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Florida: Daytona Beach, Family Vacation Ideas – Beach Time, Living History, and Daytona 500 Experience. 049FLDaytonaBeachFamilyImagine a series of white sandy beaches stretching along the blue-green waters of Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Add beach shops, mini golf, surfing, kayaking, parasailing, fishing from the Daytona Beach Pier, marine science discoveries, an awesome lighthouse, the world famous Daytona 500 Experience, and the new Daytona Children’s Museum - a recipe for family fun.

It all starts along the beach.
If it has been awhile since you have been on the beach in Daytona then you will be pleasantly surprised the sand is still there and it is clean making it ideal for sandcastle building. At low tide the hard packed surface invites cycling, jogging, fishing, and driving is permitted (too cool) on 11 of the 23-mile long beach area. At times the beach is up to 500 feet wide at low tide tempting beach goers to join a game of beach volleyball or practice sand-surf skimming at the edge of the waves. Bonus points: Ride the Sky Lift to the end of the Daytona Pier or enjoy the view from the top of the 180-foot space needle on the beach at the end of Main Street. Need to know: For a bird’s eye view of beach life parasailing along the edge is available; for an adrenaline rush try the Daytona Slingshot which launches riders 300 feet in the air at about 100 mph or share a more traditional beach experience like license-free fishing at the Pier.
Hear "The Lighthouse's Tale".  Impressive from a distance, and more impressive from its base looking up, the lyrics from Nickel Creek’s ballad “I am a lighthouse worn by the weather and the waves….” matches the romantic beauty of Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. I know saying romantic and beauty in conjunction with a family vacation activity seems odd but standing 175 feet tall, the nearly crimson lighthouse is the second tallest in the U.S. and a romantic beauty by anyone’s standards. It is worth a day away from the beach. The lighthouse complex at the very end of the barrier island includes the original lighthouse keeper buildings. On select days costumed interpreters create a sense of Florida’s maritime past but any day visitors may browse maritime artifacts, educational interactive exhibits and see a rare Fresnel Lens exhibit. Even before you leave home checkout the website and make use of the clever pages created for children. Bonus points: Save enough energy to climb the 203 steps to the top for the panoramic view of the Atlantic horizon, shoreline surf, and Ponce de Leon Inlet's waterways, and the Marine Science Center nearby. Insider tip: Within the shadow of the lighthouse and just outside the fence is a lovely shaded park complete with playground and picnic tables.o49FLDaytonaOtisOwl

Look for “Caution turtle crossing”. Just ask you kids to watch for the turtle crossing sign and the Marine Science Center will be just down the pathway hidden among the mangroves and scrub oaks. This location meets the needs of the curious no matter what age, but it is definitely child friendly. Docents and staff stand ready to guide visitors along the boardwalk, demonstrate the science of survival, and answer questions with firsthand knowledge. Interactive exhibits provide plenty of touch-and-feel time so no one will be bored. While the center’s original purpose was to function as a seabird sanctuary and sea turtle rehabilitation facility, the center now provides a unique and entertaining learning experience. Go with questions and get plenty of answers. Meet Priscilla, the resident American Kestral (hawk); watch Otis the young screech owl now on staff to educate visitors; see Fuzzy Bob a shy octopus.  Bonus points: Within the learning lab you’ll find fish tanks, activity sheets to color, and baskets of touch-and-feel marine artifacts. Insider tip: Do not miss the book store. The selection of books, shirts, visors, and puppets is worth a browse.

Get the whole story on Beach Street.
Daytona Beach Historic District along Beach Street is location of the Halifax Historical Museum – one stop with a big story to tell about Daytona. Located in an old bank building with high ceilings and dramatic columns the displays convey a rich sense of Daytona’s past. An entertaining twenty-minute film sets the tone for the visit by contrasting then and now. While the exhibits are not interactive there are plenty of very interesting things to share with your kids including antique toys, school books, Daytona Speedway artifacts. Bonus points: Riverfront Park and Beach Street itself have been revived making it an enjoyable off-the-beach spot for shopping and dining. For a chocolate adventure make a stop at Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory and watch artisans hand-make more than 100 kinds of candies. 049FLDaytonaGiantSloth

Look at fossils, hear the train, and see a sloth. The Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences, surrounded by 90-acre Tuscawilla Preserve, makes a delightful spot for a family field trip combining, history, nature, culture, and interactive fun. The most memorable resident a 13 foot-tall, 130,000-year-old Giant Ground Sloth is on display the Center for Florida History. He is almost as cool as a dinosaur. Found near the museum in 1974, complete skeleton is considered one of the finest specimens of its kind in North America. The museum is also renowned for its multi­cultural exhibitions and children may make their own discoveries within the museum through interactive exhibits, games and activities. Bonus points: On weekends the planetarium provides interactive solar adventures for youngsters and at least one weekend per month there is a laser light show set to music the music of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Beatles or Metalica. Need to know: A new addition to the museum complex Charles and Linda Williams Children's Museum is a little spot of heaven for families wishing to do, share and enjoy hands on learning.  The space is cheerful and pure fun, filled with oodles of interactive science stations demonstrating basics in an engaging way.
Try on speed just for fun. The word famous Daytona International Speedway needs no introduction and during race weeks it is chaotic, awesome, and thrilling. The best way to get a sense of Speedway is to drop by the Daytona 500 Experience, located just outside Daytona International Speedway's fourth turn. There is no need to love NASCAR in order to enjoy the motorsports attraction. The high-tech, hands-on activities meld with a fascinating historical account of racing in Daytona. Interactive means a chance to change a tire in a timed pit stop competition; design and video-test drive your own car; try broadcasting a famous race finish; become immersed in the racing experience with the NASCAR 3D, The IMAX Experience featuring rare behind-the-scenes action and exhilarating racetrack footage that may simply make your head spin. 049FLDaytonaExperienceBonus points: The highpoint of our visit was the chance to race one another. Well actually it was a simulated race but it felt very real to me.  My palms were sweating as listened to the sounds of the crowd and the banter of the commentator. Finally the flag signaled the start of the race. At first my foot was little light on the accelerator and seven laps seemed like an eternity to me as others lapped me while I tried to develop my own banking technique. The autos are real, the effect of surround sound is convincing, and the wide screen raceway panorama leaves little to the imagination. If you ever feel the need to race with your kids this is the place. Need to know: For racing buffs, it is also possible to take an open-air tram tour of the Speedway complex and see firsthand garage area, pit road, and eyeball the world-famous 31-degree high banks.

Make it happen. For the full menu of family vacation options including Daytona Beach area sleeping places, activities, attractions, and events contact the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at (386) 255-0415, toll-free 1-800-854­-1234 or

Location on the planet. Daytona Beach on the north tip of Florida’s Central East Coast, is located 54 miles from Orlando making it just an hour’s drive from many popular theme parks and more awesome shopping. Daytona Beach International Airport is served by several major airlines, including Delta and U.S. Airways with service to more than 150 destinations worldwide.

Planning Details
The Daytona Beach Pier 1200 Main Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32118. (386) 238-1212.
Daytona Sling Shot. 49 Ocean Ave., Daytona Beach (386) 254-8626.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association. 4931 South Peninsula Drive - Ponce Inlet, Florida 32127. (386) 761-1821
Marine Science Center 100 Lighthouse Drive Ponce Inlet, Fl 32127. (386) 304-5545 or
Halifax Historical Museum 252 S Beach St. Daytona Beach, FL 32114. (386) 255-6976 or
The Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences. 352 S. Nova Road, Daytona Beach, Florida 32114. (386)255-0285 or
Daytona 500 Experience.  1801 West International Speedway BoulevardDaytona Beach, FL 32114. (386)681-6800 or 

Content and images provided by FTF. Copyright 2009.
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