In my first blog, I told the new freshman to get out of the dorms and visit Central Florida. For those of you that will come down for a visit, it is important to not only have a tour of campus, but also to visit what Central Florida has to offer. While some will say there is absolutely nothing to do in Daytona Beach, it is just because they have done it already and eventually the sound of racecars, motorcycles and spring breakers does become redundant. I am from Port Orange, about 10 minutes outside of Daytona Beach so I can understand. However, I like to visit a few of the lesser known and well-known attractions. But first, the traditional Daytona attractions.
- DAYTONA’S NASCAR Raceway: Car racing is what made Daytona Beach famous. After shifting from to the World’s Most Famous Beach to the raceway in 1959, Daytona has managed to remain the epicenter of automobile racing. However, unless you come down during a scheduled race, it will be difficult to truly get the racing experience that so many Riddle students get throughout the year. Luckily, Daytona USA can fill that NASCAR desire year round. In the compound connected to the raceway, you can learn to change tires like the pit crews, simulate driving in a race and try to walk up the racetrack’s 31 degree embankment. When I went, I couldn’t change the tire, finished last in my race and managed to fall up the raceway, quickly learning the word road rash. But, it sure beat sitting in the Grandstands in 100 degree weather next to Bubba and Billy who have not showered since Jeff Gordon was last liked in Daytona (hint: never).
- Driving on Daytona Beach: To continue your racing adventure, do like past racers and take advantage of an activity unique to Daytona’s coast. Though you will have to drive a sluggish 10 mph, it sure beats lugging around your beach necessities. I love lazy beach days, especially those where I literally drive to my spot, open my trunk and worship the sun for the next few hours. You just can’t get a lazier beach day.
- The Museum of Arts and Sciences: Hidden on Nova road, about three minutes from campus, is a little bit of refinement in Daytona at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. The museum houses many permanent cultural exhibits which include African, Cuban and Chinese art. It also has a section devoted to everything Americana and Coca-Cola and an upcoming Barbie exhibit. Take a walk in the 2.5 acre sculpture garden or stroll through the Florida History exhibit. Enjoy the 13-foot tall giant ground sloth fossil or sit back in the planetarium for a presentation of the stars set to the Beatles. It is $10.95 for Riddle students, but it is a small price to pay to beat the heat.
- Ocean Walk: Whether you want to see the latest movie, eat at Bubba Gump’s or see a concert at the Bandshell, Ocean Walk is all-inclusive. One of the most popular hot spots, it is located about 10 minutes from campus. Park in the parking garage across the street and take the walk-over to a dining and viewing treat.
- Ponce DeLeon Inlet Lighthouse: This is my favorite activity in Volusia County. Drive about 20 minutes down A1A from Ocean Walk to where you can drive no more. It costs $5 to check out the 121-year-old lighthouse, but it is worth the 175-foot climb. After getting your exercise, head over to the Lighthouse Landing Restaurant and Raw Bar for some shark or gator and a walk on the dock to check out the fisherman’s latest catch.
If you have time to leave Daytona, head down to Orlando for these next attractions:
- Orlando Theme Parks: Deemed the “Happiest Place on Earth”, Disney seems to be the main attraction for every holiday to Florida. By the looks of post-Disney travelers in the Orlando airport, it also seems to be the happiest most exhausting adventure. Every parent, weighed down with Mickey souvenirs, has bags under their eyes while they are trying to reign in their Mouse-eared children. While my first trip to Disney World wasn’t after I won the Super Bowl, I was equally excited to be those little kids again. I bought a princess crown, gathered autographs from the characters and snuggled with Goofy at Breakfast with the Characters. But, there are so many more places to visit. My personal favorite is “Eating/Drinking around the World” at Epcot. Get a group of friends together and bounce between each represented country, stopping to enjoy the native food or beverage of choice, served by a native of the represented country. Brush up on your linguistic skills and walk through the eleven cultural pavilions, which include Japan, Norway and Mexico. So, whether you eat couscous in Morocco, drink tea in England or slurp up spaghetti in Italy, be sure to come thirsty or “Hungary.” After you fill you bellies, take a roller coaster ride in Universal, learn to growl at Animal Kingdom or get crowned at Disney World. You wouldn’t want to be the only person in the Orlando airport without Mickey Mouse ears, would you?
- City Walk: Once you enter big person land again, head to Universal City Walk for some grown up transitions. The area has everything from an IMAX theater to watch the latest Batman movie to dancing to reggae at the tribute to Bob Marley. If you don’t yet feel like growing up, you can play in paint alongside the Blue Man group or play alongside kids in the in-ground fountains.
- Cirque Du Soleil: Though tickets start at $52, the updated circus entertainment is well worth the price. No matter what seats you get, it is a front row, high-flying adventure of the five senses. Watch tight rope walkers skip along thin pieces of metal or ten-year-old Chinese acrobats do back flips off each other while keeping their Yo-Yos spinning. After the show, hop over next door to House of Blues to catch bands like All-American Rejects, Panic! At the Disco, MayDay Parade, and Rise Against. There are few seats, but there is no bad view of the stage.
- Mall at Millenia: Yes, I am a girl and I like to shop, especially at the Mall at Millenia. I claim it to be the “Second Happiest Place on Earth” (just following the Mall at America). Located at Exit78 just off of I-4, the Mall at Millenia is uniquely, yet easily, set up. When you walk into the mall, to the right is the affordable stores like Abercrombie and Express. To the left are the stores that have security guards on detail, like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. In the middle is a large food court with Cheesecake Factory and the Blue Martini. So, whether you want to actually buy something at Forever 21, Hollister or Zara or just dream in Burberry, Tiffany’s or Jimmy Choo, go for the shopping or go for the drooling. It sure beats the Daytona Mall.
- Mystery Theater: I love CSI: Vegas and Miami and always find myself guessing the killer well before Gil Grissom or Horatio Caine utter their accusations. If you are like me, Murder Watch Mystery Dinner Theater offers plays to get you involved first hand into the murder solving. They offer many different show topics and always include audience participation.
Finally, if Orlando is too touristy, take about an hour drive from Daytona to the next three places:
- St. Augustine: About an hour and half outside of Daytona, along A1A, is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city, St. Augustine. Located on a port and protected by the Fort Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine is now a historical and shopping hub. It is also home to Riddle’s greatest rival, Flagler College. In spite of the university, St. Augustine is beautiful whether you want to walk the cobble stone streets in search of shopping or spirits. I strongly suggest a visit to the fort, taking a ghost tour of the town or eating at my favorite restaurant, Columbia, for their plantains. Don’t forget your cameras either. You never know what might appear in the photographs later.
- Air Force Space & Missile Museum: Ok, so we go to an aviation school so what better place to visit than Cape Canaveral, home to many shuttle launches. The museum, located in nearby Kennedy Space Center, houses numerous historical space devices such as the one used to launch Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom into space. Take a drive around their Rocket Garden, home to the largest collection of rockets, missiles and other space related hardware. The Mercury Redstone and Jupiter C rockets are in permanent display and one of only two complete German V-2 engines lies in the Exhibit Hall. Go to see where aviation has been and where it is headed.
- Blue Springs: What is more Floridian than swimming with manatees? Ok, maybe hurricanes, flamingos and octogenarians are a bit more Floridian, but Blue Springs is non-destructive. The name alone tries to do the clear, blue water justice, but experiencing the 72 degree water is the only way to fully appreciate it. Go during a hot summer day to cool off or on a Florida-winter day to scuba dive. Whenever you come, the water temperature does not change.
If you have done it all during your trip or just want to plan some more trips for your next visit, here are some additional websites for other activities.
http://www.touristflorida.com/other.html – a good website for some more attractions.
http://www.daytonabeach.com/whattosee.cfm – can find special events for when you are here or just more ideas
Just remember, there are lots of things to do in Daytona Beach or the surrounding areas. You just have to know how to find them. And now you do.