If you love small towns with historic main streets that are bustling with life, with unique shops and good restaurants, a stay at the Artisan Downtown boutique hotel in Deland is probably the best place you could stay in all of Florida.
You don’t hear “historic” and “Florida” in the same sentence a whole lot apart from St. Augustine. This region was too swampy and mosquito infested for most of the invading Europeans to mess with unless they were looking for the Fountain of Youth. Plus the Native American tribes living in the region were pretty good at fighting them off.
Deland was founded in the 1880s though, which is really long ago by Florida standards. Thanks to a fire that burned down a block of the city in 1886, a decree went into law that all buildings must be made of brick or concrete. Because of that and some smart city planning, most of the original buildings are still standing and the ones put up in the boom years of the 1920s look downright grand. Those include and impressive courthouse with a dome and the Athens Theater, now restored and putting on shows.
Artisan Downtown is the best spot to stay since it’s right on the main drag of Woodland Boulevard, a short walk to everything in town. It was decorated with care by the experienced hoteliers who originally came from India and they’re on site making sure guests are comfortable. It’s a stylish hotel that’s well-designed, fitting right in with the eclectic shops a stroll away.
After taking advantage of the free parking, you enter the lobby and reception area with contemporary sofas. The Artisan Grill Restaurant has the space on both sides, taking up the rest of the ground floor. It’s a large space with booths, tables, outdoor seating, and a hopping bar serving up quality beers and cocktails. The restaurant is elegant but comfortable, serving all three meals with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Old favorites and comfort food win out over novelty, but plates are presented with care and flair.
You take the elevator or the grand wood staircase to reach the eight rooms, which are all set up as junior suites or executive suites. The former have a small separate sitting area and come with a quality sofa, a desk, and two cable TVs. The executive suites have a sleeper sofa and large separate living room. Both have comfy queen beds and ample baths with quality toiletries. Wi-Fi is complimentary and works well, plus there’s nightly turndown service.
Hardwood floors, exposed brick, calming colors, and artistic accents make it clear you’re not in a cookie-cutter chain hotel. Each suite has a small refrigerator, coffee maker, iron, hair dryer, and robes. Some are equipped with whirlpool tubs.
Staffers were friendly and accommodating during my visit, in keeping with a friendly town that makes you wistful when it’s time to leave. When you’ve had enough though, it’s a half hour by car to reach Daytona Beach and about an hour to reach Orlando. The St. John’s River is nearby for wildlife tours or kayaking.
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who was a guest of the Artisan Downtown while researching a story on Deland for another publication.