Thanks to West Volusia Tourism for hosting my DeLand visit. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
When I moved to Florida, I knew hardly anything about Central Florida. Ten years later, it is the place I most recommend my readers to visit and the place I can’t get enough of. When you come to DeLand, Florida, you are in for a real treat. Here, you will find world-class skydiving, family-friendly attractions, one of the best Main Street USA’s in the country, and an incredible restaurant scene that won’t break the bank. Here are the best things to do in Deland that may appeal to your travels.
DeLand is in West Volusia County, Florida, and due west of Daytona Beach. It is also a hop, skip, and jump from Orlando’s central business districtOrlando’s central business district. the bank. Here are the best things to do in Deland that may appeal to your travels.
**This article was originally published in February 2019 and updated after a more recent visit in 2021.
Feast on Delicious Food
DeLand has a vibrant dining scene, both indoors and out. Choose from international cuisine, sushi, gourmet sandwiches, farm-to-table chef-inspired dishes, and comfort food dishes. My favorites are the daily specials at Bake Chop, Latin empanadas and plates at De la Vega, and German sausages and schnitzel from Emmy’s Time Out Tavern. You can read more about where to eat in DeLand in this mouthwatering post.
Skydive DeLand is terrific for first-timer skydivers, which is why you will always see newbies putting their trust in the experts staffed here. They also have a world-famous training and safety program. To participate in the tandem jump, sign up, complete some paperwork, watch a safety video, have a lesson with a pro, and prepare for the time of your life!
On my visit, my daughter Peyton had her first jump and totally rocked it! For $90, Skydive DeLand will compile a video of your skydiving experience from start to finish, showcasing all the steps along the way. I felt very confident with her jumping somewhere with such a stellar reputation, welcomes beginners to world champion jumpers, and has state-of-the-art equipment.
At Skydive DeLand, jumping from the planes is the big draw, but watching is another. An onsite restaurant (offering delicious breakfast and lunch) by the airfield is where you can sit and watch jumpers get their hours in or feed their adrenaline junkie spirit through accelerated free-falling or tandem jumps. Don’t be surprised to see people from many other countries on any given day at Skydive DeLand. It is that popular.
Take a Food & History Tour
Besides seeing downtown DeLand on your own, an even better way is to let Larry of Great Tasting Tours show you around. On his two to three-hour tour, you will sample brews and bites from local eateries and craft breweries, as well as learn some interesting facts about DeLand’s history. We even visited a couple of unique boutiques along the way and saw outstanding art installments.
On my tour, we tasted mussels and wings from Half Wall; sampled sangria, beer, and wine at Nest; drank Mead and ate quesadillas at Abbey; and drank beer from Persimmon Hollow Brewing. Great Tasting Tours offers three tours: Sweet & Savory, Sip & Shop, and Brews & Browse. Each one is unique and is an excellent way to get adequately introduced to the town. Peyton and I loved it!
Stay in a Historic Hotel
I was looking for a place to stay in DeLand and the DeLand Hotel was a perfect fit. The historic property, circa 1925, is a nice mix of antiques and modern amenities, plus offers outstanding service. My room had a huge bathroom with a claw-foot tub and a cozy bedroom with a four-poster bed.
The DeLand Hotel offers a wine and beer reception each evening in the parlor, including bottled water and coffee. A few shops and an onsite restaurant with lovely patio dining share an address with the hotel.
Blue Springs State Park
DeLand is home to the incredible Blue Springs State Park, a designated manatee refuge, explore 2,600 acres in a setting that is home to more than 350 manatees. You can walk on a handicapped-accessible boardwalk to observe the gentle giants and ooh and aah over them. Public facilities and a snack shack are in that same area.
Another way to experience Blue Springs State Park is to take a narrated river cruise and explore the largest spring on the St. John’s River while learning about the river’s history. The St. John’s River is unique in that it is one of the only rivers in the country that flows South to North. Keep your eyes open for birds, gators, fish, and stunning photo-ops.
After your river cruise, head up to the 72-degree spring for swimming or a float. Other options at Blue Springs include canoeing, picnicking, and fishing.
Visit a Famous-Name Mansion
One of my favorite attractions in DeLand, and one of the best in the entire state, is the Stetson Mansion. This 150+-year-old restored mansion was originally the winter home of hatmaker John B. Stetson. The mansion has been named one of the top 10 things to do in Florida by Trip Advisor for several years. Florida’s first luxury estate features gorgeous stained glass windows, 16 types of custom parquet floor patterns, and Edison electricity. The mansion is even on the National Historic Register.
Although you can tour the property all year, I recommend visiting around Christmas to see the estate in its finest holiday attire. Schedule ahead through the Stetson Mansion website as the tours fill up quickly.
Explore An Award-Winning Downtown
The lovely town of DeLand has an exciting Main Street, consequently voted as the Best Main Street in Florida for four years. Interesting murals (many dating from the 1990s) adorn the walls around town and are worthy of a look. My favorite is a sepia mural with chess players called “A Conversation Over Chess in 1929”. Several historic paintings depict DeLand’s early years and the importance of steam transportation to the area, and its founder, Henry A. DeLand.
You will also find several art installments, including the DeLand Sculpture Walk. Download the MainStreet DeLand App to help navigate your way around the city. Don’t miss DeLand’s farmer’s market finds in Artisan Alley and nearby shops such as SO NY Market Trading Co, Muse Book Store, Groovy Records, and Scullery. You’ll also see the DeLand Wings murals (#wingsoverdeland) to capture your visit.
The architecturally gorgeous Athens Theatre is a do-not-miss in downtown DeLand. This local, historic venue is home to Broadway-style shows, concerts, and Stetson University events.
Craft Beer, Wine, and Spirits
There are a couple of drink options that won me over, so naturally I think exploring the adult libation scene is one of the best things to do in DeLand. Beer lovers, head to Persimmon Hollow Brewing Co. for a craft beer flight in a family-0friendly space with games, trivia, and activities. If you need suggestions for what beer to try, I loved the 3 Wise Guys Coffee Porter, though Daytona Dirty Blonde Ale is the most popular.
At Odd Elixir Meads, try the local meads (fermented honey wines) or boutique wines, paired with one of the best quesadillas you’ll ever have! The award-winning craft beer bar, Abbey Bar, also shares space in the Odd Elixir Meads bar. This establishment is a trifecta for great drinks.
Half Wall Beer House is another great choice with an extensive selection of craft beers–76 to be exact. You can also enjoy an upscale bar menu and watch your favorite sporting events. The oysters are primo!
Stay in a Trendy, Walkable Hotel
The historic Artisan Downtown Hotel is DeLand’s boutique suite accommodations without the hefty price tag. I loved the exposed brick walls lined with comfy couches, functional furniture, and aesthetically pleasing decor. Contemporary and elegant describe the homey feeling property that offers free Wifi and parking, plus is within walking distance to everything in downtown DeLand. The onsite Lounge Tapas & Martini Bar adds a convenient place to enjoy a drink and unwind without leaving the property.
Fun in Neighboring Towns
Visit Smooth Waters Wildlife Center in DeLeon Springs for an up-close and personal look at gators, crocs, turtles, and other critters. This husband and wife-owned zoo and crocodile park are involved in preserving endangered species and do a great job showcasing their property to visitors. I held a one-year-old gator and learned how to pet turtles properly. I didn’t even know their shells had feelings! The turtles liked being tickled on their shells and fed Romaine lettuce leaves, which Smooth Waters sells there.
West Volusia’s DeLeon Springs State Park is named after famous Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon, who sought the Fountain of Youth in the 1500s. The most popular attraction at the park is the 1961 Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, where you cook your pancakes at your table. The delicious all-you-can-eat pancakes are a mix of five fresh stoneground flours. You can add toppings as you desire, including blueberries, chocolate chips, sliced bananas, or pecans. Pair the pancakes with your favorite breakfast meats (they cook) or eggs (you cook).
Aside from breakfast at the DeLeon Springs State Park, the 625-acre state park offers camping, hiking, swimming in the 72-degree year-round spring, and a children’s playground area. The springs produce 19 million gallons of water a day, and there is a small museum devoted to the park’s historic ruins and educational information. Admission to the park is $6 per car.
A Unique Offering
A unique feature minutes from DeLand is the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp. It is the most significant concentration of peaceful energy provided by mediums and psychics in its southern part. The camp’s name is derived from Cassadaga Lake in upstate New York.
Wander around the small town and read the literature to help understand the concept found here. You can schedule appointments for a reading with the onsite psychics and mediums either at their homes/offices or via the camp’s cards and bulletin board. If a tour is available, sign up, as the costumed interpreters do a great job telling about the Three Sisters’ history and how Cassadaga came to be. Most of the mediums and psychics live onsite and have gone through lengthy training and certification to become community members.
Enjoy a tasty lunch at the Cassadaga Hotel’s restaurant, Sinatra’s, with yummy eats such as Fried Artichoke Hearts, Bruschetta, and classic Florida Smoked Fish Dip. After that, stop by Horseshoe Park, a park filled with adorable fairies, sprites, and cool trinkets. You will also find another set of “Wings over DeLand,” a popular Instagram trend in West Volusia, by Erica Group. This stand-alone set of wings is pastel-colored and makes a great photo-op.
DeLand: A Town That Exceeds in Pleasing the Guests
Since my first time visiting DeLand, Florida, about ten years ago, the small-town charm and big personality have been winning me over time and time again. From the picturesque street art to the friendly local businesses, delicious eateries to fun outdoor offerings, DeLand is a wonderful place to add your travel radar.
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