15 Best Things to Do in Daytona Beach (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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NASCAR’s headquarters, a world-renowned race track, and more than 20 miles of Atlantic beaches, Daytona Beach’s signatures are known around the world.

Daytona International Speedway is held in the same esteem as Madison Square Garden or Fenway Park, and the excitement peaks with the legendary Daytona 500 every February. 

The beaches, with their white sand and fresh Atlantic waves, are all set for surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, or just taking it easy. 

Famously, the hard-packed sand makes the beach drivable, and there are designated points for vehicle access. 

Racing and beaches make the headlines, but I had a great time getting to know every aspect of the city, from the amazing seafood and ethnic cuisines to spots like Jackie Robinson Ballpark, where Jackie defied baseball’s segregation rules in the 1940s. 

Below are my 15 things to do in and around Daytona Beach, Florida.

1. Daytona’s Beaches

Daytona BeachSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Daytona Beach

With more than 20 miles of scenic shoreline, the beach is top of my list, especially if you’re looking to spend your vacation time relaxing in the Florida sun.

Daytona’s beaches offer a variety of nearby lodging and dining options that range from exclusive and ultra-expensive to modest and affordable.

There’s a rather hefty day-use fee to enjoy the city’s beaches, but if you go after official hours, you can avoid this charge altogether and put the money toward your dinner bill.

The city’s boardwalk is a popular place for an afternoon or evening stroll and has a variety of boutiques, eateries, and bars.

2. Daytona International Speedway

Daytona International SpeedwaySource: 4kclips / shutterstock
Daytona International Speedway

My adrenaline gets pumping with the roar of high-horsepower motors, the squeal of tires, and the roar of the crowd, so there’s nowhere quite like Daytona Beach’s Daytona International Speedway.

For nearly six decades, the speedway has been an international racing icon, and over the years the signature Daytona 500 has grown into one of the largest and most famous races in the world.

This event takes place yearly in February; if you plan to visit the area then, you’ll need to plan ahead and make your lodging arrangements well in advance.

The smaller racing events that take place at other times of the year are a lot less crowded and much more affordable.

3. Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and MuseumSource: pisaphotography / shutterstock
Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse And Museum

Standing nearly 200-feet tall and built in the late 1880s, Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse spent most of its life providing a much-needed beacon to the area’s mariners who often navigated the coast’s tricky waters at night.

Now a museum and historical site, it’s still one of the tallest lighthouses in the country. One fact I picked up in the exhibits is that the lighthouse is so big it needed three keepers to run it.

Wear comfy shoes if you plan on climbing the more than 200 steps to the top; if you manage, you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view that those stuck on the ground won’t get to enjoy.

The site is about 20 minutes from the city and has varied hours during different seasons, so check their website before heading out.

4. Museum of Arts and Sciences

Source: Sloth1979 / Wikimedia
Museum Of Arts And Sciences

Conveniently located near the city center and many of the area’s other popular attractions, the Museum of Arts and Sciences is one of the city’s biggest draws and is set on nearly 100 acres of preserved land.

The museum has an eclectic collection that includes historic Coca-Cola items, rail cars, and a few vintage automobiles that have been refurbished to near-original condition.

Many of the museum’s exhibits touch on art and culture as well, and their permanent exhibits include pieces with international influences representing the state’s diverse immigrant groups, including Cuban, Asian, and African.

The museum is open every day, and admission is very reasonable.

5. Daytona Lagoon

Daytona Lagoon Water ParkSource: kellyv / Flickr
Daytona Lagoon Water Park

Featuring a mini-golf course, laser-tag, amusement park-style rides, and a water park, Daytona Lagoon is located about ten minutes from the city’s downtown area and is the kind of place that can occupy a family with children for hours on end.

It’s not the cheapest destination in the world, but when you consider all the amenities and activities that are included with the cost of admission, you may decide that it’s reasonable.

Various ticket options are available; it’s possible to pay by the day, the hour, or on a per-activity basis.

I found the process a bit confusing, so check their website to see what the most logical option is before heading out.

6. Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum of Art

Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum Of ArtSource: daytonabeach.com
Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum Of Art

Located on South Nova Road in Daytona Beach, Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art is housed in a beautiful, open building that features towering vaulted ceilings and mezzanines.

It is home to thousands of works of art, many of which are Florida-themed, so I could immerse myself in the culture of the Sunshine State.

Most of the museum’s pieces are paintings done by local and regional artists and encompass the state’s natural beauty, rich Native American cultures, and popular outdoor activities like fishing and boating that have been Florida’s most popular pastimes for more than a century.

Check out their website for hours, special events, and the cost of admission.

7. Halifax Historical Museum

Halifax Historical MuseumSource: Ebyabe / Wikimedia
Halifax Historical Museum

Located along the Halifax River just a few miles from downtown, the Halifax Historical Museum is one of those family-friendly activities that are easy on the wallet, and full of interesting and educational exhibits and local memorabilia that are appropriate for adults and children alike.

Some of the museum’s most popular exhibits deal with Native American culture and history and the Civil War.

The museum is open every day except Sunday, from mid-morning until the afternoon.

In addition to the modest cost of admission, many guests leave a donation of a few dollars, which goes toward maintaining the facility and its exhibits.

8. Catch a Ballgame

Jackie Robinson BallparkSource: Ebyabe / Wikimedia
Jackie Robinson Ballpark

Named after African American baseball legend Jackie Robinson, Jackie Robinson Ballpark (1914) is one of the country’s largest and most well-equipped minor league ballparks.

It was here in 1946 that Jackie Robinson played in a game featuring both black and white players, which was a surprisingly controversial thing back in the 1940s.

When I visited, this was the oldest operating ballpark in the minor leagues, and I took a moment to pay tribute to the great Jackie Robinson, whose statue can be found at the south entrance.

The stadium is now the home of the Daytona Cubs, and most visitors note that the facility and competitiveness of play far exceeded their expectations.

It’s also much cheaper than big-league parks; a hot dog and draft beer won’t put a dent in your kid’s college fund.

The season runs yearly from April until August.

9. Cruise on the Boardwalk

Daytona Beach BoardwalkSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Daytona Beach Boardwalk

For me, few experiences spark more nostalgia than a stroll along the boardwalk.

Featuring amusement park-style rides like roller coasters, bumper cars, and even a Ferris wheel, the boardwalk is chock full of family-friendly activities that have been known to keep visitors occupied for hours.

During the summer, the boardwalk turns into a live entertainment venue that includes free concerts and even regularly scheduled fireworks, so it’s also an effective way to conserve those hard-earned travel dollars.

Plenty of shops, arcades, and dining options are available along the boardwalk as well.

10. Riverfront Marketplace

Riverfront MarketplaceSource: djphotographics / shutterstock
Riverfront Marketplace

Located along North Beach Street in town, Riverfront Marketplace is one of the city’s most trendy and vibrant dining, shopping and entertainment venues.

It’s also home to a popular weekly farmers market full of fresh seasonal produce and prepared food items.

It’s the perfect place for a morning or afternoon stroll, especially in the winter months when the Florida weather is sunny and mild. My ideal time to be here is on a Saturday morning, when that farmers’ market is in full swing.

The marketplace features a spectrum of dining and shopping options, from exclusive and expensive to cheap and touristy.

It’s also a favorite place to relax with an afternoon cocktail or cup of coffee and watch the sunset.

11. Ormond Memorial Art Museum

Ormond Memorial Art MuseumSource: Ormond Memorial Art Museum / Facebook
Ormond Memorial Art Museum

With such a variety of international cultural influences, it’s no wonder that Florida is home to a variety of museums; Ormond Memorial Art Museum on East Granada Boulevard is a particularly poignant one.

With most of its pieces paying homage to the veterans who’ve fought in the country’s wars, it’s the perfect place to enjoy amazing art and take some quiet time for reflection on the sacrifices others have made. I’m particularly fond of the cache of works by the Symbolist Malcom Fraser (1869-1949).

Located in the nearby town of Ormond Beach, in addition to its galleries, it includes outdoor gardens. It’s within walking distance of a variety of restaurants and shops that are worth a look as well.

12. Andy Romano Beachfront Park

Andy Romano Beachfront ParkSource: Silver Beach Club / Facebook
Andy Romano Beachfront Park

Featuring gazebos, barbecue grills, picnic areas, and playgrounds, Andy Romero Beachfront Park is the perfect place for families with kids who’d rather not spend the day in the car hopping from one attraction to the next.

It’s located on South Atlantic Avenue in Ormond Beach, and with so many amenities, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it can get downright crowded on the weekends. If that’s a scene you’d like to avoid, consider visiting during the week instead.

The facilities and beach are regularly cleaned and well-maintained, and there are restrooms and showers that make washing that sand and salt water away after a long day easy.

13. Tiger Bay State Forest

Tiger Bay State ForestSource: formulanone / Flickr
Tiger Bay State Forest

Composed of diverse ecological features like swamps, forests, lakes, and coastal wetlands, Tiger Bay State Forest is my escape from the hustle and bustle of the area’s often crowded beaches.

A few different trails wind their way through the state forest, and it’s not uncommon to find a quiet area for yourself or to see animals like snakes, turtles, and wading birds.

The trails are flat, well-marked, and appropriate for children and even those who aren’t physically fit. The pick of these is the historic Pershing Highway Trail, a short stretch of brick road laid down in 1917.

Admission is dirt cheap and handled on an honor system, so don’t forget a few dollars in cash.

14. Basilica of St. Paul

Basilica of St. PaulSource: Phil Reid / shutterstock
Basilica Of St. Paul

Located on Mullally Street in Daytona Beach, the Basilica of St. Paul was only recently classified as a basilica in honor of its tradition of serving the local community for more than a century and a quarter.

There are less than 100 churches in the country that have been similarly classified, making it a truly unique gem for both its stunning architecture and rich history.

A Hospitality Minister was here when I took a peek, and was happy to point out the highlights of this Mission Revival building, completed in 1927.

Featuring beautiful stained-glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and ornate icons, it’s worth a look. If you’d like to attend one of their regularly attended masses, it’s best to take a look at the schedule on their website.

15. Mary McCleod Bethune Home

Daytona Beach Surfside Historic DistrictSource: VIAVAL / shutterstock
Daytona Beach Surfside Historic District

Built in 1905, this American Foursquare house on the Bethune-Cookman University campus is modest in size and style.

Still, it is one of the most important buildings in Daytona Beach, as the home of the pioneering African American educator Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), from 1913 until her death.

I found out that most of the interiors have been kept exactly as they were on the day she died, and it gives you a touching snapshot of Bethune’s life. It was right here that she received distinguished guests like Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Robinson.

If you’re interested in learning more about Bethune you can view her collection and final papers at the Archives in the Carl S. Swisher Library.

15 Best Things to Do in Daytona Beach (FL):

  • Daytona’s Beaches
  • Daytona International Speedway
  • Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
  • Museum of Arts and Sciences
  • Daytona Lagoon
  • Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum of Art
  • Halifax Historical Museum
  • Catch a Ballgame
  • Cruise on the Boardwalk
  • Riverfront Marketplace
  • Ormond Memorial Art Museum
  • Andy Romano Beachfront Park
  • Tiger Bay State Forest
  • Basilica of St. Paul
  • Mary McCleod Bethune Home