When locals first started auto racing on the hard-packed shores of Daytona Beach more than 60 years ago, they combined two aspects of life that would come to define the city’s entire mentality: speed and sand. Daytona played an essential role in the founding of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) in 1947, and the Daytona International Speedway still hosts several big races each year. Though races no longer occur on the sand, 23 mi. of Atlantic beaches still pump the lifeblood of the community.
US 1 parallels the coast and the barrier island. Atlantic Avenue (Route A1A) is the main drag along the shore. International Speedway Boulevard (US 92) runs east-west from the ocean through the downtown area to the racetrack. Daytona Beach is a collection of smaller towns; many street numbers are not consecutive, and navigation can be difficult, so stick to the main roads. To avoid gridlock around the beach, arrive early (8am) and leave early (around 3pm). Visitors can drive and park on the beach itself but must pay $5; police enforce the 10 mph speed limit. Free parking is plentiful during most of the year but sparse during spring break (usually from mid-Feb. to Apr.), Speedweek, Bike Week, Biketoberfest, and the Coke Zero 400.
Check out the Cuban Museum, donated by President Batista just two years before his overthrow, for a look into the country’s artistic and historical past. Visit the enormous giant sloth or see the Root Family Museum, which has classic cars, Coke paraphernalia, and hundreds of teddy bears on display. To learn about the origins of the race, go to the Halifax Historical Museum, which also displays Spanish artifacts, old cameras, and a Victrola. Upstairs, play with a spinning wheel and antique toys to your inner child’s content. Not to mention, Daytona Beach was the only place to allow young Jackie Robinson to suit up for his AAA spring training in 1946. During the summer, check out the single-A Daytona Cubs on the diamond where he played.
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When spring break hits, concerts, hotel-sponsored parties, and other events answer the call of students. News travels fastest by word of mouth. On mellow nights, head to the boardwalk to play volleyball or shake your groove-thang to rock or jazz at the Oceanfront Bandshell, an open-air amphitheater. Dance clubs thump along Seabreeze Blvd., just west of N. Atlantic Ave.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.