Daytona Beach isn’t all about the Daytona International Speedway. Sure, it’s a big part of the area, but that being said, Daytona Beach in and of itself has a lot going for it; 23-miles of sugar sand beach, and a vibrant downtown full of chic shops, art galleries, great restaurants and beautiful museums.
Located on Florida’s east coast puts it an hours’ drive from St. Augustine and the Kennedy Space Center both of which make great excursions.
Beach and Boat
Lay on the beach with a book, or take a tour of the wetlands and mangrove shores lining the Indian River aboard The Manatee. Guides will point out and describe the indigenous flora and fauna, bird species and, the gentle giants of the river, manatees.
Visit the Marine Science Center where you can learn about Florida’s different ecosystems, touch stingrays in a 1,300-gallon tank, see how injured sea turtles are rehabilitated before being released back into the ocean and take a walk through the seabird sanctuary.
In the surrounding towns of New Smyrna Beach and Ormand Beach there are numerous state parks for hiking, biking, fishing and swimming. The trails at Tomoka State Park are ideal for viewing wildlife such as bob cats, gopher turtles, deer, migratory birds and rattlesnakes. Several trails are handicap accessible Lighthouse Point Park is the best place to watch dolphins. At Smyrna Dunes Park you can observe marine life from the miles of wooden walkways over the dunes.
Culture and History
When the sun and beach get to hot head to some cool museums. The walls of the Grand Central Gallery, and Mezzanine of the CiCi and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art are filled with beautiful works of art depicting scenes of Florida long ago. These are a portion of the Brown’s collection of 2,600 oils and watercolors of different areas of Florida. Six smaller galleries are given over to exhibits that change throughout the year.
Get a taste of Americana at the Root Family Museum. The Root Glass Company designed what went on to become the iconic glass bottle of Coca-Cola. The museum holds what is attributed to being one of the largest collections of Coca-Cola memorabilia in the world. Also on display are several mid-century train cars and 800 Teddy Bears.
Your reward for climbing the 203 steps of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse ca. 1887 are sweeping vistas of the coastline. Once back on terra firma you can tour the original lighthouse keepers’ home and the museum which holds a comprehensive collection of 19th century Fresnel lenses. The lighthouse has the distinction of being designated a National Historic Landmark.
Daytona International Speedway
Last but certainly not least spend time at the Daytona International Speedway – all spiffed up from a $400 million dollar renovation that included the building of several hotels and One Daytona, a center full of upscale shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Get the history and feel of the speedway on a guided tour during which you are driven by tram on the tracks’ steepest turns. The tour ends at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America housing everything on wheels from stock cars to vintage motorcycles to sports cars and even airplanes.
Housed in the basement of an elegant Victorian style house ca.1907 that was the winter residence of President Warren G. Harding, the Cellar Restaurant is fine dining at its best. Chef/owner Sam Maggio makes everything in-house using fresh local ingredients to create his Italian cuisine.
Vegetarians, vegans and carnivores will love the fresh juices, breakfast items, wraps, sandwiches and salads served at the Dancing Avocado Kitchen.
Fans of beautiful architecture will love the Streamline Hotel a circa 1940 Art Deco building. Rooms and suites in this boutique hotel are light-filled and decorated in muted tones of blues, tans and grays.
Many of the rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach have oceanfront views You can dine alfresco at either the hotel’s restaurants; Sessions offers fine dining and craft cocktails and the casual Wave Terrace serves local beers, sandwiches and burgers.
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