Accelerate to FUN in Daytona Beach, Florida
Accelerate to FUN in Daytona Beach, Florida
By Rochelle Caviness - December 30, 2002
Dayton Beach, Florida is well known for its beaches and as 'the place' where the Daytona 500 is run each year. Yet most are unaware that the beaches at Dayton Beach, and racing, have a long and interwoven history. In fact, long before the Daytona Speedway was built, motorcycle and car races have been conducted in the area. The first organized car race in Daytona Beach occurred in the early months of 1902! And most of the early land speed records where set on the beaches of Daytona Beach. The last land speed record set on the sands of Daytona Beach occurred in 1935 when Sir Malcolm Campbell accelerated his car up to an astonishing 276.82 mph. The first 250-mile stock car race sanctioned by The American Automobile Association was held, on the beach, in 1936. And in 1948, NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing) was established in Daytona Beach by William "Big Bill" France Sr. the renowned stock car driver and prompter. France helped to lay out the first 'official' beach road course and he was also the builder of the Daytona International Speedway.
Ever since these humble beginning, Daytona Beach has been a mecca for racers and racing fans. Today, numerous car and motorcycle races are held at the Daytona International Speedway, which is also the official home the Daytona 500 race. In addition, the city of Daytona Beach hosts a plethora of racing related events, ranging from the Daytona Turkey Run Car Show to the four-day Biketoberfest.
For race fans, Daytona Beach offers a variety of attractions that will get your blood pumping, no matter what your level of vision. There are numerous opportunities for riding your 'bike' in the company of other enthusiasts, especially Harley riders. There are also about eighteen miles of beach in the area open to car travel. The area is also home to a number of go-cart tracks where you can race.
For those seeking a somewhat less active racing experience, you can tour the Daytona International Speedway, or spend the day 'playing' at Daytona USA.
Daytona USA is 'the' official attraction of NASCAR. Located alongside the Daytona International Speedway, this themed motorsports attraction offers visitors an inside look at the world of racing. It also allows visitors to participate in a number of hands-on activities that are accessible for individuals with visual impairments. Exhibits include such unique features as a stock car, which belongs to Jeff Gordon, that comes apart. As the car is automatically disassembled, there is an accompanying audio description that explains what the various features of the car are, and how they come together to make a racing machine. Visitors can also test their knowledge about racing and NASCAR at a number of 'trivia' terminals. What was most interesting, I found, was a small piece of track that you can walk up that gives you a feel for just how steep the 31-degree banked turns at the Daytona International Speedway really are. Visitors can also participate in a "16 second pit stop challenge" where you race against the clock to change the tires on a stock car, as well as the opportunity to 'call' a race. Visitors can also watch the Daytona 500 movie.
There are two new attractions at Daytona USA that you cannot miss - Daytona Dream Laps and Acceleration Alley.
Touring the Daytona International Speedway
- Daytona Dream Laps is a motion simulator ride that lets you, virtually, ride along in a car participating in the Daytona 500. As a movie is projected on a screen in front of you, the seat you are sitting in moves in conjunction with the movements of the car on the screen that you are riding in. This ride provides a realistic sense that you are maneuvering around the track. And, with the addition of the accompanying audio feedback from the screen, you get a real sense that you are moving, even if you cannot see the action presented on the screen.
- Acceleration Alley allows you to strap yourself into an 80-scale model replica of a 'real' NASCAR race car, and once strapped in you get to race your car in a stimulated race. When driving your race car you have the option of using a stick shift, or driving an automatic. So get your hands on the stirring wheel, your foot on the gas pedal, and get ready to race. In this simulated race you can accelerate up to 200 mph as you race around the video projected track before you. But beware, you are not on the track alone, but are racing against a full field of contenders, so be careful not to hit another car! While racing your car you will feel the movement of the car, and the car will vibrate violently if you hit the wall, or run off the track onto the grass. This simulator gives you a really wild ride! Luckily, for me at least, the car you drive never really moves. During my 'race' I found that I really playing bumper cars versus racing - but it was an exhilarating experience nonetheless. Best of all, even if you can see nothing of the video projection, you can still get the full 'acceleration' experience. While you are driving the car, you will hear instructions, like go high, go low, just like the real racers hear from their crews during a race. These instructions help to warn you how to get out of the way of other cars. You can also hear the sounds of the other cars, and, in my case, the sounds of the impacts when you hit other objects. Plus, with all the motions provided by the simulator you really feel as if you are flying around the track! At the end of the race you will be given a printout that explains how you did in the race and your finishing position.
To round out your experience at Daytona USA you will want to take a guided tour of the Daytona International Speedway. The tour lasts about 30 minutes, during which you get to ride around the track in an open-air tram. During the tour, the guide offers a running commentary on the various features of the track and its history.
Other 'accelerating' attractions
If car or motorcycle racing is not your forte, or if you are looking for something a little different to get your blood pumping, you're sure to find just what you are looking for in Daytona Beach.
One of my most memorable experiences in Daytona was a helicopter ride that I took with Air Florida Helicopters, Inc.. They have flights that take off from several locations, one of which is right next to the Daytona Beach Flea Market, which is often referred to as the largest flea market in the world. The trip I took flew over the Speedway, and then out along Daytona Beach. Apparently, we past over some sharks while we flying over the ocean, paralleling the beach, but I'll have to take the pilot's word on that :) Even if I could not make out all the details of the sights we flew over, it was still an unforgettable experience! The tour was accompanied by commentary offered by the pilot, plus I could hear the air traffic control tower via the headsets I wore during the flight, which was an extra treat. If you've never taken a helicopter ride, I highly recommend it - both for the thrill of the ride and for the unique perspective that it gives to the area you are overflying. Air Florida Helicopters offers a number of different tours of the area, as well as chartered flights.
Besides helicopter rides, you can go to the dog races, play golf - regular or mini, play tennis, go swimming or parasailing, or even rent a jet ski for some off-road fun!
In short, Daytona Beach offers a little something for everyone with an adventurous spirit...
For More Information
For more information on Daytona Beach and all it has to offer visitors, visit the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's website at: www.daytonabeach.com, or call them at 1-800-854-1234.
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