Daytona Beach: 3 Nights with a Teen and a Timeshare


Each year, we take advantage of New Jersey’s “Teacher Convention” school break, and turn it into a November vacation. We’ve mixed it up over the years with trips to the Caribbean, a few cruises and some local getaways. This past year, we combined a few nights visiting the grandparents in Jacksonville, FL, with a quick jaunt down to Daytona for a 3-night stay on “The World’s Most Famous Beach.”

Trying to utilize the overabundance of timeshare weeks/points I’ve seemed to accumulate, I did a search through RCI and found that the Daytona area was full of options. My goal was to snag a condo directly on the beach, with enough activities to keep my 13 year old entertained. I found an exchange at the Catalina Beach Club, which guaranteed an ocean front unit with a balcony (my requirements), and a fully loaded game room, decent pool, and jacuzzi tub in the room (my son’s requirements). All came through with flying colors.

Located just over a mile south of the Daytona Beach Pier, this was a quiet, central spot from which to explore the area. The resort itself was in great shape, with recently renovated units and well maintained public areas. Both the staff, and other guests, were friendly & helpful, making our stay a huge success. I was also pleasantly surprised by the building’s security, with a room key needed to access both the elevators & stairwells, and a special gate code required to gain access to and from the beach.

Our 1BR/2BA unit offered everything we needed, including a pullout couch in the living room, a fully equipped kitchen and that jacuzzi tub in the master bath. A quick trip to the Winn Dixie right down the street, provided us with a nice variety of food for breakfast, lunch & snacks, giving us the opportunity for some great dinners out. That’s the advantage to staying in a condo with a full kitchen vs a hotel room. (For a video tour of the unit, visit my YouTube Channel, Trips and Tastes.)

The pool, where we spent most of our time, was a basic rectangle, but large, and deeper than most. It was kept pristinely clean and there were plenty of noodles & tubes floating around for guests to enjoy. There were also chairs that you could take to the beach, and a corn hole game that could be played down on the sand. The resort offered a variety of daily activities by the pool including karaoke on Tuesdays, a hot dog lunch on Wednesdays & a variety of ice cream treats for sale on Thursdays. The indoor game room was well stocked with a ping pong table, 2 pool tables, video games, and plenty of puzzles, books & board games.

This strip of Daytona is basically a row of hotel/condo buildings on the beach side & an assortment of restaurants, random retail stores & a couple of decent mini-golf courses across the street. Not exactly “pretty,” but the beach itself is long and wide, with great packed sand for walking or biking. The ocean was a little rough while we were there, but there’s a nice gradual entrance that let’s you wade in slowly. You can also catch a great sunrise here each morning and have the beach basically to yourself.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the infamous Pier Area. Was hoping to find the ferris wheel, roller coaster & go-carts shown in all the pictures & web sites I saw online, but they’re no longer there. Instead, there are some shady looking arcades and a “Scream Park” with only two, very tall, very intimidating rides, that would only appeal to the true daredevils of the world (not us). I walked there from the resort one morning along the beach, only to find it pretty run down & nothing that enticed me to revisit. That being said, we found plenty of other things to do & places to see including the following:

The Museum of Arts & Sciences – Interesting exhibits including a Children’s Science Center, Planetarium and dinosaur/fossil room.

Go Kart City – We took this 15 minute drive and were able to bang out go carts, mini golf & an arcade in one stop. They also had batting cages. I found a great deal on Groupon, but the prices were pretty reasonable.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse – This was awesome! Check out the grounds & then climb 175′ to the top of this historic lighthouse. Friendly & knowledgable staff, along with a great gift shop.

Marine Science Center – This is a must-see in conjunction with the Lighthouse (it’s right down the street). Awesome spot where they rehabilitate sea turtles & marine birds. Informative presentations on local wildlife, great “touch tanks” filled with sting rays & sea urchins, a nature trail and more.

Back in Daytona, we also enjoyed the Riverfront area just over the bridge. We visited the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory there and enjoyed a nice dinner outside at Zappi’s Italian Garden.

This ended up being the exact trip I had hoped for… no stress, plenty of interesting activities, and a few days to just hang out with my boy. At 13, I’m lucky that he still wants to be seen with me! I love these trips and cherish the time we get to spend together. He’s always been the best little traveler & I love having him along as we discover new places and experiences together. #makingmemories

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I Found Peace… at Legoland


On January 2nd of this year, we made our second trip to this fairly new theme park in Winter Haven, FL.  This time I discovered what used to draw people here in the first place… the original “Cypress Gardens.”  Opened in 1936, this 30-acre botanical garden was Florida’s first commercial theme park.  It is now nestled inside this plastic-piece haven, but still provides a beautiful oasis filled with tropical flowers, incredible trees & peaceful streams.


That’s my mom… She’s tiny, but the tree really is enormous!

The centerpiece of this magical area is a gigantic Banyan Tree.  I’m guessing it spreads out over at least a 50-foot span (if not more), with new roots dropping everywhere to form multiple limbs all around.  Stand underneath it, in the very center, and look up to see a miraculous web of uninterrupted growth.

The park is bordered on one whole side by Lake Eloise (where the famous water-skiing shows were featured in Cyprus Gardens’ heyday) and where most of the Legoland shows still take place.  It’s a beautiful backdrop for the foliage & wildlife that now reside in this section of the garden.

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Along the winding paths in this botanical paradise, there are streams & small waterfalls where we saw plenty of birds and fish… we even heard mention of a gator sighting!   2015-01-02 18 41 16

The 3 shades of the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow plant.

The 3 shades of the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow plant.

And the flowers were amazing…  I was totally fascinated by this “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” plant.  I had never seen, nor heard of this beautiful flowering bush and was immediately fascinated by it.  A native of Brazil, the “Brunfelsia” has lush green foliage, accented by clusters of small flowers that change colors in a 3-day cycle.  It first blooms in a purple or violet shade, the next day, that same flower changes to a pale lavender and finally on the 3rd day, the flower turns completely white.  With hundreds of blooms on a single plant, it’s absolutely gorgeous!

It was hard not to take a picture of everything I passed… here are a few of my favorites:

"Project X"

Our “Keepsake Photo” from Project X.

Now don’t get me wrong, Legoland itself is still a worthy destination for the whole family (and my son’s favorite park).  It has a nice assortment of rides, including a few good coasters (“Project X” is a must do) and plenty of Lego stores, shows and decent places to eat.  My son could have spent most of the day in the “Build & Test” section of the Imagination Zone where you can build & race your own Lego vehicles, but he also loved the rides, the mini village and the 4-D movies.

Located just 45 minutes south of Orlando, Legoland provides an easy escape from the mad rush of Disney and easily entertains a wide range of ages.  Big news at the park this year is the opening on May 15th of their very own 152-room, Lego-themed hotel.   Not sure you’d need to stay more than one day, but the hotel itself looks like it will provide plenty of its own additional entertainment.

In our 2 visits here, we still haven’t ventured into the Legoland Water Park – guess that will be on the list for next time!