf enthusiasts will appreciate Daytona Beach’s numerous golf course with affordable green fees. Daytona is one of the top 15 places to play golf in the United States. LPGA‘s (Ladies Professional Golf Association) headquarters and Symetra Tours add to the allure. If golf is not for you, perhaps fishing from the Daytona Beach or Sunglow Piers will add to your vacation fun. Cast your line and hope for a pompano, tarpon, or trout to bite.
Daytona Beach: Still a Favorite Beach Destination
Daytona Beach is known as the original American beach. It is still home to the famous 23-mile stretch of packed sand, surf, and sun, accessible by vehicle. The beach is spacious and wide; allowing for guests not to be elbow to elbow with others. Vendors offer outdoor activities along Daytona’s beaches.
Oceanwalk Village is sure to be a children’s favorite. It has the mega thrilling Daytona Lagoon, featuring a water park, arcade, laser tag, rock wall, and single/double go carts right in the middle of the boardwalk area. Parents can relax and float around the lazy river while their children burn off excess energy climbing up all of the fun water slides. Parking is available at the adjacent six story parking garage.
Another family favorite is the World Famous Beach Boardwalk full of arcades and gift shops. Although this is the cheesy part of town, it is riddled with nostalgia for the adult crowd. Other noteworthy attractions include Daytona’s Drive-in Christian Church, Cinamatique Theatre, the band shell, Flea Market, and the Daytona Beach Ale Trail.
Family Friendly Accommodations
Your best bet for a lovely hotel with an affordable price tag is the historic and beachfront Plaza Resort & Spa. The Plaza offers spacious rooms, an onsite restaurant, typical hotel amenities, and direct beach access. A fabulous pool sits on the oceanfront and offers plenty of lounge chairs for sunbathing or relaxing. Lifesize games are on the outskirts and offer a nice option for family fun.
A second option is the new and chic Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach. With gorgeous rooms, a great restaurant, live music, and beachfront pool, this is the premier address in Daytona Beach. Convenience, style, and special touches separate the Hard Rock from the rest.
Delectable Daytona Beach Dining Options
For breakfast, Crabby Joe’s at the Sunglow Pier, is a great spot for fabulous ocean and beach views, delicious French Toast, and awesome Crabcake Benedict. Mike’s Galley is a local’s favorite, with classic breakfast dishes done right and reasonably priced. A third option is The Cracked Egg Diner, which dishes out plates almost too beautiful to eat. Try the Country Benedict (topped with sausage gravy) or the Strawberry Waffle; both are scrumptious!
I love to have a great lunch, it’s my favorite meal, so Red Bud Cafe and Oyster Pub Sports Bar & Grill get my votes as Daytona’s best lunch. t Red Bud Cafe, try the incredible crepe combinations or the Two Dips platter with toothsome grilled bread. At Oyster Pub, oysters are the star and maybe the freshest you’ll ever eat. I get them grilled to perfection.
Dinner will be amazing at Racing’s North Turn Restaurant or Sessions at the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach. Racing’s North Turn is a historic site where racing first started in Daytona. They serve amazing fresh seafood, steaks, and the best side dish (Bacon Cabbage) on any menu. Don’t skip the delicious Bushwhacker drinks. At the Hard Rock, go for a classic Caesar salad (with banana croutons) and Blue Cheese Tots. You may want to consider dining during happy hour to shave a few bucks off the bill.
If you are a craft beer lover, check out Daytona Beach’s Ale Trail. This collection of 15 brewpubs and microbreweries offer beer enthusiasts their own sort of mini-vacation. Pair it with appetizers for a complete package. Sweet Marlay’s will satisfy your coffee or tea needs, with homemade pastries and goodies to accompany your drinks.
Newest in Daytona Beach
Tanger Outlets has a massive outlet mall in Daytona Beach. The mall is located near I-95 and LPGA Boulevard. You can see all of the wonderful stores from the interstate. Popular stores include Vera Bradley, Columbia, and Vineyard Vines. Older malls are being renovated, too; the Volusia Mall recently underwent a $5 million dollar upgrade.
Perhaps the biggest endeavor in Daytona is the One Daytona development, the first of its type in the world. It is located across from the Daytona International Speedway, in a super convenient part of town. This premier retail, entertainment, and dining complex encompass 300,000+ square feet of fun where visitors, race fans, and residents can live, shop, play, and indulge. Shopping includes Bass Pro Shops, It’s Sugar, Guitar Center, and Pink Narcissus (a Lilly Pulitzer store). Dine at P.F.Chang’s, Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Cue, or Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, then take in a movie at Cobb Daytona Luxury Theatres or play games at GameTime Family Entertainment Center.
The exclusive Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel, The Daytona, and a 105-room Fairfield Inn & Suites are both located on the property.
Daytona Beach: Still A Great Family Beach Destination
As you can see, Daytona Beach, Florida has a plethora of activities for all ages, budgets, lifestyles, and interests. Daytona Beach is growing by leaps and bounds, but it will always be known as the Original American Beach. Best of all, this is a great vacation spot that will not break the bank. From nostalgic or modern adventures, everyone will find something to do in Daytona Beach.
Special thanks to the Daytona Beach Area CVB for the hospitality, meals, and accommodations. As with all posts on this site, all opinions and conclusions are 100% my own and unbiased.
Note: Daytona Beach, Florida also has other interesting surrounding areas such as DeLand, Daytona Shores, Ormond Beach, and New Smyrna Beach. Read about my adventures in those towns as well so you can add day trips and more Florida fun to your vacation. Florida really is so much more than just beaches and theme parks. Hopefully, you will discover the vacation treasures you desire here in Volusia County.