The Daytona 24 Hour, also known as the Rolex 24 At Daytona, is one of the world’s most prestigious motorsport endurance races.
A bucket list event for both drivers and motorsport fans, the Daytona 24 Hour serves as the opening round of the IMSA Sportscar Championship at the world-renowned Daytona International Speedway.
Traditionally kicking off the North American motorsport season on the last weekend in January, the race attracts not only world-class manufacturer endurance drivers but also the stars of IndyCar, NASCAR and other global motorsport series.
Having attended the race in 2023 myself, I picked up a few tips that you can use to make the most of attending the Daytona 24 Hours for the first time.
Where Is The Daytona 24 Hour Held?
The Daytona 24 Hours is held at Daytona International Speedway near Daytona Beach, Florida.
While Daytona does have its own airport, conveniently located right next to the circuit, most people will travel to the city (and event) via Orlando.
The drive to Daytona from Orlando will take you roughly 45 minutes (up to an hour, depending on traffic), but it’s a really simple drive following the I-4 Expressway (just watch out for the toll roads, especially around the airport).
You could also fly into Jacksonville, but that’s over an hour and a half drive away. And just for context, Miami is about 4 hours drive away.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Daytona Beach’s motorsport heritage started out as a road/beach race in 1902? The event was instrumental in the creation of what we now know as NASCAR and continued to use the combined beach/road course until 1958 when the permanent circuit known as Daytona International Speedway replaced it.
Where To Stay For The Daytona 24 Hour
Daytona Beach is an extremely popular summer tourist destination, so there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from.
If you want the full experience of the Daytona 24 Hour, you could camp (well, motorhome seems to be the most popular) at the circuit. That way, you can’t miss any of the action. The motorsport fans and campground atmosphere is truly amazing.
That said, if the thought of camping is a little too much (especially if you don’t have access to one of the huge motorhomes everyone in the US seems to have), there are plenty of other options nearby.
Within walking distance of the track, The Daytona, Autograph Collection is easily the best and nicest option, extremely conveniently located right across the road from the track, near the iconic Daytona Beach sign. Particularly if you want to get a couple of hours of sleep during the race.
If you want to trade race track views for beach views while attending the Daytona 24 Hours, then the very recently refurbished (as in 2023) Comfort Inn & Suites Daytona Beach is the best option. Otherwise, the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort and Best Western Plus Daytona Inn Seabreeze are also very good, clean and modern hotels with great views.
Getting To And From Daytona International Speedway
Unless you are staying within the circuit or directly across the road, as mentioned above, the best way to get to and from Daytona International Speedway is to drive.
There is ample parking at the track, and there is an amazing network of trams (yes, trams, but not in the way you are thinking of) and shuttle buses to get you around within the circuit. But in terms of alternative transport options to get you to and from the track, you’ll find it is quite limited unless you have your own car.
To be fair, that is the case for almost all of Florida, so if you want to make the most of your time attending the race and visiting the rest of the state, I would strongly recommend renting a car.
Food Options At Daytona International Speedway
Don’t worry about packing lunch, dinner or breakfast for the Daytona 24 Hour. There is an abundance of food options available during the course of the race and the whole race weekend.
Starting with the immense grandstand at Daytona International Speedway, there are a whole bunch of different food vendors throughout the concourse. Offering a whole bunch of options too many to list.
In the Fan Zone, inside the circuit behind the pits, you’ll find more food vendors, a mix of permanent establishments and some additional food trucks. While out in the vendor area (closest to the campgrounds), you’ll find another collection of food trucks to give you even more options.
Just one thing to note, the food vendors do close overnight, and the times vary, but you might find it difficult to find something open if you’re looking for a midnight snack. They do re-open once the sun has risen.
Where To Buy Team Merchandise
Unlike NASCAR and other major motorsport series, team merchandise isn’t as predominant at IMSA events like the Daytona 24 Hour.
That said, some of the manufacturers have some really well set up displays in the middle of the paddock/campground area, where they both sell and give away branded merchandise over the course of the race weekend.
What To Do In The Evenings
The fun part of a 24-hour endurance race is that the action goes on all through the night.
Even in the lead-up, the late-night practice and qualifying sessions make for something unique to see. You don’t typically get to see race cars in action at night. So I’d highly recommend attending those sessions.
That said, you’ll find an abundance of chain restaurants just across the road from Daytona International Speedway. Some of which put on entertainment during the Daytona 24 Hour (and other major races at the venue). There is even an entertainment complex, GameTime, right next to the circuit with a bowling alley, arcade, bar and restaurant.
If you are looking for a more traditional bar or upmarket restaurant option or anything else, then there is a good variety of options in the resort town section of Daytona Beach.
Spending Time In Florida Before And/Or After The Daytona 24 Hour
Florida has so much to see and do that you simply can’t just spend a couple of days at Daytona International Speedway and leave. I mean, you can; I would make the most of the trip.
Daytona Beach itself is a popular destination. Being that the Daytona 24 Hour is held in the winter (January), it’s not as popular as it is in the summer and several of the touristy attractions are closed. But you can still do the iconic things around the beach like cross the pier and dine at the Crab Shack.
For diehard NASCAR fans, you can also check out where the original Daytona Beach races were held. These days it’s all condos and restaurants, but you can get an idea of where the races were run. Look for North Turn Approach on the maps to find it.
If you travel through Orlando, as most people do for the Daytona 24 Hour, then you could easily add a couple of days at the ever-popular theme parks, Universal Studios and Disney World.
However, my personal suggestion is to make sure you take the opportunity to visit NASA’s Kennady Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Especially if you are attending both the Roar Before The 24 (practice and qualifying) and the Rolex 24 At Daytona (more practice and the race), there are a couple of days between the two that will give you ample opportunity to see some of the sights nearby.
General Daytona 24 Hour Tips
The first thing I’ll mention is that Daytona International Speedway is huge! Especially grandstand. When you first arrive at the scale of the venue will all but knock you off your feet. It’s bigger than any other stadium I’ve ever been in.
With that in mind, the grandstand does offer the best views of the entire circuit, but it doesn’t open until the weekend. If you are attending the Roar Before and the early practice days, you’ll have to enjoy the action from the infield. But as soon as you do get the opportunity, definitely head to the grandstand.
For a world-renowned event, it’s extremely accessible. There are no extra tickets to purchase to get access to the paddock area; almost everything is included with a general admission ticket, and you will have ample opportunity to meet and get an autograph or a selfie from your favourite drivers (and team owners).
While the Daytona 24 Hour is a very relaxed event, if you have the opportunity, also make sure you attend the Roar Before The 24. This is an even more relaxed event, and it is where the sportscar teams get their first practice sessions at Daytona for the year leading up to qualifying, which concludes The Roar, the weekend before the Daytona 24 Hour.
Also, make sure you take the opportunity to get on the track for the ceremonial events right before the race commences. This is accessible to everyone with a ticket, and it’s a great way to not only get up close with drivers and cars about to embark on the round-the-clock race but you can also walk and stand on the famous track.
For more travel tips for different sports and events around the world, make sure you check out the rest of my blog posts as well.
And if you have a travel-related question that you would like me to answer, head over to my contact page to get in touch and let me know.