With its beautiful location on a lake plus a lush old oak canopy and even a few hills, Mount Dora has been attracting visitors for 150 years. In the last few decades, leaders in the town have devised a fomula to keep the visitors coming — a steady schedule of festivals and special events.
The many Mount Dora festivals bring people to patronize the downtown stores and restaurants. Residents might complain about the traffic, but these events and the visitors make Mount Dora more lively than many historic small towns in Florida.
Located within 40 minutes of northwest Orlando, Mount Dora has resisted high rises and cookie-cutter commerce and attempted to retain its small-town charm.
Mount Dora festivals make it a destination for antique lovers, art lovers and crafters. Many accommodations in town have special (higher) rates for “festival weekends,” which includes the three-times-a-year Antique Extravaganzas at sprawling Renninger’s Antique Center.
Some might have preferred the less perfect Mount Dora of a few decades ago, but there’s no use pining for it. Mount Dora is still a good base for exploring one of the best areas of Florida for outdoor activities.
There are other smaller weekend celebrations, too, but the busiest weekends and biggest draws are these eight, according to city officials:
2023 Mount Dora festivals
- Jan. 20-22 2023. Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza. More than 800 antique dealers converge on Mount Dora for this big outdoor show. The admission price says it all: $10 on Friday, when you can scoop up the best stuff; $6 Saturday; and then $4 Sunday. The event is repeated three times a year, the third weekend of November, January and February.
- Feb. 4-5, 2023. The Annual Arts Festival spreads out throughout the downtown, attracting 285 artists and thousands of visitors. As of mid-January, this festival is still scheduled.
- Feb. 18-19, 2023. Annual Scottish Highland Festival. This gated event with a $10 admission ticket features Scottish bands and musicians all the weekend at Donnelly Park. and an afternoon of Highland Games in Gilbert Park on Saturday from 10 a.m. ot 5 p.m. Details.
- Feb. 17-19, 2023. Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza returns for a second winter weekend, with the same abundance of antiques and curiosities, dealers and customers. That weekend is also the Mount Dora Music Festival.
- October, 2023. The 46th Annual Bicycle Festival, which attracts 1,000 cyclists. Here are details from Florida Rambler.
- Oct. 28-29, 2023. Annual Craft Fair. This is a juried event that attracts top crafters from around the country. It also draws 200,000 visitors.
- Nov. 4, 2023. Plant & Garden Festival. There are garden tours the same weekend. Information 352-729-2170.
- November, 2023. Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza. The final major antique event of the year.
- December – January. The annual Christmas lights festival. As if Mount Dora isn’t pretty enough, the city gets decorated with two million lights. They flip the switch the Saturday after Thanksgiving and there are a series of holiday events on the next weekend: the Christmas Walk, a holiday street party, a holiday parade during the day and lighted boat parade at night. The lights stay on through January. Details on the Christmas lights festival are here.
- There are actually many more smaller festivals. Get the complete updates list here.
Resources for planning a visit to Mount Dora:
- Florida Rambler’s guide to Lake Dora camping
- Mount Dora Chamber of Commerce
- Renninger’s Antique Center
- Mount Dora event schedule
Things to do near Mount Dora
This region is full of state parks, state and national forests and hiking, biking and kayak trails. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Kayaking the Dora Canal
- Kayak Blackwater Creek and Lake Norris, splendid waterways near Mount Dora
- The West Orange Trail for bicycling
- Winter Garden and the historic Edgewater Hotel as a base.
- Kelly Park and Rock Springs Park
- Blue Spring State Park
- Ocala National Forest
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The information in this article was accurate when published, but changes may occur.
The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.