Discover Mount Dora: There's more in central Florida than Disney

Thirty miles northwest of Orlando is the charming lagoon of Dora Village, a hidden gem full of antique shops, great food, unique shops, a bed and breakfast and beautiful scenery. Overlooking Lake Dora, at 184 feet above sea level (not exactly a mountain), it is a historic village of one hundred and five years in the heart of central Florida.

If you are looking for a place to unwind after a few days at Disney World, or just exploring a unique destination, this little known village will not disappoint.

Here are my 8 must-do's for your trip to Mount Dora:

1. The Historic Lakeside Inn

Built in 1883, The Lakeside Inn is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida. The large Victorian hotel is surrounded by oak trees with oak trees. Enjoy a stunning sunset by the lake or a morning coffee on the terrace surrounded by white loungers. The Inn has hosted many prominent and historic visitors, such as President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace, who stayed here for a month in 1930. I highly recommend staying at the Lakeside Inn while visiting Mount Dora for its old charm of Florida and its central location in shops and restaurants.

2. The GateHouse Gift Collection

Located at the Lakeside Inn, this attractive shop features pottery, jewelry, glassware and pieces of wood made by local artists. You will also find a selection of books by regional authors. In some cases, you may have the opportunity to meet one of the artists featured as they present their work. During the colder months, relax by the fire between the Gallery and the Inn. The owner, Stacy Martin, is friendly and hospitable and makes you feel at home as you browse through the gallery.

3. Treasures of home and garden

This fun shop is a colorful blend of inspirational gifts and garden decor. From unique wall clocks, garden swings and bird baths, Domas and Garden Treasures is the perfect place to find the right gift for this "hard shop" friend. Be sure to spend time browsing for inspirational spots and humor napkins. It's hard to leave this shop without a smile.

4. Checkered Moon

Come to this welcoming and modern shop and you will feel like going into a spa. Flavored candles, sea salt soaps and coastal d├ęcor are a much-needed retreat from Florida's summer heat. In addition to household goods, this is a great place for original baby gifts, including clothes, books and toys. The owner, Sharon Crow, opened the original Checkered Moon in Champaign Illinois. After discovering Mount Dora, she decided it was the perfect place for a brother shop. This was my first visit to the store, but I'll be back for some of these amazing candles.

5. Maggie's Attic Wine and Beer Cellar

A visit to Mount Dora is not complete without stopping at Maggie's Attica. An ideal place to meet locals, enjoy a glass of wine and browse the vast collection of craft wines and beer for sale. The simple, friendly atmosphere, the cozy bar and interesting people are well worth a visit. You may not want to leave. I had the pleasure of meeting many interesting people, enjoying a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. Owner Stephanie, and her son, had lived in the area for many years and shared the story of Mount Dora. Richard, an RN from central Florida, teaches hikers, campers and outsiders how to survive in the desert. I have planned an upcoming camping trip, so pay attention! Maggie's Attic offers live entertainment on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There are wine tastings on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month, as well as beer tastings on the 2nd Saturday. You can also expand your horizons with Maggie's Wine & Beer Clubs. Don't miss this!

6. Pisces Increases

Enjoy dinner overlooking Lake Dora as you watch the sun slowly slip into the water. Pisces Rising is a Florida fresh seafood and steak house. The bungalow cracker cracker (formerly home) was built in the 1920s. The lunch menu includes sandwiches, jambalaya, seafood, burgers and salads. For dinner, choose from steaks, chicken, seafood and pasta. Pisces Rising serves the Sunday brunch 11am. until 2 pm with live music from noon to 3 pm I chose the Lobster Bisque, which was a bowl of creamy perfection, and the Berry Spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Of course I saved room for dessert, raspberry cheese cake!

7. Climbing boat tours

Explore the canal of Lake Dora (River Elfin) on the Rusty Anchor waterway. This 2 hour trip is an opportunity to get a taste of birds, alligators, otters, eagle nests, 100-year-old Cypress trees, and wonderful homes. The cost is $ 27.50. Excursions start from the quay at 10am. 12:30 pm and 3 pm

Another option is the 1-hour Sunset Cruise ($ 20) or the Dora Canal Lunch Tour, a 3-hour cruise that stops at restaurants by the water. Lunch is not provided. ($ 50). The tour is a relaxing way to spend time in the water, taste what makes this part of Florida unique and soak up the sun.

8. Kayaking

The Dora Canal connects Lake Evost and Lake Dora. The majestic cypresses and wildlife make this one of the most scenic rowing trips in Florida. Kayaking is a great way to explore Florida with water as well as get some exercise. There are many rowing options when you visit Mount Dora.

Central Florida Nature Adventures offers guided tours of 5 different rivers. Reservations are required and excursions vary depending on the level of difficulty.

Bring your own kayak. I have an inflatable kayak and I love the flexibility of being able to carry my kayak wherever I travel, including checking on an airplane. It is durable, comfortable and easily inflates in less than 5 minutes. Inflatable kayaks can be purchased as single, double or triple.

Mount Dora has become one of my favorite places in Florida to relax and get away. This picturesque village, in the middle of nowhere, is still relatively unknown to tourists. It may be near Orlando, but it is worlds away from the crowds of millions waiting for Disney World line.