What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Daytona Beach? Whether or not you’re a racing fan, I’ll bet it’s the Daytona 500 and the racetrack. While racing is a big part of the heritage of Daytona Beach, there is so much more to this beautiful beach town and is perfect for a family or friends getaway. Rent a bike and ride up and down the beach to the boardwalk, kayak though the beautiful Spruce Creek Preserve, deep sea fish or go horseback riding, climb aboard an aqua safari, take a catamaran ride on the ocean, go deep sea fishing, or check out St. Johns River and DeLeon Springs State Park.
I’m a big outdoors person, but how could I go to Daytona Beach without checking out the Daytona 500 Experience? Even if you’re not a racing fan and don’t know anything about Nascar, like myself, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the 3D IMAX movie that teaches you how the cars are made. With so much to do at this attraction, you can easily spend half a day learning about the history of Nascar, taking a tram tour around the racetrack or my favorite part, riding a simulated racecar at 150 mph. At the end of the race, you receive a print out of your standing in the race and how fast you went with each lap. I crashed twice, but still managed to place 15th out of 31 drivers. Not bad for my first time on the track!
Daytona Beach is a great destination if you’re looking for outdoor adventure. Get your blood flowing in the morning with a kayak or canoe ride with Cracker Creek Canoeing. While getting your muscles warmed up, you’ll have the opportunity to see wildlife in its natural surroundings. While there, you can tour James Gamble’s (of Proctor and Gamble) hunting lodge and see replicas from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which supposedly inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland. There are many other opportunities to get out on the water and experience the region’s ecosystems. The Daytona Beach Aqua Safari is led by a licensed captain and marine biologist and consists of a red double decker bus ride to Ponce Inlet, where you’re experience an eco-tour of the area’s scenic inlet. Additional attractions at Ponce Inlet include the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, which is the second largest lighthouse in the country, but surprisingly fairly easy to climb and the marine science center which has a whole section for turtle and seabird rehabilitation. After a day of exploring, relax and have fun on the ocean with a catamaran ride as you watch the beautiful sunset.
DeLeon Springs State Park is a must see for two reasons. One is “The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House” and the other one is the Fountain of Youth Eco and History Tour. The Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House is a great breakfast spot and fun for the whole family. In the rustic restaurant, you make your own pancakes and eggs. For the pancakes, you can choose whole grain or regular and can add whatever kind of fruit you’d like. The Fountain of Youth Eco/History Tour is run by an entertaining older couple who know exactly where to take you to see crocodiles and dolphins.
Another wonderful option for your trip includes a day with Captain Eric West and his 36-foot Eagle Yacht for hands on sailing instructions. He is a great instructor and makes it fun for people of all ages. He told stories about the ninety year old he taught to sail, as well as the four year old. He’s also been a part of many special moments, including taking couples out for proposals. If you love horseback riding, or even if you’ve never been, you can experience a guided tour on the quiet trail of Shenandoah Stables.
Daytona Beach has some wonderful restaurants for all kinds of palates. The Hyde Park Steakhouse, while it’s a chain, serves up delicious steak and fish dishes inside the Daytona Beach Hilton Hotel with a very friendly and informative wait staff. Martinis Chophouse serves up delicious creative dishes and a wide array of you guessed it…martinis…and on some nights, for just a dollar! Le Crepe en Haunt is a landmark French restaurant in Ormond Beach with a quaint dining area perfect for a romantic night out. If you’re looking for a great place for breakfast, the Dancing Avocado serves up fresh smoothies and delicious meals made with only the finest, healthiest ingredients. They also serve lunch and dinner with a menu consisting of standard and vegetarian options.
Daytona Beach is lined with hotels for all budgets. If you’re on a budget, and who isn’t in this economy, check out the Emerald Shores Hotel. Located on the beach, the management is extremely friendly and makes you feel at home. The rooms have a kitchenette with a stove, microwave, and refrigerator, so it’s perfect for long visits. Plus, their general manager, Libby Gallant, promises readers of this article a 15% discount off their stay if you ask for her and mention this travelogue.
So if you’re looking for a weekend or week long getaway, visit Daytona Beach for one of their many events throughout the year, or to just relax on the beach and enjoy the many aquatic activities. And did you know you can even drive your car onto parts of the beach? Definitely one of the features that makes Daytona Beach memorable!