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The Atlantic town once known as spring break central has evolved into a family-friendly vacation spot offering something for everyone. About 65 miles northeast of Walt Disney World, it’s one of the closest coastal cities to Orlando, making it a no-brainer for folks looking to add a beach day to their theme park vacation. Much of the spring break action has migrated to the Panhandle, making Daytona Beach ideal for a getaway at moderate speed. Here’s your game plan.

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Day 1

Jump-start your morning with cinnamon rolls, and biscuits and gravy, at Mike’s Galley Restaurant and Donut Shoppe before heading to Daytona International Speedway. Even if you don’t know a checkered flag from a chassis, it’s worth a visit to the city’s most famous attraction. The basic 30-minute tour includes an open-air tram ride along the track, a photo op at the winner’s podium and a visit to the new Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Even when the stands are empty, you can almost hear the roar of the crowd at Daytona International Speedway. | Photo: Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

For lunch, head to Don Vito’s Italian Restaurant, a family-friendly spot with killer fried ravioli and pizza rolls.

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Next, if you’re visiting between April and August, swing by Jackie Robinson Ballpark to catch the minor-league Daytona Tortugas in action. Anytime of year, you’ll find something to please everyone at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, which is like an art museum, kid-friendly science center, planetarium and historic home and in one.

The Museum of Arts & Sciences houses a collection of teddy bears, Coca-Cola memorabilia and other oddities. | Photo: Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

Lastly, do dinner at Half Wall Beer House, a brewpub with four local locations that’s part of the Daytona Beach Ale Trail. Toast to a great first day.

Day 2

The Cracked Egg Diner is Daytona Beach’s go-to spot for all-day breakfast; whatever you order, add a side of apple fritters before heading south for a day trip to nearby Brevard County.

Carve out at least a half-day for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where you can get up close to the space shuttle Atlantis, ride a flight simulator and more. Stay for Lunch with an Astronaut, a dinner-theater-like buffet meal during which someone who’s flown in space shares stories and answers audience questions. For kids in particular, this is (literally) an out-of-this-world opportunity.

Propel your vacation to another level when you visit Kennedy Space Center. | Flickr Photo: Reinhard Link

Work off your meal at the Brevard Zoo, where you’ll do much more than just stare at the animals. Take a kayak tour through Expedition Africa, steer a paddle boat through wetlands and ride ziplines over the animals as part of the zoo’s aerial obstacle course.

Have a wild time at the Brevard Zoo. | Flickr photo: Rusty Clark

For dinner, head to the oceanfront Beach Bucket Bar and Grill in Ormond Beach, a no-fuss diner with a great view of the surfers. After all, Florida’s Atlantic coast has the state’s gnarliest waves.

Day 3

It’s time to put the “beach” in Daytona Beach. You could spend a day lounging on the sand—no shame in that game—but there’s lots to see and do, if you’re up for it.

Daytona Beach is only about an hour’s drive from Orlando, so you can have your Mickey ice cream bar and eat it, too. | Photo: Daytona Beach, Florida

Start off with breakfast at Crabby Joe’s, an eatery perched in the Atlantic Ocean at the end of Sunglow Pier, where the views are as satisfying as the omelets. From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to Blue Coast Shop, where you can rent fat-tired “beach cruiser” bicycles, tandem bikes and trailers for the kids, then head south to embark on a self-guided tour of the coastline. Stop along the way to climb the Ponce De Leon Lighthouse, pet stingrays in the Marine Science Center’s touch tank and settle in for a well-deserved lunch at Racing’s North Turn, a NASCAR-themed bar and grill.

Daytona Beach, Florida

Return the bikes and, if you can still feel your legs, drive about 6 miles up A1A for a stroll along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier. Ride the Ferris wheel, watch street performers and bring plenty of quarters for the arcade. For dinner, grab a few slices from Pizza King, and save room for saltwater taffy from Zeno’s Boardwalk Sweet Shop for a sweet ending to your Daytona Beach getaway.

Skip the wild spring break parties in favor of a low-key stroll along the boardwalk. | Photo: Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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Tagged: Florida

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Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.

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