Many think of Florida as the premiere spot for sand, sun and some magic as the guest of a famous mouse.
But there’s more than palm trees swaying in the breeze in the Sunshine State, and the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner will highlight the very best of the state when it stops at FernTrust in Seville, Florida, on Saturday, November 18.
It’s your golden chance to explore the fern capital of the world with floral guru J Schwanke, and it’s your ticket to a world you didn’t know existed in central Florida.
Here are some ways to make the most of your time in Florida:
Everything old is new again
Volusia County’s motto, “old Florida, new vibe,” fits your getaway like an airline ticket in a carry-on bag. Seville is all about an old-fashioned, undiscovered, lush Florida from the past.
Start with a change of pace for water lovers: the St. Johns River Blueway, one of only 14 American Heritage Rivers in the country, is an excellent place to grab a canoe, kayak or riverboat and get into the stream! Chances are good you’ll have a chance to watch turtles, gators, manatees and more than 200 species of birds while floating along. Or grab a fishing pole and bring home some crappie and bass to cook over a campfire.
State parks, too, invite you to experience nature in fresh ways. Blue Spring State Park is home in the fall and winter to herds of manatees, who flock to these 72-degree springs.
Deleon Springs State Park’s historic tour boat takes you for an up close and personal journey into the beauty of Florida’s interior. Here, you’ll find a spring that produces 19 million gallons of water a day, and in temperatures warm enough to swim, snorkel and even scuba dive in year round.
And don’t leave without stopping for a hearty meal at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant. They’ll hand you the homemade pancake mix of your choice and you cook your breakfast in the middle of the table!
Continue to follow the water to neighboring Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, where 22,000 acres of lakes, creeks and marshes are waiting for you to explore by canoe or kayak.
Crank up the adventure
Thrill rides? Sure, we have those too! Nothing beats a quintessential airboat trip to hunt for alligators (cameras are your only shots, of course), and we have several captains throughout the county ready to take you on the ride of your life along the dark waters of the St. Johns River.
And you’ll probably find more than gators in these swamps. Look for wild hogs along the shoreline as well.
If the gentleness of a manatee catches your attention, a guided kayak eco-tour is the right choice. Your guide will direct you to the paddle with these intriguing creatures up close and personal.
Speaking of catches, you haven’t lived until you try bow fishing, a year-round archery sport that pits your aim against your dinner. It’s a fast-paced way to fish, and you should get the hang of it within a few arrows.
Or, hire one of Florida’s former professional fishermen to take you out and guide you in catching trophy fish big enough to impress the folks back home. (Psst, we’re talking prize-winning bass!)
DeLand even offers a fish camp where you can hang out on the porch of your own cabin and pull your boat rental right into the slip a few feet away.
Just a hop, skip and jump from the Field to Vase dinner, DeLand’s downtown scene is not your grandmother’s main street. Here, Old Florida meets a contemporary vibe for an eclectic mix of boutiques, galleries and nine museums. It’s a destination for dining and microbreweries you won’t find on every exit off the interstate. Just be sure to stop at the larger-than-life murals along your walk for some unique selfies to share. (#DelandWings is the most popular).
The city is the brainchild of Henry DeLand, who originally lured residents with promises they could grow oranges here and build a good life. He started schools, hotels and even a college in the 1880s, only to have a severe storm wipe out his fortune. That’s when his friend, John D. Stetson of the hat fame, stepped in to help save Stetson University. Today, Stetson Mansion, open to the public, offers a fascinating glimpse into the glamour of the state’s first luxury mansion. TripAdvisor named it “Florida’s Most Popular Attraction” and one of the “Top 10 Places to Visit in Florida.”
Bonus: November 15 kicks off the spectacular holiday theme at Stetson Mansion, often called “Christmas on steroids.”
Fly Into the Fall In Florida
Join more than 100,000 people who will shake things up with a skydive. Deland Skydive touts itself as one of the busiest drop zones in the world. (Yes, they offer tandem jumps for beginners!)
And don’t forget: Seville is less than an hour’s drive from Daytona Beach and 80 minutes from the amusement parks of Orlando, so you can have your Florida and make new memories, too.
But first, reserve your seat for our American Grown Field to Vase Dinner at FernTrust, the main attraction in Florida this fall.