The primary attraction in Mount Dora is its quaint village atmosphere. The gentle inclines of the town’s downtown streets are about as close to “hilly” as one is likely to get in Central Florida, and they don’t pose any challenge to the flocks of antique-shoppers and casual strollers who descend on the town every weekend to take in the small-town vibe.
The cute Inland Lakes Railway (150 W. 3rd Ave., departures every 2 hours 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat., $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 children) gives visitors an opportunity to take a brief 75-minute ride on the Mount Dora Champion from the downtown train station, along the banks of Lake Dora, and into the nearby town of Tavares; the train then turns around and comes back. It’s not the most exciting voyage in the world, but young kids will certainly get a thrill from riding these rails.
Captain Doolittle’s Eco-Tours (dock across from the Lakeside Inn, 352/434-8040, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sat.–Sun.) don’t feel all that “eco-friendly” as you putter along the waters of the Harris Chain of Lakes in a covered, 30-passenger boat. However, thanks to guides who know the waters well, you’ll be able to spot a variety of wildlife along the banks, ranging from alligators and turtles to hawks, eagles, and other birds.
If the scores of benches strategically placed around Mount Dora aren’t relaxing enough, the spacious and verdant Donnelly Park (N. Donnelly St. at E. 5th Ave.) is located in the heart of downtown, giving day-trippers and locals alike a place to rest their shopped-out feet.
Most visitors make their way to Mount Dora for one of two reasons: They either want to soak up the old-timey vibe, or they want to soak up the bargains in the many antiques shops and boutiques. No shop sums up the adorable factor of Mount Dora more succinctly than Piglet’s Pantry (400 N. Donnelly St., 352/735-9779, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.), a bakery dedicated to dog treats.
If the offerings at the Pantry strike you as too specific, the 70-vendor Country Cottage Crafts (334 N. Donnelly St., 352/735-2722, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) features the work of local crafts-makers, with an emphasis on pottery.
Similarly, the 12,000-square-foot Village Antique Mall (405 Highland St., 352/385-0257, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) is home to the wares of more than 80 local antiques vendors.
The tasting room for the local Ridgeback Winery (301 N. Baker St., Suite 104, 352/383-4133, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed.–Sun.) offers a pleasant spot to unwind after a hard day of browsing; Ridgeback’s wines are made from grapes bought from other vineyards and then crafted into their own unique blends.
If, however, you’re in need of liquid refreshment but haven’t yet shopped till you dropped, Maggie’s Attic (237 W. 4th Ave., Suite 2, 352/383-5451, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat.) is part beer and wine bar, part antiques store.
Mount Dora is about 30 miles (an hour’s drive) southwest of DeLand  via scenic State Road 44. Coming from Orlando , the 27-mile, 45-minute drive on U.S. 441 will take you through some of Orlando’s bland suburbs before the rolling hills of Apopka and Zellwood put you in an appropriately rural mood.
Part of the joy of visiting Mount Dora is simply walking around and exploring the downtown area, but for those less inclined to wear out the soles of their shoes, guided tours can be had via Segway of Central Florida (140 W. 5th Ave., 352/383-9900, 1-hour tours $48) or the Mt. Dora Trolley Co. (departs from Lakeside Inn hourly 11 a.m.–2 p.m. daily, $13 adults, $11 children).