Daytona Beach in 3 Days – A Must See and Do List!

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Does your family’s dream getaway include lazing along wide stretches of pristine beach, charting adventures by land and by sea, or experiencing the thrills of some of the most exciting events in motorsports? All that fun and quite a lot more is waiting to be discovered at the World’s Most Famous Beach—Daytona, a favorite of vacationers of all ages.

We’ve crafted the perfect 3-day itinerary to let you sample the history of this iconic vacation destination and the thrills of visiting the “World Center of Racing,” while still leaving enough time to let you unwind on white sand beaches under the warmth of the Florida sun. All you need to do is set the date!

Day 1, Friday

Hit The Beach!

The first thing you should do is head to the beach, of course! You’ll have 23 miles of seashore to choose from, but if it’s a quiet spot for a sunrise swim you crave, you’ll want to wet your toes at tranquil Ormond-by-the-Sea. Families looking to stay and play in the Florida sun will enjoy North Shore Park with its plentiful parking, convenient restrooms, and picnic tables complete with grills.

If you love watersports and being in the center of the action, head to the popular Daytona Beach where you can fish, parasail, or people watch along the boardwalk.  Once you’ve dipped your toes in the Atlantic or soaked up as much sun as you care to, enjoy a well-earned lunch at Crabby Joe’s before driving north to your next stop— Ponce Inlet, a tiny town that is home of one of the most spectacular vistas in the area.

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Take in The Afternoon View at Ponce Inlet

Head south 11 miles along South Atlantic Avenue to the town of Ponce Inlet. Spectacular views of Daytona Beach reward those who hike the 203 steps of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, the second tallest, masonry-constructed lighthouse in the US. This well-preserved historical treasure sits on the tip of a peninsula and is home to a museum, the Lighthouse Locker gift shop, and 52-acres of oceanfront preserved for swimming, fishing, and picnicking.  Here, you’ll also find nature trails and a marine science center that offers educational programs on sea turtles. On your tour of the grounds, be sure to stop in at the Ayers Davies Lens Exhibit Building, a showcase of lighthouse lenses. The building houses of one of the best collections of restored Fresnel lenses in the world.

Dinner at Boondocks

If you’re still hungry for local seafood, head north to the town of Wilbur-by-the-Sea where you’ll find Boondocks Restaurant, an open-air riverfront eatery featuring raw delicacies, steamed shrimp,  snow crab legs, and light and fluffy conch fritters.  Carnivores will enjoy the Au Poivre Burger with a spicy brandy-cream peppercorn sauce, or the BBQ Pork Sandwich. Visit the tiki bar for a cold draft beer or Margarita.

Day 2, Saturday

Breakfast Daytona Bluegreen

Breakfast

Steve’s Famous Diner is a favorite for comfort food, featuring large portions, ocean views, and reasonable prices. Try the biscuits and gravy or stuffed omelets!

Off the beaten path, The Dancing Avocado Kitchen in Daytona’s historic district is a great choice for herbivores and carnivores alike. With a menu that boasts “delicious as well as healthy” options, you’ll find breakfast items like buttermilk waffles with crushed pecan or granola, corned beef hash, or an Iguana Veggie Wrap featuring scrambled eggs, cheddar and grilled veggies wrapped in a flour tortilla.

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Daytona International Speedway

Doors to the World Center of Racing open at 9am, and you’ll want to get there early. The 480-acre motorsports complex is the city’s claim to fame as the home of the biggest racing competitions in the world. The Great American Race, more commonly known as The Daytona 500, is held right here on International Speedway Boulevard. The Speedway, originally opened in 1959, has recently undergone a $400 million reimagining, and now includes five entrances cleverly called “injectors.” Each injector is designed to take visitors on a different experience that includes interactive displays, 1400 television screens and 60 suites. The Speedway is also a venue for concerts and shows, making it a full entertainment center and theme park for motorsports fans. Guided tours of this racing icon are available, but it’s recommended that you plan ahead. Check the tour calendar for availability.

Feeling a little daring? Daredevils can ride right on the Daytona track, accelerating to 160 miles per hour around 31-degree high banks on a ride along in an authentic NASCAR stock car. To take the wheel in your own hands, you’ll want to try the Rookie, King’s, or Experience of a Lifetime driving packages.  For fees and dates for your ride of a lifetime, check the Richard Petty Driving Experience website.

Late Lunch at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse

After all that excitement, you may have worked up quite an appetite, and this brewhouse is sure to satisfy. “Enlightened Favorites” include items like the turkey burgers and salmon quinoa bowls, but if you’re going in hungry, the New Orleans Jambalaya will satisfy a big appetite. The restaurant’s thirst quenchers include a long list of award-winning craft beers, and for dessert, be sure to order a Pizookie, a pie-sized cookie served in a pie pan and topped with your favorite ice cream.

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Spend an Evening at the Shore

Ocean Walk Village calls itself a “district within a destination” for good reason. It’s comprised of two oceanfront resorts, a shopping complex, restaurants, and entertainment venue, all within six square blocks. Take in a movie at the Ocean Walk Movies 10, a stadium seating, state-of-the-art digital theater, or an outdoor concert at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, a landmark since 1937.

In the mood for some shopping? Visit Maui Nix for surfwear, or stop by the Daytona Beach Candle Gallery where you’ll experience the artists dipping and carving candles. At Caribongo, shop for t-shirts that, in sunlight, “magically” change color right before your eyes.

To wind down your evening, a long walk along the beach and 1000-foot Daytona Beach Pier should make for a quiet end to a long day.

Day 3, Sunday

Water Park Daytona Bluegreen

Daytona Lagoon

A family vacation just wouldn’t be complete with a visit to a water park! Open from March to October, visitors can experience the park’s 12 rides and two miniature golf courses. Kids of all ages will enjoy Blackbeard’s Revenge, a dark-tunnel slide ride in an inflatable boat, Poseidon’s pass, or Adventure Mountain, the park’s two sloping slaloms. There’s also a lazy river that circles Castaway Bay, home to 4 slides, water shooting nozzles and climbing nets.  Wannabe surfers will love the Wave Pool.

On land, try the Go-Kart Raceway, 18 holes of mini golf, or climb the 25-foot rock wall.  You can even stay cool in the arcade featuring 130 games.

Fuel Up for the Ride Home

It’s time to savor a late lunch at Caribbean Jack’s before making your way home. Bottomless Mimosas, Shark Attack Bloody Mary’s and a Low Country Boil are the featured specials on Sundays, but the entire menu is sure to please any day of the week. For starters, try the Caribbean crab dip — lump blue crab and creamy cheese served with toasted dipping bread, or Jack’s Jumbo Wings in Buffalo, Huli-Huli, or Island Jerk flavors. Entrees include Sweet BBQ Ribs, Filet Mignon and more!

Not leaving Daytona until morning? Spend your last afternoon soaking up more sun and fun along your favorite stretch of beach, and be sure to scout out a few great spots for your next Daytona adventure along this world-famous stretch of Atlantic shore!

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Photo credit:

24 Hours of Daytona by Jeremy Stoutamyer CC-BY-2.0
Resort Waterpark by Emran Kassim CC-BY-2.0
Daytona Beach Boardwalk by Moultrie Creek CC-BY-SA-2.0
Breakfast by Meg Lessard CC-BY-2.0