If you have a toddler or preschooler who loves sea animals, Daytona Beach is the place for you! Our toddler Traveling Mom recently explored three different Daytona Beach locations with sea animals to touch, feed, and see. All three attractions are ideal for kids who aren’t ready for more adventurous activities like kayaking. They’re great options when you’re visiting Daytona Beach with kids.
Visiting Daytona Beach with Kids Who Love Animals
I recently visited Daytona Beach with my husband and my 4-year-old son. My son loves pretty much all animals, land, and sea. During our trip, we made a point to find places unique to Daytona Beach that he could interact with animals while we were there. These four places made our list of best things to do in Daytona Beach as adults while also keeping my preschooler highly entertained.
Marine Science Center
The Marine Science Center is just a few miles away from Daytona Beach, on the Ponce Inlet. It’s small and only took us about an hour to walk through but that hour was filled with fun and unique experiences. Start off your visit with a walk through of the interactive room filled with educational things to do like measuring the skull of an alligator.
Walk into the main room with a touch tank full of string rays eager to be touched, a fish tank, and an area full of small turtles basking in the fluorescent lights. Next is a small room with more fish and an octopus who likes to play hide and seek and fetch. One of the staff members came in and used a ball to encourage the octopus to stretch his tentacles and put on a show. Find an employee only section full of pools of sea turtles who are being nursed back to health around the corner.
Marine Science Center Nature Trail
Head outside to the nature trail once you’re done inside. We found more animals and birds outside on the nature trail. My son loved seeing the hawks and bald eagles up close.
Traveling Mom Tip: Park near the bird trail in the back. Start inside and end with the bird trail then just hop in your car and go, thus avoiding kids wanting to return inside to see the animals again.
Reptile Discovery Center
The Reptile Discovery Center is one of our favorite Daytona Beach things to do that isn’t actually in Daytona Beach. It’s about 15 miles away and for reptile lovers, well worth the drive. If you’re flying into Orlando like we did, it’s on your drive to or from Daytona Beach.
The center is similar to the marine science center in that it’s small but has a lot to offer if you time it right. There are a handful of exhibits with snakes of all sizes and venom levels.
Traveling Mom Tip: Don’t miss the 11:30AM and 3:00PM venom extraction Thursday-Saturday and at 11:30AM only on Sunday. Staff members will extract venom from one of the snakes then allow kids and adults to hold snakes if they choose.
Manatee and Dolphin Eco Tours
Various boating companies offer boat, kayak, and paddle boarding tours throughout Daytona Beach. Our favorite for preschoolers is the Ponce Inlet Water Sports eco tour. It’s a 90-minute boat tour along the intercoastal waterways in a shaded, but not totally covered boat. We loved it because kids can sit on the outside seat without worrying about them falling off. While no promises are made about what sea animals you’ll see, they see dolphins, manatees, and other sea life regularly.
We did the tour as a family and other than one time where the waves crashed over the boat and caught my son off guard, it was one of the highlights of the trip. Our first mate Danielle made up for the waves by giving the kids on board a juice box because everyone knows a juice box can save even the worst day. They also gave my son a chance to drive the boat, which he took seriously and loved.
What We Saw on Our Eco Tour
During our visit, we spotted a variety of birds local to the area as well a pod of maternity dolphins. The dolphins swam around and near our boat while we took photos for a good thirty minutes. It was the closest I’ve ever been to that many dolphins in the wild, and I’m not sure who was more excited – the kids or adults. After our dolphin encounter, we stopped at the nearby sandbar to feel the sand between our toes then headed back to the dock.
Traveling Mom Tip: Get there a few minutes early to enjoy close parking as well as a corn hole game, chalk board drawings, and searching for sea animals below the dock.
Congo River Golf
Congo River Golf was definitely the biggest surprise of our trip. We went expecting to play a fun round of miniature golf and ended up finding a place my son wanted to return to all weekend long. Congo River Golf not only offers fantastic miniature golf but also the opportunity to feed and hold alligators, to mine for gems, and to play games.
We purchased the ultimate package with everything from golf to gators and spent a couple of hours enjoying everything they had to offer. The alligator feeding was unlike any we’ve ever experienced before. You stick a piece of meat on a fishing pole like apparatus and put it into the pit with the gators then watched them fight for the food. It was unique and the highlight of our Congo River Golf experience.
Traveling Mom Tip: Sign up for the Congo River email list, and they’ll send you a fantastic coupon that gives you a discount per person. We saved $10 for just the two of us making it a great deal.
Other Tips for Visiting Daytona Beach with Kids
These were some of our favorite places in Daytona beach and great for any young kids who love animals, so make sure to check out these other Daytona Beach resources to fill up the rest of your time!
- 11 of the Best Restaurants in Daytona Beach
- Family Friendly Things to Do in Daytona Beach
- Things to Do Other than the Beach in Daytona Beach