I’m not a native Floridian but I’ve lived in Florida since I was a young teenager. I used to hear so much about the infamous Daytona Beach but I had never experienced it as a vacation destination. A couple of weeks ago the teenager and I snuck in some much needed family time on a quick getaway to Daytona Beach courtesy of Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He had a non student day at school on a Monday making it the perfect time for an extended weekend. With high school football season in full swing and his demanding course load we don’t have nearly as much free time as I’m accustomed to having. This weekend of family fun and recuperation couldn’t have come at a better time. I think he needed a chance to rejuvenate and so did I. Daytona proved to be a great choice for family fun time.
When you visit Daytona, of course you want to stay on the beach. You don’t come to an Atlantic Ocean coastal town and miss out on the chance to smell fresh ocean air and hear the crashing waves. The main strip of hotels and condo options extends for miles. We spent 2 nights at the Roomba Inn and Suites on Ocean Drive. It was a great location if you want to be right in the thick of the action. Check out rates for your dates.
The style of the inn is definitely that of a retro florida vacation inn but they have done a good job renovating the inside and adding all of the amenities to make for a very comfortable stay. The beds were comfy, room was clean, and the bathroom was nicely appointed. I especially loved that we had a microwave and a refrigerator. There was also a flat screen TV and complimentary wifi.
The best part for me was to open the back door to our balcony and see the big blue ocean right there in our backyard and enjoy the sunrise. We had a great view from our balcony of the boardwalk down the beach and the pool area as well. I could have sat there with that view and never moved from that spot. It was so relaxing. My son enjoyed sitting there in the quiet too. If the weather had been a bit warmer we would have enjoyed the pool. It looked inviting but it was so windy from the ocean that it was far too cold.
You know one of our favorite travel experiences is the food. We had some truly yummy meals on this trip and even some first time experiences.
Spanish Sugar Mill
Our first stop took us toe DeLeon Springs State Park in northern Volusia County where we had an amazing breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House. What makes this place so unique is that it has great views of the freshwater springs and there’s a griddle in the middle of every table. My son wasn’t aware that the griddle was already hot when we sat down and he touched it! Yikes! Our waitress brought him burn spray right away to soothe it. It was mild but you must be vigilent if dining with your little ones. The griddle gets really hot.
Do-it-yourself breakfast is a neat concept. The all you can eat pancakes means they bring you 2 different kinds of batter and you can choose toppings to add to your pancakes. You can also order eggs and you cook those on the griddle too. If you order meat they will cook that for you in the kitchen and bring it out to your table. We got pretty creative with our pancakes. I was quite proud of my Mickey Mouse…even if one ear was a bit too large.
Tip: Weekends and holidays they can get pretty busy. Our wait was an hour and a half and we checked in around 10 am. Plan to arrive early. Most people enjoy the grounds or explore the museum while they wait. There is a $6 fee to the park.
The teenager decided he would tackle the biggest burger on the menu…the 10oz Ocean Decker. This mammoth burger is stacked with ground beef, ham, bacon, provolone, fried onion rings, lettuce, tomato, and pickle. There was nothing but crumbs left in his wake.
I opted for the fresh mahi mahi fish tacos. They came with a mango salsa that really brought out the flavors of the fish well. I devoured it.
At Ocean Deck you must make room for dessert. They have this decadent creation called the Irish Chocolate Bomb Pie. It’s Belgian chocolate and Guiness flavored Mousse, dark chocolate ganache, topped with Bailey’s whipped cream. It’s as rich as it sounds but man was it divine. It was totally worth the misery we felt after eating way way too much food.
Crabby Joe’s Deck and Grill
Crabby Joe’s Deck and Grill was a great spot for a relaxing lunch. The views were spectacular. The restaurant is on Sunglow Pier and you are literally eating suspended out over the ocean. If you pick the right seats you can have some pretty amazing water views. The best part is that it’s open air dining and you can choose to have the shutters completely open so that you can see and hear the ocean.
The coconut shrimp was amazing. I also loved the peel and eat garlic shrimp with corn on the cob and pasta. My son enjoyed his shrimp po’boy.
Racing’s North Turn
Racing’s North Turn is a neat restaurant built at the famed north turn of the original Daytona Speedway; by original I mean the track on the beach! If you’re not a racing fan you may not realize that NASCAR got its start racing stock cars on the beaches of Daytona. This restaurant is built where the original north turn of the beach track would have been. You can opt to eat inside or enjoy the patio with live music. Unfortunately the patio area did allow smoking which is kryptonite for me and my asthma. It was a great view but I had to ask to be moved inside to give my lungs a break.
Our service was good and the food did not disappoint. My son had the seafood pasta which usually comes with a tomato based wine sauce. He asked if he could have it using their alfredo sauce instead and the kitchen obliged his request. He was practically licking the plate when he finished.
I had the Mad Marlon fish melt, blackened basa with grilled onions and provolone cheese. The standard is to serve it on rye bread, but I don’t do rye so they were more than happy to substitute it for a regular bun. My sandwich was stacked with fish. It might get a little bit messy. If you lick your fingers, no one will judge you. I would definitely order this again!
This place is worth the visit. It’s not on the main strip but it’s about 15 minute drive south. There is so much neat racing memorabilia. You don’t have to be a racing fan to appreciate the history they have preserved. If you have boys (or girls) that are the least bit into cars and racing this place will be win with them.
Free tours run about every hour at this chocolatier shop on the downtown Daytona waterfront strip. The tour was very informative. You watch the workers work their magic through glass panel windows. You name it; they can make your chocolate dreams come true. Aside from getting a sample at the end, my favorite part of the tour was watching the workers put the potato chips through the chocolate waterfall. Yes, she actually called it the chocolate waterfall. Let’s all ponder on that for a moment. Drool.
It was hard not to go crazy because I wanted to buy up the whole store. My son and I settled on the chocolate covered bacon, chocolate potato chips, and chocolate almonds. They were all divine! They have chocolate covered Oreos, Twinkies, pretzels, nuts. I was halfway expecting an oompa loompa to come out from behind the counter. This place was my childhood Willy Wonka fantasy come true. If you are a chocolate lover like myself, this place is a sight to behold. You won’t regret your visit.
Things To Do
I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about what there was to do in the area. There’s more to Daytona than the beach and the speedway, although we enjoyed experiencing both! There is also a beautiful freshwater spring and state park within an hours drive, a lighthouse, a marine center, and plenty of water recreation. There are also museums and important sites to the history of African Americans in the state of Florida.
De Leon Springs State Park
Top Reason To Go: There is a crystal clear freshwater spring where you can swim, kayak, or take an informative boat tour on the spring fed lake.
Cost: $6 per car; Accept cash and credit
Tip: Plan to have breakfast at the Spanish Sugar Mill
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
Top Reason To Go: Climb all 203 steps to the top of the tallest lighthouse in Florida which stands at 175 feet tall. The Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse is an operational lighthouse.
Cost: $6.96 adults; $1.95 kids over 2
Tip: It can get windy at the top! Hold on to your hat. Spend some time after your climb exploring the grounds and the other historically preserved buildings.
Marine Science Center
Top Reason To Go: Educational presentations; The presentation by the Marine Science Center staff during the feed the stingrays, turtle hospital, octopus feeding and sea horse feeding were excellent and very interactive. We learned so many neat facts about the animals we never knew. Octavia the Octopus was our favorite. She put on quite the show because she didn’t want to eat while she was protecting her eggs.
Cost: $5 Adults: $2 Children over 2
Tip: Watch them triage and treat the sea turtles that come in injured. There is a window in the very back of the museum where you can watch the turtle hospital in action. Be warned some of the injuries to the turtles we saw were pretty horrific. It can be hard to watch , especially if you have little ones.
Daytona International Speedway Tour
Top Reason To Go: Get a feel for driving on the speedway and see those high wall turns up close. You also get a picture on the victory lane stage and a picture with the car that won the Daytona 500 most recently, champagne stains and confetti in tact. My son said this was his favorite part of trip.
Cost: $16 adults; $10 for children for the 30 minute tour
Tip: If you bring your own camera they will take your picture on the victory lane stage for you.
Drive The Beach
Top Reason To Go: This is what Daytona Beach is known for! There aren’t many other beaches where you can cruise along the shore. It’s a really neat experience to drive on the hard packed sands of Daytona Beach.
Cost: $10 will get you a pass to enter and exit the beach road for the entire day.
Tip: If the tide is high you won’t be able to drive down on the beach so plan accordingly.
Museum of Arts and Sciences
Top Reason To Go: A self-guided museum. Includes American art, International decorative art, Chinese, Cuban, African and African-American art collections, a planetarium, and a collection of original Coca-Cola memorabilia. Admittedly it was the teenagers least favorite activity of the trip but it was good to sneak in a bit of “funducation”.
Cost: $12.95 adults; $6.95 children
Cici and Hyatt Brown Musuem of Art
Top Reason To Go: It is a history museum, with the history of Florida told through works of art.
Cost: $10.95 adults; $4.95 children
Ponce Inlet Watersports
We were scheduled to have one outdoor excursion on this little quick trip to kayak the inlet with Ponce Inlet Watersports. Unfortunately, our kayak trip was cancelled due to the freakish weather overnight. The winds stirred up the inlet waters making it unsafe to paddle. I was super sad as this was the activitiy I was most looking forward to. Perhaps another time we will get a chance to hit the water. Ponce Inlet Watersports also offer fishing charters, stand up paddle board, and eco tours.
Daytona Beach and the surrounding area is full of places to explore. We certainly managed to pack in a lot in just 48 hours. It’s a great option for a family retreat whether it’s just for the weekend or for a longer stay. Visit www.daytonabeach.com to help you plan your next getaway. Special thanks to Daytona Beach Area CVB and all of the businesses that hosted us for the weekend. This post contains affiliates links that provide me with compensation if you use to make your travel plans. (Disclosure)
Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“Adventure is a lifestyle.”