Lake County is a county in the central portion of the U.S. state of Florida, affectionately known as the “Real Florida, home to natural wonders, first-class sporting facilities, small-town charm, exceptional dining experiences and so much more.
A TRAVELER’S GUIDE TO VISITING LAKE COUNTY, FLORIDA – Real Florida. Real Close
Affectionately known as the “Real Florida,” Lake County is home to natural wonders, first-class sporting facilities, small-town charm, exceptional dining experiences and so much more. There’s something amazing around every corner. And it’s all just 35 minutes from Orlando! With real adventures this close at hand, checking out everything on this list just got a whole lot easier.
Glamping. Hiking. Swimming. From the stunning, lofty
views of the Green Mountain Scenic Overlook to the Dora Canal, nicknamed one of the most beautiful miles of waterway in the world, it’s easy to see why visitors love it here. Lake Louisa State Park serves up a range of camping experiences, including glamping, as well as horseback riding, kayak tours and guided hikes. Alexander Springs Recreation Area entices visitors to explore the underwater habitats of pristine spring waters before discovering the area’s flora and fauna on foot through hiking trails. Visitors who prefer to stay lakeside can take in the views of Lake Minneola and historic downtown Clermont from Victory Pointe, which is also part of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail.
SMALL TOWN CHARM
Part of what makes Lake County and the Real Florida so special is the small-town charm and Southern hospitality that is prevalent throughout the area, especially in walkable downtowns. Visit downtown Mount Dora for cobblestone paved roads, unique restaurants, and boutique shopping, and then walk over to Grantham Point Park to see a navigational inland lighthouse. Historic downtown Clermont is known for its growing brewery scene and proximity to the city’s Waterfront Park, and downtown Leesburg is filled with bakeries, delicious eats, and one-of-a-kind shops.
Nature draws visitors into the Real Florida, and events keep them coming back. Every year, Mount Dora hosts the Mount Dora Craft Fair, one of the nation’s top craft festivals and a multi-day eventfilled with fine art, fun crafts, food, drinks, and live music. Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza is a three-day event with more than 800 vendors selling antiques, collectibles, vintage items and more. In the spring, the roads of Real Florida roar into action when bikers from around the U.S. arrive for the annual Leesburg Bike fest, and in late summer when the grapes are ready to harvest, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards holds its annual Harvest Grape Stomp, a fabulously fun time that lets visitors get in on the action.
FOOD AND DRINK
Tempting smells and mouth-watering flavors can be found in restaurants across Lake County. Set in a 1920s bungalow-style home, Pisces Rising in Mount Dora offers an expansive lunch and dinner menu as well as Sunday brunch. Also in Mount Dora, the three book-lined dining rooms of The Goblin Market present a tasteful setting to enjoy every bite and sip. Clermont’s Crooked Spoon gastropub presents a menu filled with wonderful surprises in a stimulating environment. While in the area, grab a local brew at Suncreek Brewery or head to the Lakeridge Winery for local wines, a free wine tour and a myriad of events. For something extra special, visit the moonshine distillery at Yalaha Bootlegging Company located at an organic blueberry farm.
Lake County is perhaps best known nationwide as a sporting destination due to the many sport facilities located here. The City of Clermont is known as the Choice of Champions, and for good reason – it is home to triathlons, has a range of elevation and terrain suitable for championship athlete training, and it sports amazing year-round weather. It’s also where Olympic athletes come to train, as the National Training Center is located here. Mission Inn Resort & Club is home to two championship golf courses that have seen NCAA, PGA, U.S. Open and FSGA tournaments, and the Harris Chain of Lakes regularly hosts professional and college fishing championships. Hickory Point Beach is also the national training site for the USA Volleyball Beach ParaVolley program. Lake County’s proximity to Orlando puts visitors within 35 minutes of NBA and MLS action with the Orlando Magic and Orlando City Soccer Club.
Well-known for delivering quality produce, the area’s farms are driven by dedicated agriculturalists. U-pick is popular in winter and spring, with sweet strawberries available at Southern Hill Farms in winter months. In spring, head to Lake Catherine for U-pick blueberries or Graham Farms for U-pick peaches. Showcase of Citrus boasts a wide range of citrus U-pick in the winter and other fun attractions all year long, such as monster truck rides, a gen mine and country store. Long and Scott Farms is another year-round farm complete with country market as well as a Zellwood corn harvest in the fall that’s immediately followed by the area’s largest corn maze.
Nicknamed America’s Seaplane City, the City of Tavares is home to Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures. Passengers can climb aboard a seaplane for a flightseeing tour of the Real Florida or book a day trip or planned excursion almost anywhere in the state. Visitors can also watch the seaplanes take off and land from nearby downtown Tavares, which includes waterfront Wooton Park, the Tavares Pavilion on the Lake event space and several restaurants and bars overlooking beautiful Lake Dora.
A cyclist’s dream, Lake County is home to many cycling paths, including the South Lake Trail in Clermont that connects to the West Orange Trail in Orange County via the south side of Lake Apopka. The Coast-to-Coast Trail is another favorite, as is the cycling trail that leads up to Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest point in peninsular Florida.
Visit www.visitlakefl.com for more information.
Passengers can climb aboard a seaplane for a flightseeing of the Real Florida or book a day trip or planned excursion almost anywhere in the state.