If you’ve been following Wellness and Wanderlust for a while, then you know how much I love playing tourist and getting to know new neighborhoods right here in Central Florida. Living just north of Orlando provides plenty of access to the theme parks, but once you’ve lived here for a while, it can be easy to write things off and say, “There’s nothing to do around here!”
Of course, Central Florida is home to countless hidden gems worth exploring, many of which are no more than an hour from the City of Orlando itself. A few years ago, I asked 10 blogger friends to share some of their favorite lesser-known spots, and it quickly became one of our most popular posts to date!
As life starts to get back to normal, I know that many of us are itching to get back out and start adventuring again, so I’ll be sharing several of my own favorite hidden gems by region. First up: Lake County! Our neighbor to the west, this area is named for its many lakes and has a much more rural vibe than Orlando, but it’s a charming spot to visit. Here are a few of my favorite local finds!
1. The Howey Mansion (Howey in the Hills, FL)
If you’re a fan of historic homes, you will love touring the Howey Mansion! Nearly 100 years old, this mansion was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style and has 25 rooms. You’ll fall in love with the peacock stained glass in the front door, and there are so many unique architectural features on site. I actually first stumbled upon the Howey Mansion several years ago, when it was abandoned and covered in ivy, but I knew it had to be something special in its day. The home has since been restored for historic tours and events, and you can even book a stay in the full mansion or in one of its cottages on the grounds. (Oh, and I’m convinced that I’m going to get married there someday. A girl can dream, right?)
2. Oak Haven Farms & Winery (Sorrento, FL)
Who else is a fan of U-Pick season? 🙋🏻♀️ There’s nothing quite like a beautiful day of strawberry picking! Oak Haven Farms & Winery is located in Sorrento, with berry-picking season from December through March. Their kitchen also includes snacks like homemade strawberry shortcakes and sundaes, and the other highlight is the winery on site. Oak Haven offers free tastings of their locally grown wines, with signature strawberry and blueberry wines being two customer favorites. I was also a huge fan of their muscadine Carlos wine, available in both sweet and dry varieties. The farm is family-friendly and the perfect place to spend a Florida “winter” afternoon!
3. Mount Dora, FL
I’ve written about Mount Dora in more detail before, but this idyllic town is an absolute must-visit. The main streets are filled with antique shops, fun foodie spots (try Windsor Rose Tea Room, one of my faves, or dine at the Lakeside Inn!), and so much more. A few hot spots worth exploring include the Mount Dora Lighthouse, the Starry Night house, and the Modernism Museum, which is home to David Bowie’s private collection by the Memphis Design Group! Mount Dora also offers pontoon boat tours and evening ghost tours, both of which I’m dying to try out in the future as the world continues to reopen.
4. The Citrus Tower (Clermont, FL)
This next one is brought to you by Vitamin C! The Citrus Tower is a fun roadside attraction in Clermont that was built in the 1950s to celebrate the Central Florida citrus industry. For just $10, you can ride the elevator to the top of the tower and learn all about its history. You’ll see beautiful views of the whole region (with signage to help you identify what areas you’re looking at!), including the mini Mount Rushmore replica next door. There’s a coffee shop on site, so be sure to try their orange creme latte if you get the chance. (Vegan options are available!)
5. LunaSea Alpaca Farm (Clermont, FL)
You’ve probably heard about goat yoga by now, but what about alpaca yoga? LunaSea Alpaca Farm offers this unique experience, along with interactive tours by appointment for those who want to meet the sweet alpacas and llamas on site. I’ve taken their yoga class before (so fun!), but can’t wait to book my own tour too. They are such sweet animals and so gentle to feed.
6. Lakeridge Winery (Clermont, FL)
Located on beautiful rolling hills, Lakeridge Winery not only offers complimentary tours and wine tastings, but is also home to some incredible events. Listen to live music, grab a bite to eat, and stroll the grounds for a perfect weekend afternoon. I’ve attended their annual grape stomp events twice now (not sure how I feel about that in a post-pandemic world, though! 🤪) but they also host other events throughout the year that you can find on their Facebook page, including Weekends at the Winery.
What are your favorite places to go in Lake County? Share your suggestions in the comments!