Seasickness aside, Rob and I recently had a stellar long weekend in Daytona Beach, and I thought I'd tell you about it.
This is how we happened to be there: two people close to us had purchased tickets a while ago, and then realized that mid-May would be a really bad time for them to take a vacation.
We ended up with inexpensive airfare, which included a direct flight on Allegiant Air from Bloomington to Orlando/Sanford, Fla., and back.
Orlando happens to have a lot of really wonderful theme parks, especially if you have kids. (I also know plenty of adults my age who go to Disney World sans kids, to be fair). Rob and I are kidless, though, and aren't really into the theme park scene.
You can also take a cruise out of nearby Port Canaveral, but we didn't have enough time, cruises have gotten some really bad PR lately and I haven't yet updated my passport with my married last name. In hindsight, I'm lucky we didn't take a cruise (again, turns out that I get severely seasick).
So, we ended up renting a car and staying three nights at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort.
We got a great deal on the rooms, even while we paid extra to park there. Our room had a spectacular view, with a door that opened so we could hear the ocean. The location is perfect - you go down two flights of stairs and you're on the beach. The beach itself was great - white sand, no seaweed or garbage. Rob and I had a great time swimming in the Atlantic. Neither of us had been to the ocean before.
The atmosphere itself at Daytona Beach was pretty kitschy, which I loved. It almost had a tinge of county-fair-meets-the-beach, but I'm down with corn dogs and the lights of a Ferris wheel, so it was perfect.
I'm pretty sure people would classify this as a family-friendly vacation spot, as there were kids everywhere. There's tons to do - arcade games, rides, the beach, of course, and lots of shopping. I even saw a sign for a movie theater. I expected to see lots of references to car racing, but that was not the case.
We browsed in gift shops, bought crappy Daytona Beach beach towels and enjoyed some bursting-with-flavor saltwater taffy from Zeno's. You can see the taffy being made in the shop's front window.
Rob and I found it really important to eat great food while we were there, and because we had a rental car, we were able to dine at a couple of local places. The first was Boondocks Restaurant in Port Orange. We ate there Friday night.
We both ordered dinner specials there - Rob had Mahi-mahi with shrimp, covered in a deliciously tangy sauce. I had a huge plate of coconut shrimp, with a coconutty marmalade-like dipping sauce. Rob and I have an ongoing, friendly competition of who can order the best meal, and when he tried my shrimp, the first thing he said was, "You won."
Both entrees were about $18, and were worth every penny.
We also had Zuppa di Clams (clams marinated in a garlicy marinara) as an appetizer, and in hindsight, we would have said yes when the waitress asked if we'd like them with garlic bread. They were delicious and light by themselves, though.
Boondocks is a casual, outdoor eating experience on the Intracoastal, and Rob and I were pleased to find it. It was the most expensive meal we ate in Florida, and we were happy to be spending our money at a local place, not a chain.
Saturday night, we ate at Dolphin View Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, after Rob spent the day deep-sea fishing and I spent the day barfing.
(Side note: Rob would happily recommend the Pastime Princess for anyone who wants to spend the day deep-sea fishing. I recommend taking motion-sickness medicine a few hours before you step foot on the boat.)
The Dolphin View cooked Rob up a boat meal for $4, which included frying his Red Snapper and serving it with fries and a hush puppy. I had a Grouper wrap, which was decent, and an order of green beans, which were deliciously smothered in butter.
For lunch Sunday, just before our flight back to Bloomington, Rob and I found the Willow Tree Cafe in downtown Sanford.
At first, I ignored this cafe in my Google search results because the name made it seem so run-of-the-mill. But luckily, I took the time to read online reviews, figured out it was a German place and we decided to try it.
It was awesome. I had a pork Schnitzel sandwich and red cabbage, which the waitress kindly exchanged for the potato salad the sandwich was supposed to come with. It was tangy and less sweet that the red cabbage I've had at the Bayern Stube in Gibson City.
Rob won the best-meal prize with Der Wanderer, a meal of grilled Leberkase (a thick-sliced Bavarian bologna loaf) over potato pancakes, topped with two eggs sunny-side-up, served with applesauce and mustard.
Our lunches were about $10 each, and we made time to share an enormous slice of German chocolate cake. So tasty.
The service here was awesome, and you could choose to sit outside, if you wanted. They made our lunch really quickly, as we wanted to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
So that was our trip in a nutshell - plenty of time on the beach, fishing and eating. It was perfectly low-key for us, but if you want more excitement, there's plenty to be had in the area.
We were there from Thursday evening through Sunday, and would have happily spent a few more days there if our schedules had allowed. Honestly, though it was a wonderfully relaxing long weekend, and I'm glad we went.