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Every state has charming small towns, and Florida is no exception. While many people flock to the sunshine state to visit Orlando or Daytona Beach, DeLand, Florida sits perfectly and unassumingly in between these popular cities.
DeLand is charming, caught somewhere in between the vintage victorian era and modern art and dining. In fact, West Volusia Tourism’s slogan is Old Florida, New Vibe. I can’t think of a better way to describe this small town and all there is to do here.
In DeLand and the surrounding West Volusia county, you’ll find adventure, art, natural wonders, hometown pride, history, wild animals, and more.
The following is my comprehensive guide to DeLand, Florida. Here you will find what to do in DeLand and the surrounding areas, why you should add this small town to your vacation, where to stay, and what to eat. For this trip, I was sponsored by West Volusia Tourism. All opinions are my own.
History and Location of DeLand, Florida
DeLand is just one community in the West Volusia County area. It is the centerpiece for most of our visit to the area, and home to Stetson University.
Orlando, Florida to DeLand, Florida is less than an hour. And Daytona to DeLand is just about 35 minutes. It’s easily accessible by either city, yet worlds away in look and feel. Remember, this area is old Florida, established in 1876.
Henry DeLand first visited Persimmon Hollow (a name you’ll hear later on) establishing the town and name change, as well as DeLand Academy. The academy would then change to Stetson University after DeLand convinced his friend and hat maker, John Stetson to invest in the area.
DeLand’s main street has been voted America’s best main street. I’ll cover a lot of the main street in the sections below, but know that the area is home to breweries, art and murals, unique shopping, gourmet dining, and even a live theatre. If this isn’t enough to entice you to this charming small town, keep reading!
Keep in mind, some of these places I mention are minutes from DeLand and not directly in the downtown area. While there’s plenty to do downtown, you may need a car or shared transportation to visit some of the West Volusia attractions.
The DeLand, Florida area is surprisingly full of activities to keep you entertained for more than a day. In fact, I know we didn’t see and do nearly enough even in our three full days in the West Volusia area. The following are some of our highlights of the surrounding DeLand area.
Blue Spring State Park is one of many of the naturally cool springs and state parks in the state of Florida. The area of Blue Spring is special as it is home to the manatees. While they do appear year-round in the springs, Manatees typically make their way to the springs in the colder winter months thanks to the stable temperature of the springs. Springs waters tend to stay right around a cool 72 degrees. The park has tracked a record 485 manatees in 2018.
Blue Spring State Park also offers camping, swimming, paddling sports, hiking, and fishing. You can also step back in time at the Thursby House, built in the late 100’s by Louis Thursby.
Blue Spring State Park is located at 2100 W. French Ave, in Orange City. It’s about 17 minutes from DeLand.
De Leon Springs
De Leon Springs State Park is another nearby park and home to De Leon Springs. Here you can also swim, paddle, fish, and take a boat tour.
The piece de resistance, however, is the Old Sugar Mill Restaurant. Located in a replica of the 1830s sugar mill, you step back in time for breakfast. Famous for making your own pancakes, each table is equipped with a steaming hot griddle and all-you-can-eat pancake mix. It is a popular attraction in the area and diners are first come first serve, so come early.
De Leon Springs State Park also claims to be home to one of the fountains of youth. Stroll the property reading the rich history that goes beyond the sugar mill. be sure to pop into the exhibit chronicling the centuries of history in this area.
De Leon Springs is located at 601 Ponce de Leon Blvd, in De Leon Springs. It is about 14 minutes north of DeLand.
Want to go kayaking? Here’s what you need to bring for a day trip on a kayak.
One of the more surprising attractions in DeLand is Skydive DeLand. DeLand, Florida happens to be a world-renowned skydiving destination. I’m talking real skydiving here. Not the simulators you find in popular tourist areas.
Skydive DeLand offers jump packages for beginners to experienced skydivers, including tandem dives.
While I did not skydive, nor do I think I’m ever going to be brave enough to do that, I still enjoyed our visit here. You can grab a drink or some quick bites to eat at the Perfect Spot Restaurant located at Skydive DeLand and watch the planes take off with brave skydivers. It is quite awe-inspiring to watch the skydivers return to earth.
Plus, you can get a picture of the Wings of the West here. (see below)
Even if you haven’t heard of DeLand, many residents of the Orlando area know Cassadaga. The spiritualist camp is home to many psychics and mediums, as well as a grand hotel, restaurant, and spiritualist bookstore. Here you can get a reading from dozens of resident psychics located in the shops or the welcome center. Church services occur on Sunday mornings.
The Cassadaga Hotel is a full-service hotel with a psychic center, healing, and wellness events. Built in 1927, it is a charming and majestic space. Be sure to drop into the lobby for the list of events.
Stroll the nearby Fairy Garden for fairy houses and small trinket memorials scattered along the path.
Barberville Pioneer Settlement
Many areas offer pioneer settlements and historic homes, and DeLand’s nearby Barberville Pioneer Settlement blows them all out of the water.
Barberville Pioneer Settlement is a collection of nearly twenty historic buildings and demonstration areas, with living history happening around the property. We were lucky enough to visit during their “Playing on the Proches” event, treating us to live music all around the settlement. We also witnessed live, authentic demonstrations of blacksmithing, woodworking, candle making, loom weaving and so much more.
By far, this is one of the best permanent pioneer settlements I’ve visited. I highly recommend.
Barberville Pioneer Settlement is at 1776 Lightfoot Lane in Barberville, approximately 15 miles from downtown DeLand.
Stetson University and Stetson Mansion
DeLand, Florida is home to Stetson University. The school integrates well within the city center. The Stetson Mansion is Florida’s first luxury estate built in 1886 is one of the grandest homes built in Florida before the 20th century.
If you love grand Victorian-era homes, put this on your must list to visit. Even better, plan a trip during the holidays when the home is glittering from hat to boot in luxurious Christmas decor.
The Stetson Mansion is located at 1031 Camphor Ln in DeLand.
Lyonia Environmental Center and Scrub Jay Habitat
To get a sense of the “Real Florida,” visit the Lyonia Environmental Center in Deltona. The center has a number of interactive and informative exhibits as well as a Scrub Jay habitat and nature walk.
Learn about the various ecosystems that make up this area of Florida, as well as the Florida Scrub Jay. The Florida Scrub Jay is the only bird species truly native to the state of Florida. It is also listed as threatened on the endangered species list and therefore places like the Lyonia Environmental Center are important in preserving the species habitat.
Art in West Volusia
West Volusia is home to an amazing art scene, much of which is centered in the city of DeLand. The city is home to the Museum of Art – DeLand, which in turn has worked on some of the following projects.
Wings of the West
The Wings of the West are various wings scattered throughout West Volusia county, by Erica Group. The larger-than-life wings are perfect for those Instagram-worthy photos, showing off an important aspect of the area.
The Wings Murals are the folloiwng:
- Peacock Wings at Barberville Pioneer Settlement
- Biplane wings at Skydive Deland
- Swallow-Tailed Kit Wings at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge
- Fairy Wings in Cassadaga’s Fairy Trail
- DeLand Wings in downtown DeLand
- Scrub Jay Wings at Lyonia Environmental Center
We were lucky enough to get images on every wings mural. Because of their locations, we visited places we may have otherwise missed.
In downtown DeLand, historic murals depict different eras through the town’s history and settlement. While some are easy to find on the main streets, take a look at the Historic Mural and Plaque walk to find more about the town’s history.
Downtown DeLand’s Miniature Art Adventure
Be sure to stop by the West Volusia visitor’s center and pick up a self-guided tour of the miniature art adventure. The Museum of Art in DeLand along with the city has curated resident and visiting artists to paint small art pieces throughout the downtown area. Without the brochure, I would have missed many of these. These smaller pieces are a true delight in discovering and certainly took us down alleyways to discover additional hidden gems we wouldn’t have found otherwise.
While not art, per se, there is an art to playing chess. tucked away near the courthouse, the Chess Park offers chess tables for anyone’s enjoyment. I fell in love with the tree canopy in this area and it reminded me of the Chess area in Central Park.
There is no shortage of dining in DeLand. We enjoyed a lot of restaurants while in town and still didn’t sample everything. The delightful part of downtown DeLand, Florida is everything is independently owned. You won’t’ find any chain restaurants here. For a full list of dining, visit here.
Our favorites included the following:
- Bake Chop Artisan Kitchen – Watch as the chefs prepare your handcrafted sandwiches and burgers. We ended up here for dessert and did a full round of pastry samples!
- Chica’s Cuban Cafe – This cute Cuban cafe is located at the Artisan. Superb Cuban food and sandwiches.
- The Half Wall – the Half Wall may be known for its 76 craft beers on tap, but their burgers are to die for. If you want a good, messy, juicy, loaded burger, this is the place.
- The Table – Located on the lower level, The Table is artisan dining with an open modern/mid-century decor. Sunday brunch is a must-do, but make reservations! All you can eat breakfast and lunch items such as crab cake benedict, french toast casserole, chicken and waffles, chilaquiles and more. Of course, be sure to add on the bottomless mimosa’s. Everything was small plates, allowing you to try as much of any dish that you desired. I can’t wait to go back.
Other dining we enjoyed in the DeLand area
- All you can eat pancakes at the Old Sugar Mill at DeLeon Springs
- Riverwalk Pizzeria near Blue Springs State Park
- Sinatra’s Italian Restaurant at Hotel Cassadaga – loaded pasta dishes made from scratch, delicious!
Breweries, Cocktails, & Coffee Shops
The CoolCraft beverage Trail in West Volusia is what originally drew me to the area. I knew that it would be the perfect place for a grown-up girls’ weekend. See, I’m not much of a wine drinker. I prefer good craft coffee and local craft breweries. Knowing that DeLand was home to one of my favorite craft brews, I figured we were on to the perfect destination to sample some of the coolest crafts around.
West Volusia’s Cool Craft Trail is always growing. Be sure to check out CoolCraftTrail.com for the most up-to-date list. New for 2022, is the CoolCraft Summer beverage competition. Participants can create one specialty drink, alcholic or non-alcoholic that features summer and West Volusia-inspired flair! The competition starts on June 14 and runs through September 5th, 2022
Persimmon Hollow, named for the original name of DeLand, Florida, was one of my favorite brews even before I visited their premier location. Now sold throughout Florida, Persimmon Hollow started in the Artisan Alley of downtown DeLand. They have a large, open warehouse feel. The beers have roots steeped in the West Volusia area. My favorite is Beach Hippie.
Recently I learned that I have a Scottish background. When I stepped into Hyderhead Brewery and found it rife with Scottish artifacts, tartans, images, and more, I was already in love. Hyderhead is a family establishment that traces its true Scottish roots back to moonshine escapades in the Highlights. We enjoyed the Maide-Leisg a year-round pumpkin pale ale.
The Abbey Bar and Odd Elixir Meadworks
Before visiting The Abbey Bar, I had no legitimate knowledge of mead. While the Abbey Bar is home to craft beers in downtown DeLand, their partnership with Odd Elixir Meadworks makes them a stand out. Mead is the oldest fermented beverage in history, made from honey. Odd Elixir uses local honey in their meads. It is light, flavorful, and extraordinarily refreshing. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, we went back to have more on our second day in town.
This charming coffee house specializes in small-batch coffee, roasting their beans daily. They offer traditional coffee and pour-overs as well as craft coffees and beverages.
Boston Coffee House
The Boston Coffee House welcomes you into what appears to be a historic Boston Colonial brick establishment. Of course, it’s located in downtown DeLand instead of Bean Town, but it does offer great coffee bean drinks, along with a full menu and Boston-style desserts.
Hemingway’s 442 takes craft to a new level. Located in the DeLand Hotel, Hemingway’s has a speakeasy feel with precise and top shelf crafted cocktails.
The Artisan Lounge
While not a brewery of coffee or beer, the Artisan Lounge has a fantastic hotel lounge atmosphere I couldn’t leave it off the list. We were lucky enough to visit during Pride Month and had a choice of Pride-themed cocktails to choose from. We couldn’t resist the rainbow sangria in all its beautiful and fruity glory.
Blue Springs Brewery
Located in the Riverwalk Pizzeria, this full-scale brewery has a variety of brews on tap crafted by a professional brewer. Their daily specials are reasonably priced with large servings.
The girls trip wouldn’t be complete unless we did a little shopping. Mainstreet DeLand, as it is with dining, is filled with unique independently owned boutiques and shops. Again, I have to go back in order to visit htem all. A few of our favorites on main street include:
- Sidecar – A vintage shop with a full bar. It’s the best of both worlds!
- Pretty Little Things – Handmade, vintage, unique, and utterly charming. the owner is friendly as well!
- The Museum of Art Museum Store
- The Muse Book Shop
- The Nest – Another place you can shop and drink. The store is filled with artistic gifts and incredible sangria!
- The Table Pantry and Provisions – The upstairs area of The Table restaurant mentioned above.
Outside of the Deland downtown area, make a special trip to these places:
- Kermit’s Key West – THE place to get Kermit’s Key Lime supplies. This is the factory location of the famed Kermit’s Key Lime Pies (there just isn’t enough space in Key West). Get all your key lime flavored goods here, such as sauces, candies, pies, and their famous, chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick!
- Cassadaga Bookstore – Books and gifts on every conceivable spiritual and religion you can imagine.
Festivals & Events
I love a small town that’s filled with events. When the locals have fun, so do the visitors.
We were lucky enough to visit the weekly Artisan Alley Market Walk, located throughout the Artisan Alley of downtown DeLand. Here we shopped at places like The Nest, but also local vendors selling creative wares such as candles, crystals, clothing, pottery, and more.
Additional events in DeLand include the Taste of DeLand in January, a Mardi Gras Dog Parade, the first Saturday Music Jams at the Pioneer Settlement, and several holiday events and Christmas decor starting in November.
During our visit to DeLand, Florida, we stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites. Our stay was comfortable and an easy drive to all our locations.
The Hampton Inn & Suites is just what you’d expect from a Hilton brand hotel. We had keyless entry, sealed and cleaned rooms, and plenty of space to spread out and relax after a full day of adventures.
My favorite part of any hotel stay is a free breakfast and the Hampton Inn & Suites in DeLand, Florida did not disappoint. First, coffee is available all day. The breakfast buffet included waffles, fresh fruit, baked goods, cereals hot eggs, fresh juice, and more. It’s definitely more than a traditional grab and go continental breakfast.
The Hampton Inn & Suites is also a pet-friendly hotel.
Get the best Priceline rates of the Hampton Inn & Suites here.
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All in all, we had an amazing time in DeLand and I legitimately can’t wait to go back. Got questions about DeLand and the West Volusia area? Drop me a comment below and let me know!
Want even more? Listen to my review on the Florida Travel Pod.