The area now known as the Daytona Beach Historical District was once the Orange Grove Plantation, a citrus and sugar cane plantation granted to Samuel Williams in 1787. The plantation was situated on the west bank of the tidal channel known as the Halifax River, 12 miles north of Mosquito Inlet. Williams was a British loyalist from North Carolina who fled to the Bahamas with his family until the Spanish reopened Florida to non-Spanish immigration. After his death in 1810, the plantation was run by his family until it was burned down in 1835. In 1871, Mathias Day Jr. of Mansfield, Ohio, purchased the 3,200 acre tract of the former Orange Grove Plantation. He built a hotel around which the initial section of town arose. In 1872, due to financial troubles, Day lost title to his land; nonetheless, residents decided to name the city Daytona in his honor, and incorporated the town in 1876.
During the era of British rule of Florida between 1763 and 1783, the King's Road passed through present-day Daytona Beach. The road extended from Saint Augustine, the capital of East Florida, to Andrew Turnbull's experimental colony in New Smyrna. In 1804 Samuel Williams received a land grant of 3,000 acres (12 km ) from the Spanish Crown, which had regained Florida from the British after the American Revolution. This land grant encompassed the area that would become Daytona Beach. Williams built a slave-labor-based plantation to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane. His son Samuel Hill Williams would abandon the plantation during the Second Seminole War, when the Seminoles burned it to the ground.
In 1886, the St. Johns & Halifax River Railway arrived in Daytona. The line would be purchased in 1889 by Henry M. Flagler, who made it part of his Florida East Coast Railway. The separate towns of Daytona, Daytona Beach, Kingston, and Seabreeze merged as "Daytona Beach" in 1926, at the urging of civic leader J.B. Kahn and others. By the 1920s, it was dubbed "The World's Most Famous Beach".
Daytona's wide beach of smooth, compacted sand attracted automobile and motorcycle races beginning in 1902, as pioneers in the industry tested their inventions. It hosted land speed record attempts beginning in 1904, when William K. Vanderbilt set an unofficial record of 92.307 mph (148.554 km/h). Land speed racers from Barney Oldfield to Henry Seagrave to Malcolm Campbell would visit Daytona repeatedly and make the 23 mi (37 km) beach course famous. Record attempts, including numerous fatal endeavors such as Frank Lockhart (Stutz Black Hawk, 1928) and Lee Bible (Triplex Special, 1929), would continue until Campbell's March 7, 1935 effort, which set the record at 276.816 mph (445.492 km/h) and marked the end of Daytona's land speed racing days.
Official record temperatures range from 15 °F (−9 °C) on January 21, 1985, up to 102 °F (39 °C) on July 15, 1981 and June 24, 1944; the record cold daily maximum is 33 °F (1 °C) on Christmas 1985, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 82 °F (28 °C) on September 1 and 10–11, 2008. Annual rainfall has ranged from 31.36 in (797 mm) in 2006 and 1956, up to 79.29 in (2,014 mm) in 1953. The most rainfall to have occurred in a calendar day was 12.85 in (326 mm) on October 10, 1924, which contributed to 24.82 in (630 mm) of rain that fell that month, the most of any calendar month.
Healthcare in Daytona Beach is dominated by Halifax Health (formerly known as Halifax Hospital). The Halifax Hospital Taxing District was established in 1927 by an Act of the Florida Legislature as a public hospital district. There are dozens of individual practitioners and Professional Associations (PA) in the Daytona Beach area.
On March 8, 1936, the first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course, located in the present-day Town of Ponce Inlet. In 1958, William France Sr. and NASCAR created the Daytona International Speedway to replace the beach course. Automobiles are still permitted on most areas of the beach, at a maximum speed of 10 mph (16 km/h).
Passenger airline services are located at Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), which is centrally located within the city adjacent to Daytona International Speedway. The site was first used as an airport with terminals being constructed in 1952 and 1958. The present facility was constructed in 1992 at the cost of $46 million, and includes both a domestic terminal and an International terminal. Despite the new facilities, DAB has found difficulty in attracting and retaining carriers; Continental Airlines, AirTran Airways, and United Airlines discontinued flights to Daytona in 2007 and 2008. LTU & American Airlines also serviced Daytona Beach during the 1980s and 1990s, both of which ended all flights in 1994 & 1997.
The city is historically known for its beach, where the hard-packed sand allows motorized vehicles to drive on the beach in restricted areas. This hard-packed sand made Daytona Beach a mecca for motorsports, and the old Daytona Beach Road Course hosted races for over 50 years. This was replaced in 1959 by Daytona International Speedway. The city is also the headquarters for NASCAR.
Typically tropical cyclones pass offshore once they reach the northern portion of the Atlantic coast of Florida. As such, the hurricane risk for Daytona Beach is significantly lower than areas of southern Florida like Miami and Key West. The 2004 hurricane season was by far the most active in the Daytona Beach area in the last 50 years. However, since 1950 there has only been one direct hit by a tropical cyclone to the Daytona Beach area, Hurricane Donna in 1960.
In winter, Daytona Beach has weather conditions typical of other cities on the Florida peninsula. On average, the coolest month is January, with a normal monthly mean temperature of 57.9 °F (14.4 °C). Occasional cold fronts can bring freezes, which from 1981 to 2010 were seen on an average of 4.7 nights annually; however, minima below 25 °F (−4 °C) are very rare, and were last seen on December 28, 2010. Like much of Florida, Daytona Beach often can be very dry in late winter and early spring, and brush fires and water restrictions can be an issue. There is no record of snow on the ground in Daytona Beach since 1906; however, snow flurries have been observed twice since 1880 – on January 1, 1977 and in January 2010.
On July 3, 1992, a 28-mile (45 km) long rogue wave hit the Volusia County beaches. The wave's range was from Ormond Beach in the north, to New Smyrna Beach on the south. The crest was 9 feet (2.7 m) high and centered at Daytona Beach. Sailboats crashed ashore onto cars and many people suffered cuts and bruises from glass and debris. Two people required hospitalization and 200 vehicles were damaged. Seventy five injuries were reported. The prevailing theory is that an underwater landslide caused the rogue wave, although others have theorized that it was the result of a squall line.
In addition to motorsports, Daytona is also the home of the Daytona Tortugas, a minor league baseball team of the Florida State League who play at Jackie Robinson Ballpark; it was established in 1993 and currently has 6 championships.
Although Daytona Beach has a significantly lesser tornado risk than areas like the Great Plains and Midwest, there have been a few deadly and destructive tornadoes in the last 100 years in Daytona Beach area. Most recently, on February 22, 1998 a tornado killed three people, injured 70, and caused $31 million in damages.
In summer, temperatures are relatively stable and there is an average of only 9.2 days annually with a maximum at or above 95 °F (35 °C); the last 100 °F (38 °C) reading was seen on August 2, 1999. The Bermuda High pumps hot and unstable tropical air from the Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico, resulting in daily, but brief thundershowers. This results in the months of June through September accounting for a majority of the average annual rainfall of 49.6 in (1,260 mm).
In 2000, the city the population was spread out, with 17.6% under the age of 18, 16.6% from 18 to 24, 25.6% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 19.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.5 males.
In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $25,439, and the median income for a family was $33,514. Males had a median income of $25,705 versus $20,261 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,530. 23.6% of the population and 16.9% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 34.9% of those under the age of 18 and 12.1% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
A major part of the Daytona Beach area economy is involved in the tourist industry. Over 8 million visitors came to the Daytona Beach area in 2004.
The Museum of Arts and Sciences is the primary cultural facility for Daytona Beach and Volusia County. Other museums located in the city include the Southeast Museum of Photography and the Halifax Historical Museum. The Museum of Arts and Sciences is actually a collection of museums and galleries and includes the Klancke Environmental Complex, the Cuban Museum, Root Family Museum featuring one of the largest Coca-Cola collections in the world, the Dow American Gallery and the Bouchelle Center for Decorative Arts which together form what is probably one of the finest collections of furniture and decorative arts in the Southeast. It also includes the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which houses the largest collection of Florida art in the world. There are also changing exhibitions and a children's science center opened in 2008. Since 1952, the non-profit Daytona Beach Symphony Society has sponsored performances by U.S. and international orchestras, opera and dance companies each season at the Peabody Auditorium.