Some of the best things to do in Daytona Beach Florida include enjoying the world’s most famous beach, experiencing thrill-seeking activities like NASCAR and skydiving, and visiting amazing underrated museums.
While visions of NASCAR dance in your head, please note countless other fun things to do in Daytona Beach await you. Daytona Beach can be visited any month of the year but the weather in early October is idea—not too muggy and getting cooler.
I was among a group of travel writers hosted by the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau—but this things to do in Daytona Beach article is my curated view based on multiple visits.
8 Great Things to Do in Daytona Beach Florida
Daytona Beach is home headquarters of LPGA (The Ladies Professional Golf Association) so you know there are plenty of golfing opportunities—for guys, too! Daytona Beach calls itself the “Festival Capital of Florida” so be certain some exciting Daytona events will coincide with your visit.
1. Visit the World’s Most Famous Beach
“Beach” is an important part of “Daytona Beach” and the beaches are the most popular Daytona Beach attraction. In fact, Daytona calls itself, “the World’s Most Famous Beach” and “the original American Beach.”
The super wide Daytona Beach is ideal for walking, running, playing, or whatever beach activity floats your boat. 11 of the 23 miles of Daytona beaches are vehicle friendly (only at low tide), making this one of my favorite US coastal scenic drives.
In fact, Daytona’s beaches are famous as the birthplace of auto racing. Speaking of which …
2. Tour Daytona International Speedway
The origin of stock car racing dates back before Prohibition in the 1930s when moonshine bootleggers tried to outrun law enforcement. Naturally, drivers challenged each other for ultimate supremacy and races were held on the firm sand of Daytona Beach—the actual BEACH.
Bill France watched tens of thousands of people attend beach races and founded (and sanctioned) NASCAR in 1948.
Daytona International Speedway was built in 1959 and underwent a massive $400 million renovation (DAYTONA Rising) a few years ago to modernize the customer experience.
During our tour, I learned that DAYTONA Rising used 1% of the annual steel produced in USA that year. Wow.
October is a great time to visit the speedway because cars are practicing (for Rolex 24 and other races), tours are not crowded, and gift shop merchandise is discounted; I saw one leather jacket marked discounted from $1,200 to $749.
3. Soar at Skydive DeLand
If terrestrial racing is too pedestrian for you, consider taking to the sky. Skydive DeLand is perhaps the world’s foremost authority on skydiving. People have been skydiving over this location (about 30 minutes from Daytona Beach) since 1958 and Skydive DeLand officially opened in 1982.
Mike Johnston, General Manager of Skydive DeLand, said “this is probably the busiest skydive facility on the world.”
Not only is DeLand a skydiving hotbed but it spurs a host of nearby related industries, including parachute research, development, and skydiving safety. “1/3 to 1/2 of all parachutes are made here in DeLand,” Mike said.
Because of research, testing, and training, “injuries are rare and fatalities are virtually unheard of.” Skydive DeLand averages 85,000 jumps a year and Mike said that skydiving is “safer than driving here.”
During my visit, the Russian national skydiving team practiced their moves on-ground.
4. Savor Delicious Key Lime Products
Now wait a cotton-picking moment, you must be saying to yourself. Key lime stuff is in Key West. Has McCool’s internal compass gone cuckoo?
Well, if you were planning to drive all the way down A1A to stock up on key lime goodies, I have really great news—I just saved you 15 hours of driving, giving you more time for other Florida road trip stops. Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe, in DeLand makes all of the company’s non-pie products—sauces, jellies, cookies, etc., are produced here and shipped to the Key West stores.
This location also makes plenty of pie products for carryout and mail order. Their Belgian dark chocolate covered key lime pie slice might be the world’s best dessert. Pardon me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard.
McCool Travel tip: prices here are 20% less than at Key West locations and they only charge actual shipping rates (no markup).
>>> Please also see 8 Great Scenic Drives in South Florida
5. Explore Daytona Beach Museums
You might think, like I did, “ho hum, a museum at the world’s most famous beach. Who will visit that?” Let me tell you, the Daytona Beach museums are outstanding and well worth your consideration.
The Museum of Arts and Sciences is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate. Its Root family wing has the largest collection of Coca Cola items outside of Georgia (the Root family made its fortune after winning the patent for the original Coca Cola bottle).
It has a hands-on children’s museum, planetarium, and magnificent onsite 90 acre preserve.
The museum’s visible storage room is fascinating.
Its West Wing features a 13 foot giant sloth skeleton, Cuban Foundation Museum, and African artifacts exhibit.
Nearby Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art contains a massive collection of Florida art. I absolutely loved the Florida weather collection. Looking at so much art increases appetite and conveniently the Brown art museum has a Honey Baked Ham cafe; by the way the Cuban sandwich is really good.
McCool Travel Tip: save money by buying a combo ticket for MOAS and Brown art museum.
McCool Travel Note: The Hub on Canal, in New Smyrna Beach, is a gathering spot for creative people. You can see (and buy) original local artwork of all types, attend classes, listen to lectures, and do yoga.
See also Small Town Museums in Southeastern US.
6. Fascinating Daytona Beach History
Jackie Robinson started his professional baseball career in Daytona Beach and the stadium was aptly renamed Jackie Robinson Park—currently home to the Daytona Tortugas minor league baseball team and Bethune-Cookman Wildcats.
I loved the nearby vintage Daytona Beach boardwalk, where you can play games, ride rides, or have ice cream (yum!).
The boardwalk has sidewalk tiles outlining speed history milestones, leading to the historic cochina clock tower and Daytona 200 motorcycle monument. Two of the few surviving wooden piers along the US East coast are in Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach pier dates from 1925 and reopened 2.5 years ago after an extensive renovation.
Sunglow Pier is a community gathering place, for breakfast at Crabby Joes and fishing further out the pier. Downtown DeLand restored many historic buildings and retains an Old Florida charm. DeLand is the oldest preserved MainStreet community in Florida.
7. Dine at the Best Daytona Beach Restaurants
Naturally, Daytona Beach restaurants feature a lot of fresh seafood. I enjoy dining next to water, whether oceanfront or on the intracoastal waterway.
My last dinner at Azure at The Shores Resort and Spa (one of the best places to stay in Daytona Beach!) began with a double rainbow but the food tasted equally gorgeous. The grilled black grouper was the best thing I have eaten in Daytona Beach, even better than the DIY s’mores dessert.
Another oceanfront dinner was at Racing’s North Turn, known for the historic, ahem, north turn of the original racing track. I recommend their rum drinks and fish tacos.
Happy hour drink specials are prevalent but I was impressed with the $5 daily specials at The Shores Resort—Tuesday’s special, for instance, is margarita or tequila sunrise.
The Grille at Riverview (nice crab cake) in New Smyrna Beach and Aunt Catfish’s on the River (great salad bar) in Port Orange are two fun places on the intracoastal.
8. Explore Nature in Daytona Beach FL
There are three multi-use trails in and near Daytona Beach—Spring to Spring, East Central Regional, and Bike the Beach (remember, 23 miles)—along with miles of nature walks and hiking, biking, and horse trails. Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve is well worth a pit stop from US1 south of Daytona Beach. Canoeing, kayaking, SUPing, and other boating are readily accessible here and along miles of surrounding waterways.
Dang it, I did not even talk about shopping, five local colleges, deep sea fishing, and so many other places to visit in Daytona Beach.
See also Florida Nature Photo Spots.
Map of Daytona Beach
Where is Daytona Beach?
Daytona is less than an one hour drive from Orlando and a quick two hour drive from the Florida/Georgia border—Amelia Island and St Augustine are fun Florida road trip interim stops. Daytona Beach International Airport has nonstop flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, and LaGuardia airports.
Do you have suggestions for other fun things to do in Daytona Beach Florida?
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