Daytona beach skyline on a sunny day

The Daytona Beach skyline shimmers on a sunny day. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

3 Thrilling Days in Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida is best known for its Speedway, but it has a sophisticated side too, including art deco architecture, acclaimed seafood restaurants and a museum featuring 2,600 pieces of art, all with a common theme: the state of Florida.

Oh and there are some 23 miles of white-sand beach to use as your playground, plus a planetarium and a famous boardwalk with old-time games and attractions. Here’s how to get the most out of three days in and around Daytona Beach.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Satisfy Your Need for Speed

Have breakfast at the hotel, then rev up your engines at the Daytona International Speedway. Take a one-hour guided tour (offered from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) for an up-close-and-personal look at the world’s most famous racetrack.

True auto enthusiasts will want to upgrade to the 2.5-hour VIP tour, which includes a visit to the NASCAR Archives & Research Center and the infield of the Speedway, among other attractions.

Shift speeds — from cars to culture — with a visit to the intriguing Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art where 2,600 pieces of art, mostly watercolor paintings, are on rotation.

What makes the Brown Museum unique is that objects on display all focus on a common theme: the state of Florida. Amble around the grand gallery and mezzanine, then pop into the six smaller spaces to experience the changing exhibitions.

Whiskey cocktail in a glass
Enjoy a cocktail while on vacation. (Photo: Marriott International)

Afterwards, head to the outdoor terrace of the Blue Flame at The Daytona hotel for a pre-dinner cocktail. Sip on one of the bar’s “moonshine specialties” while overlooking the Daytona International Speedway.

Chances are good you’ll want to stay for dinner: the casual menu offers peel-and-eat shrimp and charcuterie boards as apps, followed by fresh-fish-and-seafood entrées.

Saturday: Hit the Beach

Person walking on a beach during sunset
Take a sunset stroll on the beach. (Photo: Getty Images)

Slip on a bathing suit, cover-up and your sunglasses because today’s the day to hit the beach. But because it’s Saturday, that means starting with a stroll along S. Beach Street, stopping at the farmers market, located on Magnolia, between Beach and Palmetto.

Grab an iced coffee and head across the Halifax River, stopping first at the circa-1914 Jackie Robinson Ballpark, recognized as one of America’s most important minor league stadiums. On the other side of the bridge, you’ll find the oceanfront Seabreeze Historic District where shops, cafés and outdoor bars collide to create a feast for the senses.

When the stomach starts to rumble, find an outdoor table at Ocean Deck, the seafood restaurant that’s also a 50-year-old Daytona Beach institution. The classic move here is the Castaway Combo — shrimp, crab legs and mahi mahi, often enjoyed with a refreshing rum-laced frozen Electric Lemonade.

After relaxing on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, make your way to the famed pier and boardwalk. Once the sun goes down, the pier’s twinkling lights transform the Daytona night into a dazzling spectacle.

Walk out to the end of the pier and enjoy the fresh ocean air before making your way back to town for dinner and drinks at Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, where the surf-and-turf options include an Ahi Tuna Tower and oysters on half shell and — for the turf part of the equation — aged, bone-in ribeye, lamb chops and more.

Sunday: Get a New View — and Reach for the Stars

Lighthouse at Ponce Inlet on a sunny day
Check out the lighthouse at Ponce Inlet in Daytona Beach. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Cracked Egg Diner is famous for both its apple fritters and its “Bennies” — Benedict-style dishes prepared with Hollandaise sauce. Or tuck into brunch at Lulu’s Oceanside Grill, where grits and the shrimp-garnished Sunday Bloody Mary draw raves.

Once you’ve eaten, burn off breakfast by climbing the 203 steps to the top of Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. Learn about the history of this circa-1880s beacon, then spend time at the top oohing and awing at the magnificent view of Daytona and the Atlantic Ocean.

Head next to the Lowell & Nancy Lohman Family Planetarium to look up at the stars, where (digital) skies dazzle — while they educate visitors about astronomy and the universe.

Then grab a drink or a bite to eat at Racing’s North Turn, a restaurant celebrating all things automotive. Here, you’ll see where racing was born (literally) on Daytona Beach. From 1936 up to 1958, the cars made their way around the sandy beach before moving to the official Speedway where the Daytona 500 is held today.

There’s more history on tap if you’re up for another stop. Grab a drink or dinner, if you haven’t had your fill, at The Cellar Restaurant, which was the circa-1907 Florida home of US President Warren G. Harding — and is now a handsome, white-tablecloth spot serving upscale Italian food.