Last week, as I made my way down the Florida Turnpike toward Orlando, I noticed for what was likely the thousandth time a billboard for the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills. As with each of the times I'd passed the billboard before, two thoughts crossed my mind in that moment. First, having lived so close for so long, I wondered if I should finally pay Mission Inn a visit; second, I was curious where in the world I could find the metropolis of Howey-in-the-Hills. Thanks to a free day in my schedule, and the brilliance of Google Maps, that would be my last curiosity filled trip down the Turnpike.
When I set off for Mission Inn, I had a rough idea on where Howie-in the-Hills was located, and by rough I mean within a 40 mile radius. Realizing that could be anywhere between my home and Orlando to the south, and either coast to the east or west, I thought it best to consult Google for advice. As it turns out, Howie-in-the-Hills is located right smack in the middle of Central Florida, about 35 miles northeast of Orlando in the - pun intended - hills of Lake County. As I made my way down the country road leading to the resort, I couldn't help but notice a feeling of nostalgia come over me. It was as if I had stepped back in time, to a Florida I have never known. One that seemed unaware of the "Florida Project," and the transformation it would bring to this area I have always called home. This was Old Florida, and I kinda liked it.
As I arrived at Mission Inn, the first thing that struck me was a feeling of seclusion and tranquility. I was only 45 minutes from home, yet I felt far away from the hubbub of everyday life. The resort's name and architecture were derived from a Spanish style mission, which made me pause and wonder if I was still in Central Florida, or if I'd somehow been transported to the California coast. I made my way up the steps toward the small, yet comfortable lobby, and it was then that I realized Mission Inn was unlike any other resort I'd visited to date.
I started by touring several of the resort's guest rooms, and was a fan of what I found inside. The rooms have all had recent renovations to their bathrooms and bedding, and the resort is currently in the process of installing flat screen TV's throughout the property. The suites featured a great wet bar area, perfect for those looking to entertain guests, or just guys like me who like to play bartender on vacation. All of the rooms have a screened lanai overlooking the resort's two golf courses, where I could no doubt burn an entire day reading a good book.
Speaking of golf, Mission Inn is home to two championship courses: El Campeon and Las Colinas. I previewed both with the resort's golf professional, and in the end I really wish I had brought my clubs. Las Colinas is the resort's newest course, designed by Gary Koch, and fits the mold of most designs found today. El Campeon is the original course at Mission Inn, and appeals strongly to the golf purist in me. The course has a great deal of character and elevation change, both of which are hard to find in more modern designs. On El Campeon, good shots will be rewarded, and poor ones will receive their due punishment...just the way I like it.
Next I made my way through Mission Inn's spa, Marabella. The spa was built about three years ago, and offers a wide array of treatments for men and women alike. The couples massage treatment room was especially impressive with its attached lanai and amazing shower straight out of the Kohler commercial. No doubt the spa offers the perfect oasis for those looking to unwind, or for a wife that has been abandoned by her golfing husband.
As I made my way around the resort, perhaps the thing that struck me more than any other were its beautiful grounds. Everything throughout the property is lush and perfectly manicured, and everywhere I turned there was a staff member tending to some form of greenery. It is clear that Mission Inn places a high priority on the condition of its grounds, so it is of little surprise that the resort is a popular choice for outdoor weddings and other functions.
Earlier I said that the location of Mission Inn was a slice of Old Florida, yet in many ways the same can be said about the resort itself. By investing in the update of their rooms, the construction of Spa Marabella, and the tireless maintenance of their golf courses and grounds, Mission Inn is moving forward to the future, while still holding onto their roots in the past. This great state is littered with resorts that have seen the hourglass of time pass them by. Not so with Mission Inn, where one can get a taste of what Florida once was, without sacrificing the modern amenities of a great resort.
In summary, Mission Inn is a wonderful place, but it is fair to say it's not for everyone. If you need a pool with a lazy river, or a vast expanse of marble also known as the lobby, then Mission Inn may not be the place for you. However, if you are a couple in need of a weekend filled with serenity, or a bride in search of the perfect destination wedding, then it's my suggestion that you consider a visit to the Mission Inn Resort.
Enjoy Your Stay