Cars-on-the-beach options lure families to Florida’s fabled Daytona Beach area because it’s so darn easy to unload all the paraphernalia. But the ones who book a room or suite at The Plaza Resort & Spa rave just as much about the no cars rule on the 600 foot stretch of oceanfront sand in front of the hotel. Cultural Heritage TravelingMom looked into some of those reasons.
History wraps itself gently into vacation life in Florida’s Daytona Beach.
That’s where The Plaza Resort and Spa presents large lobby paintings evoking a sense of a grand four-story hotel built on this same stretch of beach in 1900.
Didn’t seem to help that Daytona owned a chemical fire engine and paid a salary to the fire chief. That resort burned to the ground in 1909.
Today’s iteration of a grand hotel includes 323 guest rooms. None connect, but many accommodate families with two queen beds or a suite where the two-queens bedroom is separate and the living room sofa pulls out to sleep two more.
Rollaway beds and Pac ‘n Play sleepers can be requested and are complimentary. Family-sized rooms come with the array of views, including Atlantic Ocean or Halifax River.
I observed families who chose ground-floor rooms for the ease of parents taking turns back and forth from the pool to the room with toddlers and babies.
The Plaza’s lobby is expansive and it’s difficult to appreciate the woodwork and tall columns reminiscent of the mahogany furniture in the 1911 hotel replacing the original that burned. Here’s why:
The eastern wall is a window to the sea. Isn’t the beach like a magnet, pulling everybody’s focus to the water? I don’t think I appreciated this lobby until my second, maybe third morning in The Plaza Resort.
Refresh if you’re more observant because there’s always an urn of sliced cucumbers or oranges floating in icy water.
Heading out to the beach includes options with a swimming pool, basketball court overlooking the surf, oversized checkers game, grassy play area, fire pit and plenty of seating.
Pay extra if you want a surfing lesson but other beach toys are free for an hour, including kayaks, bicycles, and surfboards.
The Olympic sized pool is always 82 degrees. Must be funny for travelers from the far and chilly north to think of a heated pool in Florida.
Kids’ programs happen periodically during the day and can include beach art, scavenger hunts, family bingo, tie dying and more.
Each of the 323 rooms includes a microwave and mini frig, dishes, glasses, 42-inch flat screen television, Wi-Fi and two large bottles of water.
Feeding the family beyond the bedroom but staying on site is possible with a restaurant in the lobby and a poolside bar and grill. $12 beverage gift cards shared at check-in help care for adults in the indoor lounge overlooking the ocean.
Restaurant walking is feasible too. I strolled two short, well-lighted blocks on Seabreeze Boulevard to The Oyster Pub where the owner showed me the oh-so-fresh certification tag for the catch from Apalachicola.
Should you want to drive, parking at The Plaza Resort & Spa is plentiful, all on the same side of the street and most under the roof in a covered garage. That is not always the case with beach lodging.
Find tips about some of the many places to go exploring beyond the hotel here.
Early waking for sunrise works easily from an ocean-view balcony but access to the pool and play areas and on to the sand is quick and simple too from the first floor. The lobby is on the second.
Gazing east and a little south transports you to beach moods of another era – like the hotels preceding the Plaza’s on this land — because of the wooden pier easily in your view. Boardwalks and more piers, and even a beach band shell distinguish Daytona as it presents coastal traditions in a 2016 kind of way.
In between beach and pool time, or shooting some hoops, Plaza guests really ought to stroll the Grand Colonnade. This is indoor elegance but not so fussy you wouldn’t go in your flip flops and beach cover-up.
Convention groups or wedding parties probably use this space more than vacationing families but I highly recommend some take-a-break-from-the-sun time here. Seating is abundant, in intimate little groupings. The piano is always tuned and guests are welcome to play.
Art Tells Daytona Stories
But it’s the art that tells the story. Paintings of shady boulevards and grand hotels might not hold the kids’ attention very long but could influence fleeting insights into the era of their great-grandparents.
Airplanes on the beach in 1912, in front of the then Clarendon Hotel, are the subject of the painting near the piano. Our kids may notice planes overhead, trailing advertising messages. A century ago on this beach the planes were attractions to tempt hotel guests to venture outside!
Word is the Wright Brothers were among early pilots providing flying exhibitions here.
So was Ruth Law, but I didn’t know her history. Turns out she gave rides to beach visitors, after buying her first plane from Orville Wright in 1913. She’s also the first woman pilot to fly at night and the first woman in the world to loop an airplane; that was 1915 and she was flying from this beach.
Think your kids would take a minute to appreciate that history? If they do, you can mention Ruth Law again when you go to the Boardwalk to ride the rides and eat cotton candy because Daytona created a handsome, easily readable display board with photos all about Ruth Law.
Find it in the grassy area near the Flagler Avenue entrance to the beach. Seems like I should have already heard about the Ruth Law Flying Circus, the barnstorming act she performed all over the country with two male pilots.
Ocean Waters Spa
Spa is part of the resort’s formal name and that translates to 15,000 square feet dedicated to soothing, pampering and healing. Ocean Waters is the name and you find the entrance on the lower level, already separated from the bustling lobby and outdoor activities.
Gentle scents struck me as distinctive; don’t you find spa aromatherapy jolting sometimes? Ocean Waters felt more like orange blossom and rosemary.
Think marshmallow coconut melt instead of hot stone massage for a sense of gentle innovation here.
TravelingMom Tip: Little girls in your traveling group could have a sandy toes pedicure, but teens need to be at least 16 and have parental consent.
Lunch can happen in the spa and I’m inclined to say salmon and a Caprese salad pre or post a treatment sounds like a good plan. For $10 you can get a day pass and lounge around in the inhalation room, slip into the Jacuzzi, sip some wine or fruited water.
Book a treatment or two and stay all day.
The Plaza Resort & Spa room rates start at $119, although specials on the website might lead you to less, and run to $189, or higher for VIP levels.