Daytona Beach is a favorite summer destination for large groups of people for two primary reasons: its miles of whitesand beaches and its signature sporting event, the Daytona 500, held at the Daytona International Speedway since the 1950s. Until recently Daytona Beach was also known for its rowdy spring break, from March through May (and still is, to some extent), but in the past few years the community has made an effort to attract more family vacationers.
Sand and Surf
The beach is big--23 miles long--but during peak season it's nevertheless packed with sunbathers young and old. The beach is open to visitors 24/7 and admission is free. It's well-maintained in most places and there is even access for people with disabilities. Interestingly, you can drive your car on the beach here, a local tradition that's almost as old as the automobile. The beach is open to vehicles sunrise to sunset Nov. 1-April 30 and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 1-Oct. 31. There's a $5 a day fee to drive on the beach Feb. 1-Nov. 30.
For visitors who love the water, there is scuba diving, fishing, kayaking, parasailing, surfing and many other fun things to do out on the ocean. Rental places catering to these activities are all over the beach. Behind the beach there are numerous restaurants and hotels. If you can, book a room--or at least grab a bite--in the charming downtown historic district.
Shopping and Dining
Like any beach community that attracts a lot of tourists, Daytona Beach has interesting boutiques, souvenir and curio shops tucked almost everywhere around town. But if you're looking to get a lot done in one place, check out Ocean Walk Village, which is a sprawling shopping mall and entertainment hub with four levels of stores, restaurants and other nightlife attractions. If the sea isn't enough, the site also has the Daytona Lagoon water park where families with kids can spend a few hours enjoying the arcade, wave pool, laser tag and more.
Beyond the sand and the surf, Daytona Beach also has a variety art galleries and museums, including the Halifax Historical Museum and the Museum of Arts and Sciences, which includes a kids museum and a planetarium. The city encourages the development of the performing arts with mini-theater shows and music festivals happening year-round.
For a good taste of Daytona Beach's eclectic personality, take a stroll down the lively beach Boardwalk. It's a long stretch of old-fashioned beachfront atmosphere, with arcades, snack stands and a few rides. It also has the traditional Daytona Beach Pier, which reaches 1,000 feet into the breezy Atlantic. If you want a different kind of invigoration, sign up for one of several ghost tours of the city.
Daytona Beach's golf courses are also an attraction for many visitors. Golf Digest magazine has ranked Daytona Beach among the top golf destinations in the country.