In Daytona International Speedway’s Sprint Fanzone, guests join in pre-race festivities and meet their favorite drivers. // © 2015 DIS Getty
Feature image (above): The Sand Blaster roller coaster at Daytona Boardwalk Amusements // © 2015 Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitor Bureau
Once pigeonholed as a frenzied spring-break party destination, Daytona Beach has beautifully evolved into a family vacation favorite, engaging multigenerational travelers regardless of the season. Conjuring up fun-in-the-sun images with its name alone, The Original American Beach on Florida’s Atlantic Coast merges eight distinct communities along 23 miles of world-famous sand coveted for shelling, swimming and surfing.
The destination is in the midst of investing nearly $2 billion in renovations and fresh projects that include the Sand Blaster rollercoaster at the oceanfront boardwalk and pier, the new planetarium at Museum of Arts & Sciences and Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art.
Speed freaks will gravitate to treetop ziplines at Zoom Air Adventure Park, and they won’t want to miss taking a lap around the world-famous, 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway through the Richard Petty Driving Experience. The latter is heading toward the finish line of its $400 million Daytona Rising Project that aims to transform the speedway into the “world center of entertainment.”
“If someone hasn’t been here in a while, they’ll truly be surprised as they discover what’s new in Daytona Beach,” said Tom Caradonio, executive director of Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). “Our new attractions, hotel properties and eateries mix beautifully with iconic attractions and beach vibes that makes this destination truly unique.”
Caradonio adds that Daytona Beach has always been an affordable destination attracting hefty repeat business.
“You could spend weeks exploring all aspects of the area, and every day would be an adventure,” he said. “With more than 200 accommodations and more than 12,000 rooms and condos to choose from — everything from rustic camping to four-diamond resorts — as well as world-class museums, Daytona International Speedway and outdoor activities, it’s easy to customize a vacation to fit every taste and every budget.”
The CVB’s current focus is 10 Free Things to See and Do. Among these are temptations such as Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory at the historical Riverfront Shops. The confectioner offers a complimentary 20-minute guided tour topped with free chocolates at the end, a local tradition since 1925.
Tours skewed toward culture are hosted at Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens, Southeast Museum of Photography, Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens and The Casements, the former winter home of multimillionaire John D. Rockefeller.
The historical Daytona Beach Bandshell’s summer concert series features gratis entertainment via a lineup of tribute bands performing Saturday nights at 7:15 (through Sept. 19). Families can arrive early, enjoy the Ocean Walk Village, stroll the boardwalk and pier and settle in for a musical night capped by fireworks over the Atlantic.
A beachfront newbie that’s especially geared toward families is Marriott’s Residence Inn Daytona Beach Oceanfront, which features 105 suites, a lobby bar and grill, a 24/7 market, an oceanfront pool and a spa. Wyndham Ocean Walk is another family favorite, with homey perks in one-, two- and three-bedroom suites.
Additional accommodation options include Hyatt Place Daytona Beach - Oceanfront, La Playa Resort & Suites, Hilton Daytona Beach Resort/Ocean Walk Village, Daytona Beach Resort & Conference Center and The Shores Resort & Spa.
For families wanting little more than to unplug, they can get in touch with their inner- architect by building castles with the beach’s hard-packed sand. It all adds up to another beautiful day in Florida’s Atlantic Coast paradise.