Daytona Beach! This iconic city houses the world’s most famous beach, the biggest stock car race in the world and a whole lot of FUN. Josh and I were lucky enough to live nearby for 4 years while in grad school and we returned recently for an UNFORGETTABLE weekend.
If you’re planning a trip to Daytona, I’ve got you covered on where to stay, where to eat and 6 things you MUST do!
- Why Daytona and How to Get There
- Where To Stay
- Where To Eat
- 6 Things You MUST Do
- Nearby Attractions
Why Daytona & How to Get There
Josh and I lived in the town just south of Daytona Beach, called Port Orange, for 4 years and I can tell you that this region of Florida is truly unique and absolutely beautiful! There is so much to do that you’ll have a hard time fitting it all in during your stay!
Daytona Beach is a costal city and is just a one hour drive from Orlando, making it really convenient to visit the theme parks and get in some beach time, all in the same trip. It also has its own airport if you don’t want to fly in/out of Orlando.
Where to Stay in Daytona Beach
Hilton Daytona Beach Florida Oceanfront Resort
Just take a drive down A1A and you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of hotels lining the shoreline. Josh and I are huge Hilton fans (we were married at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach back in 2015) and we definitely recommend staying at the Hilton Daytona Beach as well!
The Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront resort is located front and center on Daytona’s famous beach. It’s also at the center of Ocean Walk Village, which is the prime time area for great beachside entertainment.
First and foremost, the reason we loved staying here (besides the location and amenities), was it’s cleanliness and safety in regards to Covid-19. The Hilton CleanStay door seal (there was literally a clean safety seal on our hotel door-amazing!), floor markers, acrylic protective barriers, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the resort, made us feel very safe and comfortable. For more information on their safety and sanitation protocol, check out their website.
Normally, we stay in Airbnbs when we travel to gain a more local perspective, but this trip called for rest and relaxation. There is an abundance of affordable Airbnbs in the Daytona area, if you’re looking to go that route instead of a hotel.
Where to Eat in Daytona Beach
Other than the previously aforementioned Don Rico’s at the Hilton (dessert pictured here) there are an endless amount of restaurants to eat at in Daytona.
You’ll find every single chain restaurant that you could ever dream of on International Speedway Boulevard, but, if you’re looking for some hidden, local gems, I’ve got you covered.
Our Deck Down Under
There’s a reason why Every. Single. Time. Josh and I return to Daytona we eat here, because its the greatest, most laid back restaurant with such INCREDIBLE FOOD! I’ve truly never eaten a better fish sandwich in my life!
Our Deck Down Under is located right under Dunlawton Bridge, on the water. Enjoy a blackened mahi fish sandwich with hush puppies and a side crab cake…then wash it down with a delicious draught beer. Are you drooling yet? This laid back restaurant truly has the kindest staff and best food around!
Do note that this place is POPULAR-so go during non-peak times or you’ll surely have to wait for a table.
Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse
Located inside the Hilton Daytona, the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse is by far the nicest and most upscale restaurant in the entire city. Not only do they have the obvious aged USDA choice steaks, but they have a great seafood menu as well (get the ahi tuna tower, you won’t be disappointed).
The atmosphere and service at Hyde Park are also far above par. So, if you’re in the mood for a great steak, then definitely check this place out!
Note: Pricing is similar to a Miami dinner menu, but it is worth every single dollar!
Josh and I used to watch football, drink beer and eat wings at Houligan’s back when we were in chiropractic school and it’s still one of our favorite places to date! Since we lived in Port Orange, they’ve opened another location in Daytona on International Speedway Boulevard.
Houligan’s literally has some of the greatest chicken wings we’ve ever eaten…why? They’re famous for their Wally Wings for the past 29 years, which are a unique wing that is tossed in any sauce you’d like-or-(drumroll please)-you can combine the sauces (we love hot, teriyaki and garlic all mixed together). If wings and beer and sports are your thing, then Houligan’s is your place.
This is by far the best beach bar/restaurant. I cannot tell you how many fun nights I’ve had at Ocean Deck (too many to count).
Although the food is mediocre (it’s basically all fried bar food and mediocre fish sandwiches), the drinks are great and so is the 3 story house-on-the-beach atmosphere.
The best part about Ocean Deck is the live music (pre-covid) and dancing that’s offered 7 days a week. Stop by this casual, laid-back dive bar on the beach, you won’t be disappointed!
Although BJ’s is a franchise, we still love it and always stop by (at least for a drink) when we’re in town. BJ’s is a brewhouse…do I need to say more? Along with their signature pizza’s, you cannot miss their beer (unless you don’t like beer, then I’d suggest not wasting your time).
BJ’s offers 11 signature beers and cider, which have received over 200 awards. I love the they offer seasonal and local brews, along with great service and food!
Pro Tip: Their menu is slightly daunting…multiple pages and literally everything you’d ever want. Don’t be overwhelmed! Ask your (always) friendly waitress and they’ll point you in the right direction!
Mai Tai Bar
While I wouldn’t recommend eating here, but, if you’re looking for a great place to have drinks, then Mai Tai Bar should be on your list. Located just steps away from the Hilton on Ocean Walk Village, Mai Tai has a GREAT atmosphere and not one, but two, happy hours daily.
Mai Tai offers happy hour from 4-7 and then again from 9pm-1am when the live music starts pumping. Prices here are beyond affordable (at least compared to soaring drink prices in Miami). A pitcher of domestic beer is just $6 and cocktails start at $4!
6 Things You MUST DO in Daytona Beach
While Daytona Beach offers up a lot of fun things to do for any age, there are 6 things that I think every visitor should explore in order to really enjoy the very BEST that this city and its surrounding area have to offer…
1. Drive on Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach gained its title as the “world’s most famous beach” by the early 1920’s because of its high-speed automobile racing, which took place right on the beach.
It’s quite poetic now that there are certain sections of the 23-beautiful miles of beach that you can drive on yourself! Pack the car full of beach equipment, a cooler with food/snacks/adult beverages and drive out to the beach for a perfect day of fun in the sandy sun.
Whether you love to to swim, paddle, parasail, surf, fish, boat or anything else in between, you’ll have an endless amount of options to choose from. You can also rest easy knowing that there are trained lifeguards posted along the beach for everyone’s safety. Be sure to visit the Daytona Beach Pier and Boardwalk for a drink or a bite at Joe’s Crab Shack rooftop bar.
While there’s no cost nor limit to hours pedestrians can access the beach, vehicles are permitted to drive on the beach from sunrise to sunset from November 1-April 30 and from 8am-7pm from May 1-October 31.
The cost is $20 per day, per vehicle and it’s actually free for Volusia County residents to drive on the beach in December and January. If you really love visiting and plan to frequent Daytona Beach often, non-residents can purchase an annual beach pass for $100 ($25 for Volusia County residents). For more information, check out their website.
2. Visit Daytona International Speedway
Whether you’re a racing fan or not, the history behind this great speedway and NASCAR is something you should certainly learn about. It’s an entire culture!
The history behind the racetrack (originally the Daytona Beach Road Course) is really quite remarkable. Daytona Beach is literally the birthplace of NASCAR and was initially famous for the 15 world land speed records set there (over 200mph).
When the crowds became too large and the land too small (the area was increasingly becoming more and more built up at the time), it was then that the thought of a racetrack was born.
Flash forward to today…the Daytona Beach International Speedway can hold up to 101,500 people. Not only does the famous Daytona 500 take place here every February, but the venue houses dozens of other events annually.
While visiting, be sure to check out the Richard Petty Driving Experience where you can drive a NASCAR race car or take a NASCAR ride along on the actual speedway (all I can picture here is Ricky Bobby saying “I want to go fast.”)
If you’re really looking for a trip down historical racing lane (pun intended), be sure to check out the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America as well.
3. Bike Ponce Inlet & Visit the Lighthouse
Picture this…you and your friends are cruising on bicycles around Ponce Inlet (located about 10 miles south of Daytona), beverages in hand, hopping from restaurant to restaurant on the water. You finish the day climbing the 203 lighthouse steps to really take in the views that Daytona Beach has to offer.
Sound amazing? It really is! One of my favorite things to do while we lived in this area was this bike route with friends. While we used to supply our own bicycles, you can certainly rent them at the Ocean Inlet Surf Shop right in Ponce Inlet.
We used to stop at the following restaurants along the 10 mile route (the entire route will take you about 1 hour-without stops). If you want to shorten the route, just remove Boondocks.
- Racings North Turn
- Boondocks Restaurant
- Off the Hook at Inlet Harbor
- Hidden Treasure Rum Bar & Grill
- Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
Here is a link to Google Maps with every stop on along the way! Have a great time for me and send me your photos!
4. Visit the Museum of Arts & Sciences
Calling all art and science lovers! You certainly don’t want to miss the Museum of Arts and Sciences, which houses the Lohman Planetarium, the Children’s Museum, the Root Family Museum, and the Tuscawilla Preserve. Be sure to check out the nearby Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art and the Gamble Place as well!
Museum of Arts & Sciences
Josh and I were totally blown away by multiple exhibits at the Museum of Arts & Sciences. Most notably was the Coca-Cola exhibit, which is the second largest Coca-Cola memorabilia in the world. The Museum also houses the largest permanent exhibition of Cuban art outside of Cuba, the most complete giant ground sloth skeleton in North American and SO much more!
Although they have their permanent exhibits, they frequently have special exhibits. Currently they have a Medival to Metal exhibit: The Art & Evolution of The GUITAR, which explores all aspects of the world’s most popular instrument (so cool!).
Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art
The incredibly beautiful Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art contains the largest collection of Florida art in the world! The rotating collection contains 2,600 Florida-themed oil and watercolor paintings.
- Arts & Science Musem:
- Adults/Children/Seniors + Students- $12.95/$10.95/$6.95
- Cici & Brown Hyatt Museum of Art:
- Adults/Children/Seniors + Students- $10.95/$4.95/$8.95
- Combo Ticket Pricing
- Adults/Children/Seniors + Students- $18.95/$9.95/$16.95
Note: The Museum of Arts & Sciences as well as the Hyatt Brown Museum of Art offers free admission on the first Tuesday of every month to Volusia County residents (with identification/residency proof).
5. Enjoy a Concert at the Bandshell
The historic Oceanfront Park in Daytona houses the famous Daytona Beach Bandshell. Built in 1937, this amphitheater is uniquely made of coquina shells!
While the Friday night concert series has been postponed due to Covid-19, they do have many upcoming concerts. Check out their website for more details.
While you’re nearby, be sure to also check out the famous Coquina Clocktower on the Boardwalk! This Clocktower has been famous since it was constructed in 1938 becauase its clock face features the letters D-A-Y-T-O-N-A-B-E-A-C-H instead of 12 numbers.
6. Zipline Through the Trees of Tuscawilla Park
What better way to enjoy Daytona and channel your inner Tarzan than swinging through the trees of Tuscawilla Park? Daytona Beach Zipline Adventure offers 40 different aerial games, including 10 zip lines! Bring on the fun!
At this adventure park, you can climb ladders, wooden bridges, tight ropes, cables and of course, zip line! They offer different courses at different price points and time frames (from 1 hour to 2.5 hours).
Check out their website for more information.
Tips About Visiting Daytona Beach
- Do note that Daytona Bike Week (March), Race Week (February) and Biketoberfest (October) should be avoided if you’re not planning to participate in those events. Hotels are 3 times the price and everything is very, very crowded. Plan your dates accordingly!
- Safety first! As with any other city, walking around the streets at night is a no-no. Be careful here (just like you would in Miami)! Take Uber’s instead of walking late night. Better to be safe than sorry. For more safety tips, check out the Daytona Beach website.
- Much like any other beach destination, Daytona Beach can get a bit crowded. If you’re looking to avoid crowds (especially during Covid-19), try to go to restaurants and even the beach on off-peak hours.
Orlando is literally just an hour from Daytona Beach and, unless you’ve been living under a rock you’re entire life, that is where Micky Mouse lives! Plan a 3+ night stay in Daytona and take a day trip to Walt Disney World, it’s a MUST!
St. Augustine is easily one of my favorite cities in the state of Florida. This city is ooooozing with history, architecture and FUN! For more information, check out their website.
I haven’t been here in 10 years (currently planning a trip back), but it is SO gorgeous ! The natural privately owned Ginnie Springs offer up snorkeling, diving or just coasting in an inner tube down the river with a beverage in hand (your choice)!
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