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By Donna
Carter

Every year since the 1950s, car racing enthusiasts have descended on Daytona Beach for blockbuster events at its famous International Speedway, one of the world’s most notable tracks. Today, an annual series of high-profile races like the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24-hour race attract hundreds of thousands of avid fans making it easy to argue the primary image defining the city dubbed “the Birthplace of Speed” is motor sports. Certainly the Speedway is where the rubber hits the road yet beyond the track Daytona’s host of other attributes needn’t take a back seat to muscle cars and high-speed races.
Unlike many Florida holiday spots, Daytona Beach has maintained a real downtown with a real community feel. Its city core runs along Beach Street facing the inland waterway where a beautiful palm-lined corridor is filled with shops, boutiques, martini bars, a dance club, restaurants and a host of antique emporiums. There’s also a chocolate making factory (Angell & Phelps) that offers free, 30-minute guided tours through its chocolate-making process.

For Culture Buffs
Among the city’s host of museums and art galleries, the Museum of Arts & Sciences is the largest. Currently on long term loan is an exhibition of more than 200 rare Greek and Roman antiquities dating back to 8500 BC. Permanent exhibits include a vast collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, a Cuban art collection donated by former Cuban President Batista, plus an impressive array of African, American and European masterpieces. The museum also houses the Center for Florida History where a mammoth skeleton of a Giant Ground Sloth is part of an exhibit depicting a time when dinosaurs once roamed the state. Coming this fall will be a special exhibition of 400 Barbie dolls to celebrate the 50th birthday of the world’s most famous doll. Also this fall, the museum will expand to include a children’s science centre.
Daytona Beach also has a vibrant performing arts scene including a symphony society that hosts world-renowned operas and orchestras. Overall, the city’s cultural cornucopia offers a remarkable number of venues that rival the best in Florida. Moreover, running every November through March, the cultural scene reaches an apex during Winterfest, an annual performing arts series that features opera, symphony and ballet.

Land Of Links
With more than 25 courses, Daytona Beach golf courses provide everything from premier tracks designed by renowned architects like Nicklaus and Palmer, to good-value courses with modest greens fees. Most of the money-wise courses are top-notch with interesting layouts and good conditioning. Even more good news is that many of them can be played for under $40 with cart, and in mid afternoon, fees dip as low as $25.
Daytona Beach is the headquarters for the LPGA and golfers who want to play a trophy course will find it at either of the two LPGA International layouts, the Legends or the Champions tracks. During winter high season, golfers playing either course can expect greens fees of $100 that drop to $60 in late afternoon.
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Race Central
Every February, the event that solidifies Daytona’s image as “Speed City” and attracts fans from around the globe is the famous Daytona 500 – NASCAR’s biggest and most prestigious race held at the International Speedway. However, the track is busy year-round with other events such as the Rolex 24-hour race in January and Bike Week in March, a lively extravaganza when thousands of bikers from Canada and the U.S. arrive in town for festivities that include motorcycle races, exhibits, concerts and plenty of partying. Motorcycle enthusiasts and fans also converge on the city in mid October for another popular event called Biketoberfest that features events similar to those that occur during Bike Week.

Out Of The Ordinary
Daytona is one of the few places on the planet where people can drive their cars on the beach. Notwithstanding a few restricted areas, when the tide is out motorists can access the beach at various entry points and drive on designated lanes that prevent vehicles from interfering with walkers and sun bathers taking advantage of arguably the best strip of sand shoreline in all of Florida.
From an environmental point of view, beach driving probably isn’t the best practice, however, it’s unlikely the tradition that dates back to 1902 will hit a red light anytime soon. Locally the practice has long been the subject of controversy. Around the city, it’s not uncommon to spot bumper stickers that read “support beach driving” but there’s a counter faction that would dearly love to see the practice banned.

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Nature’s Bounty
The Daytona Beach area is a bird-watcher’s paradise with more than 200 species including storks, kingfishers, warblers and the endangered Florida Scrub-Jay. Plus, the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge is home to the second-largest nesting population of bald eagles in the U.S. In addition, one of the most thrilling sights for visitors is close-up viewing of Florida’s manatees. These gentle “sea cows” that can weigh up to 450 kilograms thrive in local rivers and springs and one of the best viewing stations in the state is Daytona’s Blue Spring State Park.

Sand Dollar Savings
Canadian visitors can enjoy a multitude of discounts by taking advantage of the Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Canadian Sand Dollars savings booklet. The book of coupons contains discounts offered by more than a hundred local hotels, restaurants, golf courses and retails shops. The program runs year-round and offers attractive savings on products and services. The booklet can be obtained by calling the Visitors Bureau at 1-888-592-2086 or by visiting their website at www.csd.daytonabeach.com.

More Daytona
For more information on Daytona Beach, visit www.csd.daytonabeach.com.