There's plenty of competition when it comes to sand and surf in Florida, which might explain why Daytona Beach has been my fall-back option, despite the nickname "World's Most Famous Beach."
Those beachside concessions on the boardwalk next to the Main Street Pier always looked kind of sad, like the backdrop for one of Bruce Springsteen's melancholy anthems about the Jersey Shore. It didn't help that for many years, the pier had been padlocked, awaiting a renovation that had been a long time coming.
The new pier opened in the summer of 2012, anchored by a Joe's Crab Shack seafood restaurant as well as spots to order pizza or flavored ice, the latter sold as the psychedelically labeled "Tide Ice."
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North Atlantic Avenue & Main Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32118, USA
I'd still rather eat the seafood at the nearby Ocean Deck, a fixture on the beach a few blocks south, but the new pier is an inviting spot for a stroll. And you don't have to order food to enjoy the Crab Shack's upstairs deck, an open-air space with plenty of seats, a cooling breeze and ocean view.
I enjoyed reclining in one of the big barber chairs next to the wooden railings where a few other patrons were re-enacting those beer commercials featuring a bottle of suds against the horizon.
It's also nice that cars are no longer allowed on this stretch of beach in Volusia County. The area surrounding the boardwalk is more kid-friendly without the beach driving and exhaust fumes.
Even with the hub of restaurants, multiplex theater and stores at the Ocean Walk Shoppes (oceanwalkshoppes.com), I still prefer the quieter stretches of sand to the north in Ormond Beach.
There's a terrific view from the oceanfront deck at the Beach Bucket (thebeachbucket.com), behind the Ocean East Resort. After a spicy fish sandwich with onion rings, it's only a short drive north on State Road A1A to State Road 40.
Take 40 west a few miles to The Casements (thecasements.net), John D. Rockefeller's winter home on the Intracoastal Waterway. The mansion, named for its casement windows, will begin its yearlong centennial celebration in October. The opening event will be an Oct. 19 dedication of a Centennial Gazebo.
Other upcoming events include a centennial Christmas celebration and a January gallery walk at Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens.