This town of 30,000 (34,000 when Stetson University's students are in residence) has largely been by-passed since I-95 and I-4 made reaching Orlando and points south easier and faster to reach.
What has been happening in our absence is a remarkable success story. During a recent visit I discovered a DeLand that has
• the oldest downtown association in the state
• a walkable downtown filled with interesting architecture
• three state parks
• 50 events a year downtown from a Mardi Gras dog parade to an ice cream walk with a unique flavor created for each merchant to serve to strollers
• a Halloween party that attracts 4,000 downtown
|When artist Erica Group painted a blank wall visitors and locals loved photographing themselves with it, inspiring the Wings project.|
|Faces of current residents stand in for the first snowbirds to vacation in DeLand based on an 1890s photograph.|
• a growing variety or restaurants downtown with cuisines from three continents (Thai, Latin Fusion, Italian, American). Breweries, bakeries, candy, doughnut, coffee and wine shops, too.
DeLand has a number of firsts to claim. It had one of the first electrified house in the country, the first power plant in Florida, the first electric light power and ice company in the state, the oldest continuously operating printing company in the state.
Naval Air Station Museum. Founded in 1995 on the site of the WWII DeLand Naval Air Station and dedicated to the sacrifices and valor of the men and women who worked there, it honors all veterans.
|Restoration in progress of a Vietnam era medical helicopter.|
In a very short time visitors realize there is a spirit of community here. Newcomers have become part of the town. Young entrepreneurs are welcomed by customers open to new ideas. It's not a can-do attitude, rather a we-are-doing-it pride.
|Swimming area at De Leon State Park|
|The Blue Spring of Blue Spring State Park.|
|We spotted one stay-at-home manatee.|
|Adult barred owl.|
|Juvenile barred owl isn't sure what to do with his fish.|
I barely touched the surface of what there is to see and do in West Volusia County and look forward to returning soon, After all, what's not to like about DeLand?