Few cities have managed to truly rebrand themselves with as much success as Tavares, Florida. Transforming itself from simply being the government seat of Lake County, Tavares has worked diligently over the last few years to become an entertainment destination and hold the title as America’s seaplane city. Ultimately, this rebrand has given the city a unique flavor complete with the small town charm of local eateries and thrilling activities that cannot be found anywhere else in Central Florida. Combined with local festivals such as the Wooden Boat Show, this “new Tavares” is truly a destination. We will attempt to provide one locals perspective of a perfect Saturday in this charming lakefront town.
1. 8:00 am – Channel your Inner Maverick and Goose
One of my favorite ways to get the weekend started is with some outdoor activities. Tavares just so happens to be one of the few places you can find well manicured sand volleyball courts. Located in Wooten Park on the lakefront with spectacular views, the volleyball courts are a great way to get your sweat on. Bring some friends or join a casual game. If volleyball is not your cup of tea, stick your toes in the sand and enjoy the view of boats passing by. When you finish with your game, grab your sandy self and walk to a local breakfast establishment where sandals are standard.
2. 9:30 am – A Late Breakfast with a breeze
Tucked between two residential buildings in the heart of the action is a small building bearing the name Buster Tubbs Tavern. Facing the building you will immediately be greeted with the multiple umbrellas and outdoor tables that conceal the entrance. Buster Tubbs has recently undergone a renovation of the front patio and this new outdoor space offers increased seating. A small well crafted stage flanks the seating area creating a wonderful place to sit and listen to music. To be honest, I have never been inside as I have never managed to pass up the inviting patio and lakeside views. Take a seat and enjoy a no-fuss meal filled with breakfast classics and a few dishes special to this establishment. The food hits the mark. If you are feeling hungry, the biscuits and gravy are particularly delicious . Service can be hit or miss especially if it is busy, but the food never disappoints. Come in sandals and enjoy the breeze.
4. 11 am – Read, Splash, & Chill
While the volleyball courts may be located in Wooten Park, it’s time to do a little more exploring. Head back to the park and walk along the path that parallels the shore. Find some shade under a tree or the pavilion and read a book as seaplanes take off and land. I have spent multiple Saturdays just relaxing with a good book. For those with young kids, the Children’s Splash Park located near the rail station offers an excellent way to beat the Florida heat. Fountains of water shoot up from the floor of the playground and a seaplane hovers above, dumping gallons of refreshing H20 on laughing children below. The splash park makes it easy for parents to relax on the benches while their kids play in a fully fenced environment complete with city staff for safety. Admission is $2 per person, so if you have young children there is no better way to burn some energy and have a have a great time.
5. 1 pm – Lunch
When it comes to casual seafood fare few places do it better than Tiki West located on Ruby street. They offer tasty options at affordable prices. Try one of the many oyster preparations for an appetizer and continue your journey with the Mahi tacos covered in Tiki sauce. While I may be partial to my favorites, most anything on the menu will not disappoint. You can choose to sit outside on the patio with views to the lake or sit inside in the open dining room. Before you leave though be sure to finish your meal with a slice of house-made key lime pie. The key lime pie at Tiki West is absolutely delicious and a must have after your meal.
6. 3 pm – Birds eye view
Off the top of my head I don’t know very many places where you can take a boat out on the water, ride a train, and take off in a seaplane all within the same square mile. In the city of Tavares all of these are possible. While it is hard to single out one of those experiences, I would recommend trying the seaplane ride if you have never done it before. Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures provides a a multitude of options for seeing Lake County from a different perspective. Take off from the base located in Wooten Park and cruise around the chain of lakes. Each package offers something a little different but experiencing the thrill of being in the air comes standard.
7. 6 pm – Dinner
Newer to the Tavares dining scene, the Deli Llama is an excellent place to score a great bite before heading off on your late night adventures. Occupying a former gas station off of Alfred street, the Deli Llama brings a richness of creative fun and flavor to the area. The interior is warm and inviting, leaving you to wonder if you stumbled into a hip coffee shop or your best friends living room. Staying true to its filling station history a Camel Cigarette sign hangs above the well-stocked beer cooler. The food is fantastic. If you want a well crafted sandwich you are in the right place but the Deli Llama also does a number of great dishes such as stunning charcuterie boards, Italian pita pizza, and dates stuffed with goat cheese. The menu changes often but rest assured that most everything on the menu is fantastic.
8. 7 pm – Beer & Waffles
Identifying yourself as the entertainment hub for Lake County typically means you have a great nightlife scene. Fortunately Tavares does in fact live up to the name. Not only are there several great venues to enjoy a late night libation, but there is an open container policy that allows you to travel with said libations openly in the streets. My personal favorite place to start the evening off is Bru Tap House where you will be greeted with an endless selection of craft beers from all over the country. If you prefer to drink local, Bru also has one of the most expansive lists of Florida beers available. The atmosphere is lively on the weekends with a usual crowd that feels busy but not obnoxious. Enjoy live music and learn some of the many nuances of craft beer from the friendly staff who provide expert opinions without coming off pretentious. If your sweet tooth starts to act up, you can always walk next door to BTW and order a dessert waffle that is sure to hit the spot. I prefer the Half-Witted Monkey which is a banana bread waffle covered in a caramel rum sauce. Whatever you choose, you cannot go wrong. While Bru is my usual starting point there are a number of other great locations that offer a mix of beer, wine, and cocktails. Swing by Hemingways Wine & Cigar Bar for a glass of wine and a stogie. The location has a relaxed vibe with outdoor seating and a more intimate atmosphere.
From adventurous activities to craft beers, Tavares is a town that offers alot to do packed into a small footprint. Hopefully you have gotten a nibble of some of the the fun Tavares has to offer. Interested in telling us your perfect Saturday in Tavares? Reach out and tell us what your perfect day would look like.