1. Discover why Daytona Beach is the “Festival Capital of Florida."
No matter when you visit, there’s a festival happening here. The city hosts 60-plus annual events geared toward nearly any interest -- including food, music, motorcycles, and art. The lineup includes the Chowder Festival, Poetry Festival, Halifax Oyster Festival, Country 500 Great American Music Fest, Daytona Blues Festival, Biketoberfest®, Halifax Art Festival, and the Turkey Run. More events are constantly being added, so check Festival Capital of Florida for details.
2. Go hotel hopping.
Daytona Beach’s hotel scene offers accommodations for all interests and budgets. In fact, there are more than 200 properties here, ranging from the quintessential boutique beach hotels (like Bahama House and Perry’s Ocean Edge Resort) to familiar and comfortable chains (think: Hyatt Place or Hilton Daytona Beach Resort/Ocean Walk Village) and everything in between. In 2017, the options will continue to expand with the debut of Westin Daytona Beach Resort, Delta by Marriott Daytona Beach, and Fairfield Inn & Suites.
3. Tour Lilian Place.
History and architecture buffs won’t want to miss Lilian Place, the oldest home on the beach side of the city. Built in 1884 by a settler named Laurence Thompson, the Italianate Victorian house has connections to the literary world: “The Open Boat” author Stephen Crane recovered here in 1896 after his boat sank off Daytona Beach. The home is open for tours; admission is $5.
4. Browse the Southeast Museum of Photography.
The Sunshine State’s only photography museum is located at Daytona State College. Offering free admission, the 25-year-old Southeast Museum of Photography presents exhibitions every season. One of its current exhibits is by Raymond Smith, focusing on personal identity and belonging.
5. Catch a flick at Cinematique Theater.
Head downtown to Cinematique Theater and watch new independent and foreign films, plus filmed operas, ballets, and Shakespeare productions -- all from the comfort of couches and tabletop seating, where you can also have lunch and dinner. Tickets are priced from $5, depending on the day of the week and the presentation.
6. Follow The Daytona Beach Ale Trail.
With more than a dozen stops, the area’s Ale Trail is the stuff of beer connoisseurs’ dreams. The trail encompasses breweries and tap houses not only in Daytona Beach, but also in the neighboring communities of DeLand, Ormond Beach, Orange City, Port Orange, Ormond by the Sea, Holly Hill, and New Smyrna Beach. At Beachside Brew Pub in Ormond Beach, sample the 11 offerings while taking in views of the waves, or pair your craft beers from Daytona Beach Brewing Co. with grub from the nearby food trucks.
7. Soak up the fresh air at Tomoka State Park.
When you’re looking to escape to somewhere serene, add Tomoka State Park to your itinerary. Its popular lagoons are fit for canoeing, boating, kayaking, and fishing, while the nature trail is perfect for spotting the park’s 160 species of birds. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for manatees -- the park is a designated sanctuary for these gentle creatures. The views here alone are worth the visit, as is the $2 fee for pedestrians and bicyclists, and $5 per vehicle.
8. Carve out a day for the Museum of Arts and Sciences.
The Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS), where you can easily spend an entire day, has something for everyone. You’ll find a children’s museum; planetarium; the world’s largest collection of Florida-based art; the skeleton of giant ground sloth; and antique automobiles. General admission is $12.95 for adults and $6.95 for children.
9. Give your taste buds a treat.
Whether you’re craving fresh seafood, Mexican, barbecue, Southern comfort food, tapas, Italian, or something sweet, the flavors of the world converge in Daytona Beach’s diverse and affordable dining scene. For breakfast with an amazing ocean view, grab a table at Crabby Joe’s Deck & Grill for dishes like crab cake Benedict, sweet caramel French toast, or shrimp and grits. In the mood for farm-fresh fare? Make a beeline for Dancing Avocado Kitchen for tasty items like curry veggie chicken salad and baba ghanoush. Brisas Del Mar serves authentic fare from south of the border that appeals to both the carnivorous and vegetarians, while pineapple fried rice is the specialty at Zen Bistro. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a run to Zeno’s World’s Most Famous Taffy Factory, where shelves are lined with traditional flavors like strawberry and chocolate, as well as out-of-the-ordinary ones like Irish cream, maple bacon, red velvet, and margarita.
10. Climb the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse.
Climb 203 steps to the top of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. At 175 feet tall, it has the distinction of being Florida’s tallest lighthouse, and from its peak you’re met with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. For those who would like to stick to ground level, there’s the on-site museum showcasing lighthouse and shipwreck artifacts. Daily admission is $6.95 for adults and $1.95 for children ages 11 and under.
*Top 25 newsletter photo of Daytona 500 is courtesy of Daytona International Speedway.