Local creek waters and river tributaries empty into an estuary along more than 150 miles of Florida's east coast. There, the freshwaters mix with salty Atlantic currents to form the Indian River Lagoon. The lagoon supports the highest levels of biodiversity found in any North American estuary. Preserving this delicate and species-rich ecosystem is the goal of Marine Discovery Center, a nonprofit corporation headquartered on the banks of the river. The organization was sparked by a small band of locals, including the mayor of New Smyrna Beach, James Vandergrifft, who were concerned about the environmental health of the coastline. The MDC connects citizens to nature through kids’ summer camps, educational outreach, and frog-kissing booths. On board a 40-passenger pontoon boat, tour and charter groups safely visit the lagoon's toad fish, stingrays, and roaming turtles while not harming the singular habitats.
Om Bar & Chill Lounge holds dominion over a deep vault of more than 120 beers and 100 wine selections seized from all parts of the world and chilled in captivity to pacify ravenous thirsts. Suds-seeking guests can select from throngs of bottled and draft beers; recent offerings include Sierra Nevada pale ale, Kronenbourg 1664, and Skullsplitter (pints start at $3.75). Wine aficionados can find liquid relief in the crisp finish of a glass of Capasaldo pinot grigio or an aromatic, palate-pleasing bottle of Fess Parker syrah (glasses start at $5; bottles start at $18). Dessert wines and specialty drinks keep flaky taste buds interested, and cigars and hookahs provide succor to olfactory organs, preventing nostrils from crying out in the middle of the night and having to be stuffed with potpourri.
At Daytona Beach Parasail, flightless humans can highlight day trips to Daytona Beach with a parasail adventure. After taking off from the flight deck of a boat piloted by a USCG-licensed captain, customers soar 2,000 feet in the air, which is the perfect height for catching scenic glimpses of the world-famous shoreline. No previous knowledge of parasailing is required. The entire excursion takes about 45 minutes, which includes the boat trip out and back. Single flights last about 8 minutes; customers can team up with Groupon-bearing friends for a tandem flight, which will keep them floating for 14–16 minutes. Pack your camera if you want a friend to snap pictures of your airborne antics. Ferry customers receive free shuttle service to and from the boat.
Experience a blast from the past at Neighbors General Store and Ice Cream Parlor, which churns more than 30 flavors of ice cream and sherbet following recipes passed down through the founders' family. Fresh cream joins flavorings such as brownie bits, banana pudding, and tender coconut. Its dairy-free frozen treats—hawaiian shaved ices—emulate those found on the north shore of Oahu and come in more than 28 flavors. The kitchen also dishes out sandwiches, hot dogs, and pizza, as well as coffee.
Neighbors stays true to its general-store name with an array of groceries, lottery and Powerball tickets, and an onsite United States Postal Service station.
Owner Cherise Wintz boasts more than 20 years of hair-styling experience while overseeing a staff of stylists who clip and color strands into complementing ‘dos and nail technicians who crown digits with acrylic, fiberglass, and gel tips. Staffers also exfoliate and nourish skin with four types of body masks and polishes, which are blended from a range of natural ingredients including Egyptian geranium, Spanish sage, sea kelp, and marine clay stolen from Poseidon’s underwater garden. Cherise’s crew also keep salon-goers in tip-top shape with a retail line of Nioxin haircare products, olive-oil-based soaps, bath salts, and massage tools.
In addition to caring for her clients, Cherise cares for her community. Over the years she has founded the Volusia County Makeover Team, inspired by shows like Extreme Makeover, and partnered with the Millennium Woman Foundation which aims to give single mothers educational scholarships. She’s also gone out of her way to rally a team of individuals to help remodel and landscape the Serenity House, a substance-abuse treatment facility.