Best Florida Downtown Areas

Mount Dora – A Beautiful Lake & A Happening Historic Downtown District

John and I went on a one day trip to visit the quaint and historic city of Mount Dora. Located in Lake County 25 miles North-west of Orlando, Mount Dora sits on the eastern shore of Lake Dora and is 184 feet above sea level. In flat Florida, 184 feet above sea level qualifies this town as sitting on a mount, and its hilly terrain and northern style buildings have earned it the nickname, “The New England of the South.”

Lake Dora is the most prestigious of the 8 lakes that make up the Harris chain of lakes and has been a popular retreat for fishermen and boaters since the late 1800s.

There are a number of historical homes and buildings in Mount Dora giving it an undeniable old Americana hometown charm.

Palm Island Boardwalk

We began our adventure in Mount Dora at Palm Island Park’s Boardwalk for a leisurely stroll along lake Dora.

Palm Island Park is an 8-acre preservation area with winding paths through the natural woodlands along Lake Dora’s shores. While walking the boardwalk and dirt trails, visitors get a stunning view of the lake and the wildlife that it attracts. It is not unusual for nature walkers to spot alligators, Great Blue Herron, Cormorants, or even an American Bald Eagle.

The Historic Downtown

There are dozens of unique shops, boutiques, and restaurants in this trendy walking-friendly downtown area with a village market atmosphere. From antique shops to bakeries, to art galleries, to shops with special pet supplies to stores where unique gifts are plentiful, all line the streets of this downtown area full of 100 plus year charm.

There are plenty of places to enjoy a delicious meal, too, with many restaurants providing outdoor seating. There are a wide variety of restaurant choices, so making a decision on which cuisine to enjoy may prove difficult. John and I chose a Tex- Mex style restaurant called Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill, and we left there so full we could hardly walk.

The Lakeside Inn

The Historic Lakeside Inn opened as the Alexander House in 1883 as a two-story hotel with 10 rooms. Its first guests were fishing enthusiasts arriving after long boat journeys from the cold north.

Additions to the hotel began in 1924 when an Olympic-sized swimming pool and two new guest house buildings named The Gables, and The Terrace were added. In 1930, President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the new buildings during his month of post-retirement relaxation at Lakeside Inn with his wife.

Lakeside Inn is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the State of Florida and a stay here must certainly feel like a journey back in time.

John and I thoroughly enjoyed our day visit to Mount Dora, but we left a lot undone. One of the attractions in Mount Dora that comes highly recommended that we did not get the opportunity to explore is a pontoon boat tour of the Harris Chain of lakes. There are a few of these tours to choose from, and we figure this gives us a good reason for a return trip. Florida has so many interesting places, and many times we find that a one-day visit is just not enough. I guess it is those surprise finds that make our journey so much fun.

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