It’s time to pack up and take on the open road through the heart of Florida on the Citrus Label Tour. Lake County’s history shines through this colorfully-designed self-guided tour. Lake County is no stranger to citrus; in fact, it’s big business.
Citrus trees in Florida date back to the 1500s, after being brought to the Sunshine state by Spanish explorers. In the early 1900s, the citrus business exploded in Florida and the competition was fierce. There were more than 50 fresh fruit packing facilities in all of Lake County at one time. To help their product stand out, packers and shippers began designing bright—often personal—crate labels with creative names. The Citrus Label Tour highlights more than a dozen of these vintage labels alongside popular attractions that showcase what the citrus industry looks like today in Lake County, Florida.
Let’s get started! Follow along as we take you through the Citrus Label Tour.
Stop 1: Umatilla
Gas up the car and start in Umatilla. Experience this area’s natural beauty from the dozens of groves that line Route 19. Take in the history of this Florida gem through the Umatilla Museum, which features the Golden Gem Growers label. This cooperative was once responsible for 13 to 15 million boxes of citrus each year! Don’t leave Umatilla without cooling down with a creamsicle milkshake from Sunsational Farms, where you’ll find plenty of citrus-flavored treats. Document your trip with the perfect selfie at the Big Orange!
Stop 2: Eustis
On the road again, take Route 19 to a city once dubbed the “Orange Capital of the World,” Eustis. Every Thursday you’ll find the Lake County Farmers and Artisans Market boasting the freshest citrus among its 300 vendors. Spend time at the Eustis’ Citrus Museum learning about the process behind growing citrus. You’ll find gorgeous labels on the Museum’s grounds and at Ferran park along Lake Eustis.
Stop 3: Mount Dora
Time to slow down and take in the historic waterfront of Mount Dora. You’ll find the next labels here at Simpson Cove, including a label for the Simpson Fruit Company, which has been citrus farming for generations. You can’t leave without a citrus-themed souvenir, like a blood orange loose herbal tea from the Spice and Tea Exchange. Or kick back and relax after your walk with a citrus-flavored cocktail at Handlebar, which mixes orange bitters into several of its drinks, including the Stirred Martini and the Oaxacan Old Fashioned.
Stop 4: Tavares
Before planes and semi-trucks, packing companies relied on trains to get their citrus straight to customers. You can learn about the citrus shipping process at the former Tavares Train Depot, home to the Tavares Museum. You’ll find two labels here.
All this history probably has you hungry. Grab a citrus salmon at the Tavares waterfront’s Puddle Jumpers Lakeside Grill & Bar, which pairs perfectly with the Florida Citrus Margarita. You’ll find more labels nearby at the historic courthouse.
Stop 5: Leesburg
Time to stretch your legs and take in the beauty along Lake Griffin within the Leesburg’s Sabal Bluff Nature Preserve and the Bourlay Historic Nature Park. Citrus Groves dominated this land before its owner Arthur (Buddy) Bourlay III, donated the land for public use. You can still see remnants of orange groves and other fruit along the trails. Then explore Leesburg by heading into their public square to see the Irish Castle and Piney Woods Belle citrus labels.
Stop 6: Howey-in-the Hills
Step into the gilded age inside the Howey Mansion. Explore the extravagant way of living through a walking tour of this 1925, 20-room landmark of citrus magnate William Howey. This landmark, built in the Mediterranean Revival style, is a living testament to Howey’s power and influence in the industry and the region. Then head to Griffin Park along Little Lake Harris to see two more crate labels: Apshawa and White Owl.
Stop 7: Groveland & Mascotte
It should come as no surprise that this tour stops in Groveland, a city named after the citrus groves that once dotted the surrounding landscape. Discover four labels in Groveland and the nearby city of Mascotte that are less than three miles apart. The Mascotte Civic Center displays Beach Lake and Pine Island labels, while the Groveland Museum showcases the Richland and Groveland labels.
Stop 8: Clermont
You know what they say! Save the tallest views for last. Take in citrus history from 226 feet in the air when you climb the Citrus Tower. If you need an extra shot of adrenaline to get you up there, grab an orange-flavored coffee from the Citrus Coffee Company at the base of the tower. Nearby you’ll find the Showcase of Citrus, an incredible emporium selling citrus everything, along with a petting zoo and U-pick farm. Finish your journey along the shores of Lake Minneola at the Clermont Historic Village Museum to see the final two labels on the tour: Gem of the Hills and Lake Minnehaha. Then toast to your cross-county citrus adventure with a tangerine haze IPA at the Clermont Brewing Company. Cheers!