By Tammy Lynn Grey
I have had the pleasure of traveling to Daytona Beach, Florida, several times in my life, and each time I visit I fall in love with the town just a little more. I feel at peace watching the waves roll up on the sand, and then flow out again. To me, there is nothing more relaxing that the sound of the breaking waves and the light breeze coming off the water.
However, in Daytona Beach, the roar of the ocean gets a run for its money from the roar of the engines. As thrilling as the ocean is calming, Daytona International Speedway (dubbed the World Center of Racing) hosts numerous car and motorcycle races throughout the year. On non-race days, visitors can take track tours and live out their race-car driver dreams at the Richard Petty Experience. I hopped on a tram and spent a fun-filled hour learning about the Speedway, seeing the drivers’ room, the garages and Victory Lane. I even got to stand on the start/finish line and saw first-hand that the banking is much steeper than it appears to be on television. Our tour guide also pointed out that races used to be held on the sands of Daytona Beach, starting in 1936, until the speedway was opened in 1959. Racing’s North Turn Restaurant, in nearby Ponce Inlet, was built on the spot where racers once sped. In addition to excellent food and live music, the restaurant also has a racing museum. Fans, new and old, enjoy looking at the pictures and memorabilia to learn new things about the sport of racing. The restaurant and museum were declared a historical landmark in Volusia County.
After a high-octane adventure at the track, it was time to enjoy Daytona Beach’s other attractions, such as white sand beaches that stretch for 23 miles. From Ormond Beach to the north, and Ponce Inlet to the south, the Daytona Beach area has more than ten beachfront parks for visitors to enjoy. The parks, such as Winter Haven and Sun Splash, feature picnic tables and pavilions, boardwalks, splash pads, comfort stations, and playgrounds. Daytona Beach doesn’t neglect its canine visitors either: there are seven dog parks in the area, including Manatee Island and Happy Tails dog parks.
Besides the world-famous beaches (some of which even allow cars on the sand), lots of family-friendly places exist to entertain children (and grandchildren) of all ages, such as the Boardwalk (featuring a go-cart track, Mardi Gras Fun Center, and Zeno’s Boardwalk Sweet Shot in addition to shops and restaurants), the Lighthouse at Ponce Inlet, the Ocean Walk, too many shops and restaurants to mention, and the Marine Science Center. For a view of Daytona Beach that most will never experience, take a ride on the Daytona Slingshot. It’s a thrill ride where you get strapped in and then flung over 350 feet in the air at 100 mph. Be sure and purchase the video to relive your experience and show your friends your bravery.
There are plenty of activities further inland of the beaches. Be sure and check out the historic Jackie Robinson ballpark, home of the Daytona Tortugas. The Tortugas are a minor-league baseball team associated with the Cincinnati Reds. Hop over to the Sky Zone Trampoline Park and discover wall-to wall-trampolines, a warrior course, a challenge zone, and a foam zone with over 10,000 pieces of foam. After working up an appetite, head to Aunt Catfish’s on the Halifax River for waterfront dining. They have some of the best seafood in the area. When it’s time to work off dinner, there is no shortage of shopping: check out Volusia Mall, Tanger Outlets, One Daytona, and the Riverfront Shops for all your shopping and souvenir needs.
When you’re finished enjoying the roar of the engines, the roar of the ocean, or any of the many other activities Daytona Beach has to offer, you’ll need a great room to relax and recharge. For casual, family-oriented lodging, check out Sun Viking Lodge in quiet Daytona Beach Shores. The Lodge features two heated pools: one indoor and one outdoor with a water slide. Kids are catered to with extras such as poolside movies, Wii competitions, bingo, and a game room. Another great option is Bahama House, which is also in Daytona Beach Shores. Rising up ten stories, the hotel features spacious rooms, a nightly social hour with complimentary beverages, in addition to continental breakfast and free cookies. Both hotels have rooms with ocean-facing balconies, so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean from the comfort of your room. In fact, watching the dolphins play while the sun’s rays flash on the water before disappearing from view might just be the perfect end to a perfect Daytona Beach day.
Whether you are seeking high-energy thrills or in need of relaxing days spent in a chaise longue being shaded by an umbrella (or anything in between), Daytona Beach has just what you’re looking for in a vacation destination.
Artwork by “Classic Car Race” by Alex J Jessup (US) and “Racing” by Morgenty (Ukraine).
Tammy has been a freelance writer for several years, and has been published on national and regional platforms, including USAToday.com. She currently lives in SE Georgia, just north of Jacksonville, FL. You can read her blog at TammysTravelTales.com, and find her on Twitter @TsTravelTales.