There’s more than racing and Spring Break in this iconic city
You may know NASCAR begins its season at the Daytona Beach International Speedway. Did you know NASCAR is celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2023? Although you may not have participated in those MTV Spring Breaks between 1986 and 1993, you have almost certainly heard of them. If racing and partying is all you know about Daytona Beach, there’s so much you’re missing. Hop aboard and learn about a destination of art, culinary, history and of course, racing.
Spring Break Season
Let’s put your perception of a Daytona Beach Spring Break to rest right now. In the past, Spring Break in Daytona Beach was a wild and crazy time, but today, the only Spring Breakers are bringing their families. Spring is a special time of year. The temperatures range from a high of 75 degrees in March and 80 degrees in April to lows of 59 degrees in those months. With only four or five days of rain, the wide sandy beaches are perfect for a morning walk. Truth be told, groups will enjoy the fall and winter festivals and events as well, including holiday lighting displays at the Speedway and Riverfront Esplanade.
Daytona International Speedway
I get what you’re thinking. Not everyone in your group is a race fan. It’s likely hardcore race fan groups that already know about the Daytona 500 race week and have their plans set. Throughout the season, there are other NASCAR Cup Series Races, NASCAR Infinity Series Races, concerts and events to keep your group busy.
There’s also plenty to do at the speedway that doesn’t involve watching a race or an event. A guided track tour around the 2.5-mile oval is a fascinating ride in an open-air tram. At the top of each oval, cars need to maintain 75 miles per hour to stay on the track. Did you know there’s a 10-degree slope at the finish line? It always looked flat on television.
The Motorsports Hall of Fame of Americas is filled with displays honoring all forms of motorsports, including stock cars, motorcycles powerboating and aviation. The Pit Shop Retail Store is the place to get your favorite NASCAR fan that special remembrance of your tour of the speedway.
Outstanding Art, Science & History Venues
The Museums of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) is a group of eight venues that combine to be Central Florida’s leading art, science and history presentation. The Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art features a rotating collection of more than 2,600 pieces of Florida-themed art. Many of the primary oil and watercolor paintings were created by northern artists visiting or wintering in Florida.
The North Wing of MOAS includes permanent exhibitions of American, Chinese and decorative art. The L. Gale Lemerand wing features Cuban Foundation Art, much of which was created before Fidel Castro’s takeover. This is the largest collection outside of Cuba. The Prehistory of Florida Gallery features a 13-foot Giant Ground Sloth that was discovered not far from the museum. The bones were recovered, identified and reconstructed.
Completing the impressive collection of MOAS facilities is the Charles and Linda Williams Children’s Museum located in a separate wing. Gamble Place was a winter retreat for James Gamble (Proctor & Gamble) and features 175 acres with buildings from the early 1900s. Tuscawilla Preserve is a 62-acre habitat for numerous endangered flora and fauna. The boardwalk through the preserve is being renovated with Phase One completed.
Much of the Daytona Beach area’s history is tied to the sea. The Ponce Inlet Light Station & Museum has guided mariners along the east coast of Florida for 130 years. This is one of the few light stations in the U.S. with the keepers and support buildings in place. This National Historic Landmark, in addition to the Lighthouse Tower and the Lens Exhibition Building, is a must see.
Casements in Ormond Beach was the winter home of John D. Rockefeller. Named for the large hand-cut casement windows, the Casements is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a Florida Heritage Site. Guided tours and permanent exhibits tell the history of the mansion.
Dine Around Daytona Beach in Style
Dunn’s Attic on West Granada in Ormond Beach isn’t an attic in the literal sense. This upscale furniture and home décor consignment store features Rosie’s Café. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better breakfast and spoiler alert, while waiting for breakfast enjoy a complimentary Mimosa and browse the galleries. A sixth generation of the Dunn family is continuing to serve the Dayton Beach area.
On West Granada, dinner at Rose Villa Southern Table offers an excellent menu and has history to share. As a bed & breakfast, it was an extra to Henry Flager’s Ormond hotel. Wealthy guests desiring more privacy found the B & B more to their liking. In 2007, the building was purchased and returned to its Victorian heritage. Today, the fried chicken half or pork chop are well worth straying from your diet.
This area of West Granada features 31 Supper Club, Grind Gastropub, Kona Tiki Bar and Ormond Garage craft beer brewery. Add a sushi restaurant and a seafood restaurant, all within an easy walk, and you have the makings of a great progressive dinner.
One stop that’s ideal for Happy Hour is Racing’s North Turn Restaurant and Racing Museum. From 1936 until World War II, races ran on the beach then turned and continued south on the highway. That tradition continued in 1948 until in 1958 the new Daytona Beach International Speedway opened. North Point sits on the spot where the racers went off the beach and headed south. There’s lots of history and the beer is cold.
Millie’s Restaurant is perfect for smaller groups. This little hole-in-the-wall is located in a small strip mall and serves fresh locally sourced seafood and vegetables. If a 2020 episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives can find this secret spot, you should be able to.
Daytona Beach is Accommodating
Let’s slip in a little shopping, dining and entertainment and introduce you to One Daytona. It’s all located outside the front doors of the 105-room Fairfield Inn & Suites and the 144-room Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel The Daytona. It’s a great location if racing is on your itinerary.
There are more than two dozen hotels with the ability to host meeting and tour groups. Many are within walking distance of the Ocean Center Convention Complex. The Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort is directly across the street from The Ocean Center and convenient if you’re visiting for a particular event or show.
For me, the beach is the place to be and the Max Beach Resort was a gracious host and an ideal property for tours, reunions, girlfriends, or guys get-aways. This oceanfront property features 72 oceanview one, two and three bedrooms full equipped. Each bedroom has its own bath and there’s a fully equipped kitchen, laundry room with washer and dryer and more. On the rooftop, you’ll find a fitness room, game room and a Sunrise Terrace and Sunset Terrace.
Start building an itinerary today that will make your group feel like Daytona Beach locals.
For more information on other Midwest attractions, you can subscribe to Leisure Group Travel for FREE
By Dave Bodle