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A Daytrip to Mount Dora, Florida

My family was blessed with a sense of adventure. When Disney World opened, it wasn’t so long after that my mother packed up everything, (and, most likely, a kitchen sink) and zipped us kids down on Delta and Braniff to see the only thing they offered.

The Magic Kingdom.

And, remember, that was before there was an interweb, folks. That means she took a risk to get our happy butts down here to Central Florida.  We might not have had fun at all.

It’s with that sense of adventure that I was brought up with, and it was also with that sense of adventure that I arrived to Central Florida. At one point, I had sixty-three applications floating in and out of mailboxes throughout the area. With such much up in the air, we elected to go where the first true and worth it job came into view.

Ever throw a dart at a map? Sorta like that.

It’s surprising how well Lake County life suits my Better Half and myself.  During our days in Colorado, we loved day trips up and down the Front Range finding the wonders of small towns such as Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs, Estes Park, and Fairplay. There’d be an ice cream shoppe (always spelled that way in such places), a cute cafe or three, and antique stores.

And there was Mount Dora. When I arrived for an interview, I felt like hadn’t left. The town is older than most of Orlando, and isn’t surrounded by the edifice and creation of the Parks. Instead, you have tiny shop fronts offering souvenirs of a different sort. There’s no synergy here, there’s nothing to promote, no movie currently in the theater.

Photo Cred:

Photo Cred:

Mount Dora is one of those little finds to which adjectives like “quaint” and “quiet” were developed for. A decent hour’s drive from Disney World, it’s a world unto itself. In fact, when the tourists arrive to the attractions, most of the locals head to places like Mount Dora. It’s truly a locals-only-kinda-place that you might just fall in love with!  Parking, even when there’s just a few people there, can be yucky. Yes, it’s that small.

But so worth it.

On the outskirts of the town, you will find the famed antique and flea market, Renninger’s.


Another fun find is Ashley’s Flags and Sports Shoppe (look, there it is! That “shoppe” word!) right on the main drag through Mount Dora, Donnelly street. She just moved her great little shop to expand her inventory. The theme is sports, but I find it has so much more crowded into the corners that you will always find a little something worthwhile. I’ve found thematic holiday flags, local postcards, and mugs galore for all those fans of whatnot on your various holiday lists.

I usually encourage folks to visit this terrific hamlet during lunch hours. And there are some great picks for decent food. My personal favorites? If I want cuban sandwiches, I like to hit up Copacabana Cuban Cafe-especially the patio.


For desserts, I have three places I like to head towards. Scoops has Hershey’s Ice Cream


Lastly, coffee is the name of the game-so head up to One Flight Up. This isn’t instant


Of course, shopping is entertainment onto itself, and Mount Dora is no slouch for browsing.  They just opened The Spice and Tea Exchange, so no more trekking up to St. Augustine or Disney Springs nee Downtown Disney for my creative fixin’s.  Also, since Lake County is sadly devoid of bookstores (and a source for another column), there’s a cute little Barrel of Books and Games, filled with used paperbacks.  If you have a pet, you


I’m rambling, I see it now, so my love for the place and the desperate need to get it all down on paper is shining through. In the end, if you’ve taken the Plunge and want to experience a bit of Florida before theme parks ruled the planet, you might wish to take a brief visit to this shining star in Central Florida. I know I’m happy I’ve found the place and I don’t plan on leaving soon, if I can avoid it!

Joe Triggs-Smith

Joe Triggs-Smith

#Florida #Renningers #Orlando #ArtsFestival #FloridaPlunge #MountDora

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