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Every year the Daytona International Speedway draws huge crowds of racing enthusiasts for its variety of events – but no event draws more crowds than Nascar's Daytona 500. The race is held every third Sunday in February, and fans flock to Daytona Beach from across the world just to catch a glimpse at their favourite drivers. Daytona Beach is a city that is alive with fun, so there’s plenty for race-lovers to check out while they’re in town. Here are a few of our favourites...
1. Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach lies on Florida's east coast along the Atlantic Ocean. Though the Daytona 500 takes place in February, the temperatures are usually in the mid-20s, making the destination perfect for Canadian travellers.
After crossing the Halifax River, guests are greeted by the beach portion of Daytona Beach. Many of the stretches of sand allow cars to drive right up on the beach for a tail gate picnic, but there are many places that forbid cars to make the beach safe for small children. Most of the beaches that forbid driving on the sand are home to sea turtle nests, but these majestic sea animals do not begin to make their nests until March – although you may spot a turtle or two in the water.
2. Dale Earnhardt Sr Statue
Nascar is an aggressive and dangerous sport where the driver needs guts, a good pit crew and a fast car to win. This statue is located outside of the Daytona International Speedway on the Walk of Fame. It is here that some of the best racers, dead or alive, are commemorated in plaques. In Earnhardt's case, he is remembered in the form of a life size statue.
It was at the Daytona International Speedway during the 2001 Daytona 500 that Earnhardt was involved in a collision during the last lap of the race and died. It is a chilling place where Nascar fans get a sobering reminder of just how dangerous this sport can be.
3. Daytona Lagoon
While the waters of the Atlantic may be too chilly to swim in during February, many Nascar fans go to Daytona Beach to get wet, because during the winter months, Florida's water parks increase in popularity.
In Daytona Beach no water park is more popular than the Daytona Lagoon. The water park is a great daytrip for the kids before the big race. It hosts a giant wave pool and a slew of water slides, as well as a lazy river for parents who need a minute away from the kids.
4. Boardwalk Pier
Daytona’s Boardwalk Pier is everything a boardwalk should be. There are games, food stands and even a few rides to go on. This is a great place to visit in Daytona after a trip to the beach, to while away a few hours with some good old fashioned beachfront fun. Many of the best restaurants can also be found along the boardwalk.
5. Speed Zone
Need to work up some excitement for the big race with your children or your spouse? That is exactly what Speed Zone aims to do!
Located just across the street from the massive Daytona International Speedway, the Speed Zone hosts plenty of go-kart and speedster races for guests of all ages. After a few hours speeding along the racetracks, any family will be psyched up for the Daytona 500.
6. Halifax Harbour Marina
For those who want a little more out of their ocean experience, Halifax Harbour Marina is the place to go. Though it is located on the Halifax River, this is the place to charter a deep sea fishing trip for the day. There are plenty of fishermen who are willing to take visitors out on the ocean for a day of reeling in swordfish or massive tuna.
7. Tiger Bay State Forest
Unlike southern Florida, where the forests give way to swamp lands, Daytona Beach is very much still forested. Pristine evergreens rise up from the sandy soil of Tiger Bay State Forest and change visitors’ perceptions of what the natural environment of Florida really looks like.
Tiger Bay State Forest is one of the last natural landscapes of the Daytona Beach area that has been untouched by people. There are plenty of well-marked trails through the wilderness.
8. Municipal Stadium
While Tiger Bay State Park is forested, the landscape of Municipal Stadium is located in the more traditional locale of Florida – a swamp. Be sure to bring some bug spray before taking in a Bethune-Cookman University game in Municipal Stadium, as it is located right in the middle of the swampland. For a football field in the middle of swampland, it is beautifully maintained and the Wildcats are always ready to put on a good show.
9. Museum of Arts And Sciences
For those looking to add a little education into their vacations, the Museum of Arts and Sciences is the way to go. Located nearby the Daytona International Speedway, MOAS is Daytona Beach's most beloved museum. It’s most popular exhibit is the massive collection of Cuban artwork, but many are also drawn in by their Asian and African exhibits.
Children and adults will enjoy the massive planetarium and science centre, both of which have many interactive exhibits that makes learning just a little bit more interesting.
10. Equestrian Adventures
Though not quite as fast as speeding around in a race car, horse riding is a great way to spend a day in Daytona. Located just outside of the city, Equestrian Adventures provides great horse riding experiences for riders of all skill levels. New riders can get their riding legs at the stables before heading out on the slow and easy trails, while more experienced riders can head on out to the swamplands or down to the beach for a romantic gallop.
11. Manatee Island
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Manatee Island is located just off the shores of downtown Daytona. This small island is a popular wildlife sanctuary that boasts many species of birds and animals. While there are picnic pavilions and playgrounds, the most popular attraction of Manatee Island is its namesake – the manatees.
You can schedule tours around the waters or rent snorkeling gear to swim with these majestic sea cows. Snorkelers will be treated to not just manatees but sea turtles and several varieties of native Atlantic fish.
12. Daytona Maritime Museum
Daytona's Maritime Museum is dedicated to preserving the area's maritime experiences. The docks outside host a fleet of antique vessels, including classic yachts and a wonderful old fashioned steam boat. Inside you can view exhibits about Daytona's seafaring history, as well as a list of all the sailors that the ocean has claimed.
13. Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse And Museum
While there are some restaurants and attractions at the southern tip of Daytona Beach, many visitors don't make the trip down there. However, those that do are rewarded with a wondrous sight. The Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and Museum is one of the tallest lighthouses in the United States. Inside you can learn about the lighthouse or travel to the top to get a great view of the surrounding area, including a view of the Daytona International Speedway. The long winding steps up the 170-metre structure is tiring but rewarding, with its unparalleled panoramic views of the coastline and city.