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Daytona offers double delights
Some know it as the home of NASCAR racing. For others, it's a sand- and sunshine-filled vacation retreat. Either way, the unique charms of Daytona Beach continue to do what they've always done -- lure visitors to Florida's east coast.
More than 8 million people from around the world flock to the area each year, and while the main attraction continues to be the beach, many NASCAR fans come to Daytona for its racing. Daytona Beach is home to the corporate headquarters of NASCAR. Visitors can take to the track at Daytona International Speedway on one of its daily tours or visit Daytona USA, a motorsports attraction.
The area also boasts first-class museums, cultural activities, resorts and restaurants.
THINGS TO DO
Whether you come to Daytona Beach for the roar of the surf or the roar of racing motors, the area is full of choices. Here are some options.
Daytona Beach offers five miles of white, hard-packed beach, the core of which is between Seabreeze Boulevard and Main Street. Beachgoers who venture into the waves will find plenty of vendors offering boogie boards and floats.
There are a number of beach access ramps off State Road A1A. Parking on the beach is $5 per day but is free in December and January. Those who prefer a pedestrian-friendly area can find a one-mile zone of vehicle-free beach in front of the boardwalk and Main Street Pier.
Daytona Beach Boardwalk Amusement Area and Main Street Pier (100 Main St.; 386-238-1212) offers arcades, concession stands, souvenir shops and rides. Nearby is the historic coquina rock Oceanfront Bandshell.
The 175-foot Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse (4931 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, 386-761-1821; ponceinlet.org) is about 10 miles south of Daytona Beach. Along with the lighthouse, the compound contains three original keepers' homes that are now museums, a historic 46-foot tugboat and a building housing a collection of lighthouse lenses. The lighthouse is undergoing restoration and is expected to reopen in May or June, but the other buildings are open. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended hours until 9 p.m. starting in May. Admission is $4 for adults and $1 for children age 11 and under.
The Museum of Arts and Sciences (1040 Museum Blvd., Daytona Beach; 904-255-0285; moas.org.) includes collections of Cuban folk art, African ceremonial pieces and Chinese artifacts. Families also can enjoy space and astronomy shows in the museum's 120-seat planetarium. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for children and students, and free for museum members. Planetarium admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children and students.
Daytona International Speedway (1801 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach; 904-253-7223; daytonaintlspeedway.com) is host to eight weekends of racing each year, including NASCAR stock car, sports car, motorcycle and go-kart races. Just outside the speedway's fourth turn is Daytona USA, where guests can enjoy a variety of games and activities related to car racing. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets prices for races vary. Admission to Daytona USA is $12 for adults; $10 for seniors, and $6 for children ages 6 to 12.
The Mary McLeod Bethune Home (640 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., Daytona Beach; 904-255-1401, ext. 372), on the grounds of Bethune-Cookman College, was the home of the famous civil rights leader, educator and founder of the college. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; admission is free.
Adventure Landing (601 Earl St., Daytona Beach; 904-258-0071; adventurelanding.com) is a five-acre water park and entertainment center with a go-kart track, wave-pool, miniature golf and a video arcade with more than 130 games. Admission and hours vary depending on activity and season.
Daytona Beach is the home the biennial Florida International Festival (386-257-7790; fif-lso.org) This year's festival (July 13 through 29) will feature more than 70 concerts by myriad classical, dance, jazz and contemporary artists. Highlights will include performances by the London Symphony Orchestra; Tibetan monks; juggler Mark Nizer; and crooner Harry Connick Sr.
WHERE TO EAT
Daytona Beach has many moderately priced chain restaurants, but visitors also will find a variety of local culinary delights. Here are some restaurants to consider:
Sophie Kay's Waterfall Restaurant (3516 S. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach Shores; 386-756-4444; www.sophiekay.com) features a menu of fish, beef, and pasta. Specialties include shrimp and sauteed vegetables and beef au vin, slices of filet mignon in herb butter and burgundy wine sauce. Sophie Kay is a TV personality who has been host of more than 3,500 cooking episodes.
Dancing Avocado Kitchen (110 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach; 386-947-2022) is a mostly vegetarian restaurant that also has chicken burritos and hamburgers. Specialties include quesadillas, burritos, avocado sandwiches, fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies.
Inlet Harbor Marina and Restaurant (133 Inlet Harbor Road; Ponce Inlet; 386-767-5590; inletharbor.com) specializes in seafood served in a casual Caribbean waterfront setting. The restaurant features live music daily.
For a fine dining experience, La Crepe En Haut Restaurant (142 E. Granada Blvd; Ormond Beach; 386-673-1999) serves up traditional French and international gourmet cuisine. Dishes include crab cakes, seafood pasta, vichyssiose, lamb chops and dessert crepes.
WHERE TO STAY
Well-known chain lodgings for budget travelers abound throughout the Daytona Beach area. Travelers seeking something different also will find many accommodations choices. Here are some options:
Treasure Island Resort (2025 S. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach Shores; 904-255-8371; treasureislandinn.com) is an oceanfront resort with two pools, whirlpools and a restaurant. Rates start at $79.
Live Oak Inn Bed & Breakfast (444 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach; 1-800-881-4667) has 10 guest rooms with private baths. Some rooms have Jacuzzis and balconies. Rates start at $80.
The Villa Bed & Breakfast (801 N. Peninsula Drive, Daytona Beach; 904-248-2020) is a 17-room historic Spanish mansion. The gated estate has four guest rooms, a pool, spa and garden. Rates start at $100.
Cabana Colony Cottages (2501 S. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach Shores; 1-800-293-0653; daytonacottages.com) is a family owned oceanfront property with 30 cottages and suites. Prices start at $59.
Daytona Beach is 55 miles from Orlando. To get there from downtown Orlando, take Interstate 4 east, then take the U.S. Highway 92 exit east. Turn right on International Speedway Boulevard.
For more information on Daytona Beach, contact the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (126 E. Orange Ave., Daytona Beach; 1-800-854-1234; daytonabeachcvb.org).