The Daytona 500 is the biggest race on the NASCAR circuit, carrying the biggest purse (more than $19 million in 2015), and the most prestige for those who win. For NASCAR fans, Daytona is a special place and the city offers plenty of opportunities to feel close to the sport both inside and out of the famed Daytona International Speedway. We love taking guests to Daytona every year, and know that the experiences on offer there are superb, allowing each guest to really feel like a part of the action. The 2016 Daytona 500 will be a fantastic event, and in this week’s blog we wanted to share a little info on why we love going there.
From first glimpse, seeing the Speedway gives you chills. Driving towards the Speedway you first see an immense mass of steel bleachers, each bank of them named after a famous NASCAR driver. It takes forever to drive past the Speedway, the site of which becomes the 10th largest city in Florida during the Daytona 500 race. Not the city of Daytona Beach, just the speedway. Visitors to this year’s race, which will be the 58th Daytona 500, will benefit from the Speedway’s $400 million redevelopment project, with more seats, better views, and upgraded concessions and facilities.
One definite highlight for guests is getting to experience the Sprint FANZONE, which happens before racing gets started and offers diehard fans opportunities to get close to the drivers as they prep, check out the garages and watch work being done on the cars, as well as giving guests access to driver fan forums and pre-race ceremonies. (Pre-race track access is also included in this package, which means you’ll have chances to grab pictures with some of NASCARs biggest stars, and get to actually talk to them.) The Sprint FANZONE also holds a major concert – last year Kid Rock played there – and has plenty of concessions and merchandise tents to check out too.
The racing itself is of course epic. Besides the fact that Daytona attracts the best of the best, the race is steeped in history, and known to be the the world center of racing. There just isn’t a bigger or better race on the circuit. The atmosphere in Daytona is electric, and everyone there is there to have the best time.
If you’re interested in NASCAR history, there’s a cool little museum that is part of the Speedway where you can see last year’s winning car and lots of other cool stuff. You can also explore Daytona 500 history with a night out at historic local beach bar and restaurant Racing’s North Turn that used to be right at the north turn of the race back in the days when cars actually raced on the sands instead of at the purpose built speedway, and it is a fun place to go eat some fried southern food, listen to a band, and check out some rather awesome old NASCAR memorabilia. A few old timers still hang out there from time to time, including Russ Truelove who used to race in the 50s, and has a prime rib sandwich named after him at Racing’s North Turn. For a more upmarket meal, head to the Chart House, which is a favorite amongst drivers so you never know who you might see there.
Spending time at the beach in Daytona is of course essential, and while you can explore the main drag where the Daytona Boardwalk is, and ride the old rollercoaster and Ferris wheel, you’ll also find beautiful secluded white sand beaches just a short way out of town, as well as National Parks where you can kayak with manatees, and look for alligators. (We put our guests right on the stunning white sand beach at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, which is a gorgeous property.) Alternately, there’s plenty of fun nightlife to explore in Daytona (especially during race week) and lots of places to get great fresh seafood and a cocktail or two. Daytona is an interesting place, and visiting offers plenty of opportunities to explore several different sides of Florida, from rugged natural beauty to flashy fun.