Author: Denise White
Date of Trip: December 2014
10 Places Locals Go in Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach hosts one of the largest bike rally events in the country. Motorcyclists come here to feel the wind on their face, sunshine and warmth. Mostly they want to ride their bikes. Although this route can be enjoyed by car, it’s famous for hosting thousands of motorcycles. The loop is a relaxing ride through swamp, live oaks and an old plantation house. Florida’s true beauty is seen here while riding from the Riverfront north to Ormond Beach through almost 22 miles of rugged natural Florida.
Lighthouse Point Park
Daytona Beach is a peninsula, as are many of the famous beaches along the eastern seashore. Atlantic Avenue or A1A dead ends into a spectacular park. This end is called Ponce Inlet, named after the famed explorer Ponce de Leon. Traveling south along A1A, you will see signs for restaurants, inlet shops and the famous lighthouse. If you continue until you cannot drive any further, there is a booth at the end of the road for the tolls.
There are no dogs or animals allowed on Daytona Beach, South Daytona or Wilbur by the Sea beaches. However, Lighthouse Point Park is a dog friendly park where you can walk Fido to the ocean, along the jetty or around the man made inlet to look at the lighthouse and surrounding marina.
If you are skeptical to park your car on the beach, this is the perfect outlet for your beach activities. There is a paved parking lot to use and a pavilion with clean restrooms. There are plenty of picnic tables surrounding the park at various intervals as well as charcoal grills the city provides. This way a spontaneous picnic can be enjoyed or a family reunion.
The park alows you explore the best of both worlds; the beach and the inlet. Several areas allow access to the beach, including the raised wooden walkways that traverse most of the park. They dead end onto the beach so carrying chairs and coolers is not a problem where other places you’d have to hike your gear over dunes and blistering concrete. Many surfers and paddle boarders frequent this area for this very reason.
Lighthouse Point has spectacular views of the ocean if you take the walkway down the jetty. The jetty separates the intracoastal from the ocean and huge rocks were placed there for the entrance. From this vantage point, local fishermen gather daily to catch flounder that live under the rocks. The rocks capture the waves coming in creating spectacular sprays. This is a fantastic spot to watch the sunrise.
Since the inlet is so diverse, there wouldn’t be any surprise to the wildlife that can be viewed from the jetty, the park or the beach. Given that dogs are splashing into the water, most days the dolphins can be seen playing between the ocean and inlet. Giant turtles have also been spotted in this area, as well as manatees.
Take a day to explore this park with Ponce Inlet lighthouse towering over your shoulder. Your day will not be wasted for you, the dog, your fishing gear or the kids.
It costs $5.00 per carload to enter the park. A season pass can be purchased for $20.00 as a Volusia County resident and $40 for non-residents which gives unlimited admission to any beach in Volusia County.
Ponce de Leon Lighthouse Climb to the Moon
Boasting one of the most preserved and authentic lighthouses in the country, the tallest lighthouse in Florida has many events throughout the year to visitors and locals. It costs adults $5.00 admission to climb the 203 steps to the top to have a birds’ eye view of Daytona Beach, Ponce Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean.
Climb to the Moon is offered once every lunar month. In laymen’s terms that is when the moon is at its fullest making it a full moon. This happens almost every month. The lighthouse preservation society offers the public admission at $25.00 per person to climb all 203 steps at dusk and watch the sun descend on the horizon. Then wait, while sipping a chilled beverage until the moon makes it to the top of the sky in all its full glory.
Daytona International Speedway
Those who live near the speedway can hear stock cars, indie cars, bikes and other types of racing contraptions that are allowed to practice their craft on this world class raceway. There are tours of the race track, history lessons in the museum, and even a camping experience on the infield.
Taking in all the sites in this one location can take all day or even several days to get the full experience.
One great thing about the Speedway is they do not charge for parking. Unlike other attractions, the Speedway shuttles its guest to and from the parking lot before and after scheduled races, for free.
One other free aspect of the Speedway is the ability to watch from the stands during the off season. Since you can hear most of the race testing all the way south to Port Orange, any given day they are open, a tourist or a local in this case, can go through the café and out to the stands for free to watch who and what they driving on the track.
Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens
Located in Port Orange, Florida just south of Daytona Beach, the botanical gardens sit on an old abandoned sugar mill. Formally this is called the Dunlawton Sugar Mill Ruins. It is a locals place for sure where local school children come to learn about plants in Florida, historical trees and the history behind the sugar mill itself.
Once you enter into the park, you will always see something blooming, even during the winter months. Plants native to Florida are planted along the coquina rock pathways. The gardens were developed and are maintained by the Botanical Gardens of Volusia with only volunteers to operate the park.
There is a cactus garden, butterfly garden, a human sundial and historic trees native to the Florida region. It also features the broken and collapsed ruins of a 19th century sugar mill factory which contains the most complete sugar cane grinding machine found in the country. This is a sight worth seeing if you happen to be in this area.
There is no admission to this fantastic and unique garden ruin, but donations are appreciated.
Daytona Beach is not among the great cities in the country for culture of ballet, tenor singers in opera, plays or concerts. It has made its own mark on the world in other areas, but if culture is what you seek, the Daytona Peabody Auditorium can fulfill that desire.
It was dedicated in 1949 so stars of the world had a place to entertain their audiences. Huge stars have come through its doors including Elvis Presley, Red Skelton and Shirley MacLaine.
It has also hosted musicals, touring plays, productions and the London Symphony Orchestra. It is home to the Daytona Symphony Society because of it renowned acoustics and only 2521 seats. This makes it the largest indoor performing arts center in Florida.
Tickets to their many concerts, Broadway shows, comedians and competitions are open to the public. Pricing is based on the production itself, but preference seating is given to Members of the theatre.
Living in and around the Daytona Beach area, residents eventually come across the word Casements. It’s a strange word for a house, which is technically a mansion and the word casements refers to the type of windows that were installed in the house when it was built in the early 1900s. It is located on modern Granada Blvd just over the Granada Bridge facing the Halifax River.
What makes this mansion famous is that in 1918, John D. Rockefeller purchased the house as his winter home. He resided there each winter until his death in the house at the age of 97 years old. He hosted the elite of the time each winter at a Christmas party for Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to name only a few.
The property was abandoned until the City of Ormond Beach bought it in 1973. They restored the old building and finished in 1979. Today, the Casements are a multi use facility for workshops, Christmas parties, weddings and special events.
There are several unique collections in the Casements. One is the southeast’s largest collection of Boy Scout exhibits of memorabilia and history. The second is a unique Hungarian Folk exhibit. This exhibit features handmade folk art and embroidered costumes from Hungary.
Once a month the Casements host the Movies on the Halifax. The first Friday of each month, a movie can be seen under the stars in the Rockefeller Gardens.
There are tours daily through the building where artifacts are shown with their history. There is no charge for the tours and donations are greatly appreciated.
Daytona Beach is one of the fastest growing golfing destinations in the country. The great weather, eternal beaches and convenience, golf here has famous fairways designed by legends in the sport.
There are 23 golf and country clubs in the Daytona Beach area that extend north into Flagler Beach, south to New Smyrna Beach and west into DeLand.
Golfers can challenge themselves on the Arthur Hills Legends Course at the LPGA International or the tour players favorite, the Reese Jones golf course.
Other courses include the River Bend Golf Course near the Tomoka River and the Spruce Creek Country Club. The latter is actually in a private community called the Spruce Creek Fly-In. It’s a community of homes where each member owns and maintains their own airplane complete with hangers like garages attached to their properties and a private airport.
The golf course in the fly-in, as the locals call it, was designed by Bill Amick that promises to challenge the lucky and unlucky with bunkers and Florida scrub as a backdrop.
Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory Tours
One of the best things in life is chocolate. Movies have been devoted to it, teenagers have a love affair with it and almost all females will be drawn to it. There are some exceptions, but for the most part chocolate isn’t going anywhere and neither are our guilty pleasures for it.
Daytona Beach is home to a historic chocolate factory that is family owned and operated. They aren’t the original owners, but if you take the tour you will learn about the lineage of the current family and the original family.
At the end of the tour, which is only about 20 minutes, they give out free samples of chocolate. Of course, that’s the best part of the tour. Learning about how to make chocolate bunnies and sea shells comes in second, but the tour is worth the few minutes to learn these precious facts that cannot be taught anywhere else.
The other best part about Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory Tour is that it is absolutely free. Even the chocolate sample at the end is free. And parking is free too.
The next time you drive in Daytona Beach and find yourself on Beach Street, look around the picturesque buildings for the Angell and Phelps store. There’s only one side to the street since the other side faces the Halifax River. It’s pretty easy to find and the smell will certainly draw you in if the idea of chocolate itself does not.
Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences
The Museum of Arts and Sciences, shorted to MOAS, is an affiliate museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Inside the museum are permanent collections, changing arts, science exhibitions, fossils, Florida history, and regional history. It seems the museum has yet to run out of things to exhibit or facilitate.
There’s a huge Planetarium that seats 94 people. It is housed in a domed building where the sound system is designed to give the viewer a 360 degree experience of the universe. Back in the 80’s, this planetarium was so cool, they devised a laser light show to the tunes of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. These types of things are what make this museum unique and always changing.
In association with the Nature Conservancy, the museum has procured a 150-acre preserve in Daytona Beach that shows the Florida cracker style from the early 1900’s. The land was bought from the Gamble family of the Proctor and Gamble fame.
Another fascinating and famous part of the museum is the Root Wing. It houses the Root Family Museum with cultural and technological artifacts from the family of Coca-Cola.
It might take a few days to see all the exhibits like the Cuban cultural exhibit of art, the Root family train station, the children’s museum, the sculpture gardens or the environmental educational complex.
Admission is $12.95 for adults and a $2.00 discount will be given to seniors. Children up to age 17 are $6.95. Planetarium admission is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children. If you can prove you are a resident of the county where Daytona Beach sits, Volusia County, once a month you can enter the museum for free. The museum welcomes group visits and adds a group tour at no additional cost.
By Denise White
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