Happy Friday friends,
I have always loved the statement, ” tried and true”. When I looked up the meaning of the phrase online, the search said the definition of tried and true refers to something that has been tested, or that has been used in the past and worked well and which is trusted. I laughed to myself out loud when I thought of this phrase because it so perfectly describes my better half’s preference for hotels and restaurants in general. I lovingly tease him he reminds me of my Papa in this way because he is also a creature of habit. Once either one of them find something they really like, you can bet it will not be your last trip to that venue.
Mr. MT and I are polar opposites in this way because I like to try new places and new things. There is one thing about trying new places and things though, sometimes you get a dud. And in those “dud moments”, you wish you would have stuck with the ole’ tried and true and followed that creature of habit. Daytona is just that, tried and true. Like the definition of the term, we have tested it many times in the past, it has worked well, and it is trusted to always be a good trip. Daytona has sort of become our ” go to” for long weekends on a short notice. From excellent food to the beach to Nascar- Daytona Beach really has something for everyone in your group.
One of the most important factors I always look at and research for any trip is the hotel. One of the patrons in my party is pretty stinkin’ picky when it comes to lodging and let me give you a hint, it’s not me or my little. If I find a hotel that my hubby loves then I have really done something because he is a discerning consumer. Anyways, a few summers ago we were looking for somewhere at the very last minute for a long weekend getaway. After a few hours of searching and reading reviews, I stumbled upon the Lotus Boutique Inn & Suites in Ormond Beach, Florida. For reference for anyone who may not be familiar with the area, Ormond Beach, FL actually lies about 6 miles north of Daytona, FL. In my opinion the hotels in Ormond Beach are preferable to some of the options in Daytona proper as it seems a lot more busy.
As a young twenty something I probably would have been smack dab in the middle of the craziness but with a young family- no thanks! I like the Ormond Beach area because you are out of the hustle and bustle but still close enough to all the good restaurants and a really short drive to anything you would like to do in Daytona. The hotels in Ormond Beach seem to be smaller in comparison to the looming high rise type lodgings of Daytona. Since we have a four year old anything very high with a balcony makes the mom in me nervous too!
So, we fell in love with the Lotus on our first trip there. We have subsequently been back an estimated 8-10 times since that first summer there. We have tried a few other places in the interim when we waited too long and the Lotus did not have any vacancies at the last minute. We tried The Bahama House, which was pretty good! It was a condo type hotel room but the hotel was much larger ( and taller) facility that we ideally like.
We then tried The Tropical Sun Towers which is exclusively timeshares that the “hotel” rents out when the weeks are not filled to non- members. From the outside it looked great. The price was right but the room was small and not big enough in my opinion for a young family. We had a very strange experience here at the pool when a very intoxicated man ( at 3 pm) who claimed he was a timeshare owner, screamed at our kids because he thought they had just wondered up from the beach. SO, about forty- five minutes after that happened, we checked out in a record breaking time.
Can you guess where we found ourselves?
At the tried and true Lotus Inn & Suites. The small hotel with the eager to please employees and management team where we have never had anything of the sort happen. I was never so happy to see the Lotus. Again, there is something to be said when you already know what you are getting for your money versus the unexpected experience.
The Lotus is only three levels high with around 30ish rooms. Most are ocean front and many are suite style. I think we have stayed in almost every type of room that they have in the last few years. Our favorite by far has been the rooms on the first floor. They have a huge patio with an outdoor swing and lounge chairs and a nice sized area that is fenced off. This patio opens directly to the pool, fire pit, hot tub and of course the beach.
One of the reasons we don’t enjoy the HUGE high rise type accommodations as much is that you usually have to take elevators ( or worse, stairs), walk what seems like miles, and navigate complex pool area terrain all with a toddler and an insane amount of equipment just to get to the beach. By the time you actually make it to the beach you are whipped. Then you have to haul it all right back up. With the Lotus you can throw something from your balcony or patio and hit the beach if you have a remotely good pitch. You. Are. Close. Check out this post too with all my favorite beach hacks !
This hotel offers fruit, muffins, juice, and yogurt in the mornings as well as a very fancy expresso type machine that with the press of a button can make about 5-6 different types of beverages. I have stayed in a lot of places and the free breakfast is almost like a unicorn these days it seems. I estimate the breakfast saves you an estimated $5-$7 dollars a person if you had gone out somewhere to eat breakfast. For a family of four that is an additional $20-28 dollars per day. On the weekends, they feature wine, beer, crackers, and cheese for happy hour!
Throw in the complimentary happy hour and you have won me over for life.
The staff are some of the nicest I have encountered and when we tell them we are repeat customers they often throw in a 10% discount off the top. There are multiple styles of rooms and layouts depending on your situation, however they all feel very CLEAN and have always smelled amazing. The room layout we like the best is on the bottom floor and has a full kitchen which is especially nice for longer stays. This room also has a king bed on one side of the room with it’s TV and then on the totally opposite side of the room is a queen bed with it’s own TV. A very nice bathroom separates these two bedroom areas. Save the fact there is NOT a separating wall, you almost feel like it is a two bedroom unit because the beds are so far apart and the overall room is so big!! I tend to get a little stir crazy in a small room with a toddler, but you do not get that feeling here. And the separate TVs are also a plus because it keeps everyone happy at night when it’s time to settle down, relax, and find something to watch. The price point is what I would consider to be affordable for sure. I won’t bother with listing prices as of course those vary constantly depending on the day and the website you use but to give you an idea, this trip I am referencing was Memorial Day weekend which is one of the most expensive weekends to go to the beach, excluding the fourth of July and Labor Day. We paid around $550 in total for three nights for an ocean front room with a king and a queen. For whatever reason, most hotels jack their prices up tremendously due to supply and demand on Memorial Day weekend but I found these prices to be very close in line to what we have paid on a non-holiday weekend. Even with any small inflation they might have included that weekend, I felt like it was an amazing value as always.
We headed to Daytona early Sunday afternoon. In the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door we skipped lunch. So around 4pm when we got to town we were starving. We stopped at Hull’s Seafood, another favorite that we always try to hit. If you want amazing seafood you have to try Hull’s seafood. It is a low-key, no muss no fuss type of restaurant. Adjoining the restaurant is Hull’s seafood market where they offer any and every kind of fresh seafood and condiment you can think of for whipping up an amazing seafood meal. When I say fresh, what I mean is every time we have gone to eat there we have watched a fisherman literally unload his boat and carry cooler inside. Fresh as in, was swimming in the ocean that morning kind of fresh. Yes please! I got the fried shrimp which is what I usually get there and they are some of the best I have had. The hushpuppies will make you cry. The line is often out the front door with locals. There is also a small, but nice, outdoor patio area in the back that looks really neat. After such a large and late “lunch”, we just grabbed Papa John’s for dinner. I always try to plan in at least one pizza night as that will definitely be a savings as opposed to going out. Sometimes with small kids ordering pizza in is just the easiest , and cheapest, thing to do.
Monday, we hung out on the beach the majority of the day. In addition to hitting up ice cream truck which is one of Pierce’s most favorite parts of the beach, I had brought a bunch of really yummy sandwich fixins’ and all kinds of snacks for the smallest Hewett so we didn’t have to leave or go spend a lot on lunch. My good friend Marielle (expert mom status) introduced me to a glorious kid’s item a few years ago, the Smucker’s frozen PB&J. This item is now a staple for all vacations and is the perfect thing to throw in the cooler on days like this. Since we were low key and thrifty during the day we decided to really splurge on dinner that night.
Insert another Ormond Beach/Daytona must do…Riptides. Riptides is just a few miles from the Lotus so we almost always make it a part of our trip. You can also get an Uber ride from the hotel to Riptides for around $6 dollars. You will probably be hearing a lot more about Uber in the future because I am a huge fan. Every time I have ever been to Riptides they have live music. For me they get cool points just for that. As a mom I have figured out that live music provides lot of entrainment for small kids because they seem to enjoy it and it hides a multitude of behavioral sins including but not limited to meltdowns, tantrums, talking too loudly, inappropriate bodily noises and just generally anything you might be embarrassed by. Live music at meals is a mom’s friend plus I REALLY love live music.
Riptides of course offers a very nice indoor restaurant area for those who like to be in the AC, but I prefer the porch. In addition to live music, there are fans and the porch is covered. By nighttime it has always seemed plenty cool temperature wise to me and I hate to be hot. There is also a game area inside which is good if the little ones are not as impressed by the music as mom or dad or just generally restless. Riptides is known for their all you can eat crab legs and that is what we usually get. Between ” free breakfast” at the hotel and bringing lunch stuff from home it allows me to not feel as guilty about the price which I think runs around 49.99 per person. There are tons of amazing choices besides the crab legs with all the usual seafood staples. The kids menu choices are varied and very reasonably priced with large portions. Riptides also features a long list of draft beers and other adult beverages ( I like their orange pilsner).I recommended this place to an old friend of mine last week who was headed there with her small kids and looking for option and she just sent me a message and said, “we went to rip tides last night and it was awesome. That is somewhere we will go out to eat every year we are down there”. I rest my case.
The next day was almost an exact repeat of the previous day. Breakfast and lunch at the room complete with a trip to the ice cream truck! While I was at the grocery store before we left I visited the ice cream section. A fun and frugal tip would be to grab a few options to take with you and throw in the freezer at the room as an alternative to the ice cream truck. With only 3 of us this time it wasn’t too bad but I felt bad for the family next to us who had about 6-8 people at around $5-6 bucks a pop. After 2, 3, or 4 days of that it can really add up! Pre-buying the ice cream would be an easy way to cut a corner as the ice cream at the grocery store only runs you about $3 bucks and change for a box of four ice creams.
That night we decided to try place on constant repeat, Caribbean Jack’s. Caribbean Jack’s was a bit further than Riptides and the Uber ride took around 10 mins from our room. But it is well worth the distance. It is beautifully located at a marina. You have a gorgeous view of the river as well as the marina. Every time we have been there is always live music and this time was no exception. The guy playing that night was really good! Are you seeing a theme yet? Their outdoor area is awesome and a lot of the tables rock just like a rocking chair. The entire table with the benches. And they are covered so it is really fun for the kids. it kind of feels like you are in your own private boat or something. They do have an indoor area for those who prefer that but of course we opted for the freedom and relaxed environment that the outdoor dining offers, especially with Mr. Wonderful in tow. The server we had that night was unbelievable. Some of the best service I have had at a restaurant in awhile.
With Caribbean Jack’s you almost HAVE to get the fish or shrimp tacos. Nah I’m just kidding you don’t have to but I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. I had the mahi mahi fish tacos and my hubby had the shrimp tacos. They were mildly spicy, tangy, grilled, and just down right delicious. They served the tacos with rice and a fresh fruit mango salsa that is killer! The kids menu here was really good also. There were lots of good choices for the kids, large portions with the meal, and a great price. The kid’s meals also came with a free ice cream which I loved because it left the adult dessert to us. We shared the banana foster. PLEASE! Do yourself a favor. If you do nothing else in Daytona, go to Caribbean Jack’s and get the banana foster. It will literally change your life. I am not kidding. It is a mind blowing concoction of fresh bananas, ice cream, whip cream,a puff pastry, and a rum/praline like sauce. It is all that is right with the world friends. As my stepmom Elizabeth has said before of her favorite sweets, “when it was over I almost cried”. The view on this night was especially beautiful with the amazing live music in the background and seemed to encapsulate all that is wonderful about the beach. Caribbean Jack’s is the perfect way to wrap up any lovely day at the beach and in this instance a great way to cap off a great last minute getaway.
A few of the other restaurants that are almost always a must do are Aunt Catfish in Port Orange and Charlie Horse. Both are incredible and deserving of their very own post which I will try to do next time!
And that friends completes my dissertation on Daytona Beach. I’m just kidding but there is a lot to be said for old faithful Daytona Beach. I apologize for the length but I didn’t want to spare any important detail. Every place mentioned has been tried and tested by us numerous times. There is no risk or gamble involved and I can almost guarantee you will not be disappointed with any of them. Plan your trip to include a race at the Nascar track while you are there. It is SUCH a blast!