Recently, my family and I were invited to visit West Volusia, Florida, which is located between Daytona Beach and Orlando in Central Florida. I was not familiar with this area of the Sunshine State and was excited to explore more of this region. Here are some ofthe fun events and activities we got to check out during our two day visit:
Lyonia Environmental Center & Preserve
We started our visit with an educational twist at the Lyonia Environmental Center & Preserve. It was fascinating to learn about Volusia County’s fragile ecosystem. The center promotes a deep understanding of the county’s natural environment, the heritage it sustains, and also the challenges it faces.
Throughout the center there are hands-on displays and innovative computer-based learning modules that show the incredible environment around us and the role each person plays in conservation. The 360-acre Lyonia Preserve is part of Volusia County Conservation Lands which are managed using principles of resource and ecosystem management.
My daughter and I learned so many things about the Florida scrub habitat and wildlife. Today the scrub is home to many rare plants and animals found anywhere. Scrub habitat is characterized by low-growing shrubs and is dominated by oak trees and patches of open sand with very few tall trees. The habitat has dry, nutrient-poor soil and is maintained with infrequent high-intensity fires.
Three trails offer exploration into the scrub habitat where you may encounter Lyonia’s most precious resident, the Florida scrub jay. These birds, which are a protected species, are naturally curious and outgoing. Along the trail you may also see gopher, tortoises, bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. Luckily we did not run into any snakes!
The Lyonia Environmental Center & Preserve is located in Deltona, Florida and is open for visitors seven days a week. Admission is free.
Alpacas of Willow Hill
Our next stop was a family owned and operated Alpaca farm in DeLand, Florida. Over 30 Alpacas roam this 10-acre farm. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Alpacas are quite intelligent creatures, and kind of cute in their own way. However, if agitated, stand clear as they do tend to spit like a camel.
The owner, Launda Soper filled us in on how Alpacas live and interact together and talked to us about how she uses the fleece from the Alpacas when sheared to make Alpaca products, made from 100% Alpaca fiber, that she sells at her shop the Barntique. My daughter and I did a little shopping.
My daughter fell in love with these animals, took many photos and didn’t want to leave. She adored how each Alpaca was named by the owner as if they were her own children. I have to say that I enjoyed my visit and tour here as well.
I was super excited for our next tour. The Stetson Mansion in DeLand, Florida. I honestly can say that I had never heard of this estate home before and was thrilled to personally meet the current owner, JT Thompson.
Florida’s first luxury home was completed in 1886 as the winter retreat of famed hatmaker and philanthropist John B. Stetson. The Stetson’s were known for hosting elaborate parties for elite, influential citizens of America’s most prosperous era. Henry Flagler even built a private railway spur to the Stetson estate for deliveries of the finest architectural materials.
The home is just under 10,000 square feet and sits on over 2 acres adorned with beautiful gardens, gazebos, fountains, patios, and a pool. Next to the main house is an 800 square foot schoolhouse. This schoolhouse was built exclusively for Mr. Stetson’s children during their winter stay at the mansion although some of the worker’s children occasionally joined in on the lessons. The school house has now been converted to a beautiful one bedroom zen guesthouse with a spa bath and gourmet kitchen.
The Stetson Mansion is regarded as one of America’s top 300 historic homes and I can see why. It is gorgeous and I am hoping to return over the Christmas holiday as I was told the decorations are all put up by the owner JT Thompson and are truly amazing.
The Stetson Mansion holds weddings, banquets, meetings, corporate events and tours of the home. My 12-year-old daughter has informed me to plan on a Stetson Mansion wedding for her in the future. That’s OK with me. The Stetson Mansion and property is breathtaking and I’m so happy I was invited to see it in person.
Museum of Art – DeLand
Formerly known as the Museum of Florida Art, the Museum of Art – DeLand is a vital and interactive nonprofit community visual arts museum. The original museum was established by the American Association of Women in 1951 as the DeLand Children’s Museum. Today it is recognized statewide for its academic excellence and community outreach.
Photography in the museum is not allowed, however, the artwork was very well done and I enjoyed the tour. The museum has a lovely gift shop. There is no admission charge for members. Non members are $5 and children under 12 are free.
Family Fun Town
Located in Orange City, Florida, Family Fun Town is just that – FUN! What a great spot for kids (and adults) to enjoy family friendly entertainment. They offer birthday parties, mini golf, go-karts, batting cages, arcade games and a bungee bounce, however the bungee bounce was not available during our visit.
My daughter had so much fun playing all the arcade games and she and I even battled it out over air-hockey!
I was happy to stay at Hampton Inn in DeBary, Florida. The hotel was in a quiet area of town and the room was clean and as always with Hampton Inn’s the bed was extremely comfortable. The complimentary breakfast was very good each morning and the hotel service was excellent during our stay.
During our first night we ate dinner at Byte Restaurant in historic downtown DeLand. The restaurant is casual and very modern with an American Contemporary concept. The menu offered several wonderful dishes including fresh seafood, steak, appetizers and more. Great service.
Our second night we dined at De La Vega Restaurant y Galleria in DeLand. This restaurant features a vibrant modern Latin cuisine that includes rich flavors and textures as well as an atmosphere that is sophisticated, yet comfortable and relaxing. Excellent food.
For dessert each evening we enjoyed cold, tasty treats at Berryville. This self serve frozen yogurt shop is located in downtown DeLand with 14 flavors that change often along with 80 different toppings to choose from. Their frozen yogurt is awesome!
Is West Volusia, Florida on your summer travel list this year? I’m looking forward to another visit, as there is much more to see and do with the family.
Disclosure: Paula and her family visited West Volusia, Florida as a guest of WestVolusia Tourism Bureau. As always, all opinions are her own.