Daytona Beach, Attractions and Surrounding Excitement

Daytona Boardwalk and Surf. Photography by Brandon Gurr
Daytona Boardwalk and Surf. Photography by Brandon Gurr

So begins the journey...

The following is not so much an "unofficial guide" as it is a labor of my love to one of my favorite places in Florida. You will notice there is no information on hotels or condos as the area is packed with ample rentals and fine resorts to stay in year round. Instead, I have decided to focus mainly on a few of my favorite sites and attractions that make the area unique. In the future I will be adding stops in St. Augustine and Cocoa Beach to this article as I often frequent these towns on my visit to Daytona.

As a returning tourist to the area, I consider myself an unbiased and fortunate source of information regarding a few of the best places to visit. I live in Colorado, but have been spending my summers here since I was very young. Regardless of whether I travel here with family, alone, my wife, or with friends, I am always leaving with new experiences and memories. My hope is to highlight a few of the attractions and surrounding locales that one should not miss, and help to build a vacation that you will never forget.

Daytona Beach at Sunset
Daytona Beach at Sunset | Source
Stock Car Races in the early days
Stock Car Races in the early days

A Brief History

Daytona's history begins in 1513 with Ponce de Leon scouting the area for the famed "Fountain of Youth". Today you will find DeLeon springs west of Daytona. Wealthy tycoons such as DeLand, Matthias Day and John Rockefeller were drawn to the area because of the lush landscape and golfing conditions (specifically Ormund Beach). Matthias built a home here and was the original founder of Daytona. Stockcar and motorbike races became popular on the wide open beaches of Daytona and in 1959, Bill France, the founder of NASCAR, built Daytona International Speedway.

Bikeweek (or Biketoberfest)
Bikeweek (or Biketoberfest) | Source

Bike Week, Spring Break, Daytona 500

I have come to find out as a recreational tourist I tend to try to plan my vacations around three events in Daytona: Bike Week, Spring Break, and the Daytona 500. These three are all such popular super events that finding a hotel/condo is near impossible. The beaches become incredibly crowded as do the streets and food spots, there are literally people everywhere. These events are the lifeblood of the area and are needed to maintain the local economy, but as someone who loves to relax on an uncrowded beach, I avoid them. As of this writing the Daytona Chamber of Commerce has listed this years:

  • Bike Week as March 7th - 16th, 2014.
  • Spring Break typically happens between March 1st, and the end of April.
  • Daytona 500 is Feb. 23rd 2014.

Should your vacation fall during any of these dates, I would recommend checking out New Smyrna Beach for hotels/condos as the beaches and area will be much less crowded. If you plan on going to any of these events, I highly recommend booking ahead of time.

Eat at Joes, Daytona Boardwalk. Photography by Brandon Gurr
Eat at Joes, Daytona Boardwalk. Photography by Brandon Gurr

Arrival into Daytona, Day 1

The two best options to get here are flying into Orlando International and drive to Daytona. If you are lucky enough to be travelling via Continental or Delta you may fly directly into Daytona International Airport. Daytona is 54 miles (87 km) away from Orlando International Airport.

Daytona Beach International Airport

Orlando International Airport

Sunrise, Welcome to Daytona

You've Made It! Now Let's Have Some Fun!

The condo is wonderful. The kids are constructing a sandcastle and watching the waves for dolphins. The spouse is sipping a Margarita while sitting on the balcony. You are surrounded by miles of white beaches in each direction and barely a soul in sight. Welcome to Daytona!

Now, there is nothing wrong with sitting on the beach for the entire vacation, but if you want to explore the attractions Daytona has to offer let me help.


Daytona's Famous Beaches

If you are not staying in a beach front condo or hotel you may have the need to park on the beach. No problem, assuming the tides are right. For $5.00 you can access the beach and drive right on from one of the six beach entrances starting at Granada Blvd. all the way down to Beach St. Once there, renting an atv, bike, scooter, or even a '58 Corvette is an option, as well as all manner of beach tools such as chairs, umbrellas, "boogie boards", surf boards and towels. There are food trucks that drive by periodically with hot-dogs and ice-cream. You are never far from a Lifeguard stand if you would prefer for the kids, just find and park near one of the large red Beach Patrol Chairs.

Daytona International Speedway

480 acres of this modern marvel sprawl out forever on International Speedway Blvd. Whether you are a racing fan or not, this monument should not be missed. It is open year round for tours and they have a large gift shop/arcade. The race may take place once a year but there is always some sort of action taking place here, you never know who you are going to bump into.

  • Speedway Tours start at $10 child/ $15 adult
  • All-Access Tours start at $17 child/ $22 adult
  • Walking onto the GrandStands are always FREE

www.daytonaintlspeedway.com 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway
Source

Daytona Beach Drive-In Church

There is the drive-in christian church located in Daytona right off South Atlantic Ave. According to Ripley's Believe it or Not "it is the only one of it's kind". Many tourists will stop just to take photos so expect large crowds during the services.

Source

Daytona Flea Market

This is one of my favorite mini-attractions to hit and is a must for anyone visiting for the first time. This Flea and Farmers market is enormous with vendors of all types. I have purchased clothing, knives, music, tires, surfboards, fruit/veggies, sportswear, video games, photography equipment, etc. There is always something happening here, in fact the last time I was there Animal Planet had Tigers on display in the parking lot. They are only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays so don't miss it!

2987 Bellevue Ave Ext. Daytona Beach, FL 32124 (386) 253-3330

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Construction began in 1835 on this icon of Daytona's history. A self guided tour of the grounds allows you to scale to the top, 175 feet up, and get the most fantastic views of the surrounding landscape. Worth the drive with small shops and food nearby!

4931 South Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL 32127 (386) 761-1821

Check out www.ponceinlet.org for rates

Go-Kart City

A fun stop for the whole family is Go-Kart City near Port Orange. A large 1/4 mile track, mini-golf, and batting cages make for an enjoyable night as the sun goes down. It hosts one of the nicest mini-golf greens in the state and the karts have been voted as the best by the News Journal. Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon actually stopped in during Speedweek and had themselves a couple races. www.go-kartcity.com 4114 S Nova Rd. Port Orange, FL

Last Resort Bar

A history buff may recognize the name of this bar as the place the famed prostitute turned serial killer Aileen Wuornos frequented. The topic of much controversy, Wuornos was made popular by Charlize Theron's portrayal in the film "Monster". While I don't think I would recommend stopping in for dinner, it has been frequented by tourists since the popularity of "Wuornos" and other documentary films. 5812 South Ridgewood Avenue Port Orange, FL 32127 (386) 761-5147

Heading to Disney World?

If you plan on finding some "Disney Magic" on your trip to Florida, don't forget to check out EPCOT, Fun Facts and Secrets.

A guide to things you may have missed while you enjoy the attractions!

St. Augustine and Cocoa Beach

Please check back as I will be adding sections on St. Augustine and Cocoa Beach. Both are unique towns with their own history and cultures. Haunted Pub and Graveyard Crawls, Forts, Kennedy Space Center, Ron Jon's Surf Shop, Ripley's Believe it or Not... Museum to name a few. I always make time to visit both locations anytime I fly into Daytona!

Kennedy Space Center

South of Daytona, near Cocoa Beach resides the home to America's Space Port. Kennedy Space Center will be the home of Atlantis Space Shuttle soon, where they are constructing a massive structure to house the veteran cruiser. Well worth the admission fee, this Florida landmark brings to life the Space Program and puts into perspective what goes into a launch. A self guided and bus tour of the island are included with most tickets, as well as a virtual shuttle ride and Imax showings.

Upon entering the park you will encounter the "Rocket Garden", a tribute to the towering monoliths that once sent men and satellites to orbit the Earth. You will also get to travel across the exact "walkway" Neil Armstrong and crew took to board the Apollo 11. Don't forget your cameras!

For the eyes of the world now look into space...

A fountain bearing the famous quote of the late President JFK will illuminate and dance every few minutes or so and really captures the essence of what it was to be an American during the Space Race.

Daytona Beach Overall Enjoyment

5 stars for Daytona Beach

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