Mount Dora is many things to many people, but to me it has always been home. It’s where I learned how to ride a bike and drive a car. It’s where I had my first kiss, my first boyfriend and my first breakup. I spent most of my teenage years trying to get out of Mount Dora, but it’s the one place I had to get back to when I graduated from college.
If you can’t live here, it’s a great destination for day and weekend trips. There are several bed & breakfasts within the blocks of downtown, including the Mount Dora Historic Inn on 4th Avenue. If your accommodations don’t offer breakfast, there are several places to grab a quick bite and a cup of coffee. One Flight Up offers breakfast sandwiches, bagels, coffee and specialty espresso drinks or if you prefer more of a country cookin’ type breakfast then Chew Chew Express is the place to go.
If you’re a history buff and want to get the juicy gossip on how Mount Dora came to be, there are two different tours you can jump on. It’s best to do them early in the morning because they tend to get busy as the town wakes up. The first option is the Mount Dora Trolley Company. It was started a few years back by a mother and daughter. They really do know how to make you feel welcome. They take you by trolley all throughout the downtown area and into some residential streets, while giving you the history of our town that sits beside Lake Dora. If you prefer a more private tour then jump into a horse-drawn carriage over at A Hitch in Time Carriage Tours at the corner of 4th Avenue and Alexander Street. They do a 30–45-minute guided tour of the downtown area and it really is the best way to hoof the town without doing any of the work.
There are several specialty shops along Donnelly Avenue that can’t be found anywhere else. The Drawer Ltd. is the town hot spot for Vera Bradley, Crabtree and Evelyn, and Brighton jewelry. It’s one of the most frequented stores by the locals, and if you listen closely you’re bound to hear some town gossip. After walking through all the stores you have to stop by My Father’s Bread. They are the local celebrity in town after doing an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, and their assortment of fresh baked breads and cinnamon rolls are perfect for taking home. If you’re in the mood for ice cream, then swing through La Cremerie at Alexander Street and 3rd Avenue. They always have sixteen different flavors to choose from, all the toppings for a great sundae, and they truly make the best old-fashioned milkshakes in town.
Mount Dora is also a great place for outdoor lovers. The hills are perfect for bike enthusiasts. If you’re a boater, there is a public boat ramp down past the marina, and there are several golf courses nearby.
While Mount Dora is a great place to visit any day of the year, the best time to make a trip is during the holiday season. Here are the top five holiday festivities that can’t be missed:
1. Light Up Mount Dora is always first to kick off the holiday season. This year it will be the Saturday night after Thanksgiving (November 26). The entire downtown area is blocked off from traffic, and when they flip the switch at 6:30 p.m. the entire Donnelly Park is lit by over two million twinkling Christmas lights high above in the trees.
2. The Christmas Walk is the first weekend in December. It’s a holiday street party with music, drinks, food, and entertainment out on the streets of downtown. The shops stay open late and carolers in time-period costumes make their way through the crowd caroling as they go (December 2).
3. The Boat Parade is the next night (December 3) just past dark. It takes place down along the shore of Lake Dora. Boats of all different shapes and sizes are decorated with strands and strands of lights that illuminate off the water.
4. The Christmas Movie in the Park takes place the second Friday in December. A large crowd gathers in Donnelly Park in front of a huge movie screen, and they bring their chairs and spread out blankets to watch a Christmas movie under the twinkling Christmas lights in the trees.
5. Snow in the Park is the second Saturday night of December and snow always finds its way into Donnelly Park for the younger kids to go sledding down the steep hill. When it’s really cold, the snow tends to last well into the next day, but there have been some warmer years where the snow started melting as soon as it hit the ground. (Truth in advertising: Mt. Dora has a snow-making machine.)
Overall, Mount Dora is a great place to live or visit any time of year. We truly have something for everyone. If you plan to take a trip soon, I am always more than happy to offer up recommendations when it comes to Mount Dora. Feel free to send me a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit http://www.whattodoinmtdora.com/
—Erika Bennett, Art of Living
I am a book designer at a publishing company in Orlando and when I’m not working, I’m blogging about the funny mishaps of life after college. I was born and raised in Mount Dora, FL, and left to attend college in Boca Raton, FL. After four years and one college degree later, I moved back to the town I call home, Mount Dora.