DeLand, located in West Volusia County between the picturesque St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean, may well be one of Florida’s “best kept secrets.” It's often called the “Athens of Florida,” a city of culture, education and beauty, much like the Athens of ancient Greece. This beautiful city is home to Stetson University, which is Florida’s oldest private college and has been designated a National Historic District. The city of DeLand has a rich history that began in 1876 when Henry A. DeLand founded the city with the purchase of a $1,000 plot of land. He convinced settlers to buy land from him by guaranteeing that they could sell the land back to him within two years, if they didn't like the area. The town incorporated in 1882 and became the county seat in 1888. Oddly enough, the abundance of oak trees in the city came from a proposed tax break in 1886. Residents of the town were allowed to take 50 cents off their taxes for each oak tree they planted. The residents planted so many trees, the city had to repeal the tax break because they weren’t collecting enough taxes to pay the town Marshall. This event helped contribute to the beauty of DeLand today. The construction of roads connecting DeLand to Daytona and New Smyrna contributed to the town’s growth in the early 1900s, and a tremendous amount of building, both in the downtown and in many subdivisions, continued into the latter part of the century. Downtown Main Street in DeLand is a colorful mix of unique boutiques, gift shops, antique shops and restaurants. It is the very first community to receive the “Mainstreet” designation and is the only one to win the “Great American Mainstreet Award.” The town has been voted as the “Best Mainstreet in Florida” from 1999 to 2003. DeLand also features many historic structures, such as the Athens Theater; one of the state’s most recognized theatres.

Perhaps downtown DeLand is surpassed only by the natural beauty surrounding the city. Bordered by the St. Johns River, which is classified as an “American Heritage River,” DeLand is an outdoor recreational paradise. Miles of unspoiled river and several nearby parks offer swimming, canoeing, scuba diving, picnicking, golf, tennis, birdwatching, camping, and even sky diving. Outdoor enthusiasts around the world come here for the excellent fishing in freshwater lakes and the famed St. Johns River. Hontoon Island State Park on the St. Johns River, west of DeLand, includes more than 1,000 acres of cypress swamp, open savannah and hammocks of oak, pine and palms. The island, which was once the home of the Timucuan Indians, has beautiful nature trails that lead to an Indian mound. At nearby Blue Springs, you can view Manatees and popular Lake Helen is only about five miles from DeLand. Other easy day trips include visiting historical spots like the DeLeon Springs Recreational Area and The Old Spanish Sugar Mill. DeLand is only a 25-minute drive to Daytona Beach and about 40 minutes from Orlando and Central Florida’s other major attractions.


 
 
 

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