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by Chantal Perreault

Enjoy the Perfect Family Getaway in Daytona Beach, Florida

"School's out for summer!" Okay, so I may not be Alice Cooper's biggest fan, but when it comes to summer vacation there is no mistaking the pent-up energy that unleashes after the schoolbooks have been packed away. For parents, the challenge only begins. It's difficult enough to keep the kids happy and healthy at home, but what about a family vacation? For an affordable and enriching experience the answer is Daytona Beach, the "World's Most Famous Beach".

In the past, Daytona Beach was synonymous with MTV parties and spring breakers. However, I quickly learned that in the "new" Daytona Beach, the focus is family. Stretching over 23 miles of family-friendly beaches, the area offers a multitude of options that are sure to please every member of your family from the racing enthusiast and sports fanatic to the history buff, art critic and food lover.

As a family favorite destination for more than sixty years, Perry's Ocean-Edge Resort provides an atmosphere conducive to the perfect getaway. Situated directly on the Atlantic Ocean, the resort boasts two outdoor swimming pools, an indoor heated pool and spa surrounded by lush, tropical gardens, fish ponds and a retractable roof in the unlikely event of not-so-sunny weather.

Perry's provides countless activities in and around the resort for either the kids or family as a whole. The children can enjoy a variety of crafts and games arranged by the Activities Director from sandcastle contests to scavenger hunts, or perhaps engage in a friendly game of shuffleboard, bocce ball or ping pong.

Recent renovations have further enhanced the family experience with custom- designed Kid's Beach Suites ranging in price from $112 to $146 depending on the season. The new rooms come complete with a separate sleeping area featuring bunk beds, desk, play area and video game hook-ups. Despite developments within the resort, Perry's still continues its morning ritual of serving complimentary home made donuts and freshly brewed coffee - a tradition since 1962.

Beyond Perry's there is so much more to explore in Daytona Beach. The Ocean Walk Shoppes, a newly developed entertainment complex, provides oceanside shopping, a 10-screen cinema and delicious dining options including the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant and Market. The movie-themed restaurant pays homage to Forrest Gump himself with authentic movie memorabilia and trivia for a chance to win prizes. Take that as a warning to brush up on your Forrest Gump knowledge prior to dining.

After dinner grab a frosty treat from the Cold Stone Creamery and head down to the Bandshell to enjoy one of the free outdoor concerts offered from May through October.

Depart from Ocean Walk Village on a Trolley Boat tour. The "Amphibious Adventure" is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with the area on both land and water. The narrated tour is about 75 minutes long and guides you along the road, river and beach with the possibility of dolphin and manatee sightings.

After a leisurely pace familiarizing yourself with the area, there is no better way to kick things into gear than with a visit to the speedway. Considered the "Birthplace of Speed", Daytona is home to the International Speedway which first opened in 1959 after years of racing on a half-highway, half-beach raceway. The speedway plays host to racing weekends that include stock cars, motorcycles, sports cars and go-carts. Of course, it is most popularly known for the Daytona 500 - the most watched motorsports event in the world.

Enjoy a 30-minute guided open-air tram tour that leads you into the heart of the Daytona International Speedway past the 31-degree high banks, and into Pit Road and Victory Lane. At Daytona USA, the speedway's newest interactive attraction, visitors can check out three different motion simulator rides: Daytona Dream Laps, Acceleration Alley and Thunder Road. Participate in a full-range motion experience based on the Daytona 500, race head-to-head in a NASCAR simulator or enclose yourself in a two-seater simulator that delivers a 360-degree flip. Also included is the Goodyear Heritage of Daytona history walk and Pit Stop Challenge.

New to Daytona USA is "The NASCAR Experience", a 45-minute IMAX 3D feature that offers a glimpse into the exciting world of NASCAR where the drivers, teams and fans prepare for the "Great American Race". Whether you're a NASCAR fan or not, you will leave Daytona USA with a new appreciation for the sport and the fans. Tickets for a Daytona USA pass with taxes included are $22.99 adults; $19.71 seniors; $16.51 ages 6-12 and children under 6 are free.

After an exciting…and exhausting day, there is no shortage of fantastic dining options. Two excellent restaurants come to mind immediately - Stonewood Grill and Tavern, and Song Mongolian Grill. Stonewood serves up delicious oak-grilled steaks and succulent market fresh seafood in a comfortable, yet elegant environment. Or for a more unique dining experience, the Song Mongolian Grill allows you to create your own meal from countless choices of fresh ingredients, spices and oils to be grilled right in front of you. I highly recommend both restaurants.

Or for more casual evening fare, grab a hot dog and settle in the stands at Jackie Robinson Ball Park for a Daytona Cubs ball game, the farm team of the Chicago Cubs.

The stadium first opened in 1908, and was later renamed Jackie Robinson Ball Park in honor of the civil rights pioneer. As a player for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson was the first to play in a racially integrated game against the Montreal Royals in 1946. Jackie Robinson was named the sport's first ever Rookie of Year and played ten seasons. Every team in memory of the role he played in breaking the color barrier has since retired his number 42. General admission is $5.00 or $8.00 for a seat with service.

Daytona Beach also presents a variety of cultural and historical adventures. Get up -close with Sea Turtles recuperating from injury or illness at the Marine Science Center or visit the Museum of Arts and Sciences where families can view the largest Cuban exhibit outside of Havana, wander through a rare collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, and stand alongside the skeleton of a 13-foot tall giant ground sloth. Or enjoy a walking tour of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Museum, Florida's tallest lighthouse.The possibilities really are endless when vacationing with family in Daytona Beach. From sunrise to sunset, the memories created will be lasting and the kids will take pleasure in writing about their summer vacation in Daytona Beach.

If you go:

Where to stay:
Perry's Ocean-Edge Resort

2209 S. Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
toll free: (800) 447-0002
phone: (386) 255-0581
fax: (386) 258-7315
Rates for rooms and suites are $97 - $146
Kids Beach Suites range from $112 - $146

Where to go and what to see:
Ocean Walk Shoppes

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Trolley Boat Tours - Amphibious Attractions

Daytona International Speedway - NASCAR Experience

Marine Science Center

Museum of Arts & Sciences

Ponce de Leon Lighthouse

Where to eat:
Stonewood Grill & Tavern

Song Mongolian Grill

General Information

F L O R I D A   T R A V E L   P L A N N E R