Dan’s grandmother turned 90 in November! What an accomplishment! Happy Birthday, Nonni! To celebrate, we visited her in Daytona Beach, Florida, where she lives. This was a very quick trip – we left on Friday evening from Newark Airport on a direct flight to Orlando and then flew back early Monday morning from Orlando to Newark Airport, again direct. While it was a short trip, it did not feel rushed and we had a wonderful time!
I visited Daytona Beach a few times with my parents when I was a child, but before this November, I had probably not been for nearly 20 years. In my mind, Daytona Beach was a NASCAR haven mixed with a washed-up 1980s Spring Break destination mixed with a retirement community, and I did not expect to enjoy actually “seeing” the town. However, and to my surprise, Daytona Beach turned out to be a pleasant weekend getaway from the cold New Jersey weather. We ended up having a wonderful time and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive weekend trip to Florida!
We stayed at the County Inn & Suites in Port Orange, Florida – about a 10 minute drive from Daytona Beach proper, and the town in which Dan’s grandmother actually lives. While not on the beach, the hotel was new, clean and inexpensive, it had a pool and lots of free parking and was right off 95. They also had free chocolate chip cookies around-the-clock! My favorite!
As you may know, Dan and I enjoy the beach, but we also like to experience the cultural aspects of the places we travel, and I was determined to find something cultural in Daytona Beach! Our first day, Saturday, was only in the low 70s (don’t cry for us) so we decided that Saturday would be our “culture” day. We started the day with lunch at the World of Beer in Port Orange, about a 7 minute drive from our hotel. This bar had a huge beer selection, including many Southern beers, which we don’t get that often in New Jersey. We each had a sampler of Florida beers, and they were really good! The food was pretty good as well, especially for a sports/beer bar.
After lunch, we set off for the Daytona International Speedway. Now we are not NASCAR fans (like, not at all, I don’t think Dan has ever even seen a race on TV); however, we wanted to see the Speedway because it is so famous and really is what I think of when I hear Daytona Beach! Doing a little research, I learned that the Speedway offers daily tours and we signed right up! We took the 1.5 hour tour, which gave a lot of history on the Speedway and took us all over the Speedway grounds – which are huge – in a tram. The tour was very informative and focused a lot on the history of the Speedway and the city – not necessarily NASCAR (but of course the two are intertwined). The Speedway was hosting an antiqute Porshe race on the day of our tour, so we got to see some of that, as well. All in all, a very interesting look at a Florida icon.
After, we stopped by the Daytona Beach Brewing Company, which is just a 5 minute drive from the Speedway (and a great way to convince skeptics to come on the tour)! I expected this brewery to be somewhat “redneck” and NASCAR-based, but I was totally wrong. DBBC is a brand new brewery that just opened in 2014. It had a selection of several in-house beers a few guest taps. They also served wine. We tried a sampler of their beers, which were all quite good! The girls working were really knowledgable about the beer and interested in talking to us about it. I would definitely return.
For dinner, we dined at a great Honduran restaurant – Chucherias Hondurenas. Yum! A welcome change from the mostly chain restaurants in Daytona. The restaurant was intimate and the food was amazing.
On Sunday, we had perfect weather – in the 80s and sunny. We started the day continuing our “racing theme” and lunched at Racing’s North Turn on their deck overlooking the Atlantic. The food was solid and the view was gorgeous.
After lunch, we were actually able to lay out on the beach! So great for a Sunday in November! In addition to laying out, in Daytona Beach you can actually drive your car on the sand. Where is a small fee, but any car can go on the sand! So cool! We unfortunately went too late to drive on the beach, as the tide was too high, but some cars were still on the beach from earlier and it looked so cool! Instead, we strolled down the beach. The beach is long and wide with lots of hard sand. Very different from many of the European beaches we visit.
We ended by dining at Stonewood Grill & Tavern and flew back to Newark on Monday morning. A great warm-weather getaway from the dreary Northeast.
LOGISTICS & NOTES
Where we stayed: Country Inn & Suites, Port Orange
Where we ate:
Chucherias Hondurenas, Holly Hill, Daytona Beach, Florida
Stonewood Grill & Tavern – Port Orange, Florida
Racing’s North Turn, Ponce Inlet, Florida
What we did:
Daytona Beach Brewing Company, Daytona Beach Florida
Notes – We flew into the Orlando Airport, which is about an hour and a half drive from Daytona Beach. Dan’s family graciously chauffeured us to and from the airport. Alternatively, there are car rental outfits at the airport and I believe there is a shuttle between Daytona Beach and Orlando.