From the busy biker joints on Main Street and the shot bars booming out dance music until early in the morning to the cavalcade of strip clubs and package store lounges, the nightlife scene in Daytona Beach  isn’t going to win any awards for elitism or innovation any time soon. When it’s Race Week , Bike Week (see below), or spring break, you’d be well-advised to mind your manners in any of these places, as those are the times when drinking in Daytona becomes something of an olympiad; most other times, the locals are begrudgingly accommodating.
As the sign at the Boot Hill Saloon (310 Main St., 386/258-9506, www.boothillsaloon.com , 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily) reads, “It’s better to be here than across the street.” Across the street is the Pinewood Cemetery, and as any of the riders who pull up their motorcycles to this legendary biker bar will tell you, Boot Hill has plenty to remind folks that they are indeed still among the living.
With bartenders that manage to be simultaneously gregarious and no-nonsense, an atmosphere that’s somewhere between the Wild West and back-alley speakeasy, and a clientele that’s half bikers and half gawkers, Boot Hill isn’t quite as rough and tumble as its reputation, but the crowds—especially during Bike Week—are legendarily rowdy. As evidenced by the voluminous T-shirt and shot glass souvenirs for sale, Boot Hill is almost a tourist attraction in itself, but it’s also a friendly (though not family-friendly) place to grab a cold one, whether you’re on a bike or not.
For those looking to dance, Razzles (611 Seabreeze Blvd., 386/257-6236, www.razzlesnightclub.com , 8 p.m.–2 a.m. daily) boasts a modern interior and a decent-sized dance floor, with DJs spinning high-energy techno and hip-hop; the clientele skews toward the just-turned-21 set, so despite its efforts to come off as classy, Razzles often finds itself the site of some serious spring break partying—even when it’s not spring break.
Tir Na Nog (612 E. International Speedway Blvd., 386/252-8662, www.tirnanogpub.com , 6 p.m.–3 a.m. daily) offers an excellent selection of domestic microbrews and hard-to-find import beers; in fact, it’s one of the only places in town that bothers to stock more than the standard selection of big-brewery products. The staff is both friendly and knowledgeable; pool tables, a decent jukebox, and a nonsmoking policy make this a prime spot for a quiet early-evening pint.
Mai Tai Bar (250 N. Atlantic Ave., 386/947-2493, www.maitaibar.com/florida , 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily) is part of a national chain of “entertainment concept” spots, and is accordingly located among the Starbucks and Johnny Rockets of the ultratouristy Ocean Walk Shoppes. The Hawaiian theme is unapologetically overplayed, but there’s almost always a local band playing, and the view of the ocean is hard to beat, especially with one of the tropical concoctions the bartenders cook up. Despite the location, the Mai Tai is fairly popular with locals, especially late at night.
Usually beginning the last week of February or the first week of March, Bike Week has nearly every restaurant and bar in Daytona Beach  offering some sort of biker-friendly entertainment, and all along Main Street the energy and competition among the various bars is palpable. Highlights include convention-like vendor shows at Bicentennial Park; demos and displays at Daytona International Speedway, which even offers overnight camping during the week; pig-pickings; various boozy contests; and, of course, the running of the Daytona 200.
Despite the grumbling of some locals, this 10-day celebration of unchecked mufflers and souped-up two-wheelers is as much a part of Daytona Beach’s identity as the Daytona 500.
Between Bike Week and NASCAR races , one would think the Daytona Beach events calendar would leave little room for cultural affairs. The Daytona Beach International Festival (mid–late Apr., www.dbif.com ) was expressly designed to battle that presumption. In 1966 a group of civic-minded businesspeople brought the London Symphony Orchestra to Daytona Beach for a four-week residency at the first Florida International Festival.
Since then, the festival—now known as the Daytona Beach International Festival—has expanded to include top performers in the areas of jazz, folk, and international music, but the 10-day event is still anchored by stunning performances by the LSO. Tickets for most events—even the LSO performances—tend to be accessibly priced.