ABOVE: Dora Queen docked at Wooton Park in Tavares. (Photo by Lisa Kilgore Davidson)
Lake County’s wait is almost over. The much-anticipated Dora Queen has started booking reservations for August and September pleasure cruises. Although the stately replica of a paddle-wheel riverboat comfortably holds up to 108 passengers, it will only book up to 50 passengers per cruise to safely allow for adequate social distancing. The impressive New Orleans-styled boat with its gray shiplap exterior and red ornamental iron details features two bars, comfortable lounge-style seating and music for passengers to enjoy or dance to during their approximately two-hour Lake Dora voyage. Unlike the other commercial passenger boats currently on Lake Dora, the Dora Queen will be offering pleasure cruises that remain on Lake Dora, rather than narrated boat tours into the Dora Canal. Passengers will board the boat at its Wooton Park dock in downtown Tavares. In the future, the Dora Queen hopes to have additional boarding times in Mount Dora depending on logistics, but the attraction will remain based in Tavares. The 80-foot pleasure boat has a full bar that serves beer, wine, well and top shelf spirits, as well as specialty drinks and non-alcoholic beverages. For passengers that want snacks, concession-style food is available onboard. The covered, open-air Dora Queen has a state of the art sound system, plus live music most weekends.
AUGUST & SEPTEMBER CRUISE SCHEDULE: Wednesday and Thursday Afternoon Cruise: 4:00-6:00 p.m. Sunset Cruise: 7:00-9:00 p.m. Ticket prices: children (2-12 years old) $24, adults $34 Friday through Sunday Afternoon Cruise: 3:30-5:30 p.m. Sunset Cruise: 7:00 -9:00 p.m. Ticket prices: children (2-12 years old) $29, adults $39 A third cruise is planned at approximately 1pm depending on passenger demand. Cruise times will change according to month and time of year. All times subject to change.
B.J. and Brandy Herron, long-time Mount Dora residents and owners of Steamboat Tours Inc., operate the Dora Queen which offers two scenic cruises daily on Lake Dora Wednesdays through Sundays. One of the voyages will be a Sunset Cruise taking in the picturesque evening sky for which Lake Dora is renowned. The pleasure cruises will complement the seaplane rides, restaurants and other businesses based in the Tavares entertainment district.
“We wanted a way for locals and tourists to enjoy the beauty of Lake Dora, while offering a unique experience,” said Brandy Herron. “Our goal is to add to the charm of our community with a fun and enjoyable new attraction.”
In addition to its daily operations, the Dora Queen will feature special cruisesfor Mother’s Day, the 4th of July and other seasonal events. The boat can also be booked for private parties.
The Herrons purchased theDora Contessa riverboat replica that was docked on the Dead River for several years. Fortuitously, it was the same boat that served as the location of their wedding rehearsal dinner in 2001.
The couple then enlisted the help of Robbie Cunningham, of Trident Pontoon Boats in Tavares, to build The Dora Queen and incorporate The Dora Contessa’s paddle wheel and other elements into the new and larger vessel.
Precautions will be taken for the novel coronavirus, by requiring all Dora Queen staff and crew to wear face masks. Guests are encouraged to wear masks, but it is not mandatory. All guests will be given hand sanitizer upon boarding, and it will be placed conveniently throughout the boat. Staff will routinely disinfect the boat’s surfaces and a thorough sanitization of the boat will take place between each cruise. Dora Queen cruises can be booked here.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. For local things to do, click here and for the area's free mobile app, click here.
ABOVE: Wolf Branch Brewing's tap room manager Victoria Rooney shows off some of its retail brews available. (Photo by Wolf Branch Brewing)
On sweltering Florida summer days, it doesn’t get much better than cooling off with a favorite icy cold brew with friends. The summer of 2020 has made it challenging for local bars, but one local micro brewery and bar is making sure it’s still able to satisfy beer lovers’ cravings.
Due to state-wide restrictions on bars to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Wolf Branch Brewing, with tap rooms in downtown Mount Dora and Eustis, is struggling, but has been relying on its retail sales of sealed beers-to-go. In addition to bottles of beer, the craft beer brewery also provides growlers, special jugs that allow draft beer to be transported home without a degradation of quality, and crowlers which are 32-ounce cans sealed in front of customers upon purchase. Every purchase of a sealed container helps this locally-owned family business.
Wolf Branch Brewing focuses on crafting old-world styles of beer with modern tastes. Between both locations the brewery offers: Honey Jalapeño Cream Ale Kiwi Kolsch Villa IPA Coocha Coffee Milk Stout Plum Banana Peach Berliner Wolfees Pale Lager Grapefruit Seltzer Uncle Mikey’s Peach Blonde Ale A brand new pineapple IPA plus several guest taps.
Communities can help their local breweries by buying beers to go, leaving Google and Yelp reviews and interacting with them online by liking a brewery’s posts or commenting.
The seed of Wolf Branch Brewery was planted in 2015 when Jose Villafana, an army veteran and amateur beer-maker, set off on his trek to become a master brewer. Since then, Jose and his brothers-in-law, Josh Greenberg and Chris Dunlop, honed their craft. The trio and Jose’s father, Jose Villafana Sr., opened their first 1,700 square-foot Wolf Branch Brewery in downtown Eustis in 2017 followed by the opening of another tap room in downtown Mount Dora as the anchor tenant Mount Dora Marketplace on the corner of 4th Avenue and Donnelly Street in 2019. Both taprooms were popular with bar patrons, but were required to cease serving alcohol for on-site consumption due to COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.
During the current restrictions Florida has on bars, the most challenging aspects for the brewery have been managing logistics, maintaining adequate inventory, and cutting costs to pay bills, said Greenberg.
The brewery has seven employees that it continues to pay because they are considered family, said Greenberg who also said the business was able to get Federal PPP assistance, but the amount was only proportional to assisting one location, so they have been very grateful for local support.
Wolf Branch Brewing is located at 119 N. Bay Steet in Eustis and 100 E. 4th Avenue in Mount Dora. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. For local things to do, click here and for the area's free mobile app, click here.