A Perfect Saturday In Mount Dora

There are some towns that capture you. Places that seem to speak into the best parts of your soul shielding you from the barrage of deadlines and beckoning you to explore on foot. Mount Dora, Florida is such a place. It is a town that time has forgotten in the best of ways. A city whose downtown seems to pulse with an artistic heartbeat that is every bit as vibrant as the people that call it home. I have lived here for more than 3 years and I still catch myself smiling as I walk down the quaint streets thinking, this really is “someplace special”.

For a town with a population just shy of 14,000 residents, it punches well above its weight. Mount Dora draws upon the best elements of Saint Augustine and Savannah without selling itself into the unbridled throes of tourism. In short, it is a hidden gem; still unspoiled by rampant brand saturation and clogged roadways. That time may come, but for now Mount Dora is a town with historical buildings, charming art shops, and superb bakeries.

To try and distill one perfect Saturday in this Central Florida village would be like trying to capture a Picasso in one brush stroke. The sheer variety of great things to do Mount Dora could easily take up many perfect Saturdays. But, once again as is my duty, I will attempt to provide one such Mount Dora day that can only be described as perfect.

1. 8:00 am – A Local Icon and Fresh Air in the Parks

Personally I find the mornings to be invigorating. A time when the air is still crisp (well if its not summer) and the excitement of a brand new day is in full bloom. That’s why I tend to favor being outside and experiencing that magic time of the day. Between the months of November and May that feeling is just magnified with the arrival of cooler weather. Fortunately a stroll outside can also lead you to a Lake County icon, the Mount Dora Lighthouse. This small picturesque lighthouse is the perfect place to start your day and grab a quick selfie. Is it tall? No. Can you tour it? No. Is it worth checking out? Absolutely. Park in the lot near Gilbert & Palm Island Park and make your way North to see the lighthouse. Snap your required pic and then take a walk along the Palm Island Boardwalk for a view of the lake wildlife including birds, squirrels, and the occasional alligator.

2. 9:00 am – Go European for a Light Bite

Now that you have had the opportunity to stretch your legs a bit, make your way to the center of downtown where the rest of your days adventure truly begins. If you’re like me, then you have probably worked up an appetite so its time do breakfast the European way. Make your way along 4th avenue until you run into Alyson A. Bakeshop. A relative newcomer to the Mount Dora bakery scene, this exquisitely designed bakery excels at creating incredible baked treats including cookies, cakes, and loafs. While those are all wonderful, you are here for the magnum opus of morning delights… the scone! Alyson A. Bakeshop makes some of the best scones you can find in a 500 mile radius. My personal favorites are the honey vanilla or the lemon scones, but I can assure you all of them will meet your mouth with satisfaction. If you need an additional  morning pick me up, pair said scone with an iced coffee.

For some, this light fare may not be enough to fuel for your busy day, so after the morning scone cross the street and stop in at Codys on 4th for an egg sandwich or other breakfast staple.

3. 10:00 am – Mid Morning ‘Putz’

Mount Dora does certain things very, very well. Shopping and sugar being a few of those things. Sure, in some context those could be considered vices but in Mount Dora there is no such thing.  For my wife and I, the mid-morning “putz” around the local shops is more than just a good time, it’s tradition!

Start at the Modernism Museum gift shop to find some unique gifts that are sure to brighten your day. If you have not been to the Modernism Museum, it is definitely worth a visit. The art installations change but this fairly small museum packs a great punch of quality exhibits including objects from the estate of David Bowie and furniture from renowned modernist furniture designers Wharton Esherick and George Nakashima. Head towards Donnelly but make sure you pay a quick visit to Julianne’s Coastal Cottage for a sample of frozen wine slushy (yes please) and a few quick laughs at the WOW Factory next door. At the corner of 4th and Donnelly visit the Mount Dora Marketplace where you will find a plethora of vendors all under one roof. The marketplace is relatively new, but is definitely worth a visit. For a touch of France cross the street and stop in at Black Swan Mercantile where you will find high end gifts in a smartly decorated store within the Renaissance building. The Black Swan is another one of those spots that I can lose my wife for an extended period of time. If you are headed towards the waterfront make sure you take a quick gander into the Checkered Moon. They have a diverse range of curated goods for nearly every stage of life.

Finally, no putz would be complete without a sweet treat at Le Petite Sweet. As soon as you walk into the charming patisserie you are greeted with warm smiles from the staff and a dessert case with hand crafted pastries that will blow your mind and taste buds with flavor. I have been to a number of pastry shops from France to Portugal to Napa (yes I have a sweet tooth) and I still believe that La Petite ranks up there with the best of them. If you are feeling like adulting today, try the Lavender cookies which are the perfect delight for someone who is aiming for refined yet subtle flavors without overwhelming sweetness. Want something a bit more decadent? Reach into the cooler for a macaroon ice cream sandwich. These beguiling behemoths are all made from scratch! Craving a classic? Select any of the rotating freshly made pastries in the case and savor each and every morsel… believe me, they go down easy.

There are so many great shops in downtown Mount Dora that we have barely even scratched the surface. Everything from custom spices to local art can be found along the main boulevard and the hidden alleys that make up the gridded downtown. My recommendation is to make this part of your day a “choose-your-own adventure” and explore with reckless abandon!

4. 12:30 pm – Cuban Lunch 

Once again, we find ourselves in a pickle for selecting a great place for lunch. While they’re are certainly no shortage of delicious options, my personal favorite spot is Copacabana. A little bit hidden from sight of Donnelly, “Copa” as I affectionately call it is a Cuban restaurant that you don’t want to pass up. The decor is simple and unassuming and the food is spectacular.

Try the cuban sandwich for a take on the classic or go for the bistec de palomilla, a thin steak marinated in garlic and covered in sautéed onions. Don’t forget to slather any of your meal choices with either the red or green sauce. The choice is yours but my favorite is the green (the red is spicier). Since it is also past noon go ahead and order yourself a Copa mojito. You deserve it.

5. 2:00 pm – Tour Lake Dora  

Now that you have a full belly and hands full of great gifts, it’s time to relax a bit… or not. Lake Dora from the shoreline is a beautiful sight but even more dramatic is the view from a boat. Take a tour around the lake and through the Dora Canal to experience old Florida in all of its natural splendor. The two most popular ways to make your way along the waterways are by a pontoon tour boat or in a small convoy of CatBoats. Never heard of a CatBoat? Well, imagine a miniature 2 person catamaran with an outboard strapped to the back. Lots of fun!  Whether you opt for a more relaxed pontoon boat cruise or the CatBoats the views are the same… spectacular. The Dora Canal in particular is a sight that you just have to experience for yourself. It is a small slice of pristine Florida nature that reminds you the value of being still.

6. 4:00 pm – The Happiest Hours or Dinner… Dealers Choice

Ok so I must make a full confession: I really enjoy Happy Hour. There is something so… well happy… about relaxing before dinner with a strong libation in my hand and good conversation. I will also admit though that not all happy hours are created equal. While there are an abundance of cheap drinks in Lake County, few places can truly capture the spirit of a spirit. One such place that brings together a refined sense of atmosphere, stimulating conversation, and may I say some of the best cocktails in all of Lake County is the restaurant 1921 Mount Dora. Located on 4th Avenue in the heart of downtown, it is a refined respite from the more casual restaurant choices usually found in the area. The restaurant brings together a flair for the dramatic with modern art plastered across the walls and velvet chairs crowded around natural wood tables. The food on the other hand tends to vacillate towards Florida favorites and upscale Southern comfort food. If you choose to dine here you will not be disappointed. While I have spent time many nights dining on delicious meals it is the bar that has brought us here tonight. Pull up a seat around the rather large rectangular bar or one of the many tables that surround the outer peripheries, you are in for a treat. What to order you ask? Let me be your guide, or better yet ask one of the knowledgable mixologists for an excellent recommendation. My personal favorite is the 1921 old fashioned, an enticing take on an American classic. The cocktail list may rotate but this drink is a staple. If you are feeling hungry reach for the happy hour food menu and try the 1921 burger or honestly anything else… no joke, they are almost all incredible.

I cannot begin to tell you how many nights we have come for happy hour but have ended up staying for dinner and dessert. 1921 is just one of those places that draws you in and keeps you coming back for more.

7. 6:30 pm – Dinner at a Mount Dora Favorite

Dinner is an epicurean affair; a time when chefs step up their game to showcase the best of what they can offer. Dinner at the Goblin Market is no exception. The food is central to the overwhelmingly pleasurable experience. Situated in a converted home, three book-lined dining rooms allow for an environment that is intimate and sumptuous as the food. The warm dimly lit theme carries up the narrow staircase into the second floor dining room and ultimately spilling into a beautiful “Hemingway-esque” bar lounge. The cocktails here are fantastic and innovative but it is the upscale cuisine that we seek. If you are feeling hungry go for the Cheshire Pork Chop. This bone-in beauty is every bit as tender as flavorful. Want to dance on the lighter side? Try any of the fish dishes. The salmon or the Idaho trout are both particularly delicious. The wine selection is somewhat limited but well curated with a wide variety to meet any palette. So grab a glass or better yet, why not a bottle?

The Goblin Market is just one of those places that you should be confident that no matter what you order on the menu the chef has ensured the quality will always be there. In short they are consistently wonderful. A little word of warning. The Goblin Market can get very busy especially on a Saturday night, so plan accordingly and get reservations.

8. 9:00 pm – Time to Go Home… errr probably not

Mount Dora has had a reputation for shutting down early. While that still holds true in many ways there are still a few great spots that stay open late for anyone looking to up the ante (as if the mojitos, happy hour cocktails, and wine with dinner weren’t enough). If you plan on staying in the heart of downtown swing by the Magical Meat Boutique for some great beers and a lively atmosphere that stays open until 2am. This British pub is a place that beckons a visit. If you don’t mind traveling a bit outside the core, head East on 5th avenue until you run into Highland street. This corner contains a number of busy late night bars but my personal favorite is Mermaid Juice. Everything about this place is funky and wonderful! Imagine grabbing a beer in your best friends garage who also happens to be an antique collector. Ummmmm….. yeah you just need to check it out to understand what I am talking about. Mermaid Juice also carries a HUGE selection of craft beers and wine so if you are looking to try something you won’t get at the neighborhood grocery, head to the Mermaid!

Once again, I must tell you that this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the great things that can be found in Mount Dora. It is a small town that has so much to offer for locals, visitors, or snow birds. Mount Dora is truly someplace special.

Have some other ideas for a perfect Saturday in Mount Dora? Drop us a line or tell us some of your favorites in the comment section below!

A Perfect Saturday in Clermont

Author: Ebo Entsuah, Clermont resident, Lake Rising Allstar Partner and Superfan

Imagine a city where the hills are rolling as far as the eye can see and the landscape’s beauty leaves you in awe. A place with a budding population but not too overcrowded to the point where you can’t admire the countryside. This is Clermont, Florida. A city that is uniquely placed right in the center of Florida. About twenty miles west of three of the world’s largest theme parks, including Walt Disney World. Clermont is home to many lakes, fourteen to be exact!

Many athletes and members of the community love Clermont because of the various trails, lakes and its international reputation as being an ideal training ground for premier athletes. In fact, due to the many successes of various members of the community, Clermont is now known as the “Choice of Champions.” Although most people feel a “Champion” primarily deals with athletics, Clermont has many different types of champions; champions in education, healthcare, tourism, and technology as well.

7:30 am – Get a good sweat in with Clermont Parkrun

Everyone loves a good morning sweat and sunrise. Thanks to Clermont Parkrun you can do both! Parkrun is a FREE weekly 5k event for people of all abilities (Runners, joggers, or even walkers) and is a refreshing way to start your day. There are Parkrun events in over 20 different countries all over the world and Clermont has one of the most active around. After you complete your run you can join the group at Cheeser’s palace for some delicious breakfast food!

 9:00 am – Enjoy some delicious breakfast and a relaxing walk through Downtown Clermont

 After getting a good sweat in, you have to recharge and consume some great food! Cheeser’s Palace has been a staple in downtown Clermont for many years. The restaurant gives off a vibrant local, small town feel but is still able to show how modern it is. The servers are bright, prompt, and extremely friendly. Whether it’s the various eggs benedict or the homemade crepes, Cheeser’s has so much to offer!

Once you exit the building, take the opportunity to look around and see all of the small businesses and shops that have contributed to the downtown area’s rise and success. There’s the Bacchus Vino Etcetera wine shop, Corelli’s Pantry, The Clermont Academy of Dance, The Florida Angler and the brand new Clermont Brewing Company (We’ll talk about that a little more later!). Also make sure to take in the Downtown’s rustic design and brick architecture, giving it a charming yet modern feel.

12:00 pm – Grocery shopping and live music at Lucky’s Market

 Many people tend to do some of the tasks that they may not be able to during the week on the weekend. Things such as laundry, yard work and cleaning tend to take precedence when your schedule is free from the normal 9-5. One thing that many people seem to enjoy during the weekend is grocery shopping. Being able to leisurely enter the store, grab all your items and actually enjoy yourself rarely happens. That is why Lucky’s Market in Clermont is such a great store. Lucky’s opened up in March of 2018 and has been thriving since. With a wide array of local products across its isle’s, they have been able to give people a different perspective on grocery shopping. You can grab some meat and organic produce for the week all while sipping on a Belgian white and a slice of pizza from their deli and restaurant. They also consistently have live music from local artists which draws the audience in and sometimes makes them forget about shopping! Lastly don’t forget to participate in their Bags for Change program!

3:00pm Clermont Historic Village and Waterfront beach

Clermont is known for its many trails, lakes, and parks. Every single one is gorgeous and brimming with life and natural beauty. One of the more well-known lake areas is that of Waterfront Beach. If you ever find yourself downtown, Waterfront Beach is a skip away. Home to the future East/West Coast-to-Coast trail, this stretch of asphalt allows for walking, running or biking and is the start and end point for various triathlons and other events. There are plenty of benches and resting points to take a break and if you continue far enough you can see the Highlander Hut and eventually, Clermont’s Historic Village.

This free historic Museum has been a staple in Clermont’s history for many years. After the city purchased the property in 1996, there have been numerous upgrades and renovations to keep it beautiful. You can go visit and see some of Clermont’s rich history in its buildings and walkways. This property is home to the Original Cooper Memorial Library, The Train Depot and the new Herring Hooks Schoolhouse. Taking in all of these sights definitely give the feel of nostalgia and respect for our great city.

6:00 PM Sunset at Citrus Tower

One of the things that Clermont is most well-known for is the gigantic shining tower in the middle of the city. One of Florida’s first “attractions,” the Citrus Tower was built in 1956 and sits at a lofty 226 feet (roughly around 21 stories high!). When you enter the tower you are greeted by a plethora of smells thanks to the new Mountaineer Coffee shop located at the bottom of the tower. There is also the brand new Tower Arcade and Lounge located in the building as well. Take some time to hang out, get some coffee, and play some video game classics before climbing your way skyward. Once you’re ready, hop in the elevator and take a ride to the top. The glass-enclosed observation deck allows for breath-taking panoramic views of the rolling hills that Clermont is known for. You can see everything for miles, including 4 different counties.

9:00 PM Clermont Brewing Company

Few places are better to end your night than Clermont Brewing Company. This new family-owned restaurant boasts an electric nightlife scene and local craft beer, artisanal food and live entertainment. The atmosphere is energetic even during the week and there are always people out and about without it feeling claustrophobic. There is plenty of seating inside and out with TV’s and a turf field that is great for the Fall Football season. Make sure you order the CBC, the Korean BBQ street tacos and DEFINITELY get the peanut butter explosion cake. I recommend the Belgian Wit and the Mexican Lager as well.

As the “Gem of the Hills” and now the “Choice of Champions” Clermont is a city that is teeming with life and opportunities for all. There is so much to do and you cannot just do it in one day so take your time and see the sights! Think there were any places that were missed? Reach out to us and let us know!

Author: Ebo Entsuah, Clermont resident, Lake Rising Allstar Partner and Superfan

A Perfect Saturday in Tavares

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.

Buster Tubbs Tavares Drawing

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.

Tiki West Oysters

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.

 

 

The Launch of a New Blog Series

The key to enjoying any location is knowing where to go.

We’ve all been on vacation at a new location so excited to experience all that a city had to offer, but when push came to shove we ended sitting on the couch asking the question “what should I do?” The same could be said about our own hometown. We tend to visit the same places and then when we’re bored on a Saturday morning we ask the same question, “What should we do?”

In an attempt to remedy this cosmic conundrum we are creating a series to help answer those exact questions. We are entitling the series “A Perfect Saturday in…”. We will select a city in Lake County and highlight what a perfect Saturday would look like. Everything from where to eat, where to stroll, and what to do.

Because a perfect Saturday can vary so drastically for different people, we are also asking the Lake Rising community to tell us a perfect Saturday in the Lake County town of your choice. We’re excited to find out all of the hidden gems this county has to offer.

Ready to get started? Send us inquiry and in the comment section add your perfect Saturday. Who knows it may end up on the Lake Rising Blog! For everyone else be on the lookout for this exciting series as we discover what makes our Lake County towns so special.