Top 6 Things to do in Daytona Beach
Of course, catching a race at the Daytona International Speedway is a popular activity, but that's not all the city has to offer. Those who don't enjoy the smell of gasoline and burnt rubber can retreat to the more than 20 miles of tawny shoreline Daytona is so famous for. Though city may be defined by its fascination with speedy automobiles, it does offer a few cultural diversions that are worth a visit. Climb to the top of one of the oldest lighthouses in the United States, or enjoy some peace and quiet at the Museum of Arts & Sciences.
Stretching for more than 23 miles, the "World's Most Famous Beach" is a must-see if you're in Daytona. Situated near the middle of the peninsula, the beach is famous for its large crowds, bustling pier and hard-packed sand. In fact, it's thanks to the sand's firm composition that drivers are allowed to park their cars right on the beach. Though some see this privilege as a major convenience, parents lament the fact the cars create another safety hazard for young children. However, there is a mile-long pedestrian-only zone that surrounds the pier. Beyond the pier you'll also find a variety of shops, bars and restaurants.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
A National Historic Landmark since 1998, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum is one of the tallest lighthouses in the United States. It's also a traveler favorite, thanks to the well-preserved structures and rich history. If you're looking for a birds-eye view of the area, prepare to hoof it 203 steps to the top of the 175-foot-tall edifice. A must see if you are in the area." Once you've reached the top, you'll see Daytona Beach and the north bank of the Ponce Inlet, where the Halifax and Indian Rivers meet.
After surveying the Florida coast, stop by the Lens Museum, where you can stroll through exhibits that detail the history of lighthouse evolution. Recent travelers also recommend touring the restored keepers' dwellings. Originally constructed in 1887, these residences now offer a glimpse into the history of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station, the US Lighthouse Service and the town itself.
Daytona International Speedway
More than the miles of shoreline, Daytona is probably best known for the Daytona International Speedway. Since opening in 1959, the complex has been the city's claim to fame, as host to the biggest racing competitions (like February's Daytona 500) and other smaller events throughout the year. On non-event days, you can walk onto the race track (for free) or take a guided tour via tram.
During the half-hour Speedway Tour, you'll take a spin through Daytona International Speedway's infield, pass through NASCAR garages and drive along Pit Road all while hearing about the speedway's history. If you're hoping to delve deeper into the speedway's historical sites, consider taking an All Access Tour. You'll have to fork over a bit more coin, but you'll have the opportunity to check out the Drivers Meeting room, Gatorade Victory Lane and get an up-close look at the $400 million renovation project currently underway. Even if you're not much of a racing aficionado, previous visitors say it's still worth a visit.
Hoping to get behind the wheel? You can do that here, too. Sign up for the Richard Petty Driving Experience and tear around the 2½-mile-long superspeedway. If you'd rather ride shotgun, you can ask an instructor to take you for a few laps around the track — just be prepared to ride at speeds up to 165 mph.
Musuem of Arts and Sciences
Just a short drive east of the airport and Daytona International Speedway, the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS) is one of the biggest and most popular museums in the city. Nestled within the Tuscawilla Preserve, a 90-acre hydric hammock, the museum's lush environment is a quiet respite from the hubbub around the speedway. Here you'll find plenty of Americana, like vintage automobiles, railroad cars and Florida's largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia. The museum also boasts artifacts from around the world, including Cuban, Chinese and African art. And while the museum is chock full of art exhibits, it doesn't skimp on the science. Head to the planetarium for multimedia shows and special presentations about our solar system. And don't forget to visit the Charles and Linda Williams Children's Museum (located within the same complex) where kids can play with interactive exhibits and learn about science, music and and physics, among other subjects.
The newest addition to MOAS is the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which opened in February 2015. The venue highlights Florida's history through more than 2,600 oil and watercolor paintings, some of which date as far back as 1839.
Recent visitors praise the museum's diverse collections, and note that its varied exhibits make it a great family attraction. The museum welcomes visitors Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Halifax Historical Museum
Racing fans rejoice: At the Halifax Historical Museum, old racing photographs and artifacts sidle antique model cars. But this neoclassical-style building is also a monument to Daytona's history in general: The museum is housed in the former Merchant's Bank Building — a fixture in downtown Daytona Beach since 1910. A bank teller's window is still visible in a remote corner, and you'll also find topical displays on the Civil War and American Indians.
You'll find the Halifax Historical Museum on the mainland side of the Halifax River, less than a mile from the city center. The museum welcomes visitors Tuesday through Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
If you need a break from the beach, head to the Daytona Lagoon. With a miniature golf course, go-kart racing, laser tag, a rock wall and a handful of amusement park-type rides, the Daytona Lagoon makes for a fun afternoon. There's also a water park (open on days when the temperature rises above 65 degrees) where visitors can enjoy a lazy river, wave pool and some sizeable water slides.
While a day trip here is a welcome respite from the beach crowds, recent travelers say the park can be expensive. You can pay per activity, or you can buy an hourly wristband. You'll find the Daytona Lagoon in the Ocean Walk Village complex, about 5 miles northeast of the city center.