The Daytona Beach area has been inhabited by Timucuan and Seminole Indians and has been under both British and Spanish rule. Matthias Day is considered to be Daytona Beach’s founding father. He fell in love with the region during a visit and established the area’s first hotel on the banks of the Halifax River. Although Day ultimately lost the title to the hotel, local residents honored him by naming the newly incorporated town after him in 1876.
The roar of the engines has been competing with the roar of the ocean for over a century in Daytona. Racing started on the beach in 1902, and by 1904, people began attempting land speed records. In 1935, Malcolm Campbell set the record at over 276 miles per hour. Today, a speedway has replaced the road course, and beach traffic is limited to a much-slower 10 miles per hour.
What to Do
Daytona International Speedway– Home to Nascar’s Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400, this race track also offers speedway tours where you can take a tram ride around the track. You’ll get an insider’s look into the garages and pit stalls, and get to see first-hand how steep the banking is at the start/finish line. 1801 West International Speedway Boulevard
Museum of Arts & Sciences– The museum features over 30,000 objects, including the largest collection of Coca-Cola items in the state and numerous art exhibits from across the globe, including a showcase of Cuban art. There is also a children’s museum and planetarium. 352 South Nova Road
Daytona Boardwalk Amusements and Pier–The Boardwalk offers shopping and restaurants as well as arcade games, skee-ball, go-karts, and the sling shot (a ride not for the faint of heart). The bandshell, located on the north end of the boardwalk area, offers free summer concerts and firework shows. 1200 Main Street
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum– Bring comfortable shoes and take your time ascending the 203 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse; the views are worth the climb. You can also watch a video about the lighthouse, check out the radio and generator room, explore the grounds, and see two rafts used by Cuban refugees who fled their homeland for America in the 1980s. 4931 South Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet
Marine Science Center– You’ll get the unique experience of touching stingrays and (small) sharks at the Marine Science Center. You can watch as they treat sick and/or injured sea turtles and feed the stingrays. There is also a Raptor show, and they have a bird sanctuary on the grounds. 100 Lighthouse Drive, Ponce Inlet
Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room– Try your hand at picking the victorious greyhound or winning a hand of poker. The Kennel Club also offers simulcast and has a full-service restaurant in addition to concessions and a sports bar. Children are welcome in all areas except for where betting transactions are being made. 960 South Williamson Boulevard
Ocean Walk Shoppes– Mere steps from the Atlantic are the restaurants, shopping options, and movies of Oceanwalk. Choose from dining choices like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Johnny Rockets, and Sloppy Joe’s. After shopping for resort wear and the perfect souvenir t-shirt, you can take in a movie from the comfort of an electric recliner with footrest. 300 North Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Lagoon– The whole family will have a blast at this waterpark. They offer several water slides and a lazy river. Want a break from the water? They also have an arcade, go-karts, miniature golf, laser tag, and a rock wall. 601 Earl Street
Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory– This chocolate lover’s dream offers free daily tours of the factory, so you can see first-hand how they make all the candies for sale in the shop. After the twenty-minute tour, you receive free samples of chocolate. 154 South Beach Street
Manatee Cruise – Enjoy a two-hour cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway, while looking for manatees, dolphins, and other native wildlife. The boat will go past beautiful waterfront homes and the Ponce de Leon lighthouse. 4884 Front Street, Ponce Inlet
Where to Eat
Aunt Catfish’s On the River– Enjoy gorgeous river views while enjoying some the best ‘down home’ cooking around. Be sure and try fried alligator for an appetizer. Traditional favorites like crab cakes and shrimp share the menu with items like Cajun shark and frog legs. Each meal comes with a delicious cinnamon roll for dessert. 4009 Halifax Drive, Port Orange, (386) 767-4768
Ocean Deck Restaurant & Beach Club– The Ocean Deck specializes in seafood—they are known for their Mahi Mahi. Enjoy a refreshing cocktail while enjoying sweeping views of the ocean. Be sure and save room for dessert, because you won’t find better Key Lime Pie anywhere. 127 South Ocean Avenue, (386) 253-5224
Racing’s North Turn– Built on the site of Daytona Beach racing’s north turn, this historical landmark is a favorite dining experience for locals and tourists alike (and it isn’t uncommon to see a famous race car driver enjoying a meal). The menu features an eclectic range of options, from seafood risotto to a classic cheeseburger. There is lots of racing memorabilia on display to pay tribute to the restaurant’s location. 4511 South Atlantic Avenue, Ponce Inlet, (386) 322-3258
Miller’s Ale House – Daytona– This casual restaurant is a great place to enjoy a relaxing meal while enjoying a televised sporting event. In addition to daily lunch and dinner specials, which include baby back ribs and prime rib, there are vegetarian and gluten-free options. With over 75 brews available, you’re sure to find a new favorite. 2610 West International Speedway Boulevard, (386) 255-2555
Mikes Galley– A favorite breakfast stop for locals and tourists alike for good reason: Mike’s Galley serves up large portions of great food at a reasonable cost. Favorites such as biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and fresh pastries are on the menu. 2514 South Atlantic Avenue, (386) 756-2020
Brickyard Lounge and Grill– This race-themed restaurant is a favorite of Nascar fans and serves the best burgers in town. Other lunch options include favorites such as wings, pulled pork, and fried fish. 747 West International Speedway, (386) 253-2270
Steve’s Famous Diner– Get your comfort food fix at Steve’s; their menu includes fried chicken and meatloaf. They also have a great variety of seafood and Italian choices and offer all day specials on sandwiches, burgers, melts, and salad. Traditional breakfast items are served until mid-afternoon. 2011 North Atlantic Avenue, (386) 252-7340
The Cellar Restaurant– Looking for amazing Italian food? This fine dining establishment will exceed your expectations. There isn’t a bad choice on the menu, which includes seafood ravioli and risotto with crab meat. They also have an extensive wine list. 220 Magnolia Avenue, (386) 258-0011
Where to Stay
Daytona has a wide variety of lodging options, so there is something for every budget. The International Rv Park Ib offers affordable rates for those driving RVs as well as tent campers. Amenities include two swimming pools, laundry, and a clubhouse. The Grand Prix Motel is family owned and right on the beach. There is a pool and a BBQ for guests to enjoy, and the rooms feature private balconies. The Quality Inn Daytona Speedway I-95 offers clean, comfortable rooms and top-notch customer service. All staff members go out of their way to make sure you have a great stay. A free hot breakfast is provided every morning, and fresh-baked cookies are available in the afternoons. Bahama House is beachfront lodging where every room has a view of the ocean. They offer continental breakfast and nightly cocktail hour, and parking is free whether in the lot or in the underground garage. Sun Viking Lodge, just steps from the Atlantic, is all about casual, fun-filled family vacations. They have two pools (one indoor and one outdoor with a water slide), a kiddie pool, and a hot tub. They offer activities for kids of all ages, such as treasure hunts, limbo, volleyball, and video game competitions. The Hampton Inn Daytona Beach/Beachfront is close to the Main Street attractions and offers a free breakfast every morning. Additional amenities include free WiFi, a fitness center, outdoor pool, and a splash park for kids.
Special thanks to the Daytona Beach Area CVB and Aunt Catfish’s on the River for hosting the author’s stay. All photos are the property of the author unless otherwise noted.
About the Author: Tammy Lynn is a travel blogger and freelance writer originally from Beaufort, South Carolina. She currently lives in St Marys, Georgia, but spent several years in between living in Oklahoma and Missouri. She has returned to the South and has no plans to leave again. She loves spending time with friends and family and exploring all the beautiful places that call this region home. You can see more of her writing at her blog, Southernfreelancer.