Daytona Beach is undergoing what tourism leaders there call a "renaissance," with the addition of almost a billion dollars in hotels and attractions over the next few years.
Jeff Hentz, president of the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the beach city is losing its image of being only a college spring break and auto racing destination.
"It's a real renaissance period for us," Hentz said. "We are shedding the image of your dad's Daytona Beach."
That image, he said, is being replaced by a destination hugely popular with families, and thanks to a major expansion of its convention center three years ago, one that is the fastest-growing meetings destination in Florida over the past two years.
"That helped reinvent us," Hentz said of the growth in the meetings business. "That's helped push us into this next phase of our existence."
Hentz added that Daytona Beach suffered a lot during the recession because it depended heavily on blue-collar tourists. The destination realized it needed to diversify and not rely on one type of traveler.
"There is so much happening, and it's evolving into this real modern destination for all lifestyles and budgets," Hentz said. "There's something for everybody."
The addition of upscale hotels, he said, will add to the growth in sophisticated travelers visiting Daytona.
A Hard Rock Hotel and Cafe on the oceanfront is under construction and scheduled to open in 2016; in Daytona Shores, the Hyatt Place Daytona Beach-Oceanfront will officially open in October; and a Marriott Residence Inn is on tap to open next door to the Hyatt in Q1 2014.
Work is also under way on a $150 million hotel adjacent to the Ocean Center convention space, which was expanded in 2009 into the full-fledged convention facility it is now.
The property, expected to open in 2016, does not have a specific brand or name yet, but plans call for a beachfront complex with 500 hotel rooms plus ample retail and banquet space.
On the cultural side, a $13 million museum featuring an extensive collection of Florida art is set to open in late 2014. The Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art will house a collection of more than 2,600 pieces.
The museum is being built adjacent to the Museum of Arts & Sciences, which is building a new planetarium slated to open in 2014 with 44 more seats than the current planetarium and a new digital projector to offer state-of-the-art shows.
Expanding its core draw, also in the works is a $400 million overhaul of the Daytona International Speedway, which will enhance the fan experience with more comfortable seating, twice as many restrooms and three times as many concession stands.
Across from the speedway, a 181-acre plot is being developed with hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, offices, apartments and retail stores. Called One Daytona, the first phase is slated to open in 2016 with two new hotels.
On the beach, a new oceanside roller coaster, the Sand Blaster, opened earlier this summer.
New events are also on tap, with the first Dine Around Daytona Beach program running throughout the month of October. Developed by the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, 32 restaurants will offer fixed-price, $20 or $30 three-course dinners at restaurants in Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach Shores, South Daytona, Ponce Inlet and Ormond Beach.
Learn more at www.daytonabeach.com.
Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.