By Karen McBride
Are you looking for something special to do to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? Whether you are with your special someone, a family member, or a friend, Mt. Dora is the place to be. The quaint town is located one hundred miles northeast of Tampa. Just a short drive from the city, but it is far removed from what a typical Florida town resembles. The drive will take you through the country roads and rolling hills of central Florida. As you enter the town you immediately feel the stress dissipate as you view the beauty of Lake Dora.
The Bible tells us the importance of rest, and Mt. Dora is a great place to relax and unwind.
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
A Little About the History of Mt. Dora
Lake Dora was named after Dora Ann Drawdy, who lived in the area in the mid-1800’s. Her warm and welcoming attitude was bestowed on the local surveyors, and they named the lake after her. The town was later named Mt. Dora (after the lake). The term “mount” refers to the fact that the town rests upon a plateau that is 184 feet above sea level, which is a mountain according to most Floridians!
As a popular destination for hunters, fishermen, and boaters, the town had a need for a hotel. The Alexander House, now called The Lakeside Inn, was opened in 1883. Famous visitors included Presidents Coolidge and Eisenhower, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford.
Lunch at the Lakeside Inn
The Lakeside Inn, with its beautiful waterfront views and large canopy oak trees is the perfect getaway spot for couples and families. The porch is lined with rocking chairs overlooking the lake and is a favorite spot among the guests for meals throughout the day.
The restaurant within the Lakeside Inn has the most delicious chicken pot pie. The light and flaky crust and fresh chicken and vegetables make it an excellent choice on a chilly day.
Other options include Strawberry Spinach Salad, Lakeside Tomato Pie, Monte Cristo Sandwich, and more. The dinner menu offers a variety of delectable choices including blackened snapper, barbecued pork chops, slow roasted beef brisket, and Lakeside Chicken Florentine.
The Donnelly House
In addition to the Lakeside Inn, Mt. Dora embraces its old-world charm with other buildings from the past, including the Donnelly House, which was built in 1893. John P. Donnelly built the Queen Ann style house for his wife Annie. The elaborately carved woodwork is representative of Steamboat Gothic architecture. You do not see this type of work in newly constructed homes anymore, and tours are available.
Mt. Dora Has Something for Everyone to Enjoy
History lovers will enjoy meandering down the charming streets visiting antique shops along the way. Nature lovers can observe the local wildlife while walking on the boardwalk among the palm trees, live oaks, and camphor trees along the lake. Photo enthusiasts will find many locations for the perfect photo while seeing the little red and white striped lighthouse at Grantham Pointe or sitting on one of the benches for the perfect sunset view.
Premier Boat Tours
If you want more lake views and to really explore the beauty of it, make your reservations for a boat tour. There are several companies that offer boat rides. The one that we chose was Premier Boat Tours https://www.doracanaltour.com.
The two-hour tour on Lake Dora and the Harris Chain of Lakes takes you through the Dora Canal. You will see your fill of Florida wildlife including bald eagles, herons, and of course alligators!
The relaxing pontoon ride is narrated with the history of Mt. Dora and interesting stories of the homes you see along the way. Daily two-hour tours at 11 and 2pm are $35 and a one-hour sunset tour is $24.
Mt. Dora is very community oriented and hosts events throughout the year. Here are a few of the upcoming events:
Wednesday, February 14, 2024 – Movie Night
Enjoy free popcorn and curated classic films every second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the Community Room, 19955 N. Donnelly Street. The program starts at 7:00pm, with a brief synopsis of what makes it a classic film (pre-1970), followed by a traditional movie cartoon before the feature. Titles are subject to change and are not listed on the calendar. To learn about the film scheduled for particular week, please call the Circulation Desk (352) 735-7180 (option 5). No registration is required for this free program.
Friday, February 16-18, 2024 – Mount Dora Scottish Highland Festival
Visitors will enjoy listening to classic Scottish music on the pipes and drums, and other live music. Fun-filled activities include Re-Enactment Camps, the Society and Heritage Clan Village, Highland Athletics, and of course, Highland Dancing! The event will be held at Donnelly Park (530 N Donnelly Street) and Elizabeth Evans Park (100 N Donnelly Street). The cost for a 3-day pass is $20 and VIP Experience is $50.
We hope you have a blessed Valentine’s Day and plan a day trip to this charming little town. Take time to rest to restore your soul so that you can continue to serve God. For more information on Mt. Dora, go to https://ci.mount-dora.fl.us.