110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Vickie Pleus
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children in the United States watch about four hours of TV a day.
An exception may be the children in West Volusia, whether they are visiting for a week or living here for a lifetime. From parks to fun places to eat, and from attractions to libraries, the cities of West Volusia offer so much to do, TVs hardly get warmed up here.
There may be more parks and playgrounds in West Volusia than there is time in a normal childhood to see them. And each spot offers its own equipment, challenge level and features.
Gemini Springs Park
Favorites include Gemini Springs Park in DeBary. This multiuse park is chock-full of amenities, like a large playground, covered picnic pavilions, fishing, and a paved trail for walking, pushing a stroller, biking or roller-skating.
In 2006, Volusia County opened its first dog park in Gemini Springs Park, too. Canine companions are welcome on leashes throughout the park and can run off the leash in a fenced and beautifully shaded space.
Wes Crile Splash Park
If the kids need to burn some energy during the warmest of days, don’t miss the Wes Crile Splash Park in Deltona. Get ready to get soaked at Wes Crile this fun park has several water structures to spray squealing tykes and keep them cool.
Nearby, an awning-covered playground keeps the fun going. Bring a lunch to enjoy at a picnic table under the many pavilions.
Jackson Lane Park
Jackson Lane Park in DeLand is a playground with features to be enjoyed by babies and big kids alike. It’s one of the only parks with a merry-go-round and tire swing, and sits quietly under an umbrella of shady oaks.
Earl Brown Park
Earl Brown Park in DeLand is another favorite, but don’t go empty-handed: Bring some bread for the many ducks and geese that live at the large pond there.
A sidewalk twists and turns through the park, passing pavilions, basketball courts, a skate park, a playground, picnic tables and pavilions, restrooms and more.
Hontoon Island State Park
Hontoon Island State Park, as its name implies, is surrounded by water, so part of the fun of taking a trip there is the free ferry ride from the parking lot to the park!
A playground, picnic tables, rustic walking trails, snack bars, and a small museum showcasing the history of the island are some of the things to keep this beautiful park hopping year-round.
A small playground rests near the landing field (called a drop zone) at Skydive DeLand, on the DeLand Municipal Airport.
While playing in the sandbox, watch the skydivers and airplanes take off and land. And, if the captivation keeps you until lunchtime, enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
Kid-friendly restaurants are usually on Mom and Dad’s wish list, and West Volusia’s plate is full of them.
From the kid-favorite Chick-fil-A in Orange City (one of the best indoor play areas around!) to the restaurants of Downtown DeLand, families can choose their feast.
One notable family-friendly dining establishment is Mainstreet Grill, where those seated at the outdoor tables can enjoy a waterfall over a beautiful manatee tile mosaic.
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant in DeLeon Springs State Park is a local favorite as much for fun as it is for taste.
Bring the family to breakfast any time of day and make pancakes and eggs right at your own table. Amplify the fun by sprinkling your traditional or whole-grain pancakes with chocolate chips, pecans, bananas, apples and other goodies.
The restaurant’s gift shop features Florida trinkets for all ages.
Area attractions home in on history, culture, arts and more in West Volusia, too, like the DeBary Hall Historic Site. The three-story mansion’s décor is reminiscent of its 1800s roots, and the site’s large movie theater shows a program about the historic St. Johns River and early pioneers of the area. An adjacent gift shop has rare finds, too.
After DeBary Hall, visit the DeLand Naval Air Station Museum and see its impressive F-14 Tomcat Jet aircraft and static displays.
Or, travel back to Florida’s rural past at the Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts in Barberville, a celebrated folk-culture center with a working farm, an Indian village and a country store.
Sunshine Bowling Lanes in DeLand has been voted the area’s best bowling center since 2000. It’s a kid-friendly environment that hosts birthday parties and more.
DeLand and Deltona both have roller-skating centers for your kids-on-wheels.
To extricate the Picasso in your child, be sure to visit Downtown DeLand’s Clay Pigeons, the local paint-your-own pottery place. Paint a piece of bisque for the grandparents or create a glass mosaic in this quaint and fun shop.
Speaking of special days and events, there’s no shortage of such treats in West Volusia. Pet festivals, river cleanups, shows at the Volusia County Fairgrounds, park celebrations, Easter egg hunts, a Christmas boat parade on the St. Johns River, and outdoor art shows are nearly everywhere.
The beautiful weather ushers in these fun family outings year-round. Find them in The Beacon's calendar of events in print or online.
If the kids (or parents) are in need of some quiet time, public libraries also are generously scattered throughout West Volusia, with locations in DeBary, DeLand, DeLeon Springs, Deltona, Lake Helen, Orange City and Pierson.
Many offer children’s programming from story time for babies and toddlers, to crafts and movies for older children.
These are only a sampling of the family-friendly jewels of West Volusia and its cities. Taste and see the treasures of our community then come back for more. Like I said, there’s not much time for television here.
Vickie Pleus is a public-relations professional for Volusia County Government who also enjoys the occasional freelance writing gig. She has lived in Volusia County since 1997, and enjoys frolicking around the community with her husband and son.
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