Popular gay-friendly Florida destinations often include Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, or Miami, but one underrated destination you can’t ignore is DeLand. Considered the Athens of Florida, this gay-friendly city has a lot in store. Explore our LGBTQ Travel Guide to DeLand to find out which LGBTQ business to visit and events to attend during your stay!
In the United States, Florida has the tenth highest population of LGBTQ-identifying people. While Florida is often in the news on LGBTQ topics, it is still one of the hottest places to be for LGBTQ tourists. DeLand is one of the many destination that continues to grow in terms of inclusion.
A Brief Background Of DeLand
DeLand, Florida is between Orlando and Daytona Beach. Its stately red-brick buildings and Greco-Roman architecture are what give it its nickname of “Athens of Florida.”
Art lovers will enjoy what DeLand has to offer. In particular, its Museum of Art has impressive collections by renowned artists Gary Erbe, Richard Segalman, Purvis Young, and more.
Adventurers will also have a lot in store for them, as DeLand is home to some of Florida’s most stunning lakes and hot springs. At the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, tourists can enjoy an immersive wildlife experience and go canoeing or kayaking.
How LGBT-Friendly Is DeLand?
While DeLand’s sense of community has always been tight-knit, its first major LGBTQ organization, DeLand Pride, was founded only in 2016 and has since garnered hundreds of members. In collaboration with independent pride group Collective Cares DeLand, DeLand Pride provides resources for adults and youths.
Families with LGBTQ children can enroll their children in the monthly Dreka Theater coffee social, where kids can join open discussions with trained coordinators. Advocates and allies can also participate in regular food drives and fundraisers by DeLand Pride, whether or not they are Florida residents.
Where To Stay
Before you dive into the best of what LGBTQ DeLand has to offer, you’ll first have to book your stay. Here are a few options for LGBT-friendly accommodation for all budgets.
Courtyard by Marriott DeLand Historic Downtown
Most people who visit DeLand want a taste of its historic side. If you’re one of them, book a room at the Courtyard By Marriott DeLand Historic Downtown, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Athens Theatre.
Guests enjoy spacious rooms, Starbucks coffee, food and drinks at the Courtyard Bistro, and free parking. The hotel also offers convenience items and snacks for purchase on site and complimentary wifi.
If you have a lot on your to-do list, make sure to visit Mainstreet DeLand, SkyDive DeLand, and other must-see destinations.
After a night out at the Abbey Bar or Cafe DaVinci, hotel guests can enjoy all-American cuisine for dinner or even a refreshing swim in the outdoor pool.
Hampton Inn & Suites
Early risers who want to get ahead of the day will love the Hampton Inn and Suites for its scrumptious free breakfast selection. Its central location makes everything accessible, so you’ll always make it to your LGBTQ events on time. Plus, if you get a little lost, you can depend on the Hampton’s famously friendly staff to get you where you need to be!
The DeLand Hotel
The DeLand Hotel is a popular travel choice, being so close to the city’s best attractions. A few nearby restaurants serve Mexican cuisine for eaters who like a little bit of spice.
If you’re looking to take a peek at DeLand’s historical landmarks, the DeLand Hotel is technically one of them – it’s both charming and nostalgic!
For travelers who love a boutique feel, the Artisan Downtown is the place to be. Modern yet heirloom-themed, the Artisan Downtown is perfectly Instagram-worthy and is also right next to some of DeLand’s most in-demand bars and restaurants.
After ticking off your day’s LGBTQ itinerary, you can grab a bite at the Chica’s restaurant and indulge in some of the hotel’s luxury amenities.
Hontoon Landing Resort & Marina
Are you looking for a room with a view? If so, the Hontoon Landing Resort and Marina provides a spectacular one of the St. Johns River, which lies directly across the Hontoon Island State Park. If you prefer to prepare your own meals, most of its rooms come equipped with a kitchen.
Wildlife lovers will likely want to take tours of the nearby wildlife parks – just schedule with the Heritage River Tour.
Where To Eat
With all those LGBTQ+ events on your itinerary, you’re bound to get hungry at some point! Keep these DeLand restaurants in mind when your stomach starts to grumble.
Located in historic Downtown DeLand, Cress serves delicious, globally-renowned meals using the best sustainable ingredients. Winning the Best Overall Restaurant at the 22nd Annual Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards, Cress Restaurant features globally-inspired seasonal ingredients and supports local farmers.
The menu changes often, but you can be rest assured that you won’t go wrong with a fresh catch, tikka masala curry, or leg of lamb. And please do yourself a favor and order dessert with coffee or wine.
Old Spanish Sugar Mill
Once a sugar plantation in the 1900s, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill has to be the most picturesque pancake destination not only in DeLand but in all of Florida. There is no more scenic place to have breakfast than at this location. Cook your pancakes on your personal griddle with a variety of toppings, then sit back and enjoy the view.
If you’re a sucker for fresh, organic-made dishes, BakeChop is one for the books. You’ll be surprised by how juicy and delicious its free-range chicken dishes are but will be even more blown away by the homemade dessert menu.
New York Bagel & Deli
Get a taste of the big city at New York Bagel and Deli where freshly-baked bagels and sandwiches make it to your plate every day. You’ll be licking your fingers after annihilating its delicious hot and cold sandwiches, made with familiar NYC ingredients like roast beef and turkey. And you’ll rate about the rainbow bagels! I know I did! (Full disclosure…they taste just like plain bagels, but everything tastes better as a rainbow.)
DeLand Fish House
Run by a legitimate fisherman, DeLand Fish House serves some of the most authentic seafood you’ll find in Florida. Everything is fresh, well-portioned, and affordable – perfect for the whole family.
C’s Waffles DeLand
For good old comfort food with a diner vibe, put C’s Waffles on your breakfast list. The menus offers traditional dishes like eggs and pancakes, but do yourself a favor – stick to waffles. We recommend the classic Chicken and Waffles or The Waffle Stacker comprised of two scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, with American cheese, stacked in between a 1/2 waffle.
The Table Restaurant
This Southern-style restaurant is one of the largest in DeLand and is famed for its delicious chicken pot pie. The Table Restaurant is perfect for brunch, complete with excellent views from its outdoor patio.
Half Wall DeLand
If you love an early happy hour, grab a pint with your meal at the Half Wall DeLand. Along with your bar chow, you can catch whatever game is screening and get to know other sports fans!
When in DeLand, you can’t miss out on its dive bars. The good news is, LGBT-friendly dive bars in DeLand are everywhere – one of them is even home to DeLand Pride!
Often the location of some of DeLand’s most prominent LGBTQ events, Cafe DaVinci is a diverse, welcoming, and highly frequented dive bar in the center of a large courtyard. Don’t be surprised if you run into some of DeLand’s most flamboyant personalities at its weekly drag show Pride Night, hosted by Aaliyah Nouveau.
Without a brick-and-mortar location yet, DeLand Pride is proud to call Abbey Bar home. This premier craft beer hotspot in West Volusia County hosts many of DeLand’s most popular LGBTQ+ events, like Love is Love Week, Drag Bingo, and the Pride Pub Crawl.
Not to mention, it has the most impressive collection of beer, wine, and mead served by Cicerone-certified bartenders.
Artisan Alley Farmer’s Market
This vibrant marketplace with over 80 vendors occasionally hosts some of DeLand’s most popular LGBTQ events. Come at the right time, and you can witness the Love is Love Pride Fest, where community members come dressed in what makes them feel most like themselves!
After that, you can enjoy a delicious meal at any of DeLand’s Artisan Alley’s stalls and shop for unique finds you won’t see anywhere else.
For a small city, DeLand has a lot of big events in store for tourists and locals alike. Depending on when you choose to travel to DeLand, here are a few LGBT-focused events you can enjoy.
DeLand’s most significant LGBTQ event is the Love is Love Pride Fest, an annual event that celebrates community members from all walks of life hosted by DeLand Pride. This family-friendly pride event has something in store for everyone – there are youth activities, an open mic, live music, a car parade, and a comedy show.
DeLand Pride Pageant
Happening yearly at the Dreka Theater is the DeLand Pride Pageant, which crowns a king and queen to represent DeLand at community events across Florida. The pageant comprises three categories, the first being a creative costume presentation based on the year’s theme. Then, contestants will present their formal wear and be part of a talent show.
This is another Abbey Bar favorite. Drag Bingo is hosted by drag favorite Aaliyah Nouveau, with guests like Ginger Beer, Kirk DaVinci, Crystal Vahz, Twisted T, and more. Accompanying the bingo fest is a night chock-full of drag performances and an extended happy hour of delectable cocktails.
If you consider yourself a star in the kitchen, there is no better event for you in DeLand than the Rainbow Cook-Off! Every year, only six chefs qualify for the cook-off and are tasked to come up with a signature dish based on every color of the rainbow. Even if you don’t reign supreme, you’ll at least get to enjoy dishes outside of your comfort zone!
DeLand Pride Meet And Greet
Do you run a business in Florida and have DeLand as part of your business itinerary? If so, attending the DeLand Pride Meet and Greet is an excellent way to network and get to know local business owners.
After the formalities, you can enjoy handcrafted martinis during happy hour and indulge in one of the most delicious tapas menus you’ll find in Florida!
Meet any LGBTQ regular at Cafe DaVinci, and they’ll recommend you return on Pride Night! Happening every Tuesday, Pride Night welcomes some of the biggest LGBTQ DeLand personalities, like Coco Gavalli, Simply Ocean, Orusha San Miguel, and more for an exciting dress-up gathering.
For Disney enthusiasts, you won’t want to miss out on Disney in DeLand, an all-time Pride Night favorite.
Rainbow Bowling League
Those traveling in LGBTQ groups can try their hand at the Rainbow Bowling League, which occurs seasonally during DeLand Pride. Win cash prizes and trophies with your team of four – all while celebrating diversity, making new friends, and enjoying a bit of family-friendly fun!
Big Events and Other Things to Do
DeLand is also home to some of Florida’s most well-loved non-LGBTQ events that definitely belong on your itinerary. Give these ones a try!
DeLand Craft Beer Festival
For 15 years, the DeLand Craft Beer Festival has been one of the most-awaited annual events in Florida. For just a few dollars, you can sample over 200 craft beers while witnessing DeLand’s best live music. Sponsored by big names like the Sugar Works Distillery, Florida Beer Co, and Big Storm Brewing Co, you can expect only the most refreshing and delicious beers at this well-loved festival.
If you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket, DeLand is the perfect place to spend it! Woodland Ave is lined with gift shops, clothing stores, and food markets. You’ll find rainbow stickers in many of the store windows, so obviously those are the ones we recommend supporting first. And no visit to DeLand is complete without a visit to Orchid Rain! This ecclectic store has lots of LGBTQ treasures as well as a painted Volkswagon Bug.
Best Spots for Intagram Pics
Wander the streets for picture perfect moments. The town has a few ideal Instagramable treasures, like the street signs that remind you that you’re ok, the sunflower park bench, and the wall of signs at DaVinci’s.
St. Johns River Eco Tour
Outdoor lovers have to go on the St. Johns River Eco Tour and behold some of Florida’s most famous wildlife. Snap stunning photographs of a variety of owls, ducks, swallows, and snakes (if you’re brave enough. On top of its daily nature tours, you can also attend seasonal birding tours, photography tours, and limited excursions.
After your Eco Tour, stop for a bite at Swamp House Riverfront Grill. Their gator wrap and steamed shrimp are the perfect way to wrap up a perfect day.
Stetson Mansion Tour
The only Gilded Age mansion in Florida, the Stetson Mansion is something you have to see to believe. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time beholding its antique architecture and impressive systems. The electricity in this home was installed by Thomas Edison himself. Tours are conducted daily. You can even host wedding receptions, birthday parties, and other special events at this stunning piece of history.
Fun fact: this home is owned and lived in full time by two amazingly talented men.
The Bottom Line
While DeLand probably won’t be your first thought when you think about gay Florida, this quaint, historic city has more in store for its LGBTQ visitors than you’d anticipate!
Do you want to add more to your Florida checklist? Check out the rest of OutCoast.com to see what the Sunshine State has to offer!
***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).
Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.