By Belinda Hulin

There's more to Daytona Beach than race cars and motorcycles. Check out Daytona's shopping, spas, and of course, beautiful beaches.

It's America's beach: broad, welcoming and full of possibilities.

Daytona Beach stretches for 23 miles along Florida's emerald-green Atlantic coast. Along the way, simple pleasures abound. Wake up to warm ocean breezes and the smell of salt air. Stroll barefoot across cream-colored sand and stop to build fantasy castles by the sea. Chase the waves, scan the horizon for dolphins, sip coffee on an oceanfront deck.

Of course, once you've had your fill of quiet pleasures, the beach - and the surrounding area - offers a teeming catch of entertainment options. Whether you're looking for history, eco-tours, live stage shows, music, pampering, elegant dining or high-speed thrills, you'll find it in friendly, accessible Daytona Beach.

While Daytona Beach is world-famous for some of its billboard events - NASCAR's Daytona 500, Bike Week, Speedweeks, Biketoberfest - those festive occasions account for only a few weeks of the year. The rest of the time, Daytona's diverse attractions and surprisingly affordable accommodations make it a prime getaway spot for families and couples.

With a beachside room as your base of operations, it's an easy stroll to the historic Daytona Beach Pier, with its high-flying gondolas and stilt-raised restaurant. Midway-style attractions, including a high-flying bungee ride, are a few yards from the pier. Or, cool off with movies, shopping and casual dining at the Ocean Walk Shoppes at the Art Deco-inspired Ocean Walk Village.

As seductive as Daytona's beach-scene can be, venture off the sand long enough to explore around town. A quick ride over the many bridges crossing the Halifax River brings visitors to the city's charming Riverfront Marketplace, an old-fashioned downtown with storefronts boasting antiques, jewelry, clothing, artworks and other collectibles. Don't miss the chocolate factory tour (with samples) at Angell & Phelps, a small candy shop that's a Daytona Beach landmark. Then walk a few paces south to the Halifax Historical Society Museum. Housed in the 1910 Merchants Bank Building, the museum is part formal record, part community attic. The museum’s permanent exhibit presents the history of the greater Daytona Beach area with artifacts dating from 5,000 B.C.E. It also traces Daytona's beginnings as a racing mecca - going back to the days when stock cars raced on hard-packed beach -with photos as well as memorabilia from drivers and local residents.

The museum makes a good prelude to an afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, which offers three separate tours throughout the year that take race fans inside the hallowed grounds of NASCAR’s marquee track. The 90-minute All Access tour allows fans to view never-before-seen areas including the Daytona 500 Club, the Sprint Tower, the driver’s meeting room and the NASCAR Sprint Cup garages, in addition to Gatorade Victory Lane and the Sprint FANZONE, which are also included in the 30-minute Speedway Tour. A special three-hour tour is also available and includes a stroll through Daytona’s history inside International Speedway Corporation’s Archives. You can also view the winning car from the DAYTONA 500, stock up on NASCAR apparel in the souvenir shop and dine at the Fourth Turn Grill.

Back at the beach, you can get a different sort of thrill, and a gulls-eye view of the town, by scheduling a parasail ride through one of the area's vendors. Or, if floating above the waves on a parachute isn't your thing, get a high-rise view of the ocean by climbing 203 steps to the top of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, the tallest in Florida.

Catch your breath, and grab a cold drink and a platter of crunchy fried shrimp at the funky, beach-casual, nautical-themed Ocean Deck. Or, for a more exotic supper and a performance like nothing you've ever seen, make a reservation for the Hawaiian Luau Dinner Show at My Ohna Luau Dinner Theater located at the Hawaiian Inn Beach Resort.

Before leaving Daytona Beach, indulge yourself in a massage or relaxing body treatment at the 15,000-square-foot Ocean Waters Spa at The Plaza Resort & Spa. If you've been very good about using sun block, try one of the spa's stand up tanning booths. You'll be the envy of everyone back home.

For more information on the above activities and other beachside fun in Daytona Beach, visit or call the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-854-1234.