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    Published 10-30-2929

    The town of DeLand, Florida began in 1876 when a New York businessman, Henry A. DeLand, visited and fell in love with the area. He remained there and built his home. The city was incorporated in 1882 and named in his honor. It has blossomed into a delightful place to visit. No hustle and bustle, no traffic and no parking problems create a wonderful background for dining, shopping, and relaxing. Since I visited near Halloween, it's only natural to include some ghostly fun spots.

    You can park and walk downtown. Browse through Artisans Alley. DeLand is filled with art everywhere you look. Perhaps the most well know are the Wings of the West. They began on a doorway in Deland in September 2014 when Erica Group drew the wings with chalk. It was not supposed to be permanent but the wings became such a popular spot for social media fans to photograph that it led to not only that pair of wings being done in paint, but a entire trail of six wings throughout West Volusia county.

    Murals are big, and little, in DeLand. There are twenty mini-masterpieces in the Miniature Art Adventure. They are as simple as a painted mancover with a point and three dots and as complex as one by Elizabeth Ferber of a little guy who appears to be siphoning water from a connection of water pipes with pressure gauges.

    Walls are adorned with murals ranging from a watery Florida landscape at the visitor's center to a sepia portrait of a group of people to a real waterfall flowing over a manatee underwater at the Table Restaurant.

    Art is not limited to two dimensional. At a downtown parking garage I spotted a painted piano saying "Play me" named The Musical Butterfly. There are various sculptures around like Polygon 2 by Doug Hays and an adorable group of what at first glance look like interstate highway signs but instead of numbers, read things like, "NOW," "Relax,"UR OK."

    Then there is the art you can eat. Bake Chop serves dishes as pretty as they are tasty. Like the Boulevard, grilled chicken breast, herbed goat cheese, balsamic glaze, red onion, tomato, mixed greens, and you can have it served without bread of on sourdough. To add to the calorie count, I chose a side of fried plantains. Heavenly!

    Another good choice is The Billy Madison, sloppy joe meat, house collards, manchego cheese on croissant. Their desserts are almost too pretty to eat. Their Halloween masterpiece is a cake decadently decorated in orange and chocolate with tiny eyes peering at you amid the frosting.

    Pat and Toni's Candy store is a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Their candy is hand crafted. Their dark chocolate raspberry creams are my favorite. Their Halloween decorations are worth a visit by themselves.

    Downtown is filled with antique shops, and unique boutique shops. There is even a record shop selling some of my old favorite vinyl albums. There was Bobby Gentry's album featuring Harper Valley PTA and a vintage Kenny Rogers one plus hundreds more.

    The Athens Theater is where you find live arts and maybe some long dead spirits. The theater was built Theatre in 1921 by famed Orlando architect, Murry S. King. It's opening show was on January 6, 1922. The theater got its name from Henry DeLand's vision of the city being known as "the Athens of Florida.":p>

    Over the years it played movies and vaudeville shows and gradually deteriorated and closed in the 1990s. Today it claims its place as a live theater venue and one of the highlights of DeLand.  For Halloween the performance is Phantasmagoria XI Presents Plague Tales. Unfortunately in the time of Covid things are virtural.

    However legends tell that spirits roam within its walls at night. Historic Haunts Investigations team did an investigation and found several paranormal occurrences in the theater. Another investigator has filmed several instances of unusual orbs.

    Stetson University has its famous ghost of the girl who killed herself because of her unrequited love for a professor.  There is also the story of The Hulley Tower, built in 1934, which serves a as tomb for Doctor Lincoln Hulley and his wife. Students claim to have seen the Hulley's spirits walking around campus. Dr. Hulley usually is walking a golden terrier.

    For those of us who are alive and wish to stay that way during the virus, Deland is a perfect place to visit because, it is practicing masking and safety precautions, there are many restaurant with court yards so you are not inside a closed space, and it is a small town that doesn't have a multitude of people crowding the streets. You can walk and enjoy in peace. >




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