Best things to do in Daytona Beach, plus where to eat and stay
Daytona Beach, known for the 1980s Spring Break, labeled “America’s Beach” and home to Daytona International Speedway, is still one of the best Florida vacations you could ask for. With walkable beaches, great attractions and museums, water sports, and tasty food that won’t break the bank, Daytona Beach offers plenty to see and do.
Daytona Beach sits on the Atlantic Ocean about a third of Florida’s east coast. It’s north of Cocoa Beach and south of St. Augustine. Daytona Beach is accessible by car and plane (it has its own airport), and it’s easy to get around once there.
the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau greeted me on several trips to the area but all opinions are mine.
Daytona Beach Activities
You may be surprised to find many educational opportunities and artistic venues in Daytona Beach. This city has grown and become more metropolitan since the days when it was the most famous beach in the world. Here are some places you shouldn’t miss during your visit.
Museum of Arts and Sciences
I am always impressed with the collections and exhibits at the Museum of Arts & Science, a branch of the Smithsonian in Daytona Beach. The Root Family bottle collection (including one of Coca-Cola’s most comprehensive collections) is impressive. The two mid-century train cars (Silver Holly and Hiawatha), with porcelain designs and menus from the past, are informative and interesting.
I would allow 90 minutes to see the museum – 2 hours if you add a planetarium show ($ 5 fee applies).
Cici and Hyatt Brown Art Museum
Your Arts and Science Museum ticket includes admission to the Cici and Hyatt Brown Art Museum. This space is home to 2,600 beautiful paintings by Floridians and exhibits showcasing Florida’s landscape and culture. It is the largest collection of Florida art in the world.
Daytona International Motor Circuit
Daytona International Speedway is synonymous with Daytona Beach. The speedway hosts the Daytona 500, the most prestigious NASCAR race of all. Whether you’re in Daytona Beach for a run or a vacation, the speedway is always open and offers something to do. I’ve never seen a race in my life, but loved the speedway circuit. It was fascinating to learn more about the sport, the drivers and how the speedway gathers 101,000 people for a race and clears the entire parking lot in less than 2 hours. You can even take a ride in a NASCAR racing car by booking the NASCAR Racing Experience.
Pro tip: Tours run daily between 9:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. and cost $ 22 for adults. They leave every 45 minutes and last an hour. VIP tours are available for a more in-depth look at the speedway.
Daytona Beach is one of the only walkable beaches in Florida and one of only two walkable beaches on the East Coast. For $ 20, you can drive your car straight to the hard sand beach (a four-wheel drive vehicle is suggested) and skip the stress of carrying the things you want to take with you. Sunbathe, have a good book, or take a dip in the surf along the 23 miles of Daytona Beach.
Pro tip: Parking is authorized perpendicular to the shore only.
Jackie Robinson Ballpark
Catch a baseball game at the beautiful Jackie Robinson Ballpark, which sits directly on the Halifax River and is often recognized as one of America’s best minor league baseball fields. You’ll watch Daytona Tortugas, a Cincinnati Reds affiliate, in this historic park that opened in 1914.
Fun fact: Jackie Robinson played his first professional game there.
A short drive from Ormond Beach, Florida is The Casements, and it’s worth a visit. It was the winter home of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, and is now a free park and museum to the public. This historic attraction doesn’t get its fair share of publicity, in my opinion. Discover the beautiful house on a self-guided tour; the signage and memories are fascinating. You are sure to love the beautiful grounds and gardens that surround the unique property.
Top restaurants in Daytona Beach
You’ll find delicious food of all kinds on the Daytona Beach restaurant scene, from shrimp, oysters and fresh catches to international dishes and comfort food. Expect to enjoy every meal!
For those looking for the top-notch beach experience, breakfast at Crabby Joe’s on Sun Glow Pier is what you need. Crabby Joe’s food is really good – I recommend the Benedicts or the Grain French Toast – and free parking is available.
Another choice is The Cracked Egg Diner at Daytona Beach Shores, with its retro 1950s vibe. The homemade apple fritters and Belgian waffles are great, and they have all the egg dishes you can imagine.
If you prefer a local cafe for a breakfast sandwich or a pastry, look no further than Sweet Marlays’ Coffee. The quiche is fantastic.
Seafood is primo at Daytona Beach, far exceeding the options in some of the other East Coast towns I’ve visited. Get your fix of oysters (raw, steamed or grilled) at The Oyster Pub. They also have salads, sandwiches, burgers, and wings, and I highly recommend the delicious onion straw appetizer.
A tasty option for international flavors and a cozy bistro atmosphere is the Red Bud Cafe. Try the chicken and mushroom pancake or the spinach and cheese burek (Bosnian pita); both are so good. The Red Bud Cafe is quaint and charming, with artwork you can buy on the walls. Vegan and gluten-free menus are available.
Watch the sunset and enjoy live music at Caribbean Jack’s, serving up a mouthwatering menu featuring some of the best peeled and eaten hot shrimp you’ve ever eaten. Fish, alligator bites, and Caribbean tacos (served charred, grilled, or island jerk) are other options that will appeal to the palate.
Another place I love is Racing’s north turn in Ponce Inlet. This is where the first NASCAR-sanctioned stock car race was held in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the restaurant features an impressive collection of NASCAR memorabilia. Sit by the ocean and let yourself be carried away by live music while savoring the catch of the day, shrimp and oatmeal or a half pound burger. Don’t miss the bacon-cabbage mince; it’s incredibly delicious.
Where to shop in Daytona Beach
From 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily, you can shop till you drop at a relatively new outdoor resort, Tanger Outlets Daytona Beach. Stores include Tommy Bahama, Salt Life, and Vineyard Vines, to name a few. My favorite is the Vera Bradley boutique, where I shop my favorite flip flops for under $ 10 and stock up on handbags and tote bags at heavily discounted prices. This mall has nice seating and plenty of places to rest for a while.
A Daytona across the highway is a nice outdoor mall and entertainment complex. It offers shops, restaurants, a cinema, a games complex and accommodation. You can truly make it a mini vacation and never leave the pristine grounds. When I’m there, I love to eat barbecue at 4 Rivers BBQ, have a craft cocktail at Blue Flame, shop for t-shirts at Momentum and dream of being able to fit into something Pink Narcissus.
I also recommend that you take a stroll down historic Beach Street in the Riverfront Shops of Daytona. This area has a few offerings unique to Daytona Beach, such as Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory (have you tried chocolate coated potato chips?) And Daytona Magic Shop. You can also enjoy a cold beer from McK’s Irish or a refreshing smoothie from Dancing Avocado Kitchen.
Best hotels in Daytona Beach
The Hard Rock Hotel, located directly on the Atlantic Ocean, is full of energy and style. The bedrooms are spacious and elegant, with floor-to-ceiling windows, luxury linens and your choice of music played on your arrival. From Jacksonville to West Palm Beach, the Hard Rock hotels have the best pools, with pretty cabanas perfect for lounging and relaxing, not to mention the coveted Florida sun.
An alternative to beachfront hotels and the bustling city center is the River Lily Inn Bed & Breakfast, located in a quieter part of town. This beloved inn has friendly innkeepers who understand the needs of travelers and do their best to exceed expectations. I stayed in the Sea Breeze Room, which had a queen bed, amazing jetted tub, rocking chair, and lots of special touches. The best part was our second floor lanai overlooking the Halifax River on the Intracoastal Waterway. All stays include a freshly prepared breakfast. The flowers, porch and pool at River Lily Inn is an oasis in the heart of the city.
Pro tip: The part of downtown Daytona Beach around the boardwalk changes as the sun goes down. I would advise not to venture out after dark to be on the safe side. As always, when traveling, keep your valuables out of sight and your personal items close to your body. I always carry a shoulder bag.