Daytona Beach is famous for its 23 miles of wide, sunny beaches, but did you know that many celebrities, singers, star athletes and artists got their starts right here? There must be something special in these waters! 

Matthias Day

This wealthy tycoon hailed from Ohio, where he had made his fortune by selling sugar mill machinery and farm tools. He fell in love with this area, and saw great potential in the Florida that was rebuilding post-Civil War. He began by building the area’s very first hotel in 1874, followed by 20 homes, a general store and a post office. Although the land was ultimately repossessed because Day ran out of money and lacked support, he was widely considered a founding father of the city. Daytona officially became a city when it was incorporated in 1876 — and so the city still pays homage to his efforts to this day.

Mary McLeod Bethune

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was a respected educator and important player in the civil rights movement. In 1904, she established a girls’ school for the daughters of African-American railroad workers in the Daytona Beach area — a school that would eventually become what’s now called Bethune-Cookman University. Later, she was appointed to government positions by Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. She’s had a significant impact on lives here and far beyond the city limits of Daytona Beach, and you can tour her former home and gravesite while you’re in town. For a limited time, see the Mary McLeod Bethune Statue Exhibit in Daytona Beach! The marble statue by master sculptor Nilda Comas will be on public display at the News-Journal Center, 221 N. Beach St. in downtown Daytona Beach daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., October 12 through December 12, 2021. The statue will be moved to its permanent home in Washington, D.C., where it will be unveiled in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol Building in 2022. Bethune's statue is the first state-commissioned statue of an African American included in the Statuary Hall Collection.

A book cover of Legendary Locals of Daytona Beach by Mark LaneNorman Rockwell

Iconic American artist, painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell paid a visit to Daytona Beach in 1961. Already well-known for his weekly contributions to the Saturday Evening Post and his depictions of all-American life, Rockwell was asked by the Chamber of Commerce to come to Daytona Beach for a working vacation in the hopes that his drawings would help boost tourism. Here, he created a handful of drawings depicting the family fun and warm sun that fills the area. The sketches he produced here were evidently misplaced, only to be recovered more than a decade later in a City of Daytona Beach building. They have been donated to the Museum of Arts & Sciences.

Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line

One half of the popular country crossover band Florida Georgia Line grew up, well, not too terribly far from the Florida line. In fact, Brian Kelley grew up here and graduated from Seabreeze High School, and his love for the area is still strong. “I grew up in Ormond Beach,” Kelley sings in his "Florida Boy Forever" video which shows him paddling a canoe along the Tomoka River, hanging out in front of the Daytona Beach Bandshell, at the Salty Dog Surf Shop in Daytona Beach, and enjoying a road trip on AIA along the area's coastline. In the final scene, Kelley returns to the baseball diamond at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex, where Seabreeze High School baseball team members and friends help him sing the song's final chorus. He still has close family ties to the area, his father is the former chair of the Volusia County Council.

Ryan Lochte

Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte is famous for his swimming feats, and is no stranger to water. In fact, he grew up practically surrounded by it in the Daytona Beach area. He is a 2002 graduate of Spruce Creek High School, located in Port Orange, and his  recently retired father owned local business Daytona Beach Speed Swimming, where he coached swimmers.

Chipper Jones

Born in DeLand and raised in the Daytona Beach metro area, legendary baseball player Chipper Jones got his start right here. Perhaps he connects his long MLB career to his early start at the age of 7 playing Little League in the DeLand area.

John D. Rockefeller

Enamored by the weather, resources and natural beauty of the area, this famous business mogul and philanthropist made Ormond Beach his winter home. His former home and gardens, called The Casements, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is open for tours and events. Rockefeller had many a famous friend visit him here — and now you, too, can join in experiencing how the other half lived.

Bob Ross

Known for his “happy trees” and gentle teaching style, this beloved artist was born in Daytona Beach in 1942. After 20 years in the United States Air Force, Bob Ross attended an art class in Alaska, and his life shifted after that. Eventually, he landed his “Joy of Painting” show on PBS. 

Vince Carter

Born and raised in the area, this Daytona Beach native and Mainland High School graduate became a respected NBA player. He was named a McDonald’s All-American while still in high school before going on to be a star player at the University of North Carolina. In the 1998 NBA Draft, Carter was selected as the No. 5 overall pick by the Toronto Raptors.


Come explore the area and walk in the footsteps of these famous natives and visitors! We’ve even put together an ideal self-guided history tour of Daytona Beach — start planning your excursions in the area now!