See The Enchanting Way This Florida Town Celebrates Christmas

Stray from the coast for this central Florida town that celebrates Christmas with tradition, boat parades, and even real snow.

Mount Dora at Christmas
Photo: Mount Dora CVB

It's time to stray from your coastal comfort zone and push into the heart of Florida until you reach a small town flanked by lakes and seemingly frozen in time. Less than an hour from Orlando, Mount Dora, settled in the late 1800s, is anything but commercial. The historic downtown is lined with old-fashioned facades that play host to specialty stores to explore for Christmas wares (don't miss St. Nick's Holiday Shop, which has fun decor for all holidays with an emphasis on Christmas), and antique dives to dig for vintage finds. It's the kind of town where street names mean something. You won't go a block without seeing the namesake, "Donnelly," plastered on some sign or plaque, paying homage to a founding family and the town's first mayor, Capt. John Philip Donnelly. Donnelly Park and the historic Donnelly House back up to Donnelly Street, making navigation an interesting endeavor for outsiders. In a town so dedicated to celebrating its history and preserving its timeless charm, it's hard not to feel a nostalgic tug at the heart. Here's why you need to pay a visit to this enchanting Florida town at Christmastime.

It's a town that knows how to celebrate year-round.

Mount Dora boasts an impressive reputation as "Festival City," with monthly celebrations focusing on a broad range of interests. You can just as easily step in on a weekend packed full of art, indie films, artisanal crafts, or antiques as encountering a similar celebration of blueberries, paddle boarding, or Scottish Highland culture (one of our favorites). In December, though, it's all about having a Mount Dora Christmas.

The small town is illuminated with over 2 million twinkling lights.

Festivities kick off the weekend after Thanksgiving when over 2 million lights get draped over downtown, its historic homes, and Donnelly Park; and the Christmas tree on Main Street is officially lit. This night is arguably the most magical of the season.

Get your own decoration inspiration at the Annual Christmas Tour of Homes on December 3 and 4—it's a self-driving tour of six houses decked out in their holiday finest.

You'll feel like a local at the holiday street party.

Get your fill of festive cheer throughout the first weekend in December with the annual Christmas Walk (basically a holiday street party!) when you can join the town locals with a night of live music, dancing, and holiday shopping under the twinkling lights; a tour of the historic Donnelly House hosted by Santa and overflowing with holiday treats like hot cocoa.

Experience a magical Christmas boat parade.

Perhaps the most beloved town tradition is the Lighted Boat Parade on the downtown waterfront when local boaters decorate their vessels and compete for the most festive charter. You can even take part in the parade by riding on one of the festively-lit boats.

You'll experience real snow in the South.

Get ready for snow sledding in Florida! Southerners rarely get treated to the many holiday memories that stem from beautiful white snow, but you'll get a taste of the fun in Mount Dora with its annual snow-packed extravaganza in Donnelly Park on December 10. Ice skating, sledding, and Santa make the snow-laden day fun for everyone. Get excited with this glimpse of snow fun from past years.

Cozy up to the fire at the historic waterfront inn opened over 130 years ago.

Enjoy a festive holiday meal at the historic Lakeside Inn, which opened over 130 years ago. The lakefront two-story hotel hosts a candlelit Christmas Eve dinner that feels cozy, elegant, and full of laughter.

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