The charming town of Mount Dora sits in central Florida an hour from Orlando. Called the “New England town of the South”, this adorable lakeside Old Florida town has a noteworthy history, almost monthly celebrations, 34 festivals, 1000+ picturesque lakes (in the area), and excellent boutique and antique shopping. Enjoy magical sunsets, indulge in a fantastic meal, and embrace Mount Dora’s offerings as you explore 10 things to love about Mount Dora, in Lake County, Florida, for a most memorable trip.
1. Segway Tours
Book a memorable outdoor attraction with CatBoat Adventure Tours in Mount Dora. While they also offer two-person private powered catamarans, my choice was the guided Segway tour around town. Don’t think for one minute this tour just shows you the popular downtown area. We were off and running (or gliding in this case) through many parks, natural areas, and in the residential part of town.
Our guide was knowledgable and shared great stories about Mount Dora and its history. The town was decorated for the holidays so we got an up close and personal view of the primo decorations. Our town lasted around two hours and had a few stops for stretching and photo ops. Riding through the canopies of live oaks was truly amazing! Tours start from the Mount Dora Boating Center & Marina at beautiful Lake Dora. Helmets are required and provided.
2. A Lovely Charcuterie Platter
It would appear that Pisces Rising is the place to great live entertainment from a beautiful patio or cocktails and appetizers at the bar. I chose the latter. Starting with a stunning charcuterie platter, my friend Sara and I enjoyed choice meats, pickles, gourmet cheeses, and a few other accompaniments (yeah caper berries!).
For my main course (we sat at the bar because the wait for a table was 90 to 120 minutes), I had the black grouper with a lemon beurre blanc sauce over Himalayan red rice, a special of the day. Service is a bit slow here, but the ambiance and menu options are worth the wait.
3. An Uplifting Local Store
One of the blessings of my travels is meeting unique people, and often ones who are so busy lifting others up, that they don’t realize how bright they shine. Case in point, Lynn, the owner of Under the Cherry Blossoms in Mount Dora.
Lynn’s beautiful store houses arts and crafts, plus many items made of salvaged or recycled goods, in Downtown Mount Dora. She is a huge advocate for empowering women and those who share their talents through these magnificent items. Under the Cherry Blossoms is the true meaning of “buy and shop local”.
The Cherry Blossom Store in Mount Dora was one of the most fun shops I have set foot in, in a long time. I loved the ceiling (visit to see for yourself), as it’s a fun, creative conversation piece. The owner is truly passionate and genuinely cares about her customers. -Sara Broers
4. A Victorian Mansion
If you’ve never stayed in a bed and breakfast before, Heron Cay B&B Inn at Mount Dora is a great way to get introduced to them. If you are a fan of B&Bs, Heron Cay is a great option. Either way, this 100+ year old Queen Anne Victorian mansion is a wise choice. Explore the grounds and outdoor swimming pool, taking in the sheer number of beautiful flowers and plants.
Prepared to be amazed by the room after room of priceless antiques. I was in awe of the enormous collection of Florida Highwaymen paintings, many for sale. Enjoy complimentary four-course gourmet breakfast, parking, and Wifi are included with your stay. I think the breakfast photo speaks volumes for how incredible the breakfast was. Choose from first, second, or third floor accommodations at Heron Cay, all with a different theme and decor.
I stayed in the Heavenly Suite, with a parlor sitting room area (800 square feet), and a bathroom that was as big as a small house. The oversized jacuzzi tub was my favorite part of the room. There was a gas fireplace, separate shower area, closet space, mini-fridge, and many other things to make our stay more pleasant. Heron Cay B&B is a few blocks from downtown Mount Dora, and definitely within walking distance.
5. Gorgeous Parks
Mount Dora has quite a few great city parks to enjoy a natural setting. Evans Park is one of the most popular with locals and visitors, and Gilbert Park being another. My favorite was Palm Island Park, with several rugged nature paths and a savvy raised platform over the water’s edge. We saw lots of fishermen there and the fish were hitting! Keep your eyes peeled for birds and gators.
6. Authentic German Fare
Mount Dora’s Bavarian Haus has been a long-time staple in downtown with indoor and outdoor seating. Offering live Bavarian music and authentic scratch made German food, I’ve always loved the food and atmosphere.
Start your dining experience with Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus (potato pancakes with applesauce). The entree I tend to order time and time again is Jägerschnitzel, sliced pork with a luscious mushroom sauce on top. Or, the hand breaded Schnitzel (pork or chicken) comes with two sides of your choice. May I recommend the Spätzle (German egg noodles) and Rotkohl (sweet red cabbage). Like many restaurants in Mount Dora, Bavarian Haus is closed on Mondays.
7. Boutique Shopping
Mount Dora is a great place for a road trip or getaway for shopping, eating, and people-watching. Downtown Mount Dora features an enclave of locally-owned shops and boutiques, as well as a handful of really great restaurants.
Step into the gorgeous shops of Papilio, Em’z on Fifth, Walk in the Woods, and Becker’s Best Shoes for apparel and accessories. Buy for your favorite four-legged friends at Piglet’s Pantry, upscale bath products at Naples Soap Company, and add some gourmet products and kitchenwares to your home with the treasure from Julianne’s Coastal Cottage. Mount Dora also boasts a few noteworthy antique stores.
8. Amazing Desserts
One of the things to love about Mount Dora is the selection of tasty dishes on the local menus. Even if you don’t eat a meal there, at least stop by Olive Branch Grille for palate pleasing desserts. This Mediterranean and Italian eatery has a large selection of handmade desserts. Choices include tiramisu, chocolate lava cake, gelato, creme brûlée, traditional NY cheesecake, and a few others.
I had the Limoncello Mascarpone Cake that was out of this world good! I think the name of the dessert pretty much sums up the decadent flavor, but it was also light and fluffy, and the lemon sponge cake wasn’t too sweet. Yum!
If you are on the go and in a hurry, pop by Allyson A. Bake Shop, known for upscale baked goods including cupcakes, muffins, cookies, and scones. They also feature a good selection of coffee and tea drinks.
9. A Fantastic Christmas Celebration
When I first moved to Florida, the local bus tour company in my town loaded up 66 passengers and took us to see the Christmas celebration in Mount Dora. I was blown away! The entire town rolled out the red carpet and stayed open late for this magical celebration, which mostly took part in the park at that time.
Today, Mount Dora is a super popular town to visit for the Christmas festival, where 2 million lights light up downtown’s Donnelly Park. The festivities have spread around town and are now in several different places, including Sunset Park (the big tree) and the boat marina. It is a dazzling display of Christmas magic and if you are as enthusiastic about the holidays as I am, make a point to visit Mount Dora.
Learn more about Mount Dora’s holiday offerings on this “someplace special” site.
10. Mount Dora Lighthouse
This adorable landmark is great for photo ops and views of Lake Dora. Located at Grantham Point and built in 1988, the Mount Dora Lighthouse is strictly ornamental, though it does have a working light for guiding boats across Lake Dora after dusk.
I’ve been visiting Mount Dora for years, but this trip was my first overnight. I was there from Sunday to Tuesday. Unfortunately, many things are closed on Mondays, so I do not recommend traveling here first of the week. Things on my list to do next time include eating at Goblin Market and The Salted Fry, having afternoon tea at Windsor Rose Restaurant and British Tea Room, taking a boat ride, shopping at Barrel of Books and St. Nick’s Holiday Shoppe, and touring the Lakeside Inn.
Make sure to drive by the Starry Night house on your visit to Mount Dora, just a few blocks from downtown and lakefront. It sparked quite the fight a few years’ back and made national news. I loved it!
My hotel accommodations and some meals were comped by Visit Florida. My Segway tour was also hosted by the company. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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