Mount Dora is located near Florida’s geographic center just northwest of Orlando, and it’s particularly well-known for its abundant lakes, small-town charm, and the many festivals it hosts annually.
Founded more than 140 years ago, at the time of the last census, Mount Dora had a population of about 12,500 residents.
Mount Dora is equidistant between the state’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and is near to a variety of natural and historical attractions and theme parks that make it a perfect starting point for eager day-trippers.
Lighthouses, historic sites, and abundant natural splendor are a few more of Mount Dora’s claims to fame, so finding things to do while in town shouldn’t be a problem.
1. Grantham Point Park
Grantham Point Park is one of Mount Dora’s premier attractions, and is home to the Mount Dora Lighthouse, one of the only remaining freshwater lighthouses in the state.
The park’s lakefront views are perfect for photographers looking to capture the area’s amazing beauty, and there’s a boardwalk that follows the lake’s shore and leads to other area parks like Palm Island Park and Gilbert Park.
Though the lighthouse is less than 40-feet tall, it’s a unique local icon. It’s adjacent to a boat ramp that’s a popular setting-off point for boaters and fishermen, and it’s all just a few minutes from the downtown area.
2. Mount Dora Spring Festival of Arts and Crafts
Though the winters in Florida are far from harsh, spring is still a time when small towns come alive with blooming flowers and festivals galore.
The Mount Dora Spring Festival of Arts and Crafts takes place over two days in March. It is an open-air event that celebrates a little bit of everything – from arts and crafts to antiques and food – and it draws a loyal crowd every year. The festival features more than 200 exhibitors.
It takes place in downtown Mount Dora and includes great food and fun, family-friendly activities too.
3. The Cellar Door
Located on East 4th Avenue in Mount Dora, The Cellar Door is a cozy wine bar that, according to previous guests, is the perfect blend of contemporary design and traditional coziness.
Their menu includes wines and craft brews of nearly every description; there’s even champagne and hard cider for those interested in trying something a little different.
Wine is available by the glass or bottle, and they often host special events like karaoke, open mic nights, and live music.
For those new to the area, it’s a great place to meet some locals and get insider insights into things to see and do on your trip.
4. Donnelly House
Mount Dora’s Donnelly House is the town’s most historic home, and it was originally built in the 1890s by an out-of-state businessman as a gift for his new wife.
The home features Queen Anne architecture and has been included on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
It’s located on North Donnelly Street, and though it’s only open to the public irregularly, it’s an easy walk from downtown. It’s one of those unique area attractions that’s worth a few minutes of your time, especially if you’re interested in history or just looking to take a cool photograph or two.
Renningers is a local Mount Dora business that’s been described as part antique mall, part flea market, and part farmer’s market, and it’s a popular shopping destination unlike any other you’ll find in town.
The flea and farmer’s market portions are open every Saturday and Sunday from 8 AM until 4 PM, and the antique center is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Renningers hosts a variety of special events throughout the year as well; they include community yard sales and live entertainment, and it’s also a Salvation Army donation site.
Consider a morning visit if you’d like to avoid the crowds.
6. Mount Dora Olive Oil Company
Much like the wine and craft brew renaissances that have taken place in recent years, olive oil has enjoyed an explosion in popularity too.
Not only does it taste good, but in its most natural organic state, it offers a variety of health benefits not found in other vegetable oils.
Mount Dora Olive Oil Company is full of olive oils and similar products from all over the world, and they ship them anywhere in the country.
There are always lots of samples on-hand, and a friendly and informed staff to answer your questions.
It’s an excellent place for a short reprieve from the harsh Florida sun.
7. Village Coffee Pot
Traveling coffee aficionados and hopeless caffeine junkies will be pleased to know that there’s at least one independent coffee shop left in historic Mount Dora.
Village Coffee Pot is located on North Donnelly Street in the downtown area, and according to those in the know, there’s no better place to get a cup of freshly roasted java anywhere in the area.
From Cuban coffees and high-octane espressos to smooth cappuccinos and tasty lattes, there’s probably something for everyone regardless of taste, and they offer some cold drink options too.
They’re known for their yummy cookies and cakes, and even offer soup, sandwiches, and wraps.
8. Mount Dora Blueberry Festival
Though Florida agriculture is particularly well-known for its citrus fruit, melons, and tomatoes, blueberries have been making steady gains in recent years.
Never one to pass up an opportunity for a new festival, Mount Dora hosts an annual Blueberry Festival that takes place in Donnelly Park over two days in April.
The festival is one of the town’s most recent additions, but already includes hundreds of vendors, live entertainment, tons of great food, and lots of kid-centered activities.
Of course, antioxidant-packed blueberries are the stars of the show, and visitors will have the opportunity to dine on them like never before in pies, muffins, jams, and more.
9. Mount Dora Seafood Festival
From blueberries to arts and crafts and lots of things in between, Mount Dora is a festival lover’s paradise; the annual Mount Dora Seafood Festival takes place over two days at the end of September.
Admission is free, and free shuttles run between the local high school and Evans Park on both days.
The festival is only in its 4th year, but has grown to include more than 100 vendors selling a vast array of fresh seafood, as well as clothes and arts and crafts.
The park’s waterfront location makes it the perfect place for such an event, and the gates are opened at 11 AM on both days.
10. Windsor Rose Tea Room and Restaurant
Though Mount Dora isn’t usually mistaken for a quaint English town, it’s still possible to get a taste of a traditional British customs at the Windsor Rose Tea Room and Restaurant.
Whether its breakfast or afternoon tea you’re after, you’ll find it at Windsor Rose; they’re known for their scones and biscuits, finger sandwiches, and a wide selection of teas.
You probably won’t catch a glimpse of the Royal Family, but previous guests have noted that the tea room and restaurant were about as authentic as you’re likely to find anywhere this side of the Atlantic. They serve beer and wine as well.
11. Mount Dora Craft Fair
For more than 35 years, Mount Dora has hosted an annual craft fair; with over 400 exhibitors from around the country, it’s grown into one of the state’s largest.
The fair takes place downtown and includes handcrafted items that you just won’t find elsewhere. Many visitors choose to stock up and save many of the items they buy as birthday and Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers.
There’s plenty of art available as well, including paintings and sculpture, carvings, and even contemporary pieces that defy description.
The fair is in October when the weather is perfect, and includes great food and activities for children as well.
12. Mount Dora Golf Club
The Mount Dora Golf Club was established in 1945, and since then, it’s been a favorite destination for golfers who’d rather not spend a fortune or set aside four or more hours of their day.
At just 5,700 yards, the par 70 course is shorter than most, but it’s set amidst 90 acres of scenic landscape, and includes changes in elevation and strategically placed sand and water hazards to keep things interesting.
A variety of tee boxes are available to accommodate players of most ages and levels of ability, and generally, rounds can be completed in about three hours.
13. King’s Landing
Located on Baptist Camp Road in nearby Apopka, King’s Landing is the perfect starting point for outdoorsy types who’d like to explore the Wekiva River and its myriad of tributaries.
Though much of the area was severely damaged in recent hurricanes, the river and surrounding land have mostly recovered; they’re some of the best places from which to see Florida beauty in its most pristine state.
Canoe and kayak rentals are available from Wednesday through Sunday, and there are rustic campsites along the way for those who’d like to spend a night under the stars.
Prices are reasonable, and camping is an additional charge.
14. Rock Springs Run State Preserve
From hiking and horseback riding to mountain-biking and bird-watching, Rock Springs Run State Preserve is an activity-packed destination that’s popular with outdoor lovers of all stripes.
The preserve is home to a variety of animals, including snakes, turtles, foxes, and even bears; many of them are frequently seen from the trails that wind through the preserve.
Most guests enjoy the preserve for the day only, but for the fit and adventurous, there are rough and remote campsites available – though they’re not easy to get to and must be reserved in advance.
The preserve is located in nearby Sorrento and is open daily.
15. House of Blues
Orlando’s House of Blues is a famous restaurant-bar-live entertainment venue that’s noted for its high-profile performers, cool atmosphere, and awesome food.
House of Blues has been likened to bars more commonly found in New Orleans and Memphis, and though it’s a family-friendly attraction, it has a decidedly adult feel, especially later in the evening when most little ones are in bed.
They’re known for highlighting local and regional talent too, and many House of Blues performers go on to make it in the national spotlight.
Great burgers and ribs are a few of the menu favorites, and there’s a full bar with wine, beer, and mixed drinks on offer.