Experience History, Art and Fine Dining in Mount Dora
A Mount Dora excursion offers something for everyone, whether it’s antique hunting, cruising on a scenic boat tour or enjoying an upscale fine-dining experience that celebrates fresh, local ingredients.
NEW ENGLAND TOWN
A day in the historic lakeside town of Mount Dora can quickly change a traveler’s perspective about Central Florida. It’s as simple as cresting an unexpected Lake County hill before dipping into this charming New England-style village about 35 miles northwest of Orlando popular for its art, music and other festivals.
When Florida celebrity chef and James Beard Award winner Norman Van Aken tapped Mount Dora for his latest restaurant—1921 by Norman Van Aken—the excitement was palpable. Renowned for modern Florida cuisine, Aken partnered with Modernism Museum Mount Dora to showcase modern art treasures alongside his delectable dishes. Visitors can start out at the museum, home to noteworthy exhibitions like the current “esherick to NAKASHIMA,” through May. As you wander, you’ll marvel at the rich wood Nakashima bench or the Esherick spiral stair and learn more about the Studio Arts Movement and how sculpture and furniture can be one and the same. And you’ll work up an appetite.
Just across the street, step through a small courtyard to enter 1921 by Norman Van Aken, where stunning modernist decor in a converted home (built in 1921), enhances your dining experience. Chef Van Aken calls 1921 “my love letter to Florida” reflecting “its cuisine to its art to its culture and beyond.” Favorite menu shareables range from the Smoky Maduro Plantain Flatbread with aged cheddar and pork jowl bacon to the Conch Fritters with hot pepper jelly. The Korea Town Fried Chicken with collards and mac ‘n’ cheese is a crispy, juicy palate pleaser. The signature chicken also appears on 1921’s brunch menu with waffles, Asian-spiced syrup and moonshine chutney. Fish caught fresh from Florida waters, wood-grilled ribeye, pan-roasted duck breast and other popular entrees round out the menu. Wine pairings are offered, and the 1921 cocktail menu celebrates mixology with flavors like lavender and guava—there’s even a hibiscus gin and tonic on tap.
Other local dining hot spots include the lakeside Pisces Rising, where you can catch live music on the deck Thursdays through Sundays, The Goblin Market, and the club-like Beauclaire Dining Room in the historic Lakeside Inn. Mount Dora Brewing and the Rocking Rabbit Brewery are favorite local hangouts for pub fare, and you’ll also find tea rooms and pizza and burger joints around town. Maggie’s Attic of Florida—a family-owned wine and craft beer cellar—is the go-to spot for tastings and lively events. Mount Dora also offers Taste of Our Town guided tasting tours of local food and wine.
Architecture buffs won’t want to miss The Donnelly House, built in 1893 in the Queen-Anne style by John P. Donnelly for his wife, Annie, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. Then spend time exploring some of the local shops and boutiques. You’ll find clever and unusual specialty kitchen gadgets, spices and rubs at the awardwinning KaDee Kay Gourmet Kitchen Products downtown. Dig up an autographed treasure at Uncle Al’s Time Capsule, where signed photos of Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and other entertainment greats are for sale. Antique addicts will want to plan a visit to one of Florida’s largest venues for collectibles and antiques: Renninger’s Twin Markets, open Fridays through Sundays.
Biking and Segway adventures are fun ways to explore the town, plus, there are 130-plus miles of navigable waterways via kayak, canoe and paddleboard.