Introduction to Daytona Beach, Florida
The city of Daytona Beach is located on the eastern coast of central Florida, about 55 miles northeast of Orlando, 90 miles south of Jacksonville and 90 miles north of Melbourne. Famous for its beaches and vacationers (especially college students on spring break), the city is also home to the Daytona International Speedway, site of the Daytona 500, the opening race of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Nextel Cup season. Local institutes of higher education include Daytona Beach Community College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Bethune-Cookman College and Keiser College (Daytona Beach Campus).
Incorporated in 1876, the city was named for its founder, Matthias Day, a wealthy northern entrepreneur who moved to the area and built its first hotel (the Palmetto House) in 1874. Other moguls soon followed, taking advantage of the area's popularity as a vacation spot. By the turn of the century, automobile and motorcycle racing along the smooth hard-packed beaches became very popular. Ormond Beach acquired the nickname the "birthplace of speed" owing to the number of land speed records set there. In 1936, the first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course and 11 years later, NASCAR was founded in the city. Motor sporting took a giant leap forward in 1959 with the opening of the Daytona International Speedway, which replaced the beach course. Automobiles are still allowed on the beach, only now at much slower speeds. Today, a combination of beach goers, motor sport enthusiasts and other vacationers regularly descends on the Daytona Beach area, which accommodates approximately 8 million visitors each year.
Things to do in Daytona Beach
The Daytona Beach calendar is full of year-round events which draw visitors. The city has a long reputation as the nation's #1 Spring Break destination. The Black College Reunion (BCR) is also held in Daytona Beach every spring. The Bike Week and Biketoberfest motorcycle events draw bikers from all over the world numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Other Daytona Beach annual motor events include the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, the Rolex 24 sports car race, the Daytona 200 motorcycle race and the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race.
There is more to Daytona Beach than motor sports. Performing arts take center stage at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, an outdoor oceanfront concert series featuring jazz, Dixieland, folk, big band and rhythm and blues music held every year from April to October. The Daytona Playhouse has been around for over 40 years, offering a variety of stage productions annually from September through June. The Seaside Music Theater offers performances in winter and summer. Some of the city's prominent sites for visual arts include:
- Museum of Arts & Sciences.
- Halifax Historical Museum.
- Southeast Museum of Photography.
- African American and Caribbean American Museum of Art.
- Harvey W. Lee Jr. Memorial Gallery.
- Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens.
- Southeast Museum of Photography.
Central Florida is replete with world-class attractions located within reasonable driving distance of Daytona Beach. Following is a partial list:
- Kennedy Space Center (Merritt Island, near Cape Canaveral).
- Universal Studios (Orlando).
- Sea World Florida (Orlando).
- Walt Disney World (Orlando).
For sports fans, the city is home to the Daytona Cubs, the single-A Minor League Baseball farm team of the Chicago Cubs. Also, the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) is headquartered here. And not surprisingly, NASCAR is headquartered here too. Sports fans can also catch the following major league action within a two hour drive or less:
- NBA Basketball: Orlando Magic.
- NFL Football: Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Arena Football: Orlando Predators.
- Minor League Baseball: Brevard County Manatees (Milwaukee Brewer AAA-affiliate playing in Viera, just outside of Melbourne).
- Jacksonville Suns (LA Dodgers AA-affiliate).
During the month of March, the following Major League baseball teams play their Spring Training games nearby:
- Atlanta Braves (Walt Disney World in Orlando).
- Houston Astros (Kissimmee, located 22 miles south of Orlando).
- Washington Nationals (Viera).