Daytona Beach Roars!
2018 marked the 60th Daytona 500, arguably the most famous stock car race in the world. Each year the winner’s car is driven as is, directly from the finish line to the entrance of the Daytona International Speedway’s museum and parked there until the next year’s 500. The International Speedway holds many additional events throughout the year and whether you are a racing fan or not, a tour of it is very impressive. Every half hour for $16, a shuttle transports guests around the massive structure to the inside track where speedsters hug the steep incline in gravity defying fashion, roaring with excitement. Imagine going along for that ride or driving the track yourself. Well, you can. There are many thrilling race options and photo ops outside and inside of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Homewood Suites is in walking distance of the Speedway with a breakfast buffet and weekday happy hours included. An aquarium with colorful active fish greets guests in the lobby. If you prefer ocean aquatics at your feet, cross over the Halifax River to the actual beach of Daytona Beach with plenty of hotels on the surf to choose from, all connected by a boardwalk made of brick rather than wood. Amusement rides and arcades entertain those who are not satisfied with the mere splendor of the ocean. Drive your car for miles on this sandy beach, top or windows down, waves crashing for a $15 all day fee. Or rent a bike and pedal but make sure the tide is low or you may get your feet wet and bike tires stuck as we did. Timing as they say is everything.
Time for golf is made easy with 28 courses in the area. LPGA International headquarters is home to 2 distinct courses –The Hills Course where sand hill cranes strut their stuff and the Jones Course designed by Rees in 1994. You never know what pro you might bump into on the practice range or in Malcolm’s Bar and Grill.
Built in the 1950s, Riviera Country Club has a welcoming down-home feel. Course records and championships are dotted with names like Bob Toski and Morris Hatalsky. The course is as pleasant as the family and staff who run it. The Scottish style bar is dimly lit contrasting with the sunny lunch patio.
Restaurants in Daytona Beach cater to any culinary whim. Houligan’s spatial conception of screens and seating make it the optimal sports venue with mouthwatering baked wings dry rubbed with a choice of seasonings. This place gets packed. Seafood at Joe’s Crab Shack on the pier is so fresh the fisherman might walk through with their catch. This is not the commercial chain Joes, but an original perched over the ocean waves. Parties rock on the roof, which happened to be the perfect spot to watch a Space X rocket launched from Cape Canaveral. It’s not like the days of John Glenn going to the moon but hey, if you’ve never experienced a launch, it’s pretty cool. If you have an astronaut fantasy, drive south for a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.
Intercoastal waterways offer more aquatic exploration. At Blue Springs State Park over 300 manatees swam toward the John’s River to warm up on a cool day. Gators paddled alongside them and waterfowl lit in the trees and dove for their fish. The water is clear allowing easy nature counts and tracking by wildlife biologists studying the movement of manatees. Kayaks, paddleboards and boat tours are available. It’s a great picnic spot to reunite with old friends.
Minutes from Daytona Beach, De Land is a young thriving community with Ron Garl’s Victoria Hills Golf Club capturing the natural essence of Floridian terrain.
The quaint downtown offers shops, restaurants and the Half Wall sports bar that is a whole lot of fun. This is a 45-minute drive from Orlando in case you want to fly in there for Disney or other attractions and then drive to the coast. But the Daytona Beach International Airport is very convenient to maximize exploration of Daytona Beach and the rest of Volusia County which was ranked #1in Travel Channel’s 2017 “Top Ten Attractions in Florida” and one of Trip Advisor’s 2016 “25 Most Popular Summer Vacation Rental Spots in the US.” It has a lighthouse, arts, festivals galore and ranked in the top 15 places to play golf in the US – roaring with spring fling action for all.