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Florida Guide > Days Out

Mount Dora – A Charming Alternative to visit

Our house, in Lake County, is just half an hour from Mount Dora, a beautiful, historical lakefront town. It’s become renowned for its antiques, craft fairs and festivals. These are held throughout the year bringing thousands of visitors to enjoy its charming atmosphere and ambience.

Mount Dora’s history goes back to its first settlement in 1874. For a short time, in 1880, it was named Royellou by the postmaster after a combination of his 3 children’s name. However it was changed three years later after Dora Ann Drawdy who was the wife of a surveyor. The Mount part of the name was chosen to reflect the unusual fact that ‘Mount’ Dora is hilly and 184 feet above sea level – something very unusual in Florida! The arrival of the railroad in 1887 encouraged its further growth and famous visitors have included two presidents - President Coolidge and President Eisenhower, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. In 1953 Mount Dora became a city, however, it still has a ‘small town’ feel, with its pretty historic buildings, antique speciality shops and the many festivals that are held here. In 1981 it was even chose as the location for a film ‘Honky Tonk Freeway’ .

But as mentioned there are many events happening in Mount Dora – very different from the traditional attractions of Central Florida!

If you are interested in antiques there is an event the third week in January, February and November. It’s one of the largest gatherings of antique dealers in the south – often with over 1500 dealers vising Renniger’s Twin Markets.

Early February, the first weekend, a fine art festival is held. It’s been known for over 280 artists to attend from many parts of the world, displaying their work in the downtown village with thousands visiting to enjoy the exhibits. If you get a chance to visit you can meet and talk with the artists who produce oil paintings, watercolours, acrylics, clay, sculpture and photography. Over $21, 000 is awarded to artists who earn honours for best of show, judge’s choide awards and best of category – a great incentive to attend and make this event successful year on year.

Another February event is the Mount Dora Music Festival held in middle of the month. A wide variety of musical styles makes this an event with something for everyone. From woodwind ensembles to orchestras, swing music to big band to jazz musicians, workshops for song writing and teenagers, professional and amateur musicians. Sharing and enjoying their skills with audiences.

But that’s not all Mount Dora offers visitors to its town. There’s a Festival of Reading in March, with contests, poetry reading and literature readings . Spring sees the Sail Boat Regatta – the oldest one in the state where boats race on the lake with a beautiful backdrop. Great fun to watch and picnic.

Early May is the ‘Taste of Mount Dora’ – yes this one involves food with an evening of cooking prepared by Mount Dora’s premium restaurants. Booths are decorated with tables and chairs set up outside the Mount Dora Area Chamber of Comerce and Child’s Park. Streets are blocked off for patrons to go from one booth to another tasing samples of food and wine. This event is frequently sold out.

Mount Dora is proud of its old fashioned 4th July Celebrations with a patriotic parade at 2pm along town streets, followed by a Kids’ Fest from 3-6pm. This is held at Palm Island located adjacent to Gilbert Park. Here children can enjoy pony rides, water slides, face painting, DJ and other games contests, displays and activities. The main event kicks off at 9pm with amazing displays of fireworks.

And if your sport is cycling Mount Dora is home to Florida’s oldest and largest bicycling event. Rides of varying lengths and skill levels for all ages recognise this as one of the most interesting places to ride.

In the autumn is the annual craft fair held at the end of the month – over 250, 000 visitors attend this and over 250 crafters come from all over the United States. And as the days draw in November sees a Plant and Garden Fair. More than 12000 plants can be found from orchids to perennials, herbs, roses, camellias as well as rare and unusual tropical plants. Visitors can also take tours around six beautiful gardens organised by The Lakes and Hills Garden Club. Tickets cost $12 in advance or $15 on the day available at the Mount Dora Chamber of Commerce or on the day of the event at the First Presbyterian Church.

Thanksgiving is celebrated with 2million sparkling lights illuminating Donnelly Park and Downtown Mount Dora kicking off the Holiday Season. There are choirs singing ballet, soloists, singalongs and Santa. This happens the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

If you enjoy the Christmas season there is a Christmas walk in early December with a street party atmosphere: music, Santa and shopping opportunities. This is followed by the Annual Christmas Parade organised by the Mount Dora Lions Club and a Lighted Boat Parad along the Lake Dora Waterfront usually starting at 7pm.

So as you read there’s a lot going on in Mount Dora – but even if no event is planned, it’s still a charming place to visit for an alternative to the popular attractions we most associate with Central Florida.

Author: Denise and Nigel Taylor (Villa link: click here)
Other articles by this author: click here

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Page added on: 2 March 2009
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