By Mike Miller Updated May 31, 2023
Leesburg is a small city in Central Florida on the Harris Chain of Lakes. It is about 45 miles northwest of Orlando and Walt Disney World with all of its resort amenities.
The city is on US-27, US-441, and State Road 44 and has a population of about 20,000 people.
It's nearest big neighbor is The Villages, which is only a short drive north with easy access by way of either State Road 44 or US-441.
Evander McIver Lee came to the area in 1857. He was the first known settler, but others soon followed and many of them planted citrus groves.
Leesburg and surrounding Lake County became one of the leading citrus producers in the world.
The Mote-Morris House, shown above, was built in 1892. It was the home of Edward H. Mote, who served eight terms as Mayor of Leesburg.
The home is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The house was damaged by fire in 2018 and closed for three years while restoration efforts were taking place.
The home was opened to visitors again in 2021.
The newborn citrus industry nearly went down in what is now known as the "Giant Freeze".
These were back to back freezes in 1894 and 1895.
The damage was so great to north and central Florida's citrus groves that many settlers abandoned their homes and left the state.
Leesburg survived and prospered as a national leader of the industry until more major freezes almost a century later in late 1983 and early 1985.
This was nearly the end of citrus being king in Leesburg; most of the growers moved south and took the citrus industry with them.
One reminder of the golden age of citrus is the large juice processing plant on US-441 in Leesburg owned by the Brazilian firm, Cutrale.
Modern Leesburg is growing and becoming more prosperous because it has become a popular place for northern retirees to settle.
It is only several miles south of The Villages, one of the fastest growing retirement communities in the world. Many people who work in The Villages live in Leesburg.
Lake Griffin State park is on US-441 on the north side of Leesburg.
Historic downtown Leesburg along Main Street has been redeveloped and now includes many fine shops and restaurants.
This area of Leesburg has a nice laid back small town atmosphere.
A major centerpiece of Leesburg is Venetian Gardens Park on Lake Harris.
This park includes acres of natural waterways surrounded by walkways and picnic venues.
There is even a baseball field, a marina, and boat launching facilities.
It was originally developed during the Great Depression as a Works Progess Administration (WPA) project.
Lake Square Mall east of downtown Leesburg is the largest enclosed shopping center in the area. It is a shopping venue for Leesburg and nearby Eustis, Tavares, and Mount Dora.
Tenants include Books A Million, Bealls Stores, and a movie theater. Several restaurants are also in and adjacent to the mall.
As the nearby Villages continues to sprawl across Lake, Sumter, and Marion counties, Leesburg should continue to be a reminder of authentic Old Florida.
Residential real estate prices are reasonable for this part of Florida. In addition to large planned subdivisions, there are several high quality manufactured home communities.
Both kinds of developments are places where retirees and working people can take advantage of the resident activities.
Realtor.com says the average residential listing price in 2023 is $274,000.
Some towns near Leesburg are:
Howey in the Hills
Venetian Gardens - Explore the picturesque Venetian Gardens, a waterfront park that offers stunning views of Lake Harris. Enjoy walking trails, a playground, picnic areas, and even a boat ramp for a fun-filled day by the water.
Leesburg Bikefest - Join the excitement at the Leesburg Bikefest at the end of April, one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the Southeast. Experience the roaring engines, live music, vendors, and vibrant atmosphere that attract motorcycle enthusiasts from all over.
Lake Square Mall - Indulge in retail therapy at Lake Square Mall, featuring a variety of stores, restaurants, and entertainment options. Whether you're looking for fashion, electronics, or a movie night, this shopping destination has it all.
Lake Griffin State Park - Immerse yourself in nature at Lake Griffin State Park, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and wildlife observation. Explore the park's trails and experience the beauty of the Florida wetlands and diverse ecosystems.
Leesburg Heritage Museum - Dive into the rich history of Leesburg at the Leesburg Heritage Museum. Discover fascinating exhibits and artifacts that showcase the city's past, from its early settlers to its significant role in Florida's growth.
Mote-Morris House - Step back in time with a visit to the Mote-Morris House, a restored Victorian-era home. Take a guided tour and admire the architectural details and antique furnishings that transport you to Leesburg's past.
Leesburg Center for the Arts - Experience the local arts scene at the Leesburg Center for the Arts. Attend art exhibitions, workshops, and performances, or take part in creative classes and events for all ages.
The Villages Florida - Take a look at the nearby huge retirement community of The Villages. Miles of golf court paths, dozens of restaurants and shops. Rent a bike or golf cart and explore.
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By Mike Miller, Copyright 2009-2023
Florida Back Roads Travel is not affiliated with or endorsed by Backroads, a California-based tour operator which arranges and conducts travel programs throughout the world.