Daytona Beach was the place to be 20 or 30 years ago. Since then, it has become a much more nostalgic beach town. However, in the past few years, it seems that there have been some investors throwing money around to create the beach city into the Orlando of the coast.
In the last three years, water parks have been created, much larger hotels erected, and a city walk designed. They are turning this old beach city into a growing tourist trap. For now, though, the changes are nice. It's helped the city to grow with the times. As long as they don't over do it, the city should be able to keep its charm.
The newly created city walk boasts a few more expensive resturants, a movie theater, and some expensive stores. It looks nice, though, and has a walkway over the road from the parking garage, to the stores, and beach access. I personally never did much here because it was too touristy for me. I like the older side of Daytona myself.
The beaches are wide, and the water is nice. The time of your visit will determine the crowd. I like to go around the beginning of July, for my birthday. The crowds aren't too big, there's plenty of room on the beach, and the hotels aren't all booked up. If you come here during race week, bike week, spring break, or any holiday weekend, it's a whole different story.
As an interesting fact, Daytona is one of the only two beaches in the state of Florida that you can drive on. Actually, I think maybe in all of the USA (the other being New Symrna). You will also notice that the ocean-facing side of all the lights around your hotel's pool area are painted black. This is to keep baby turtles from mistaking them for the moon and crawling the away from the ocean.
If you're heading out this way, I suggest the Ocean Villas Hotel. Families and groups of friends will love this place!