Daytona Beach’s 23 miles of Atlantic surf, sand and sunshine have made it a popular getaway for generations. While this all-American beach town is a favorite with those who like to party under the palms, it also appeals to a diverse group of vacationers. Surfers, cyclists and families flock to Daytona with good reason. It’s an utterly unpretentious and budget-friendly destination, so a vacation here doesn’t necessitate opening your wallet wide.
Until recently, getting to Daytona from NYC required cumbersome connecting flights. Kiss those days goodbye. It’s now easy for New Yorkers to visit, thanks to daily nonstop service on JetBlue. Depart JFK in the early afternoon and in just over two hours you’ll feel the sand between your toes.
Don’t expect South Beach: Daytona is synonymous with Spring Break and you will see your fair share of boisterous college kids. Let your city slicker judgments roll out with the tide and just enjoy this town’s natural attributes. Daytona and neighboring Ormond Beach offer what many consider the best surf break in the state. Rent surf or boogie boards, stand-up paddle boards, bikes and other beachside accoutrements from the beachfront rental services that dot the coastline.
If you’re on a culinary quest, this town will whet your appetite. Make a beeline for Donnie’s Donuts, where you’ll mingle with locals who come for the 125 vintage varieties of freshly fried treats. Still can’t find a flavor to please your palate? They customize.
Vegans and veggies shouldn’t miss the Dancing Avocado Kitchen, a casual spot that serves healthy smoothies and a killer kale salad. Bring home a bottle of their house hot sauce, made from Bob Marley’s recipe.
For date night, elegant Martini’s serves a Florida farm-to-table menu in a romantic setting. Check out the pink-hued wall made entirely of Himalayan Sea Salt.
New Smyrna Beach, An Arty Alternative
Daytona has been the epicenter of auto racing since cars first drag raced on the sand in 1902 and it’s home to the Daytona International Speedway. If history and proximity prove to be too much for your car-free ethos, head a few miles south to sleepy New Smyrna Beach. This compact, art-infused beachside beauty is loaded with old-time Florida charm that’s an elixir for culture-seeking urbanites’ winter-weary souls. Stroll the streets or pedal your rental bike directly on the hard-packed sand. Browse independently owned shops, friendly bars and low-key eateries.
The Hub on Canal is a communal studio space where over 75 working artists create and exhibit. They offer a wide range of drop-in art workshops as well as daily yoga classes.
The Hampton Inn is surrounded by lush plants and tropical trees and has the feel of a boutique hotel, offering guests a sheltering overnight respite.
Votran is Daytona’s comprehensive bus system. A single ride costs $1.75. Rent a bike on the beach or at one of the numerous rental shops around town. Taxis wait at Daytona’s airport and will zip you around town.
Photo credits: Ricardo Mangual and Vnysia
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.