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Daytona Beach, Florida Highlights – On and Off the Beach

Daytona Beach is one of our favorite Florida getaways. It was the first trip Dave and I took together, back in college, and we’ve returned again and again to enjoy its 23 miles of white sand along the Atlantic Ocean. But there are plenty of amazing off-beach activities to make for a great Florida vacation. So we’ve rounded up our favorite things to do in Daytona Beach, both on and off the beach, from our regular road trips to Florida over the past two decades. Let’s get started.

Note: Some attractions may be closed or have restrictions due to COVID 19, be sure to check the website before visiting. Check the Daytona Beach website for more information.

Fun things to do in Daytona Beach, Fl.

There’s no doubt that it’s the world famous beach that makes Daytona Beach such a popular destination, but there are plenty of things to do off the beach as well. We’ve visited Daytona several times since the 1990s and it’s come a long way baby. If you plan to take a road trip to Florida, this is a great place to base yourself for at least a few days while enjoying the beautiful Florida sunshine.

Daytona International Speedway

If you’re going to Daytona Beach and you’re a race car fan, you should take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where you can ride along as a passenger or drive yourself around the world-famous Daytona 500-mile track. It’s definitely a bucket list item in Daytona Beach.

There’s also a Speedway Tour where you can take to the track. For the price, the 30 minute tour of the Daytona International Speedway was nice and entertaining. It’s a good thing to do if you want to get away from the beach for a while. And it’s great for families. One dad even took his newborn son along for the ride, so it’s clearly perfect for all ages. Check out our top 4 motor racing experiences (track including Daytona International Speedway).

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Museum.

Ponce de Leon Lighthouse is located 20 minutes south of Daytona Beach on the Ponce Inlet. Take a scenic drive to see this historic lighthouse. By visiting the tallest lighthouse in the state (and second tallest in the country) at 175 feet tall, you’ll have the opportunity to step back in history and see what life was like for lighthouse keepers and their families.

Be sure to watch the 20-minute film about the history of the lighthouse before exploring the grounds. You’ll see the lighthouse keepers’ quarters, as well as the assistant lighthouse keepers’ home. There are maps, uniforms and artifacts decorating the buildings. The star attraction is being able to climb its 203 steps to the top of the lighthouse to get a bird’s eye view of the area. For more information, visit the Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark.

Stairs to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.

Stairs of the Lighthouse of the Ponce de Leon inlet.

If you’re going to visit the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, I highly recommend going at sunset. Give yourself time to climb to the top of the lighthouse and be sure to wear sturdy shoes. No flip flops or high heels are allowed.

Admission: $6.95 – $1.95 for children ages 2-11The lighthouse opens at 10am and closes at 9pm. Last admission is at 8pmIt’s about a 20-minute drive from Daytona BeachTo climb the lighthouse you must wear proper footwear. It is steep and the railings are low.Visit the website for more information.

Marine Science Center

Marine Science Center tanks Daytona Beach

You can spend the afternoon in this part of Daytona and visit the Marine Science Center where they rescue sea turtles and have an emergency ICU for injured marine life. They have a sea turtle and seabird rehabilitation center. The Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary has rescued and rehabilitated over 18,000 birds. This is a great place to learn about conservation and environmental efforts. You can also sunbathe on the beach and enjoy the pier. It’s another great place to take photos.

Main Street Pier – also known as Daytona Beach Pier.

Daytona Beach Main Street Pier - Recreation - Daytona Beach - Daytona Beach

The Daytona Beach Pier is a 1000 foot long pier that has been a landmark since 1925. It’s fun to go out and watch the fishermen working on their daily catch. It also offers beautiful views as you look out over the beach, making it one of Daytona Beach’s top attractions.

Be sure to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack for fresh crab when you visit the massive pier. It’s like a scene straight out of Jerry McGuire as you eat a giant bucket of crab. Or you can just enjoy a cocktail while enjoying the sunset.

Daytona Beach Boardwalk

The Daytona Beach Boardwalk is an entertainment area that is one of the main family attractions in Daytona Beach. I felt like I had stepped back in time and was suddenly transported back to a memory of walking with my parents to the pier and going for a ride in the go-karts. It’s nostalgic and fun to relive. At the Ocean Walk Shoppes there are souvenir shops selling every beach item you can imagine. There are classic arcade games and of course there are some amusement park rides as well.

Some of the most notable attractions are: Sandblaster roller coaster, arcades, Zeno’s Boardwalk candy store, the historic Bandshell, and racing fans will enjoy reading the markers commemorating historic races on the beach. Yes, Daytona Beach used to race.

Hit the Beach

Yes, we’ve said there are more things to do in Daytona Beach besides the beach, but come on, it’s the star attraction! At 23 miles long, our favorite thing to do in Daytona is talking about the beach. Hotels line the white sand, and you can go inside for a drink or a cocktail while enjoying the views. It’s a great beach for strolling, but be careful with cars, you can drive in certain areas of Daytona Beach for $20 a day per vehicle.

Go paddleboarding with the manatees.

When you’re at a beach, you have to get out on the water and one of our favorite water sports is paddle boarding (SUP). Manatees and dolphins frequent these waters and SUP is a non-invasive way to enjoy them. Book a tour and head out in search of wildlife in the calm waters of the Halifax River.

Surf

Surfing is also available in Daytona Beach and there are plenty of places to learn how to surf. Its sand break and easy waves are the perfect place to learn to surf.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark

Sports fans will also love watching a baseball game at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. It is the fourth oldest ballpark in the United States, opening in 1914. Originally called City Island Ballpark, it was renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark in 1989 to commemorate the March 17, 1946 game in which Jackie Robinson played the first integrated baseball game. You can take a tour of the park and watch a game of the Daytona Tortugas minor league team.

Ormond Beach

If you’re looking for a quieter beach to visit, Ormond Beach is located just north of Daytona Beach. Nestled between the Tomoka River and the Atlantic Ocean, there are water sports for every taste. Fun fact: John. D. Rockefeller called Ormond home. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. You can visit his winter home, converted into a cultural center and museum.

Tomoka State Park

Having a car is a must when visiting Daytona Beach so you can get out and explore the surrounding area. Located just 20 minutes from the beach, Tomoka State Park is a 2000 acre preserve that is perfect for bird watchers. There is an abundance of wildlife here, from alligators to bald eagles. Be sure to get out of the car and hike its many nature trails or go kayaking in search of manatees.

Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS).

One doesn’t usually think of museums when visiting Daytona Beach, but it has some impressive museums. The Museum of Arts and Sciences is Florida’s premier museum of art, science and history. Founded in 1955, it has some impressive exhibits, with the largest display of Cuban art outside of Cuba. There is a train station that has two train cars and the history of Coca Cola. We found it a great way to spend an afternoon.

Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art

To see Florida’s largest collection of art on display, a visit to the always elegant Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art is a must. You’ll feel very refined visiting this gallery after spending some time in the neon lights of the Daytona boardwalk. It’s a beautiful gallery. It can be visited in conjunction with MOAS.

Stetson Mansion

My father has a Stetson cowboy hat and is very proud of it. The Stetson Mansion, dating back to 1885, is a historic Florida home considered one of Florida’s most popular attractions. Built by John B. Stetson, its motto is the house that hats built. It is the oldest and grandest mansion in Florida and visitors can explore the grounds and outdoor gardens. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the newly restored mansion that has been updated to give the feeling that a wealthy family still lived there, giving a sense of what it would feel like to live in the mansion today. Visit Stetson Mansion for more details.

Historic Downtown Daytona Beach

historic downtown daytona beach

It took us several visits before we visited “downtown” Daytona Beach, but it’s a great place to hang out. There are plenty of things to do in this historic part of Daytona with lots of shops and restaurants along Beach Streat. Be sure to stop by and sample the locally made chocolates at Angell & Phelps’ Chocolate Factory, visit the Halifax Historical Museum to see Daytona-specific artifacts and pick up some fresh Florida oranges at Florida’s oldest farmers market. Check out Off the wall artwork and digital mash ups at Aberrant Art Gallery and grab a healthy fresh kale juice for your walk at Kale Café Juice Bar.

Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp.

Looking for a little zen and meditation on your trip to Daytona? Cassadaga is a spiritual camp that dates back 120 years. It’s a national historic site and was a retreat for mediums and psychics. Today, you can tour the camp where physicists still practice spiritual healing. Try an evening guided tour in search of hot spots and energy.

While in Cassadaga, be sure to go for dinner at Sinatra’s Italian Ristorante, located in the Cassadaga Hotel.

Cinematique

If you’re looking for something to do in Daytona Beach at night, you might consider catching a movie later in the evening at the area’s only indie movie theater, Cinematique. They have daily and nightly events.

Daytona Beach Shores

 

Our favorite place to stay in Daytona Beach is Daytona Beach Shores. When you’re done with a bucket of crabs at Joe’s Crab Shack and the neon lights of the Ferris wheel, it’s time to escape to tranquility, beauty and romance. The Daytona Beach Shores hotel is the best choice for a couple’s vacation. We highly recommend staying here while you explore the attractions of Daytona Beach.

Even if you don’t stay there, The Shores is a great place to dine and sit by the fire and enjoy canapes and good wine. As we sat there with satisfied smiles on our faces, we said to ourselves, “This place might actually be a good alternative to the Caribbean.” Before Daytona Beach Shores, we only thought of Daytona as a family vacation destination or a place for students to escape to during spring break. Our minds changed after a stay at this spa and resort.

Daytona Beach Frequently Asked Questions

Daytona 500 walk of Champions
What free things to do in Daytona Beach.

 

Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory in historic downtown Daytona offers free tours. In Ormond, JD Rockefeller’s winter home also offers free tours. And, of course, the beach is free for pedestrians and bicycles 24 hours a day.

Can you drive in Daytona Beach?

 

Yes, you can drive in Daytona Beach. It costs $20 per day per vehicle. It is only allowed in certain areas, and vehicles are outside the boundaries of the conservation zone to protect sea turtles.

And these are some of our favorite things to do in Daytona Beach. Have you been to the most famous beach in the world? What should we add to our list next time we go?

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