If you're thinking about a time-warp day, free of theme parks then think about an escape to the New England of Florida, the antique capital as well as the rose capital of Central Florida, Mount Dora.
Located 25 miles northwest of Orlando, via U.S. 441 or from Exit 51 from 1-4.If your West of Disney then go North about 60 miles on US27. If you take the27 route and fancy a side trip with a bit of a difference take yourselves up to Yalaha. You go up the 27 past Clermont, right along the 19 to Tavares and then at the T junction you will see a sign saying Yalaha. There's a German bakery on the left hand side, on a Saturday morning they have a bit of entertainment and you can eat outside if you wish. You can then carry on into Mount Dora. The city was first established in 1880 and was named after a nearly pioneer who allow the U.S. surveyors to camp on her land while they surveyed that part of the state. They named a lake nearby after her and then the town was named after the lake. The fact that is on a plateau about 250ft above sea level was what start the Mount part of the name.
It's a well preserved, frozen-in-time town with a dozen turn-of-the-century buildings clustered around its downtown shuffleboard courts, including the eerily exuberant Steamboat Gothic Donnelly House straight out of a Charles Addams cartoon.
Get there early and go to the Sunshine Mountain bakery for breakfast everything is fresh baked and made that day. They offer many different type of croissants, bagels and Danish so there is plenty to choose from.
There must be about 30 restaurants in the town, the real problem is that you can really only do justice to one of them on a trip, especially after the stops at the bakery and coffee shop. If your going to spend the day here you may want to skip lunch and just have a coffee and small snack, that way you can enjoy your evening meal.
When you get into town go to the restored railroad depot, built in 1913 and decommissioned in 1950. Here you can learn about special events and famous festivals: The artists arrive the first weekend in February; in April, antique boat enthusiasts gather at the marina the first weekend; and the sailors takeover Lake Dora the second-to-last weekend for Florida's largest inland regatta; during the second-to-last weekend in October, cyclists rally for a celebration of the sport and all levels of touring. Also in October is one of the state's largest craft fairs plus an invitational golf tournament.
The chamber can also provide information on less-crowded times of the year and such activities as walking the Palm Island Nature Trail, 3,400 feet of mulched path and 1,676 feet of boardwalk, longest in the state; watching the action at the Lawn Bowling Club, second largest in the state with 14 playing surfaces, eight of them lighted; or strolling the antique trail.
The 5th Avenue Cafe is worth a look, it's the only restaurant dedicated toor ganic cuisine. They use fresh organic ingredients, triple filtered reverse osmosis water and all stainless steel cookware. If you want a pure vegan dish or just the filet, fish or chicken, this place can offer you plenty of choice.They also offer a quick Grab 'n Go breakfast or lunch.
The Lakeside Inn offers a Sunday Brunch on the Veranda the choice and quality is good. The Inn is in a time warp, the 120-year historic landmark is a peaceful, romantic setting of how things were. The Inn's cluster of five buildings are grand in the quaint Old Florida style, built to last centuries and garnished with gables, balconies , porches and fanciful Victorian flourishes. The estate is graced with stately oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and an expanse of green that sweeps down to an Olympic-sized swimming pool and Lake Dora.
The Goblin Market Restaurant is nestled on a back alley in the historic downtown Mount Dora village. The restaurant, housed in a renovated warehouse, features two book-lined dining rooms furnished well with modern art hung on the walls. The private tree shaded courtyard and garden patio are open all year for alfresco dining. Low lighting and music add the finishing touches to the restaurant.
There are many other eating and drinking places to try want to wander by one of these five for a look, Windsor Rose English Tea Room and Restaurant, The Garden Gate Tea Room, O'Keefe's Irish Pub, Cafe Stella and Al E. Gators
The town has 12 Antique shops and a small antiques mall with one shop specializing in the Beatles. You can also Visit the Mount Dora English Lawn Bowls Club and if you feel like a break watch a game while you relax with a drink. You may also want to visit the farmers & flea market. It is a well organised and laid out market with some stalls under cover. There is also an antiques section consisting of around six sheds all given a colour for recognition. You will find an extensive area set out as a boot-sale and plenty of food and drink available. It is like any other market and covers almost anything you might need to buy. Check before you go as this is not open most week days.
The Mt. Dora & Lake Eustis Railway
It began operations on October 25th, 2003. It is a tourist passenger railroad that runs from Mount Dora to Eustis in central Florida on the tracks of the Florida Central Railroad. It's based in downtown Mount Dora, and operates on rails that date back to the 1880's, they offer a unique glimpse into the past with a number of vintage rail excursions that are designed for the whole family will enjoy.
The Orange Blossom Dinner Train is one of only two self-propelled dinner trains in the country. It gives you a two and a half hour journey while dining and relives the golden age of railroad travel. You take a slow eighteen mile round-trip ride along historic rails while during your ride, you are served a four-course dinner.
The Herbie Express is a one hour and 15 minute trip between Mount Dora and Tavares pulled by a 1942 locomotive Herbie. The 9 mile round trip passes along the shores of Lake Dora. You will travel along Old Highway 441 passing thru an orange grove, past a bald eagles nest. Listen to the whistle and bell of the engine as you cross thru railroad crossings. You also travel right down the middle of the road with cars on both sides of the train. In Tavares the train will be turned round just like the railroads did it 100 years ago.
The Wine & Cheese Express does not run that often but is a two hour round trip from Mt. Dora where you get to taste some fine Wines. Around Christmas time there is a service from Mount Dora to the North Pole. You ride on The Santa Express from Mount Dora to Santa's Flag Stop near the North Pole for a visit with Santa Claus. At the Flag Stop, Santa Claus will board the train and join you for the ride back. During the return trip, Santa gives the passengers a holiday treat and you will have the chance to chat with him and tell him what you want for Christmas.