In these strange times, road-trips to mostly outdoor attractions are the safest way to go. When you have a theme in mind, it makes your trip more meaningful. West Volusia County offers just that. It was an easy drive for me as I live two hours away.
Wings of the West are a group of six different wings painted by Erica Group. They’ve become a favored spot for selfies. Each pair is placed in a location featuring outdoor activities.
I started my tour at West Volusia Visitor’s Center in DeLand. The first pair of wings is around the corner. They’re DeLand Wings. The visitor’s center offers maps and information.
Lyonia Preserve, Deltonia
Lyonia Environmental Center is one of a few places you might see a real Florida Scrub Jay. But if not, you are sure to see Scrub Jay Wings painted on a wall facing a beautiful butterfly garden.
Fairy Trail, Cassadaga
Cassadaga is one of the most unusual places in Florida. It’s a Spiritualist community called a “camp” since, when these first Spiritualist communities began in the mid-1800s, there were real camps with tents and temporary structures. Most people come for a psychic reading or healing but also to hike the Cassadaga Fairy Trail to the Fairy Wings along a garden trail strewn with fairy houses, gnomes, and wildflowers.
DeLand Airport is one of the world’s top skydiving hotspots. The Skydive DeLand Wings are bi-plane wings, but you don’t have to be an adventurer. You can stand right on the ground and take a selfie with these wings.
Pioneer Settlement, Barberville
Barberville Pioneer Settlement is one of my favorite living-history places. It recreates a village at the turn of the 19th century when Florida was a frontier. The wings at the settlement are vibrant Peacock Wings painted on an antique wooden building. There is so much here, so plan on spending a few hours exploring the old buildings ranging from a primitive log cabin to an early 1900s schoolhouse. Be sure to meet their domestic animals.
Lake Woodruff, Deleon Springs
Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge is 22,000-acres where you’ll find Indian mounds and middens dating back to pre-Columbian times. The refuge protects the habitat of several endangered species, including the second-largest pre-migration number of swallow-tailed kites. Their Swallow-tailed Kite Wings mimic these unusual birds.
Deland has great choices for eating. For an unusual breakfast, visit DeLeon Springs State Park where Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant stands on the remains of a sugar-making operation dating to the 1830s. Here you cook your own pancakes on grills in the tables. Servers bring your choices of batter and toppings. While there, visit the spring for swimming and diving. You can rent a kayak, canoe, or take an eco/history boat tour aboard the M/V Acuera.
Urban Brick is a locally owned restaurant with delicious traditional Italian cuisine. My choice there is the Sweet-and-Salty Pizza.
Bake Chop, down the street from Deland Wings, has patio or indoor dining. Sandwiches can be served without bread or on sourdough.
Dockside Deli at Hontoon Landing, on the river across from Hontoon Island State Park, is a soup, salad, and sandwiches kind of place with a great view of birds and boats on the river.
For more upscale dining, The Table is the spot for steak, seafood, or specialty dishes. It’s mural/waterfall, located in a large outdoor patio, portrays manatees. The main dining room is in the basement– yes there are basements in Florida—but live plants, lining the walls, purify the air.
Genuine Bistro is another indoor or outdoor dining choice. Barbeque is one of their specialties.
For a touch of exotic dining, Santorini’s Greek Restaurant transports you to the Greek isles.
Boston Coffee house has the most delicious Belgian waffles ever.
Accommodations in West Volusia have a wide range. The DeLand Hotel near downtown is a step back to the Roaring-20s Era. You’ll feel safe here as the hotel has only 10 rooms.
Blue Spring State Park is the winter home for manatees that come to the spring looking for shelter from the cold Saint Johns River. Camping ranges from tents, to RVs, and cabins. While there, do not miss the two-hour eco boat tour.
Hontoon Island State Park offers primitive tent or cabin camping.
At Gemini Springs, you’ll be in good company with flocks of Florida white ibises and other water birds when you stay at their tents-only campground.