In a town where the beaches are more than 20 miles long, lounging around in the sun isn’t all there is to do. Daytona Beach, Florida has a rich local history, outdoor attractions galore, museums, dining and nightlife—and let’s not forget what it’s most famous for, the Daytona International Speedway, home of the yearly Daytona 500 race. Catch a music festival or head to Daytona for Bike Week if you’re a fan of motorcycles. No matter the reason, you’ll find endless entertainment on your next trip to this charming city.
Climb to the Top of Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
Just a few miles south of Daytona, travelers can enjoy some of the region’s prime surfing conditions and stunning ocean views at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum. The inlet is home to Florida’s tallest lighthouse, which stands at an impressive 175 feet and features 203 steps that visitors can climb for panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and Halifax River. Built in 1887, the lighthouse offers up a piece of US history, too; the museum’s grounds tell the story of the early settlers, Seminole Indians, and Confederate troops that each occupied the land at different points in history.
Those planning a visit should try to align their trip with the lighthouse’s Climb to the Moon event. Offered once a month on the full moon, the seaside soirée features a starlit climb to the top, where sparkling beverages and hors d’oeuvres await as the lighthouse keeper narrates a journey into the past.
Go for a Bike Ride Through The Loop
A 34-mile tree-lined route, The Loop is the perfect place to spend the day exploring, whether you’re on two wheels or four. Become one with nature as you pedal through the majestic Old Florida landscape—complete with alligator spotting and bird watching—or practice photography as the sun sets on the twisting canals and tall wild grass. Don’t miss the Fairchild Oak Tree on the long and winding route; one of the oldest living oaks in the South, it is said to be haunted by the ghost of John Ormond II, the son of the area’s founding family.
Sign Up for a Blue Heron River Tour
The Everglades isn’t the only place to admire Florida’s stunning ecosystem. A short drive west from Daytona’s city center, Blue Heron River Tours offers guided boat trips through Ocala National Forest and Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, as well as down the St. Johns River and other river tributaries. On any given day, visitors can spot massive manatees feeding lazily on the seagrasses, American Bald eagles soaring overhead, or the namesake Blue Heron wading the shallow waters. Tours on the “Great Blue” 49-passenger vessel are priced at $26 for adults and $16 for children.
With everything from white chocolate-covered Oreos to bacon doused in dark chocolate, Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory is a sweet-toothed traveler’s dream. Nestled on Daytona’s historic Beach Street, the factory offers free 20-minute tours every day. You’ll learn the traditional techniques they’ve been using since opening in 1925, plus quirky tidbits of information (did you know dogs can have pure white chocolate because it’s free of theobromine, the chemical compound in dark chocolate that is poisonous to them?). Tours end with mouth-watering samples of the factory’s best-selling flavors. Buy a box of hand-selected confections to take home for the ultimate souvenir!
Do Some Antique Shopping Along Beach Street
To ride out your sugar high, head next door to browse through Beach Street’s myriad of antique shops. The best home décor treasures can be found at Nicole’s Beach Street Mall, a massive two-story maze of retro lamps, hand-carved wood tables and dressers, collectible 1950s posters, and eclectic artworks. Meanwhile, fashion forward travelers can peruse through Moxie Vintage’s carefully curated selection of edgy 80’s vintage clothes, quality leather goods, and funky handbags.
Chow Down on Fresh Seafood
One of the best casual seafood joints in the area is indisputably Hull’s Seafood. Located minutes from the Halifax River docks, it’s not uncommon to see the team behind the family-owned fish market and eatery unloading their fresh catch from an early morning boat excursion. For an authentic après-beach meal, you can either buy the shrimp and blue crabs to take home for a clambake, or pull up a chair at their new outdoor terrace to dive into a Florida grouper sandwich and local lager.
Cruise Along the Beach in a Convertible
With miles of pristine coastline and smaller crowds than most other Florida cities, Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach boast some of the only beaches in the country where you can drive your car onto the sand. A $20 day pass grants access to the waterfront between designated driving zones, allowing you to park in the sand for an afternoon enjoying the sea breeze from the comfort of your car. The tradition harkens back to 1903 when Alexander Winton raced his “Bullet” across the dunes, attracting automobile magnates like Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet and leading to the area’s nickname as the “Birthplace of Speed.”
Bar Hop on Granada Boulevard
Craft cocktail connoisseurs can enjoy a tipple at 31 Supper Club or the adjacent Grind Gastropub & Kona Tiki Bar, each with its own distinct ambience. If you’re looking for an opulent dinner-and-a-show experience, slide into 31 Supper Club’s decadent Art Deco-inspired dining room or canopied terrace. The live jazz and entertainment every weekend completes the 1930s Hollywood-meets-Havana aesthetic. Those who prefer a more relaxed vibe can sidle up to the thatched roof stand at Kona Tiki Bar for killer Mai Tais, or Grind Gastropub located in the front of the building for a moodier, dive-bar setting. Whether you pick just one or go bar hopping to all three, don’t leave without trying Grind’s Strawberry Fields Forever cocktail, a local favorite featuring moonshine, strawberry rhubarb, fresh basil, and pressed lime.
Get Boozy at Local Breweries
As the growing trend of breweries has swept the nation, Daytona Beach has welcomed a handful of microbreweries that are well worth a visit. Ormond Garage is housed in a restored fire station, Tomoka Brewing Company has a sports bar feel, and Beach Side Brewing is just steps from the shore. Each offers guided tours where you’ll learn about the production of your favorite beers as well as rotating events with food trucks, game nights, and live music.
Get to Know the Animals at the Marine Science Center
Science buffs are obligated to visit the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet. Dedicated to the education and conservation of the area’s sea creatures, the facility is home to a mind-boggling array of aquatic animals such as the cownose ray and gopher tortoise. Visitors can explore the center’s onsite museum, participate in educational activities at the animal rehabilitation center, and explore the surrounding nature trails for a fully immersive experience. The center’s admission prices range between $2 and $5 depending on each visitor’s age.
Immerse Yourself in Arts & Culture
The Museum of Arts & Science (MOAS) is Daytona’s most well-known institution and an affiliate of the prestigious Smithsonian. It boasts a slew of permanent and rotating exhibitions that culture hounds will want to experience; previous exhibits have showcased contemporary artists inspired by Frida Kahlo, while others have covered Florida’s unique geography and history. Meanwhile, the planetarium’s awe-inspiring visions will appeal to kids of any age.
Take a Trail Ride
Beyond its beaches, Daytona offers miles of back country roads and farmlands ideal for an afternoon on horseback. Whether you’re an expert rider or have never stepped foot on a ranch, Shenandoah Stables offers trail rides, boarding, lessons, and pony rides for all levels. Their expert guides will match you to the best horse for your comfort level and teach you the basics of steering before accompanying you and your steed on a scenic stroll through the countryside.
Make a Splash at Daytona Lagoon
The whole family can enjoy a premier waterpark and arcade experience in the heart of Daytona Beach’s lively Ocean Walk district. Daytona Lagoon features a variety of games and entertainment, from thrilling go-karts and a laser tag course to twisting waterslides and a lazy river at the waterpark. General admission for the waterpark is $30 per person, while dry park activities are priced out separately.
Rev Your Engines at the Daytona 500
Considered the most prestigious and important event in racing, the Daytona 500 has been a local mainstay since 1982. It’s the NASCAR Cup Series first motor race of the year, and is generally held in February. If you’re not here for the Great American Race, you can sign up for an open-air tram tour of the speedway, which includes a photo op at the podium in Gatorade Victory Lane. The DAYTONA, a luxury themed hotel, recently opened directly across from the famed Speedway with a unique design inspired by the area’s racing history (think: vintage show cars on display and a memorabilia wall lined with trophies), as well as a NASCAR Racing Experience where you can learn to drive like the pros!