Daytona Beach, Florida  

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Daytona Beach 

Known as the World’s Most Famous Beach, Daytona Beach offers 23 miles of sparkling sands and turquoise waters, plus a whole lot more. Recently, it was named one of the Top 100 dream destinations by Life Books. With six dialysis centers in the vicinity of Daytona Beach, there’s no need to miss out on all that this section of the Sunshine State has to offer.

Where to stay

Daytona Beach was named after wealthy businessman Mathias Day, who built Daytona’s first hotel. Today there’s no shortage of places to stay in the Daytona Beach area, with countless hotels, B&Bs, cottages and condos for you to choose from. If you plan to concentrate on getting a tan while you’re there, you may want a room that’s right on the beach. One choice is the Shoreline All Suites Inn & Cabana Colony Cottages (386-252-1692), with 30 suites and cottages located on 2 acres, directly on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores.

The Plaza Resort & Spa (386-255-4471), a historic property that recently underwent a $70 million renovation, offers an elegant on-the-beach experience. The Plaza Resort consists of two adjoining high-rise buildings stretching across the Seabreeze Avenue beach approach. The hotel offers both sea and city views, and its Ocean Waters Spa is the only full-service, European-style spa in Central Florida.

If you’d like a more intimate lodging experience, consider The River Lily Inn Bed and Breakfast (386-253-5002). Built in 1904, this Victorian-style inn offers an atmosphere reminiscent of a traditional plantation, tucked away on 1.5 acres with palm trees and 100-year-old oaks, overlooking the Intracoastal Halifax River. It’s a lovely, private spot complete with a heart-shaped swimming pool that’s just minutes from the beach.

If you’re staying longer than a few days, you might want to rent a house, cottage, condo or apartment. A quick search online will turn up a vast array in the Daytona Beach area to choose from.

Getting around

Daytona Beach is a city that loves cars and actually lets you drive yours right up onto the beach. If you’re traveling with an older person, or anyone who has trouble walking, it’s a blessing to be able to drive your car onto the sand and set up your beach blanket right next to it. But all those vehicles on the beach do create some hazards for small children, especially during holidays, so don’t forget to keep an eye on the youngsters. There are special car-free zones of the beach that may be better for families with small children in tow. Speed limit on the beach is 10 mph. To drive your car onto the beach, look for beach access signs on Route A1A.

If you don’t have your own car with you, you can rent a car or van, or arrange for a taxi or limo, to help you get around. You can go to the City of Daytona Beach’s website and look under “Transportation” for more information.

Public transportation offers an inexpensive way to see the sights of the greater Daytona Beach area. Votran (Volusia County’s public transportation system) (386-756-7496) offers a beachside trolley from mid-January to Labor Day. The A1A Beachside Trolley runs on Atlantic Avenue from Dunlawton to Granada Avenues. The trolleys operate 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The cost is $1.25 for adults; 60 cents for seniors 65 and over, the disabled, and youngsters 6-17. Children under 6 ride free. All of the air-conditioned trolleys have wheelchair access and bike racks.

Votran also operates city buses with the same economical fares. If you need help planning transportation via trolley or bus, you can call Votran for personal assistance. Check the Votran website for complete information about public transportation in the greater Daytona Beach area. They even include a list of attractions with the corresponding bus route numbers.

A day at the beach

Daytona Beach began drawing tourists in the late 19th century and today is now considered a dream destination. It goes without saying that the number one attraction here is the beach! Daytona’s is the classic beach scene: sand, surf, sun, cruisin’ cars, swimming and fishing.

All 23 miles of beach are open to the public 24/7 — and best of all, admission is free. To get in the mood for your visit to Daytona Beach, take a peek at the city’s beach cam for a live look at what’s happening there right now.

Automobiles are permitted in designated areas of the beach from sunrise to sunset, as tidal and weather conditions allow. Alcoholic beverages and overnight parking are not allowed, but you can bring your dog with you to certain sections of the beach.

If you or someone you’re traveling with is wheelchair bound, you’ll appreciate Daytona’s Surf Chairs. They make it easier to access the beach, plus they prevent damage to your equipment. You can reserve one for free. More information about Surf Chairs, and other topics of interest for those with disabilities, can be found at Access Daytona Beach.

Start your engine

Daytona Beach is famous for the Daytona 500. The Daytona International Speedway (1-800-PIT-SHOP) opened in 1959 and lies four miles west of the beach. Each February, more than 150,000 fans pack the stadium for the exhilarating three-to-four-hour race that is the Daytona 500. But there are lots of other exciting things going on year-round at this 480-acre complex, including other major racing events, with stock cars, motorcycles, go-karts and sports cars. If you want to see a race, be prepared to plan ahead. Big events sell out months in advance, and the Daytona 500 tickets can be sold out a year before.

Even if you can’t catch a race while you’re at the speedway, you can take part in the popular Daytona 500 Experience (386-681-6800 or 386-681-6530), located in the visitor center (along with a snack bar and souvenir shop). Daytona 500 Experience is a state-of-the-art, interactive motor-sports attraction, 60,000 sq. ft. in all, where you can discover what racing at Daytona is all about.

There are three motion simulators to give you a sense of what it’s like to be behind the wheel. One of them, the 32-seat Daytona Dream Laps, gives you a dream ride around the track. Or if you’ve always wanted to drive at NASCAR, check out ACCELERATION ALLEY, where you’ll find an 80% scale model of a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car that allows you to “race” at 200 mph.

If you’re not ready to live life at top speed, you can try being one of the pit crew working on a NASCAR Winston Cup stock car. Or check out DuPont Technology for a look at the inner workings of a championship-winning DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo. And don’t miss the 3D movie in the IMAX theater for another look at what it’s like to be in the winner’s seat.

For the ultimate racing thrill of a lifetime, visit the speedway at specified times and take some laps around the track in a stock car, thanks to the Richard Petty Drive/Ride-Along Programs (1-800-237-3889). You can ride shotgun with a professional driver, or get behind the wheel yourself! Look online to find details about how to participate.

Chillin’ out with a little culture

It’s not all sun, sand and speedy cars in Daytona. There are quieter, cooler places to chill out, such as the Museum of Arts and Sciences (386-255-0285), one of the largest museums in the state. Here, you’ll find everything from Chinese art to pre-Castro Cuban art to American and European jewelry and furniture. In its Center for Florida History, there’s even a skeleton of a giant, 130,000-year-old sloth that measures 13 ft. long.

Who can resist a lighthouse? The Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station (386-761-1821), located in Ponce Inlet, was built in 1887 when the area was known as Mosquito Inlet. At 175 ft., it is Florida’s tallest lighthouse, and one of the best-preserved light stations in the country. This National Historic Landmark is 12 miles south of Daytona Beach, and both its lighthouse tower and museum are open year-round. Climb to the top of its tower for a stunning view of the picturesque Florida coastline, looking north to Daytona Beach or south to New Smyrna Beach.

Keeping the kids happy

If the kids feel the need for a break from the beach and you’ve already checked out the speedway, you may want to head over to Daytona Lagoon (386-254-5020). This water park and family entertainment center offers all kinds of things to do, including a video arcade, go-karts, laser tag, miniature golf, rock climbing and a water park with 6 slides and a 500,000-gallon wave pool. Inside Gilligan’s Sports Bar and Grill, the adults can sip a cool one, catch the latest game on a high-def TV, or play a round of pool or darts.

Summary

Daytona Beach is a lively destination that offers a fun vacation for the whole family. There’s so much to see: miles of beaches, tons of attractions and lots of spots to chill out too. Thanks to the area’s dialysis centers, you’ll be able to happily and healthily experience a true dream vacation in one of the country’s top destinations.

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