Quaint, picturesque, and—although not mountainous, at least hilly Mount Dora is only forty-five minutes north of Orlando, but a century away in time. It could easily be Florida’s version of Bedford Falls. Victorian homes, a postcard turn-of-the-century main street, antique shops, superb restaurants, and inviting bed & breakfasts make Mount Dora one of Florida’s most-visited small towns. They’ve become famous for festivals: arts and music festivals in February, the state’s oldest sailboat regatta in April, and their annual bicycle festival in October. But their most festive time is Christmas, including their Christmas Walk this Friday (12/2) and parade on Saturday, with more festivities throughout the month. Say Hi to George Bailey if you go.
A little Mount Dora history:
In the late 1800’s a local postmaster, Ross Tremain, provisionally named the small community of homesteaders Royellou—a combination of the names of his three children. After a few years the name changed to Mount Dora. The “Dora” in Mount Dora was Dora Ann Drawdy, one of the earliest area homesteaders, back in the 1840s. The town began to develop in earnest when James Alexander, John MacDonald, and J. P. Donnelly opened a ten-room inn overlooking Lake Dora in 1883. They named it the Alexander House, but subsequent owners would rename it the Lake House, and later the Lakeside Inn—which it remains today. One historical highlight of note is that in the winter of 1930, Calvin Coolidge came to the inn for an extended sabbatical with his wife following his just-completed term as president. During his stay, he dedicated the then newly completed Gables and Terrace Wings.
Excerpts from Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition by Bruce Hunt