Small Town Life
Although it’s often news to tourists, many areas of Central and Southwest Florida support a robust rural or small town lifestyle, where you know your neighbor and where back roads, farmland and a quieter lifestyle are the norm.
In our more rural counties, like Charlotte, DeSoto, Osceola, Polk, Pasco and Sumter, ranchers and farmhands greet each other with friendly smiles. Citrus groves, croplands, grazing cattle and hay bales dot the landscape, and wildlife sightings happen daily. In some communities there is only one traffic light, and the local post office is the size of a two-car garage. In these less populous areas, it’s possible to slow down and relax.
If you are looking to enjoy the benefits of small town life near a major metro area, there are many options. Historic Mount Dora lies a mere 40 minutes northwest of Orlando, on picturesque Lake Dora, in the Harris Chain of Lakes. The town center is lined with quaint, one-story shops and restaurants that are heavy on architectural charm. Famed for its frequent annual festivals, Mt. Dora hosts monthly events that bring townspeople into the streets, from a 1,500-vendor antiques extravaganza every January to an arts and crafts expo in October as well as music, book, bicycle and plant fairs throughout the year.
DeLand is another small town, also close to Orlando. It is filled with stucco Mediterranean Revival architecture built in the early 1900s during a Florida land boom. A lovely place to call home, DeLand is a vibrant, artistic town that cultivates a sense of history and community for residents and tourists alike. The city is also home to a famous Garden District—a neighborhood of 27 restored, historic homes—the graceful Athens Theater, built in 1921, and stately Stetson University, Florida’s oldest private university.
On the West Coast near Tampa, Plant City is another small, historic town with attractive brick architecture and a Main Street feel. It is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World, and it plays host to an annual Florida Strawberry Festival. Now in its 80th year, the festival is a combination county fair, farmers’ market and small town variety show.