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