Daytona, Beach—This spring break mecca and birthplace of car racing has more going for it than its 23 miles of sandy white beaches. From the tried and true activities like fine dining, museums and deluxe spas to the distinctly Florida experience of kayaking with manatees, sampling chocolates from Angell and Phelps and attending a drive in church, this destination proves that you can go to the beach and have fun without ever sticking your toes in the sand.
Built in 2002 to mitigate the damage to turtles in the area, the Marine Science Center, gives visitors a peak at the turtle conservation efforts of the Daytona area. Over 16,000 turtles pass through the center each year with about 90% of those loggerhead turtles. Turtles end up at the center for a variety of reasons but almost all are nursed back to health. The city also stops crabs traps once a year and pulls up the traps that have been abandoned. They also do seabird rehabilitation and releases over 6,000 birds.
Art, science and history all come together in one place at theMuseum of Arts and Science. This 100,000 square foot museum is touted as the biggest science and history museum in all of Florida. It also houses an eclectic collection of Americana memorabilia from the Root Family (creator of the Coca Cola bottle). On display are several coca cola collectibles, a huge collection of teddy bears and an entire apothecary. Mr. Root also collected train cars and visitors can see The Hiawatha, a rare personalized train car that was used for family travel. Visitors can also view the largest collection of Cuban art (outside of Cuba) and an extensive collection of American-African furniture. Add in a planetarium that seats 96 people, a children’s museum area and a half mile guided boardwalk trail and you could easily spend a day here.
For breakfast, stop in at the Dancing Avocado Kitchen on Beach Street for a tex-mex breakfast served with a hippie flair. Food is fresh and portions are large. Martini’s is a great gathering spot for pre-dinner drinks with plenty of outdoor seating and a nice waterfall and firepit, while Ronin’s features live Latin Music on Wednesday nights while serving up fresh sushi. Vince Carters Restaurant owned by the Orlando Magic star and his mother, has a full bar with 17 TV’s playing sports along with a private dining room with a 2 story chandelier, private entrance and private bathroom.
Be sure to take a free tour of the Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory (complete with free samples!). Chuck Smith’s father was Angell and Phelps best customer and bought the company from them in 1993. Today, Chuck ensures that the chocolate is still made with only the finest chocolate, that it has no preservatives and is creamy. All chocolate candies are made onsite including lots of creams, nuts, and toffee. They also do a lot of molds and personalization “anything that can be personalized, we do”-chocolate covered potato chips are very popular.
Even inexperienced kayakers can enjoy a tour with Cracker Creek Canoeing on Spruce Creek. This black water creek offers a nice leisurely paced paddle with great guides. Manatees can sometimes be seen swimming alongside you and on the banks it’s common to see deer, alligators and turtles.
If you’re in the area on a Sunday, don’t miss services at the First Christian Church of Daytona Beach. This once drive-in movie theater has been serving up sermons on the big screen since 1953. Sermons are every Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Just drive your car up and tune in the car radio. Oh and don’t forget Fido, as all dogs are welcome at this unique church.