Things to Do in Leesburg

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Things to Do in Leesburg FL

With more than 1,400 lakes in the county, it’s easy to understand why most residents boat, fish, swim or water-ski. Lakes, in fact, make up 17 percent of Lake County’s nearly 722,000 acres.

The Harris Chain of Lakes gives all residents equal access to many fishing opportunities. “Chain” describes how the lakes are all interconnected, meaning a boat in one lake may access any of the others by way of naturally occurring rivers or man-made canals. With so much water, a private fishing hole is never far away.

Lake Griffin, seven miles long by 2-1/2 miles wide, is a major link in the Leesburg-to-Atlantic Ocean chain. Extensive management programs are attempting to restore the lake. Average depths are 7.74 feet. Bass fishing is best in canals. For more information on fishing, go to page 12, or call (352) 360-6760.

Lake Harris is the largest and, arguably, prettiest lake in the chain. The depth is 12.01 feet and the bottom is sandy with a few mucky areas. The lake’s shoreline is filled with native aquatic grasses.

Little Lake Harris covers about five square miles, and has a varied bottom that includes some grassy areas. The west side is sandier, with shoreline grass beds. Howey-in-the-Hills and Astatula have ramp access. Little Lake Harris is good for one to three-pound bass year-round, but has seen bass up to 13.5 pounds, with 75 percent caught using artificial worms. A half-mile bridge that covers the center of the lake is a virtual mecca in winter and spring for night fishing, lantern-wielding speck anglers, spring to summer bass bridge-trollers and year-round panfish anglers. Hickory Point offers a day-use marina (no overnight mooring) and fishing piers.

The mooring facility accommodates boats up to 10 by 30 feet. The park features a two-story, screened pavilion that accommodates groups from 25 to 275 people. All or part of the pavilion may be reserved up to a year in advance for special events. For more information, please call the Lake County Water Authority at (352) 343-3777.

Haines Creek flows northwest from Lake Eustis to Lake Griffin, a distance of four miles. Once crooked, the creek has been channeled. A lock and spillway at Lisbon on Route 44 oxygenates the water, attracting bass year-round, speck in winter and panfish and catfish in the summer. There is also good bass fishing near lily pad oxbows. Access is best near Lisbon.

Lake Eustis is another major lake leading to the Atlantic, covering nearly 19 square miles and is largely hard-bottomed. The Dead River and Dora Canal flow into the south end, and Haines Creek exists to the west. The lake has a shoreline filled with native aquatic grasses. The lake averages between 11-15 feet in depth. Bass fishing, especially trolling, is good along the east shore between Eustis and Tavares. Rock areas along Lake Shore Drive produce panfish in the spring and summer. Both Eustis and Tavares have boat ramps.

Lake Dora covers almost 15 square miles. Accessible from Mount Dora or Tavares, the depth ranges between 11 and 15 feet. From April through July, anglers catch bass with top water lures, plastic worms and shiners (the bait of choice). Trolling is excellent. The lake has cattail shorelines with a variance of cypress covers and lily pads to the north.

Dora Canal is a mile-long waterway that connects Lakes Dora and Eustis at the Tavares city limits. Noted for its scenic beauty (its nickname is “the most beautiful half-mile of water in the world”), it produces panfish in the spring.

Lake Yale, without a city on its shoreline, is a favorite of local fishermen. The average depth is between 16 and 19 feet. There is good, year-round bass fishing with plastic worms; speck and panfish catches are excellent; and bank fishing at the park areas produces excellent results.

For nature lovers, the Ocala National Forest is only 20 minutes north of Leesburg. Part of what is known as the “real Florida,” the forest attracts over two million visitors per year and covers more than 450,000 acres. Established in 1908, it is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi, the southernmost forest in the nation and is home to hundreds of varieties of birds and animals.

The Ocala National Forest Interpretive Association conducts bus tours in the winter. The forest also has a number of picnic areas and hiking trails, as well as camping, swimming, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, a visitor center and bookstore. For more information, contact the Forest Pittman Visitor Center, 45621 State Road 19, Altoona, FL 32702, (352) 669-7495.

In Leesburg proper, Venetian Gardens is one of Central Florida’s most aesthetic family-oriented parks. Located on the shores of Lake Harris, this 100-acre public park features boat ramps, a beach, baseball fields, tennis courts, shuffleboard courts, a pool open in summer and a cultural center. The name comes from Venice, Italy in recognition of the park’s canals and bridges. In addition to Venetian Gardens, the entire Leesburg area has more than 22 parks.

Have Fun in Leesburg

Life is never dull in Leesburg. Lake County is known for its festivals—almost every weekend there is a celebration with a “homestyle” flavor to enjoy. The annual Leesburg Art Festival, one of the largest events in the city, combines entertainment and fine food with an outstanding display of fine arts and crafts. The annual festival is dedicated to creating appreciation of the arts in Lake County. Exhibitors and visitors from throughout the U.S. gather to celebrate first-class original artwork in the historic downtown.

In addition to festivals, Leesburg has its own regional theater company, giving residents a wide range of plays to enjoy. The Melon Patch Players, Inc., Leesburg’s local troupe, puts on six shows each year.

Leesburg Lightning pre-professional amateur baseball

The Leesburg Lightning, a wood bat collegiate baseball league that offers top- level competition that many believe represents the highest level of pre-professional amateur baseball in America. The Lightning is the first team in FCSL history to repeat as champions, winning the title in 2007 and 2009. Their games are played at Pat Thomas Stadium/Buddy Lowe Field, where they continue to set league attendance records, averaging nearly 1,000 fans per game. Games take on a festive atmosphere as their mascot “Striker” entertains the fans and the kids participate in events like the “Rubber Chicken Chuck” and “Race the Bases.” This is great baseball and great family entertainment that is truly affordable; in fact, all home games are absolutely free! Parking is free, admission is free and the concessions, often referred to as “quite possibly America’s finest ballpark food,” are extremely reasonable. Look for up-to-date information, schedules and more in the Daily Commercial and please visit us soon at www.leesburglightning.com

Events in Leesburg FL

Annual Leesburg Main Street Christmas House
Time again for the annual Christmas Crafters to show their talents as the Leesburg Partnership presents the Annual Leesburg Christmas House.

Sneak Peek night is Thursday October 24th 3pm to 8pm.  The Christmas House officially opens on Saturday October 26th at 9am and will remain open until Saturday December 14th at 5pm or visit online at www.LeesburgPartnership.com.

Leesburg Main Street Christmas Stroll
Held the Friday after Thanksgiving from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm in Historic Downtown Leesburg. It’s fun for the whole family, stores are open for holiday shopping and there are hay rides, a Snow Mountain Slide, Uncle Donald’s Farm petting zoo, Dickens Carolers, a Strolling Jazz Band, street performers, live performances by local civic groups, festive foods and you won’t believe your eyes: “let it snow let it snow!” Presented by the Leesburg Partnership, for information call (352) 365-0053 or visit online at www.LeesburgPartnership.com.

Venetian Gardens Light Up
Held annually in Venetian Gardens, Light-up Ceremony is on the Saturday after Thanksgiving at 6:00 pm, then is opens nightly through January first. Drive or walk through one of Lake County’s largest holiday displays, featuring over 500,000 mini-lights. Presented by the City of Leesburg. For information, call (352) 728-9885.

Leesburg Lightning
Champions – Summer Collegiate Wooden Bat Team. For schedule, visit: http://floridaleague.athleticsite.com or call (352) 728-9885.

FISH RESORTS, COTTAGES AND GUIDE SERVICES
LAKE GRIFFIN

Fisherman’s Wharf Mobile Home Park/Marina
05101-60 Eagles Nest Road
Fruitland Park, FL 34731
(352) 360-0600

Nelson’s Outdoor Resort Marina & RV Park
19400 State Road 42
Umatilla, FL 32784
(352) 821-FISH

Pine Island Fish Camp
6808 Lake Griffin Road
Lady Lake, FL 32159
(352) 753-2972

Twin Palms Resort & Marina
35320 Cross Street
Fruitland Park, FL 34731
(888) 894-6756

DEAD RIVER

Dead River Marina
11611 U.S. Highway 441
Tavares, FL 32778
(352) 343-4331

LAKE EUSTIS

Palm Gardens Mobile Home Park
11801 Highway 441
Tavares, FL 32778
(352) 343-2024

LAKE CRUISES

Capt’n Charlie’s Canal Cruises
P.O. Box 262
Tavares, FL 32778
(352) 343-0200

Capt. Dave’s Dora Canal Cruises
Tavares, FL 32778
(352) 343-3889

Lake County Waterways
400 W. Fourth Avenue
Mount Dora, FL 32757 (Next to the Mount Dora Yacht Club)
(352) 383-3933