Saturday, January 30, 2016

Still More to See in Daytona Beach

It was day three in Daytona Beach, Florida, for my friend Betty and I. We were definitely not running out of things to do.

We decided to sleep in a bit and have breakfast downstairs at the Oceanside Inn. By 9:00 am we were still off to the Marine Science Center.

It was smaller than an aquarium, but still offered plenty to do, including the opportunity to touch sharks and stingrays, and see and learn about the rehabilitation and breeding of sea turtles.

We also saw examples about how things in the environment, especially garbage thrown into the water, affects marine life.

Before we drove off, we took a walk across the road for a short hike and a glimpse at the beach.

We were then off to the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. It was very different from most National Historic Landmarks I have been to.

It wasn’t about famous people in history, it was more an honor to important people you may not know about.

In this case, the site pays homage to the light keepers and their families who lived and worked here. They were an important part of the expansion of this part of Florida.

We were able to walk through their houses and the museum, and climb the lighthouse steps.

It was a short ride to the Inlet Harbor Restaurant & Marina and we were quite hungry. It’s a cute place with boat-in dining.

We immediately were in agreement of taking advantage of the margarita special.

It was a bit more difficult for me to find something I could eat that wasn’t cooked with fish, but I finally settled on nachos and Betty really liked the fish tacos.

After a leisurely lunch, we took the Dunlawton Bridge to Canal Street in New Smyrna Beach and walked around this artsy neighborhood.

We found lots of galleries, as well as studios for pottery, jewelry and sculpture.

Before we left, we stopped at the New Smyrna Beach Brewing Co. I’m not a big beer drinker so I let Betty sample a few of the beers. She gave them a thumbs up while I enjoyed their root beer, a treat I occasionally indulge in.

We took a short stroll around Flagler Avenue in Daytona Beach before heading back to the hotel to chill a bit before dinner.

There were a few restaurants options for us and we definitely picked the right one. Kona Tiki Bar and Grind Gastropub were a lot of fun (the two are really combined).

We listened to some great beach music and had the best meal of the week.
I had a delicious pizza with fig, feta cheese, and prosciutto, drizzled with balsamic, while Betty raved about the Lobster Mac N Cheese.

We sipped some cocktails and relaxed before heading back to the Oceanside Inn. It had been a wonderful few days in Daytona Beach, but it was time to pack up and head home.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Busy Day Exploring Daytona Beach, Florida

My friend Betty and I had flown down to Daytona Beach for three fun-filled days. We hit the ground running on day one, and day two was even more busy.

We woke up early at the Oceanside Inn and headed to Crabby Joe’s Deck & Grill to meet Lori Campbell Baker and Tonya West of the Daytona Convention and Visitors Bureau for breakfast.

Lori and Tonya had worked hard to arrange our schedule and, although it sounded like a strange spot for breakfast, I trusted they had their reasons.

When we arrived, we soon realized Crabby Joe's was not only a scenic spot out on the Sun Glow Pier over the ocean, but the menu was filled with some unusual dishes, like fish fillets for breakfast.

The day was cloudy and it appeared that a storm was coming, but we were ready to brave whatever the weather had in store for us.

Betty enjoyed the Fisherman's Special with grits, while I had some tasty French toast.

We talked more about Daytona Beach, what we had done, and all the fun things ahead of us, before Betty and I bid farewell and headed to the Museum of Arts & Sciences.

The museum definitely exceeded my expectations. I learned that Root Glass, the company that made Coca-Cola bottles was based in Daytona and there was an interesting – and colorful – exhibition on Root that included lots of bottles and other memorabilia.

The museum also had a teddy bear display, as well as a Chinese Art gallery, and assorted other art exhibits.

We spent a few hours there and took a walk through the serene Tuscawilla Preserve before heading just next door to the newly opened Ciciand Hyatt Brown Museum of Art.

The collection was quite extensive and I wished we had more time to explore it further, but we still had a lot to do.

The Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum had a Honeybaked Ham Café. It was nostalgic for me as there was one near the house I lived in while in New York for many years.

Before we left we got some sandwiches to go. We headed to the beach for a picnic lunch. It didn’t last long as the rain finally did break through the clouds as we watched the surfers taking advantage of the storm waves.

Our next stop was Daytona International Speedway, which is quite impressive.

We walked around the Welcome Center and checked out the Pit Shop before taking the Speedway Tour.

The rain (literally) put a damper on the open-air tour, but we did learn a lot about the speedway and it’s $400 million renovation.

It’s already an impressive facility and looks to be even more so over the next year.

Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t completely catch up on the schedule and got to Angell & Phelps too late for the final Chocolate Factory tour of the day.

We were still able to look through the windows to check it out a bit. One of the workers saw us and gave us a quick briefing and some samples.

Before we left there we picked up some of their chocolate covered potato chips and chocolate covered bacon to bring back home.

We spotted Wine Me on our way to the car and decided to stop in and have a glass of wine. It’s a cute place, with a big selection of wine that changes often.

It was after 6:00 pm when we got back to the hotel and decided to take a little break before heading to dinner in nearby Ponce Inlet.

Racing’s North Turn is a popular place in the Daytona Beach area. It’s right on the ocean, on the spot where racing began here in 1936.

We enjoyed the live music and some cocktails with dinner. Betty once again took advantage of the ocean location for some great seafood, while I had pasta.

Daytona Beach Oceanside Inn
After dinner, we headed back to the Daytona Oceanside Inn. Betty did some walking on the beach, but I was done for the day and looking forward to another full day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Following the Ocean to Daytona Beach

I’ve spent a lot of time in Florida, but one place I haven’t visited much was Daytona Beach. When the tourism board contacted me about doing a trip, it didn’t take a lot of convincing.

The plans went quickly into action with my friend Betty coming along for her first trip exploration with me.

We had a very early flight out of Bloomington, Illinois, but the next one would have gotten us into Daytona too late in the day so we went for it and planned a fairly light day ahead.

We had also decided to make our first stop to get in the downtime mood by finding a Groupon for manicures and pedicures at Aadvanced Bodyworx

It was definitely relaxing and we were ready to get the flip flops on!

Just down the road from the spa was Woody’s BBQ. Judging by the lunchtime crowd, it seemed to be a popular local place.

We weren’t disappointed. We ordered combination plates and the roast turkey, mac n cheese, and coleslaw were delicious. 

The pulled pork looked a bit dry, but when I put one of Woody’s barbecue sauces on it the whole dish changed.

Our schedule was light the first day, but kept us going until the end. We couldn’t help making a short stop to see the ocean before we went any further.

Since I grew up and spent most of my life only a few miles from the ocean on Long Island I love just listening to the waves, but Midwesterner Betty enjoyed the full experience.

The first official stop was at the Ormond Beach Memorial Art Museum & Gardens.

It looked like it might rain so we decided to wander the gardens first. The trail was colorful and relaxing. We found it quite peaceful as we meandered through the unusual flora and waterfalls.

We also took a walk through the Labyrinth, an ancient symbol for wholeness and healing. More of that could never hurt!

The Memorial Art Museum is not large, but it’s worth a look. They also have various art classes and programs for children and adults.

From the museum we went to the hotel to check in.

The Oceanside Inn was right on the beach. It’s a comfortable hotel with a restaurant, bar, and pool.

We had a room with a perfect view of the ocean. It also had a kitchenette and sitting area, which come in handy when you are spending a few days.

We took just a short time to relax before heading to Ocean Deck for dinner. The tourism board had told us it was a favorite of locals and was directly on the beach.

It definitely was. Some of the tables were just a step from the sand and ours wasn’t much further.

Ocean Deck Restaurant on Daytona Beach. Cloudy, but great view of the beach from our table.

We had hoped to catch a nice sunset, but it was too cloudy.

Still we enjoyed the view with some tropical cocktails.

As much as I love going to waterfront restaurants, it’s always a challenge with a seafood allergy. Ocean Deck Restaurant was very accommodating.

While Betty enjoyed the fish special, I really liked the veggie burger with mango and guacamole they made me.  

We saved some room for desserts, Snickers Pie and Chocolate Cream Pie.

The early morning flight was catching up with us and we were ready to go back to the Oceanside Inn to get some sleep.

We were going to need it because the schedule for day two in Daytona Beach was packed with fun. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mountain top Finish to Boyne Highlands Adventure

I was excited to be invited to Boyne Highlands Resort in Northern Michigan. It also worked out that my brother was able to come from California with my youngest niece and nephew to join me. 

I hadn't seen them in a while so it was exciting.

Even though I had broken my arm a few weeks before the trip, we were all having a blast. 

They had been skiing, ziplining, and snowboarding in the first two days. I had hit the spa and joined in a little tubing.

On Sunday morning, we got up early and headed to the buffet breakfast, which is quite extensive at Boyne Highlands Resort

We didn’t want to eat too much because it would soon be time for a first for all of us – dogsledding.

I admit I had thought a bit that it wasn’t fair to the dogs, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Royal Canine trains these dogs in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and what they do is up to them. Almost all of them were excited to welcome us and the one who wasn’t in the mood to pull the sled, was replaced and snuggled.

It was two to a sled so my brother and I went on one while Moriah and Jacob were on the other. It was a ton of fun as we soared through the snow and explored the grounds.

After the dogsleds, we met up with Erin Ernst, the Director of Marketing for Boyne Highlands Resort, and the rest of the press group in the Cafeteria for lunch.

Everyone, especially the kids, were beaming when they were told to pick whatever they wanted from the pasta bar, salad bar, macaroni and cheese bar, smoothie bar, and ice cream bar.

I took advantage of the fact that I hadn’t had much breakfast before the dog sled, ordering a fruit filled smoothie, macaroni and cheese with broccoli, mushrooms, and artichokes, and chocolate ice cream with peanut butter and fudge!

The kids also made their own concoctions, while my brother was a bit more conservative (and healthy).

After lunch, I did some exploring while everyone hit the slopes again and then we all met up to get ready for dinner.

We were going to have a special Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner in a cabin on top of the mountain.

We took a “sleigh ride” up to the mountain, pulled by a tractor rather than horses. It was beautiful on the way up and even more stunning a site when we arrived on top. 

We could even see the Mackinac Bridge below us.

Candles were lit for subtle lighting as a guitarist played in the background. We were poured wine and beverages for the kids before the French Onion Soup and warm bread came.

For the main course we had roast beef tenderloin, vegetables, and mashed potatoes. There was also a vegetarian pasta available, which was delicious.

The chocolate fondue for dessert was scrumptious, especially with the fresh cookies.

I could see why this was such a popular dinner with guests. (During the season it’s offered with advanced reservations.)

Jacob and Moriah got to ride in the front of the tractor on the way down and really enjoyed it. 

It was our final mountain climb for the end of an amazing Boyne Highlands Resort adventure in Michigan.