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BE THERE NOW Hotels in Daytona Beach Bermuda House Daytona Beach from $50.00 USD Hawaiian Inn Oceanfront Resort Daytona Beach from $80.00 USD Holiday Inn I-95 Speedway Daytona Beach from $79.00 USD More Hotels in Daytona Beach Vacation Rentals in Daytona Beach Studioplus Daytona Speedway Daytona Beach from $75.95 USD Surfside Inn & Suites Daytona Beach from $179.95 USD Travelodge Ocean Jewels Resort Daytona Beach from $99.95 USD More Vacation Rentals in Daytona Beach READ IT HERE The consummate Florida beach town, with its T-shirt shops, amusement arcades and wall-to-wall motels, DAYTONA BEACH owes its existence to twenty miles of light brown sand where the only pressure is to strip off and enjoy yourself. Once a favorite Spring Break destination when half a million college kids would indulge in underage drinking and libido liberation, Daytona Beach now discourages such activity, leaving it free to focus on its true love: motor sports. Life in this down-to-earth resort now revolves around three major festivals: February's Daytona 500, Bike Week in early March, and the relatively new Biketoberfest . Pioneering auto enthusiasts, including Louis Chevrolet, Ransom Olds and Henry Ford, came to Daytona's firm sands in the early 1900s to race prototype vehicles beside the ocean. The land speed record was smashed five times by the British millionaire Malcolm Campbell who, in 1935, roared along at 276mph. When high speeds made racing on the sands unsafe, the Daytona International Speedway , an ungainly configuration of concrete and steel, was built three miles west of downtown along International Speedway Boulevard (buses #9A and #9B). Opened in 1959, it seats 150,000 and hosts several major race meetings each year, starting in early February with the Rolex 24 , a 24-hour race for GT prototype sports cars. A week or so later the qualifying races start for the year's biggest event, the Daytona 500 stock-car race in mid-February. Tickets sell out well in advance (a weekend package from $220; tel 904/253-7223); book accommodation at least six months ahead. Though they can't capture the excitement of a race, guided van tours (daily except race days 9.30am-5pm, every half-hour; $6) take you around the remarkable curves, whose gradients make this the fastest racetrack in the world. Immediately outside the Speedway, Daytona USA (daily 9am-7pm; $12) exhibits one of Campbell's many Bluebirds, the car in which he broke the land speed record at Ormond Beach in 1931, as well as interactive displays on the great races. A mile west, the Klassix Auto Museum at 2909 W International Speedway Blvd (daily 9am-6pm; $8.50) displays pristine examples of every Corvette design from 1953 on, plus vintage motorcycles and a 1938 Woody Wagon that boasts a top speed of 50mph. For all the excitement that racing generates, the best thing about Daytona is the seemingly limitless beach: 500ft wide at low tide and fading dreamily into the heat haze. Lined with an all-but-endless procession of enormous but surprisingly low-priced motels, oceanfront Atlantic Avenue holds little to lure you away from the water. At the landward end of Main Street Pier, a $3 ride up the candy-striped Space Needle enables you to look down on the surrounding morass of low-rent bars and tattoo parlors. You can't get to the far end of the pier, though, because Hurricane Floyd knocked out 280ft of it in 1999. As Ridgewood Avenue, US-1 steams through mainland Daytona Beach, passing the Greyhound station at no. 138 S. Trolleys run the length of the beach from January to August only ($1). The visitor center is at 126 E Orange Ave (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; tel 1-800/854-1234, ). Any of these Atlantic Avenue motels makes a good beach base: the Driftwood Beach Motel at no. 657 S (tel 1-800/490-8935; up to $35/$75-100); the Streamline Hotel at no. 140 S (tel 386/258-6937; up to $35); Sunglow Resort at no. 3647 S (tel 877-332-4569, ; $75-100); or the welcoming Tropical Manor Motel at no. 2237 S (tel 1-800/253-4920, ; $35-50/$75-100). Good places to eat include Julian's , 88 S Atlantic Ave (tel 386/677-6767), a dimly lit, mock-Tahitian lounge with great food, and Lighthouse Landing (tel 386/761-9271), beside the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse , for fresh fish. Or try the more elegant Inlet Harbor , 133 Inlet Road, Ponce Inlet (tel 386/767-5590); eat right on the marina while local bands play their hearts out. The St Regis Restaurant and Patio Bar , 509 Seabreeze Blvd (tel 386/252-8743), is a local culinary favorite, serving New American fare, the highlight of which is the chicken piccata. For beachside action, the bars in and around the Adams Mark Daytona Beach Resort , 100 N Atlantic Ave, are good bets.