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Daytona is a Blast by Bill Vanderford

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Though many racing events revolve around the Daytona International Speedway, the upcoming Rolex 24 Hour Race will have the greatest impact on visitation to the area until the NASCAR Daytona 500. Also, other interesting options are growing steadily that will surely make Daytona a destination on its own merit.

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Over the years, much of the old Daytona had become deteriorated and the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 finished off many places that were barely hanging to life. So, for the people of this old city, the choice was to rebuild, abandon or sell cheap to real estate developers with deep pockets and visions of a new and better city. Because of the costs to rebuild and the less than adequate insurance adjustments, many private and business owners decided to sell.

Following the hurricane devastation, the new owners along with the Daytona area government agencies immediately began drafting long range plans for the rebirth of this vital coastal territory. Many historical properties were refurbished, other old places were torn down and replaced with new businesses, and still more are in the process of being rebuilt or developed.

Restaurants vary from the fun and tasty to the posh and very hip in downtown Daytona Beach. At least one night should be spent tasting the excellent cuisine mixed with live music in the historic downtown area of Daytona Beach across from Riverfront Park. The music may be Jazz, Blues or Classical, but the atmosphere is electric! So, bring your dancing shoes, your favorite partner, and plan to ‘cut a rug’…!

A great day trip is to paddle Spruce Creek, a natural black water stream and one of only a few that has been left undisturbed in Florida. This can be accomplished by renting a canoe or kayak from Cracker Creek Canoeing, or by taking a guided pontoon ride. Cracker Creek is located on the original 20 acre homestead of Roland “Rollie” F. Johnson, caretaker for the James Gamble Estate (Proctor and Gamble). Educational tours of the grounds and buildings built by Gamble and his family are offered by the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences.

Another historic site that must be experienced when visiting Daytona is the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and Museum. Completed in 1887, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station was built when the area was known as Mosquito Inlet. After decades of restoration by the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association, it stands today as one of the best preserved, most complete Light Stations in the nation.

No visitor should come to Daytona without seeing the Daytona International Speedway, which is the home of "The Great American Race" … the Daytona 500. Rarely a week goes by that the Speedway grounds are not used for events that include civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo "shoots," production vehicle testing, and police motorcycle training.

It’s true that Daytona has and is changing almost as fast as the race cars that are synonymous with the name, and time spent there seems to zoom away quickly. But, there is no doubt that being in Daytona and Daytona Beach these days is an absolute blast!



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