MOUNT DORA – It’s been universally noted that there’s no place like home for the holidays, so if hotels and inns want to draw visitors for the Christmas season, they probably want to do their best to create that same kind of warm and fuzzy ambiance.
That task is helped enormously, said Sabrina Law, if an inn is historic and charming to begin with.
“We’re right on the 130-year mark,” said Law, the front desk supervisor at the Lakeside Inn, one of downtown Mount Dora’s best-known spots.
It also helps, said the inn’s owner, Jim Gunderson, if they have the widespread appeal of that city’s picturesque downtown right at their doorstep.
“It’s the nature of Mount Dora,” he said. “There’s a lot of festivities and events around this time of year.”
Which is exactly why this historic landmark inn is trying to do its best to draw more visitors here this holiday season.
Founded in 1883, Lakeside Inn is the oldest continuously operated hotel in the state of Florida. Initially a ten-room inn by a lake, its reputation continued to grow in the early 1900s, leading to an expansion. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace were on vacation here in the 1930s and took part in a dedication ceremony for the Terrace Building, the last of the expansions on the property.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lakeside Inn offers 87 rooms today – and an all-out attempt to capture the spirit of the holiday season, Law added.
“This is one of our busiest times of the year,” she said. “We will be decorated for the season. There are holiday lights outside that will be on after dark. The alligators in our bar have Santa hats on.”
There’s also a fully-decorated tree in the main lobby, scores of Poinsettias inside and on the inn’s lengthy front porch, and Christmas music playing on the loudspeaker.
“They are still decorating as we speak,” Law said on Saturday.
In addition, music fans can enjoy the sounds of The Three Crooners, who will bring their rendition of classic tunes by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby to the Lakeside Inn’s Tremain’s Tavern on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m., during the “Christmas with the Crooners” show.
It’s a holiday performance unlikely to disappoint, Gunderson said.
“That should be a lot of fun,” he added.
Then there’s the Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas day buffet being planned – another very popular offering, Law said.
“We do have our annual Christmas Eve dinner, and we also have a meal on Christmas day,” she said. “For the Christmas Eve dinner, the seating times vary. The first is from 5 to 8 (p.m.) The Christmas day buffet starts at noon.”
On the menu is such items as Florida Orange Cheesecake, Roasted Chicken Breast, and Rainbow Trout.
And, of course, the Lakeside Inn has something else to offer: downtown Mount Dora, a city known for going all-out during the holidays.
“Last weekend was Light Up Mount Dora, which is also a big event,” Law said.
“We have a bunch of activities in town all month,” Gunderson said. “Between now and Christmas, we have a constant flow of people coming in and shopping downtown.”
Those events include the Rusty Anchor Christmas Lights and Tours now through Dec. 30, on the ship that departs the dock at 6:30 p.m. and returns at 8 p.m.; the Florida Lakes Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas Eve Suites on Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m.; Candy house decorating on Dec. 7-8 at the W.T. Bland Public Library; and Children’s Christmas in the Park with Snow on Dec. 15 in Donnelly Park from 5-9 p.m.
The activities do not end on Christmas day, though, Law noted.
“A big New Year’s Eve Gala will be taking place here, and we have packages for the guests coming to us for that holiday,” Law said. “It’s $99 for coming in for the festivities. For that you get dinner, a champagne toast, dancing and party favors. It’s a huge event.”
Then in January, the Lakeside Inn is planning a big birthday bash, on a date still to be determined.
The Lakeside Inn is at 100 N. Alexander St. in Mount Dora. To learn more, call 352-383-4101 or 800-556-5016, or log on to Lakeside-Inn.com.
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