The Daytona Beach Cultural Marathon – Daytona Beach, Florida, USA
In my first feature on the Daytona Beach area, I discussed its “home” aspects. In this article, I proclaim how culturally rich this area of racing and spring breaking really is. You can get so cultured out, you won’t have time for a suntan or one racing lap during the 500!
I lead off with the 4.5 acre Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens. It features various forms of artwork from Florida and the world who have covered such subjects as fiber and jewelry art. An ethnic art exhibition featuring two-dimensional works by greater Miami Latinos will run from March 2 to April 15, 2007.
Artist, Malcolm Frasier, agreed to give 50-plus of his paintings to the War Memorial Museum after World War II, free for the public, who can also view two small monuments dedicated to Floridian war veterans. The museum has 67 of Frasier’s works, but because the paintings have endured a lot of wear and tear, only two or three are on display at any one time, while the others are being restored.
According to the tour guide, four acres of the complex are devoted to a Japanese-style garden park, including steps leading to a waterfall, ponds and a wedding chapel gazebo. Such plant life as bamboo, sago palm and banana plants can be spotted. This is one awesome place to get your thoughts together!
Coca-Cola Heaven at Daytona’s Premiere Art, Science and History Museum!
The Museum of Arts & Sciences is located on the beautiful six-acre Tuscawilla Nature preserve. It offers hours of enjoyment, something for everybody. This venue specializes in curating art, history and science objects. The museum’s affiliation with the Smithsonian means more objects can be on display. When I visited, I saw a mailbox and Monopoly set made out of gold that came from the Smithsonian! Here’s a rundown on some of my favorite areas in this incredible museum.
The Center for Florida History Gallery has one of the largest collections of Florida fossils, including the 13-foot high vegetarian sloth that weighed several tons, as well as a ground sloth-like Glyptodont, which really awed the kids. It’s about half the size of a VW Bug!
Many of the Cuban Museum pieces were donated by the former leader of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, who was ousted by The Beard. This gallery includes a lot of pre-Castro era paintings, photos and war medals. My favorite exhibit is a 1/16 restored scale model of a Hershey’s Chocolate sugar mill that was built in 1930.
In the decorative arts section, feast your eyes on some incredible pieces like 130 Ashante gold ornaments or a couple of Wedgwood cheese domes from the early part of the nineteenth century. A prominent area family, the Roots, donated the state’s largest collection of stuffed teddy bears of different themes and eras, as well as a wide collection of Coca-Cola artifacts. It was Root’s Bottling Company that won the design competition for the perfect Coke bottle in 1915, making the family very rich. The Coca-Cola displays feature the original patent paperwork for the bottle, numerous vending machines and a few restored Coca-Cola delivery trucks. Only the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta contains more Coke memorabilia!
Other items in and outside the Root gallery include railroad company artifacts, two restored railroad observation cars. One has a beaver tail window layout for observation on the top deck, called the Hiawatha. These cars were used by the Roots for trips around the United States. A 1900 drugstore layout with all the bottled concoctions on the wall behind the counter will enthrall fans of that era!
A children’s section full of interactive exhibits includes a science area to perform simple experiments.
The much awaited art collections (roughly 80) of the late actor, Anthony Quinn, will be on display from February 16 to May 20, 2007 – paintings and sculptures.
Savor Daytona History to the Max at the Halifax
The Halifax Historical Museum is located in the former Merchant’s Bank, which dates back to 1911. Its walls feature murals that were hand painted, showcases Daytona Beach’s history via numerous exhibits of pre-historic, Indian-, British-, French-, and Spanish- dominations from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the present day. I learned that the state of Florida is named for the Pascua Florida Festival that was taking place when Ponce de Leon claimed the land for Spain in April of 1513.
Some of my favorite pieces in this museum include a post-Civil War artifact, a picture of Abe Lincoln proudly displayed in this once Confederate state that you’d see in somone’s parlor! The Jackie Robinson exhibit is important because it discusses the first professional integrated baseball game that took place in Daytona Beach on March 17, 1946 – a minor league game with Robinson’s Montreal Royals taking on the local ball club, a year before he broke into the big leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Bill McCoy of “The Real McCoy” fame has a exhibit. McCoy was a rum-running boat captain during Prohibition who never cut his liquor and dealt fairly with buyers in New York. He was dubbed "The Real McCoy", which still means “genuine” to this very day! He claimed to deliver 170,000 cases of liquor. Some breathtaking Depression Era glassworks are on display, also McCoy’s binoculars and navigation equipment.
As a lover and creator of scale models, I got a kick out of seeing the restored four feet by fourteen feet scale hand-crafted model of Daytona Beach’s boardwalk circa 1938, created by Lawson Diggett, who was a gifted writer and photographer.
Daytona auto racing memorabilia is heavily featured. These exhibition areas are so plentiful that a free booklet is available to help enjoy them better.
Splurge at the Fabulous Le Crepe En Haut.
Would a place that translates to “The Pancake Up High” be one of the Daytona Beach area’s premiere places to dine, a place where many NASCAR driving teams eat when in town? Well, Le Crepe En Haut is it – quiet, Mediterranean atmosphere – has been going that extra mile since 1979. It offers excellent French cuisine, serves a number of Bouillalaissee entrees, as well as non-traditional French dishes such as veal, fish and beef entrees, pheasant and lobster raviolis.
A famous dish is their Blue Crab Cakes (no filler meat) that blends well with four kinds of sauces, including a spicy Creole and a cream Dijon. You can’t go wrong with this meaty appetizer.
For dinner, I had their freshly made and tasty house salad. It comes with a generous helping of vinaigrette dressing and bleu cheese chips. Have you ever heard of coffee used as a crust for steak? I tell you Le Crepe’s Chipotle Coffee Crusted Rib Eye Steak with Porcini Port Wine Sauce is one excellent creation. The meat has a real kick to it and a teriyaki-like supplemental taste!
For dessert, try one of the large crepes or delicious chocolate mousse. Wine lovers will not be disappointed. A large selection is available by the bottle or by the glass from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, Spain and other countries. The menu even features regional maps to show where a particular choice of wine comes from.
Le Crepe offers reasonably priced lunch options too, including many fish/chicken and pasta entrees like linguini and shrimp that’s in a lobster cream sauce with Andouille sausage. Or feast on the Chicken Curry Salad.
Cultural Bistros To Re-fuel Your Body
Begin your morning or take in a lunch at a couple of Daytona’s local bistros that will keep you in the “culture spirit”. At the Dancing Avocado Kitchen, you’ll find the city’s best and most plentiful freshly squeezed juices like Carrot Apple Blend or Indian River OJ. The bistro uses old beer six-pack cartons to hold the condiments. The sugar holders contain Trivial Pursuit cards to help pass the time while waiting for your breakfast and lunch selections. I’ve never been in a Flower Child-themed bistro (full of groovy lookin’ license plates, street signs and TV décor from decades ago) that blared out modern country music! If you fancy American cultural kitsch, this place will fulfill your desires, as cheaply as a cup of freshly brewed coffee (1 5/8 – Yes, this bistro use fractions for prices instead of round numbers).
At Christina’s Beach Street Café, you can savor breakfast and/or lunch in a former Art Deco styled drugstore, which still has “PRESCRIPTIONS” on the counter wall. Besides coffees, teas, soups and salads, they serve a variety of large portioned desserts, including homemade mounds of springy and perfectly browned Zucchini bread.
Christina’s is located at 246 S. Beach Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32114. 386-258-7112.
The Home Stretch of Cultural Daytona
The Art League of Daytona Beach serves the community with art shows, classes and workshops. Anyone can see various exhibitions throughout the year. Check their website, they have limited hours. The Seaside Music Theater is a professional theater that has people from all over the USA as part of its performers. It holds winter and summer seasonal exhibitions of experimental and more popular productions, performances at The News-Journal Center, which features two state-of-the-art auditoriums. For interesting and regularly changing photography exhibits, go to the Southeast Museum of Photography. Contact them first, they will be moving to a new venue in mid-2007. The Daytona Beach Symphony Society brings in renowned worldwide orchestras and performers for their symphony seasons. The area doesn't have its own local orchestra.
Roy A. Barnes' first Daytona article can be found here
Check out the Daytona Beach Tourism Information