By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
Daytona Beach is Clearwater’s east coast cousin, with gorgeous sunrises, soft white beaches, and some quirky tours worth adding when you’ve had enough sun and sand.
Located 90 minutes from Walt Disney World via I-4, Daytona Beach draws visitors from Orlando to its beautiful seaside setting, primarily for a break from the hectic theme-park pace, but also as a fab twin-center option, especially for repeat visitors. And while we love a good walk along the beach, there is only so much sun you can soak up before you go all lobster on us and need shelter from the Sunshine State’s namesake. What’s a family (or a couple) to do? We’ve got the answer, in four funky tours:
Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory Tour:
Take a 20 minute free tour of Angell & Phelps’ chocolate factory. Okay, so it’s not Willy Wonka and there are no Oompa Loompas (the factory is small, so tours can only take 15 visitors at a time), but it’s a fascinating look at how chocolates and other confections are made, with a tour guide who describes each step of the process while you watch candy-makers on the other side of large windows as they stir, cook, enrobe, sort, and box up sweet treats.
And, of course, at the end of the tour you’re given the opportunity to taste two of the chocolate creation that appeals to you most. If it’s your birthday, you get to try three, so be sure to speak up when the tour guide asks!
If you haven’t tried a chocolate covered potato chip, that should probably be one of your selections, but check first to make sure an employee isn’t passing them out as tastes in the shop. Chocolate covered bacon is also one of the choices, but it’s an acquired taste you may have to work hard for, so consider how adventurous you feel before making it one of your selections!
You’ll find the chocolate factory at 154 Beach Street in Daytona Beach, and parking outside the factory (which is in a strip mall; we told you it was tiny!) Tours run Monday through Saturday, on the hour (but not at noon), with the first tour at 10am and the last tour at 4pm.
Daytona Speedway Tour:
If you’re a racing fan, you’re going to love this one! If you’re not a racing fan, you’re still going to like it. A lot. There is something about standing on the Daytona racetrack, leaning backward to counteract the 31-degree pitch, that sends a thrill through your veins and makes you wonder how in the world the drivers take those banked curves without totally losing their nerve.
The two main tours—a 30 minute Speedway Tour and 90 minute All-Access Tour—are both worthwhile, with open-air trams taking visitors around the track, to the Gatorade Victory Lane podium (where drivers are given their trophy, and where a photographer will take your photo), with a stop at the start/finish line for your own photos. The 90 minute tour adds a visit to pit row and the essential workings of the infield, a stop at the drivers’ meeting room with a short film, and a view from high atop the stands, with the entire track and complex laid out before you. Both end with a visit to the most recent Daytona 500 winner’s car, left exactly as it was when it crossed the finish line.
Tours can’t be booked in advance, but they run several times daily, rain or shine (but not if there is lightning). Booking is first-come, and availability is limited, so get there early to avoid disappointment.
Craft beers are a thing in the U.S. in the last 20 years. A big thing. And there has never been a better time to try some of the local brews than now, as new brew pubs and micro-breweries pop up all the time.
There are 9 breweries and tap rooms along the self-guided Ale Trail, but for the sake of avoiding long drives we suggest focusing on 3 or 4 in Daytona Beach (you can find all 9 on the Daytona Beach website, along with a map of locations, right here).
Brewpubs and breweries on the Ale Trail in Daytona Beach are:
• Seabreeze Taphouse features 100 craft brews, 25 of them on tap, from American, European and Canadian breweries, plus a full menu to soak up some of the suds.
• Daytona Beach Brewing Co. has a tasting room, and that’s a good thing. It does not serve food, and that’s an okay thing, since Food Trucks pay a visit on Tuesdays. They brew 14 different beers, 11 of which are on tap.
• Daytona Taproom is a stand-out for sheer volume, with 50 beers on tap
• BJ's Restaurant & Brewery is the most family-friendly. We include it only because they have a terrific range of beers (and they’re on the Ale Trail), but if you choose to visit only 3 locations, save BJ’s Restaurant for your time in Orlando.
If you want to visit breweries only, Ormond Beach has two, and they’re only a 15 minute drive north on Highway 1 (your designated driver will be extremely important here, as police—and the law—have zero-tolerance for drink driving; you will make new acquaintances in a jail cell if you’re caught over the limit). If you’re keen to go further afield, try:
• Ormond Brewing Company prides itself on ‘unique’ craft brews, playing with flavours like grapefruit, flowers, honey, and coffee. It also has a comfy beer garden.
• Tomoka Brewing Company is just…well…super cute! Along with more conventional brews, they push the envelope with flavours such as peanut butter banana sandwich (yes, that’s a beer); lime, agave and sea salt margarita (that’s a beer too); hot pepper, coriander and lemon grass (yup, beer again) and fresh Florida watermelon (ditto).
Be sure to designate a driver even if you won’t drive far, and we recommend splitting a beer flight between two at each stop, for maximum enjoyment with minimum pain the next day.
Ponce Inlet Watersports Dolphin and Manatee Eco Tour:
One of the coolest things about a holiday in Florida is the chance to see the gentle manatee in its natural habitat, and to watch dolphins frolic, hunt, and enjoy life as only a dolphin can. It is unlikely your photos will include much more than a dorsal fin, but that’s part of the charm; you can just relax and be present in the moment when a dolphin swims next to the boat or a manatee lounges nearby, only showing its nostrils as it takes a breath of air.
Located 20 minutes down the coast from Daytona Beach, Ponce Inlet sits at the southern tip of the peninsula, and is best-known for the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. But you’re here for a quirky tour, and with wacky captains who keep the commentary light (and a tiny bit saucy, if there are no children present!) and are adept at spotting wildlife.
What might you see during your Eco Tour? Dolphins frequent the area, and while it’s possible you’ll see a manatee, it’s partly dependent upon the time of year, with cooler months offering more frequent sightings. You will see abundant shore birds, possibly an eagle, probably a hawk, and the occasional stingray. You will also make a stop on an intercostal island for a bit of shelling. More than anything, you’ll come back refreshed, revitalised, and ready to tackle the theme park frenzy again.
Ponce Inlet Watersports also offers a history tour, parasailing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, plus fishing and sailing trips. Heaven forbid you should ever need it, but they also do Burials At Sea!
Add a tour or two to your Daytona visit, and be sure to join us on Attraction Tickets Direct’s discussion forums to tell us all about it!
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