Daytona Beach : A Place to Relax and enjoy the Sun
Leave your fancy clothes at home
By Arvin Steinberg
Leave the world of chauffeur-driven limousines, tux and tails behind and enter the laid back world of Daytona Beach, where you can don blue jeans, wear flip-flops and eat at the fanciest restaurant in town without a jacket.
Daytona Beach is a Florida getaway that doesn't' put on airs. It's a place where you can relax and enjoy yourself at your own speed. It's also a place you can enjoy the finest beaches, world-class sports attractions, excellent museums, and first-class restaurants.
For me, Daytona Beach was like a tranquilizer. The beach itself is world famous. I couldn't wait to experience it. As soon as I put on my swimsuit and stepped on the white sand, I was in a different world. Everything seemed so calm.
The beach was super-wide – so wide and flat that cars and trucks rode on it. Many years ago automobiles actually raced on it. The ocean near my hotel was unbelievably calm and very shallow when you first entered. I didn't have to fight the waves.
There are 23 miles of beautiful beaches in the Daytona Beach area. As I looked down the beach in either direction, it appeared that all of the waves were breaking in unison. This symmetry was intriguing. The waves breaking slowly over and over created a calming, relaxing effect.
However, for those who to like to surf there are beaches where the waves are high and robust.
There is also a boardwalk on the beach with some exciting rides. I could spend everyday of my vacation on the beach and many visitors do. But there is so much more to do and see in Daytona Beach.
The Daytona International Speedway was a must-see on my visit to Daytona Beach. The Daytona 500 race is the most watched motor sports event in the world when attendance at the track and television viewing are combined. Estimated attendance for the Daytona 500 is 200,000 and more than 29 million watch it on television.
I had heard they had tours of the Speedway, but that's only a small part of it. Located at the Speedway is DAYTONA USA, an interactive motor sports-themed attraction. This is an interesting and exciting entertainment experience for hard-core race fans and casual observers. It offers lots of fun for the whole family. In addition to the thrilling interactive features, there are historical exhibits such as the Goodyear Heritage of Daytona history walk.
A good place to start your visit to DAYTONA USA is by taking a 30-minute guided tour of the Speedway. The tour takes guests on an open-air tram through the Speedway's garage area. The tour is narrated and you see Pit Road, Victory Lane and the world-famous 31-degree high banks where cars race at over 200 miles per hour.
There are two new motion simulator rides at DAYTONA USA—“Daytona Dream Laps” and “Acceleration Alley”. “Daytona Dream Laps” is a ride that seats 32 guests for a full-range motion experience racing at the high banks of the Speedway. On the “Acceleration Alley” ride you hop inside a racecar, buckle up and take a simulated ride at high speeds that combines motion, video, and sound.
Other activities include going over the wall at Ford's 16-second pit stop challenge to test your skills in a live pit stop.
One of the most popular attractions is the Daytona 500 movie, a large-screen format film presented on a screen 55 feet wide and almost three stories tall in the Pepsi Theater. You see the movie in the realism of 3-D, and with the accompanying sounds you feel as though you are behind the wheel of one of the racing cars.
Tickets for DAYTONA USA including the Speedway tour are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and $14 for children 6-12.
If you want the real thing, for an additional charge of about $130 you can first don a racing outfit including helmet. Then climb through the window of a racing car on the Speedway track, strap yourself in, and ride next to a race driver at high speeds around the track. I saw many racing enthusiasts waiting in line for their chance to be a semi-participant in this high-speed sport.
Whether or not you are a baseball fan, the Jackie Robinson Ballpark is an interesting place to visit in Daytona Beach. This is where baseball legend Jackie Robinson played in the first integrated baseball game. The ballpark was built in 1908, seats 3800 fans, and is the Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
It is also a museum with plaques and photos documenting the life of Jackie Robinson. It explains Robinson's childhood, how he excelled in many sports in college, and the humiliating experiences he faced as the man who broke the color barrier in major league baseball. It also lists many of his accomplishments such as playing in six world series and being voted MVP in 1949 in the National League. But for me the one that tells it all, was that after Robinson's retirement from baseball, his “number 42” was also retired by every major league baseball team. It's a real pleasure to visit this historical ballpark and watch the Daytona Beach Cubs play. Tickets are only $5.
Another fun way to see Daytona Beach is by an amphibious adventure on a trolleyboat. It leaves daily from the Ocean Walk Shoppes and takes you on a drive through historic Daytona Beach. It then enters the Halifax River where you are given a narrated tour of the history and wildlife of the area with great views of the riverfront mansions. The trolleyboat then leaves the river and drives you back to the Ocean Walk Shoppes.
At the Ocean Walk Shoppes there's lots to do. There's a new Bandshell featuring concerts with an ocean view and a beachside theater showing ten movies. There's also a delightful Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant for some casual fun, good food, based on the Forrest Gump movie with plenty of Forrest's favorite fixins.
A visit to the Museum of Arts and Sciences is a wonderful way to spend some relaxing and interesting hours in Daytona Beach. All six permanent collections are excellent. I especially enjoyed three of them.
The Center for Florida History collection tells the story of Florida's historical and cultural development from prehistory to the present complete with interactive features. It centers around a 13-foot tall skeleton of a Giant Ground Sloth which was excavated in 1975 in a fossil site called the Daytona Bone Bed. This huge vegetarian could have weighed three to five tons and eaten a daily ration of 300 pounds of plants abundant in the area.
The Cuban Museum collection is the largest Cuban Museum in the world outside of Cuba. It contains rare 18th, 19th, and early 20th century maps, documents, lithographs, paintings, furniture, sculpture, and ceramics arranged chronologically. Rare photographs help establish a sense of time and place.
The Root family's collection is not only interesting, it brings back a lot of memories. This is an astounding display of more than 800 Teddy Bears, ranging from seven feet tall to only a few inches in height. Each Teddy Bear represents a different time period or theme, and portrays everyday scenes such as a “Teddy Bear Wedding”, complete with bridesmaids, groomsmen, and a minister.
The Root family has also amassed one of the most historically important anthologies of the American soft drink, Coca-Cola, on which their family fortune was founded. The collection includes just about every conceivable item relating to bottling, advertising, and consumption of Coca-Cola.
The Root's collection also includes an impressive array of decorative arts, china, silverware, and glasses collected from 85 of the nation's railroads, hotels, and restaurants. Two actual railroad cars are also displayed in this permanent collection.
There are still lots of other fun things to do in Daytona Beach. You can spend an hour or two at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, and climb to the top if you wish. It's the tallest lighthouse in Florida.
Not far from the lighthouse is the Inlet Harbor Marina & Restaurant. The seafood is fabulous. There is a lot of freshly caught fish on the menu. It's a nice place for lunch or dinner (they have sunset specials if seated by 6 p.m.) with a lovely waterfront view. You can dine inside or on the riverfront outdoor deck. It's casual dining. A live band playing on the outdoor deck added to the festive Caribbean-like setting.
Greyhound racing is also another exciting attraction in the area. They race at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club. Children are welcome with a parent or guardian.