If you let your car pick your next vacation destination, odds are good it would go to Daytona. Not only is the city home to the Daytona International Speedway—site of NASCAR’s most important race—but it also has one of the few beaches in the world where you can drive right on the sand. There’s even a drive-in church in town where you can listen to the sermon without leaving your car. Of course, there’s lots more to do in Daytona—starting with the beachside fun and thriving nightlife that have made it a favorite of spring breakers for generations.
Around the turn of the 20th century, amateur racecar drivers discovered that the smooth, hard-packed sand and undeveloped expanses of Daytona Beach were ideal for high-speed driving. Car culture remains a vital part of the city to this day.
- Cruise Daytona Beach: Sure, the speed limit is capped at 10 mph, but it doesn’t make it any less of a novelty to drive your car on the sand. If you don’t have a car, you can rent an ATV or recumbent bike.
- Daytona International Speedway: Hundreds of thousands of racing fans descend on Daytona International Speedway each February for the Daytona 500. During other times of the year, behind-the-scenes tours let you explore the speedway's elevated press boxes and banked infield turns.
- Speedweeks: The population has been known to quintuple in the month leading up to the Daytona 500; thousands of visitors drive RVs to the area and camp out in the parking lots, which become seventh heaven for tailgaters.
Best of the Beach
- Best views: Try parasailing at Silver Beach or head to the top of Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, where a spiral staircase ascends a 175-foot tower overlooking a 52-acre park filled with shore birds and native wildflowers.
- Best beachfront bar: Ocean Deck is a large outdoor beach bar tailor-made for tourists. It can get crowded and rowdy during spring break, but most of the time it’s a great place to kick back and enjoy fish tacos, tropical drinks, and live reggae music.
- Best spot for kids: Arcade games, go-karts, and ice cream shops can all be found along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. Head over in the evening, when it’s all lit up.
Where to Stay
- To splurge: The four-star Hammock Beach Resort Hotel features large, upscale villas set on a stretch of private coastline in nearby Palm Coast. For the kids, there’s a multi-level water pavilion with a lazy river and water flume.
- For ocean views on a budget: Private balconies overlook the Atlantic at Tropical Winds Oceanfront Hotel, a no-frills property praised for its friendly customer service.
- For a quiet getaway: The Shores Resort and Spa is about 4 miles from the crowds on Daytona Beach. In this relatively secluded spot, you can roast marshmallows in poolside fire pits or enjoy a couples massage at the spa.
- To be near the Speedway: It’s hard to get closer to the action than Courtyard Daytona Beach Speedway/Airport hotel—you can walk to the track from here. If you’re planning to catch a race, be sure to book far in advance.