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Daytona Beach - Beyond the Sand, Part 1

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In honor of January 25, 2022 being National Plan for Vacation Day this edition of Road Trip features one of America's prime vacation destinations, Daytona Beach, Florida.

It's right there in the name of the city, and yes Daytona Beach, Florida is famous for its beach, all 23 glorious miles of it. No visit to Daytona Beach is complete without spending some time with its famous white sand but there's a big bucket full of fun to be found away from the shoreline too. Let's explore the city and her adjacent towns and see what we find.

The Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet is a great place to learn about some of the critters that live in the Atlantic Ocean in the area of Daytona Beach. It's also a place where you can actually touch some of this marine life which is an experience that kids and adults will find unforgettable. The Marine Science Center is home to a turtle hospital where a vast number of tanks hold turtles of various types and sizes who are all "on the mend." These turtles have had various misfortunes that caused them to be brought to the Marine Science Center; some have been hit by boats while others have gotten hopelessly tangled in fishing nets. Some will be nursed to health and released back into the ocean while others will have to live out their lives in captivity. A raised boardwalk allows visitors to see down into the tanks where the turtles are being cared for and employees of the turtle hospital will explain what's going on and all that is involved in rehabilitating hurt turtles. On the occasion of healthy turtles being returned to the sea, the public is invited to watch as the reptiles scramble across the sand and into the water (check the center's website for dates, place and time.) And about getting up close and personal with some marine life? Well that's "petting" stingrays! Actually you don't really pet them, you just put your hand in the water and let the rays swim by you and brush against your hand. Many rays swim in a loop around their tank so if you "miss" on the first go you can rest assured there'll be another stingray along in a minute. You can also see a whale's jawbone and learn about the area's freshwater areas: lakes, springs, ponds and rivers. Visitors can also take in the Sea Bird Rehabilitation Sanctuary at the Marine Science Center. Find more information here.

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
Rehabbing turtle at the Marine Science Center

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
Meeting stingrays at the Marine Science Center

Another really fun thing to do is take a Dolphin & Manatee Boat Tour with Ponce Inlet Watersports. As the name suggests, this tour cruises the Halifax River and Indian River Lagoon areas in search of sighting dolphins and manatees. The dolphins here are not the sort that leap wildly into the air but your tour will most likely come across dolphins that arc gracefully and playfully when they break the surface. The tour launches in Ponce Inlet and one of the scenic views the cruise provides is a look at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse which is the tallest lighthouse in Florida. About midway through the cruise the boat stops at Shell Treasure Island where participants can stretch their legs, marvel at the large sea birds overhead and do a little beachcombing. Narration along the way is educational and also humorous, be prepared for a couple groan-worthy jokes! Book your cruise here.

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
View of Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse from the dolphin tour boat

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
Dolphin boat at Shell Treasure Island

The Museum of Arts and Sciences is a vast complex with something to suit every taste. Galleries focus on a wide range of fine and contemporary art including Florida art, art from Africa, Napoleonic artwork and things you might not expect, like the skeleton of a (local!) giant ground sloth and a large collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia. The Coke display features a lot of early Coke machines and a couple of delivery vehicles including a stunning vintage truck that's painted a vibrant yellow that's loaded with cases (also yellow) of empty Coke bottles. And proving that the locals are indeed friendly, visitors are able to meet a giant ground sloth, or his skeleton at least. The fossil was discovered right in Daytona Beach about 45-years ago, is 13-feet tall and over 100,000 years old. The big fella looks like he would bite your head right off so here's a chance to do a bit of clowning around with your photo op. The museum's website is here.

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
Skeleton of giant ground sloth at Museum of Arts and Sciences

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
Coke delivery truck at Museum of Arts and Sciences

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
At the Museum of Arts and Sciences

Most visitors would agree that a visit to Daytona Beach is a sweet experience and you can take that literally when you stop at Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory. This long-running and highly respected chocolate shop offers the delightful treat in every mode imaginable. Have you ever tried chocolate covered bacon? It's on sale at Angell & Phelps along with chocolate covered everything else, pure dark, milk and white chocolates, fudge of many flavors and even instant chocolate powdered drink mix. It can be difficult to try and decide what you're going to order from the display cases or what to pick out from the wide selection of pre-packaged goodies but since chocolates of this quality are not easily obtained our suggestion is not to hold back; get a bunch of stuff! Follow the short hallway out of the retail area and you'll discover windows into the factory area where you can see workers involved in various aspects of candy making. Kids and adults alike will love this and also the toy train that runs on a track near the ceiling back in the retail area. And we know you've been waiting for us to say it; yes samples are available! Take your chocolate cravings to the Angell & Phelps website here.

Road Trip - Daytona Beach part 1
Angell & Phelps chocolate factory

There's a lot more to do in Daytona Beach and we'll tell you about some more of it in Part 2 of our exploration of the area. In the meantime you can find further information here.

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