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Tips and Tricks for a Successful Scallop Season in 2017

Another Crystal River summer is upon us, and that means that we are right around the corner from another scallop season. Chasing down bay scallops is one of the most popular summer pastimes here in Citrus County, and we have covered the topic multiple times before with details on the rules of scalloping

 https://www.citrushills.com/blog/florida-scalloping-season-is-here

and some of the popular local scallop charter companies.

https://www.citrushills.com/blog/e58ymh4fit01rhy53qk5vonaoc40q9

This year, scallop season kicks off on July 1 and runs through September 24. If you are an experienced scallop hunter, that is pretty much all you need to know. But if you are new to this kind of adventure, or would like to improve your game, we have put together a few tips and tricks that will help you impress your fellow scallopers over the course of the summer.

Understand the Rules

The first trick to being a great scallop hunter is knowing exactly what the rules and regulations are when you are out collecting these delicious shellfish. First and foremost, you must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License prior to collecting any scallops, unless you go scalloping with one of our local fishing charter companies.

You also need to be aware that there is a daily limit on how many scallops you can collect. This year's scallopers are restricted to only two gallons of scallops in their shells, or one pint of actual scallop meat. There is no restriction on the size of the scallops, but the limits on volume are very precise.

Bring the Right Equipment

Most commercial tools are not permitted for recreational scalloping. The preferred container for most scallop hunters is a simple mesh bag, which you can find at a number of different retailers throughout Citrus County. You will also want to have diving equipment that you are comfortable working with in shallow waters.

If you don't have your own equipment, you might consider signing up for a scallop excursion with one of the local charter companies that provide all of the equipment you will need.

Know Where to Look

 

If you have the benefit of heading out with a local charter company, you will likely be working with an experienced guide who will take you right to the best scallop locations.

However, if you are working on your own, you should know that scallops prefer to make their homes in grassy areas that range from four to eight feet of water.

 

 

Practice Your Diving

Whether you are navigating a boat or diving yourself, you should always be alert to diving flags. These are your best clue to avoid running into other divers in more ways than one. In addition to dive flags, you should also make every effort to practice diving prior to heading out looking for scallops.

Diving gear can take some time to get used to, and you don't want to waste any time on your scalloping adventure figuring out how to best fit your new mask.

Study Scallop Shucking

If you are going scalloping on your own, you are going to have to shuck them yourself. This is not difficult once you learn how, but learning can be a difficult task if you don't have the right teacher.

Spend a few minutes before your trip refreshing yourself on the basics so that you don't end up with a big bag of scallops and no clue how to shuck them.

Once again, if you are heading out with a charter tour, your guide will likely take care of the shucking for you. But it never hurts to have a little background information before you hit the water!

No matter how much scalloping you plan to do this summer, having a solid base of knowledge before you start will make the entire experience more enjoyable.

Once you have the basics down, the only thing left is to learn how to make a good seasoning and locating a great cast iron skillet to cook the day’s haul!

Where to Retire Magazine Names Citrus Hills a Top 50 Community

We are proud to announce that the Villages of Citrus Hills has once again made Where to Retire Magazine's list of the "Top 50 Best Master-Planned Communities in the United States." The magazine spends more than a full year researching this list, which comes out in their summer edition every other year, so we are thrilled to announce that we have made the cut once again!

Where to Retire describes itself as "America's foremost authority on retirement relocation," so they definitely know their stuff when it comes to featuring the best of the best master-planned communities. The magazine was established in 1992, and it has since helped more than 700,000 Americans locate the perfect destination for their retirement.

This year's "Top 50 Best Master-Planned Communities in the Unites States" article points out that the competition among active adult communities is tougher than ever. There are more and more communities boasting popular amenities like pools, trails, and fitness centers, as well as dog parks, communal gardens, and the availability of green homes. With such fierce competition, it is truly an honor to be included on the magazine's short list of the very best of the best communities.

In addition to all of the standard amenities that you will find across all of the very best master-planned communities, the article also points out that Citrus Hills offers exceptional year-round weather and a location that offers quick access to the Gulf Coast and a number of beautiful parks, which makes outdoor activities extremely accessible. It also highlights the brand new PrimoVito Fitness Center, our four stunning golf courses, and all of the fun you can have with friends at the Tiki Bar!

Residents Fred and Meg Spurlock were quoted in the feature describing what it was that sold them on relocating to the Villages of Citrus Hills. For them, it was all about escaping the traffic around their Maryland home for the quiet and relaxing atmosphere of Florida's Nature Coast. The article also highlighted the fact that Fred enjoys the amenities like exercise classes while Meg is involved in painting classes and a number of women's groups.

One of the more interesting requirements for making the Where to Retire list was that all of the featured communities had to have plenty of room to maintain their current growth. With only 1,680 of the 2,500 planned homes currently built, there is still plenty of room for our community to expand for years to come.

While we are incredibly honored to be featured among the very best of the best master-planned communities, anyone who currently calls the Villages of Citrus Hills home already knows that the community delivers everything it promises and more.

Weekend Trip: Fort Lauderdale

Known for both its beaches and its shopping, Fort Lauderdale is a popular vacation destination for people from all over the country. With inexpensive flights from almost everywhere in the country, the area has built itself into a magnet for tourists, which also makes it a very appealing weekend getaway destination for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Residents can get to Fort Lauderdale by traveling through Orlando, and then heading further east as they move south, eventually passing through Port St. Lucie, West Palm Beach, and Boca Raton. The total trip from the Villages of Citrus Hills to Fort Lauderdale is just a little over four hours, which is a perfect distance for a weekend getaway that is just far enough away to get you out of your day-to-day routine.

Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale

One of the things that makes Fort Lauderdale such a great weekend getaway destination is that there is no shortage of fantastic hotels to choose from. If elegant East Coast luxury is what you are looking for, The Pillars Hotel is the perfect choice for your trip. Here you will find all of the attention to detail that you expect from one of the major hotel chains in the package of a small boutique operation.

The Pillars Hotel

The Pillars Hotel

Another excellent beachfront getaway is Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, which is located right at the center of just about everything you might want to do in Fort Lauderdale. Not only are there plenty of eating and drinking options right on the hotel property, but it is also completely surrounded by popular local hotspots.

The most popular hotel for value shoppers is almost always The Premiere Hotel. Just about everything here is recently updated…except for the prices. So, if you are looking to visit Fort Lauderdale on a budget, this is the way to do it.

Things to do in Fort Lauderdale

Everything in Fort Lauderdale is focused on the water, and the activities you will stumble onto here are no different. The most popular activity in town is simply kicking back on the beach, but you will also find plenty of other interesting water-based ideas like hopping on local cruises, boat tours, and water taxis.

When you are ready for a break from the beach, Las Olas Boulevard offers world-class shopping that ranges from high-end fashion to hand-made crafts. And you can find a lot more than just shopping along Las Olas. This area is also home to a number of fabulous art galleries, as well as plenty of spectacular bars and restaurants.

Still looking for more to do in Fort Lauderdale? You might want to check out some of the local museums like the Bonnet House Museum, the Stranahan House, the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, or the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum.

Places to Eat in Fort Lauderdale

If you are serious about sticking to a reasonable budget over the course of your weekend getaway, you won't have much trouble doing that with all of the extremely affordable dining throughout Fort Lauderdale.

Crepe lovers will definitely want to spend a morning at Voo La Voo Cafe, and anyone who likes sushi or Thai food will surely want to stop by Sushi One Take Out and Thai on the Beach. Another discount option for a great dinner that will surely fill you up is Dolce Salato Pizza & Gelato.

If the budget does permit you to splurge on a special dinner, restaurants like Cafe Seville and Canyon provide the perfect setting for the type of meal that will help you remember your weekend in Fort Lauderdale for years to come.

Cafe Seville

Cafe Seville

Since Fort Lauderdale is such a popular vacation destination, there is plenty to see and do to keep you busy for multiple weekend getaways. And with the great prices on hotels and restaurants that you will find here, you can make it a point to spend a weekend in Fort Lauderdale on a regular basis!

Weekend Trip: Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Resort in Hollywood, Florida

The state of Florida is packed with great destinations for a weekend getaway, but you will be hard-pressed to find a more intriguing choice than Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Resort in Hollywood Florida.

This brand-new resort opened at the end of 2016, and is already receiving rave reviews on TripAdvisor. If you are looking for the perfect destination to exercise your "License to Chill," then start planning a weekend in Margaritaville.

Getting to Margaritaville

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Resort is located in beautiful Hollywood, Florida, which is just a bit south of Fort Lauderdale. Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills can drive there in about four and a half hours by taking the Florida Turnpike passing just south of Orlando as they head east across the state and then following the same road south through Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale right into Hollywood.

Entering Paradise

You'll know you’ve arrived someplace special the minute you step into the Margaritaville lobby, where you will find the perfect decor that includes a large blue sandal sculpture, margarita glass chandeliers, and antique surfboards that are part of Buffet's private collection.

From there, you will make your way up to one of the resort's 349 rooms that all feature spacious balconies and views of either the Atlantic Ocean or the Intercostal Waterway.

 

 

Margaritaville Dining

Guests at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Resort have the option to enjoy any of eight different dining options on the property. Included are the JWB Prime Steak and Seafood Restaurant for a more upscale experience, the classic Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and LandShark Bar & Grill restaurant for the more traditional Parrot Head experience.

In addition to those three full-service restaurants, guests can also grab a bite to eat and enjoy the stunning views from the License to Chill Bar on the 11th floor of the resort. As you make your way around the property, you will also find the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill near the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Boat Dock on the Intercostal Waterway side, and the Lone Palm Beach Bar over on the beach side. There is also the Floridays Airstream Cafe or the Margaritaville Coffee Shop.

Wasting Away in Margaritaville

Kicking back with a cold drink in hand is probably the most popular activity at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Resort, but there are plenty of other things to do.

On the Intercostal Waterway side, you will find the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Boat Dock where you can rent stand-up paddleboards to take out on the water. If you want a bit more action, there is the FlowRider surfing simulator over on the beach side. Guests can also spend time exploring the famous Hollywood Beach Boardwalk or the excellent shopping on nearby Las Olas Boulevard.

At the end of the day, Margaritaville is all about music, and the resort offers plenty of that as well. Between the stages at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Restaurant, the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill, and the Landshark Bar & Grill, there is almost always live music happening somewhere on the resort. And in case that isn't impressive enough, the resort has also taken over the nearby Hollywood Bandshell, where it hosts all kinds of music events.

When you are ready to kick back with some boat drinks and enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere for a weekend, changing your latitude is the key to changing your attitude. And since this fabulous destination is located not too far away from the Villages of Citrus Hills, you might want to think about making this weekend trip a regular event! Just don't spend your whole trip searching for that lost shaker of salt!

June Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and we are heading straight into the heart of summer here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. This is typically the time of year where things slow down a bit for us, but you will be happy to learn that there are still a lot of great things planned for the month of June.

On top of all the fun activities and events happening, there is also going to be some construction activity over at BellaVita as the entire fitness facility is scheduled to get a major upgrade. The construction is expected to last about two weeks, and the facility will look brand new when everything is finished.

Let's take a closer look at some of the exciting events and activities that the Activity Center staff has planned for the month of June!

Social Events

We're going to be starting off the month of June on a festive note with the Bella Notte Italiana Dinner Show on Thursday, June 1 in the Hampton Room. The menu for this event will feature Chicken Parmesan, Baked Lasagna, and Sausage and Peppers. There will also be classic Italian music entertainment from Duo Romantico following dinner.

Mentalist Eric Anderson will be performing in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, June 6. Members attending this event will be treated to a unique blend of magic, comedy, and mind tricks that will include some amazing sleight of hand tricks and fire eating. Doors open at 6:30 pm and the show starts at 7 pm!

This month's installment of Flicks & Floats is scheduled for Friday, June 16. Members and guests will be gathering around the pool to watch the hysterical Central Intelligence on the big screen. This show starts at 8:30 pm.

The Brain Trust were the big winners at last month's Trivia Challenge, but that title will be up for grabs again this month on Tuesday, June 20. If you think you have what it takes to take the trivia title, get your team together and we'll see you at the challenge!

The Tiki Bar is hosting a Singles Social Happy Hour for all of the singles in our community from 4-6 pm on Tuesday, June 27. If you are looking to meet other singles, this is a perfect opportunity to have some fun and do just that!

Golf & Tennis

June isn't typically a busy month on our golf courses, but there are three big tournaments that you definitely want to participate in this month.

The action starts with the Summer Open Tournament on the Citrus Hills course on June 3. Then the Skyview course will be hosting the two-day Men's Pinehurst Major Championship Event on June 12-13 and the U.S. Impossible Tournament on Saturday, June 17.

If you are looking to make some improvements to your game this month, golf pro Wayne Larsen will be hosting free clinics for beginners on June 5, 6, and 7. Then he will be back to work with intermediate golfers on June 13, 20, and 27.

There will also be a Free Beginners Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, June 13 at 11 am.

Dinner Specials

The Belmont Stakes is scheduled for June 10 this year, and The Grille is celebrating the race by hosting a "Belmont Steaks" viewing party. They will have choice cut grilled New York Strip Steaks with Rosemary and Parmesan on special for $15.

Both Skyview Restaurant and The Grille will be hosting Father's Day specials on Sunday, June 18. Skyview will be having a traditional brunch buffet, and The Grille will be serving steak and seafood dinners from 5-8 pm.

Tuesday, June 20 is going to be New Orleans night at Skyview Restaurant. Entrees for this special night will include Cornish Game Hens, Roasted Red Snapper, Chicken Clemenceau, and Filet Medallions.

The Tiki Bar will be having a Taste of the Islands special on Tuesday, June 29 that will feature Jerk Chicken, Fried Red Snapper, and Bahama-Momma Pork, along with live entertainment courtesy of Island Girl Bickley Rivera.

If you should happen to find any extra time to pamper yourself during the month of June, you will definitely want to take advantage of specials like the Aromatic Rose and Jasmine Facial and the Refreshing Citrus Massage that will be available all month long.

Make sure you take a few minutes to write all of the events and activities that interest you on your calendar and have a great month of June!

Memorial Day Cookout: 6 Grill Ideas That Blow the Burger Out of the Water

Thanks to the great climate in Florida, we have the luxury of keeping our grills out all year round here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. But there is just something about Memorial Day Weekend that gives all of us the itch to break out the tongs and fire up the charcoal.

Most backyard cookouts feature some combination of hamburgers and hot dogs. If you are looking for a new idea to set your big holiday party apart from all of the others, we’ve got five grill ideas that will blow those burgers and hot dogs right out of the water. Let's fire up the grill!

Baby Back Ribs

Hamburgers and hot dogs are the most popular cookout foods because they are among the easiest things to throw together in a hurry. But when you really want to impress your guests, pork ribs are the way to do it.

The key to making the best ribs in town is to take your time and cook them low and slow. If you can get your grill down below 225 degrees, you can cook them right there for five or six hours.

Alternatively, you can cook them in the oven for the first five hours and then move them out to the grill for the finishing touches.  One of the most important things to remember when prepping your ribs is that you always want to make sure to remove the thin membrane on the bone side of the meat. This will allow all of the flavor from the rub, sauce, and smoke to work its way right into the meat.

Steaks

Throwing a nice Ribeye or T-bone steak on the grill is always going to be looked at as an upgrade from your basic hamburger, but many people are intimidated by the different levels of doneness that each of their guests might prefer.

Understanding the subtle differences between medium rare, medium, and medium well can be a challenge, but you can pick up the ultimate cheat sheet for that challenge in the form of a meat thermometer for just a few dollars.   Many newer thermometers have the regions for different levels of doneness marked right on them.

 

So, with your new thermometer in hand, you can feel confident that you are serving steaks to your guests exactly how they like them!

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapeños

You can also get creative on the grill with appetizers.  One popular idea is to take halved jalapeños that have been stemmed and seeded and stuff them with a mixture of cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese. Wrap the peppers with par-cooked bacon and throw them on the grill until that bacon gets nice and crispy. Your guests will beg you for this simple recipe.

 

Stuffed Turkey Burgers

If you are expecting your guests to be a little more health conscious, you might want to go with turkey burgers instead of hamburgers. You can instantly jazz up this healthy alternative by mixing in any combination of diced vegetables and garlic that you prefer.

Just chop up some peppers, onions, and garlic and mix them in with the ground turkey before you make your patties. If you really want to wow the crowd, add a little BBQ sauce into that mixture too!

BBQ Chicken Thighs

Another food that would be a lot more popular at cookouts if people weren't so intimidated by it is chicken thighs. Where chicken breasts tend to dry out on the grill, the dark meat that you get with a thigh will stay moist for much longer.

Once again, the thermometer is your best friend here. Make sure that you are getting your chicken up to 165 degrees before serving it, but don't go too much further than that!

Chicken thighs are extremely versatile. You can combine all kinds of flavors through different rubs and sauces. So, put out a few different options to give your guests some variety, and they'll still be talking about your chicken at the Fourth of July party.

Shrimp Skewers

And last but not least, seafood.  A very easy addition to the menu and always a crowd pleaser.  Put a few shrimp on a skewer, add a few vegetables if you like, and in a few minutes, they’re ready to eat.  Brush on a little marinade or have dipping sauces out on the table and you’re all set.

 

No matter what you are making, a Memorial Day Barbeque is always a good time with family and friends.  But it’s always fun to try something a little different and to go the extra mile. 

These 6 suggestions just might do the trick!

Day Trip: Ybor City

Ybor City is a historic neighborhood located just northeast of downtown Tampa. Cigar manufacturers founded this amazing little community in the 1880s, and it has a rich history that combines Cuban, Spanish, and Italian influences into a culture that is truly unique. The neighborhood has maintained its sense of history over the years, and that is what makes just walking through this fabulous place so enjoyable.

Spending the day in Ybor City can take you in a number of different directions, but we highly recommend that each of those paths start out with a cafe con leche from one of the local Cuban coffee shops. After that, the choice is yours, but of course we have some suggestions.

The Ybor City Experience

Anyone interested in learning more about the rich history of Ybor City should make it a point to start their day at the Ybor City Museum. Located inside the historic Ferlita Bakery Building, this is where you will find an excellent base of knowledge about Ybor City.

Another must-see destination for history buffs is the Cigar Industry Walking Tour, which will start at the Ybor City Museum and take you through the neighborhood with a tour guide pointing out all of the historic buildings and explaining the role they played when cigar making was at the height of its popularity.

 

Anyone who is a fan of fine art will love spending time at the Hoffman Porges Gallery. The Ybor City Museum Society also runs regular tours that highlight some of the amazing architecture you will find throughout the community. 

The Ybor City Restaurant Scene

With the combination of culture that you will find in Ybor City, it is no surprise that this neighborhood is also known for having some of the best restaurants in all of Tampa.

The local icon here is the Columbia Restaurant, which is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Florida. Started in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant, this restaurant has been serving delicious Spanish and Cuban cuisine for more than 110 years!

 

 

Another favorite Ybor restaurant is La Terrazzo Restaurante Italiano, which focuses on serving Northern Italian classics. If you are craving a perfect Caprese Salad or Scaloppine al Marsala, this is the place you’’ll want to head to.

If you prefer something a little more casual, you might check out Al's Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que, the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, or The Bricks of Ybor. All are known for having excellent food and exceptional service.

The Ybor City Nightlife

Not only is Ybor City known for its history and dining, but the neighborhood is also famous for having an exciting nightlife scene where you can find all kinds of entertainment on just about any night of the week.

On any given night, there will be multiple venues offering a wide range of live music. There are also more formal shows like the Flamenco Show at the Columbia Restaurant, and if you are feeling adventurous you could also look into Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary's!

 

 

 

There are also plenty of restaurants that keep serving late into the night, so you are always going to be able to find something to eat in Ybor City!

No matter what type of adventure you are looking for, there is something for everyone in Ybor City. And since it is located just 85 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, it is the perfect distance for a day trip or an overnight excursion that can be planned on a whim any time you like!

Fresh Air: Great Patio Seating in Citrus County

The summer months are right around the corner, but we don't have to wait for summer to enjoy a meal out on the patio here in Citrus County. Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills enjoy great weather throughout the entire year, and we are always looking for great local restaurants with patio seating.

If you are looking for a new idea for a dinner that involves open-air dining, here are some of our favorite options in Citrus County.

Skyview Restaurant and The Tiki Bar 

No surprise here! Some of the best patio seating options can be found right here inside the Villages of Citrus Hills.

The lanai at Skyview Restaurant overlooking the 18th green of the Skyview course is a wonderful spot to relax with your favorite beverage, friends, and take in a breathtaking sunset.

 

And then there’s the Tiki Bar at The Grille, a resident favorite with live music, a great menu, and handcrafted drinks to satisfy any thirst. It's 4,500 square feet of fun with spectacular sunsets thrown in at no charge!

 

 

Peck's Old Port Cove

Any list featuring local restaurants with excellent outdoor seating in Citrus County has to include Peck's Old Port Cove. This popular spot has been serving up delicious seafood at the end of North Ozello Trail for years, and the stunning view from their patio never gets old.  In addition to the perks of dining on their patio, guests at Peck's also get to see some beautiful scenery as they make their way out to the restaurant. This makes the trip out feel like a vacation, even though it's not very far from home.

 

Stumpknockers Restaurant

Another local seafood restaurant that is also known for their waterfront view and outdoor seating is Stumpknockers Restaurant, located right on the banks of the Withlacoochee River.

This is a popular destination for tourists who are heading out on boat tours, but locals know that they also boast one of the most inviting outdoor seating areas in all of Citrus County. We recommend pulling up a chair next to one of their fire pits and enjoying your fried seafood next to the fire.

Vintage on 5th

When it's time to celebrate a special occasion, Vintage on 5th is one of the classiest options in all of Citrus County. But many people make the mistake of dining inside, rather than out on their porch.  The food is going to blow your mind no matter where you sit, but adding the excitement of eating outside takes the Vintage on 5th experience to an even higher level.

 

 

 

McLeod House Bistro

Another fine dining favorite in Citrus County is McLeod House Bistro, where you will find entrees like Boursin Raspberry Stuffed Chicken and Pan Seared Duck Breast with a Port Wine and Berry Sauce.  In addition to their fantastic food, McLeod House Bistro offers a romantic outdoor dining experience on their deck sitting under the stars.

 

 

Margarita Breeze

The place to be for a great sunset is this riverfront spot offering views of Kings Bay.  Keep your eyes open for a glimpse of the dolphins and manatees that play in the bay.  The casual outside seating includes a tiki bar and a large covered patio with a menu featuring fresh seafood, pasta and steaks.

Whether you are looking for the best views in Citrus County, some fantastic high-end dining options, or a quick bite to eat at a local picnic table, there are all kinds of restaurants with outdoor seating to choose from in Citrus County. The best way to decide which one is your favorite is to make sure to visit all of them!

May Activities & Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

may-calendar-600x400.jpg

The month of May has arrived, and the official start of the summer is right around the corner! Like every month here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, the Activity Center has gone above and beyond to make sure that our calendars are absolutely packed with fun and exciting things to do.

This month, residents have the opportunity to take part in some fantastic social events. There are also three big golf tournaments spread out across the month, not to mention the delicious dinner specials that Skyview Restaurant, The Grille, and the Tiki Bar have planned for the coming weeks.

Let's take a closer look at some of the activities and events for the month of May!

 

Social Events

The Speaker Series will be welcoming back B.J. Jarvis and Steven Davis. They will share the stage and lead discussions on how to make sure that you are creating the most Florida-friendly landscape possible surrounding your house.

The Hampton Room is the place to be on Wednesday, May 10. Singer, impressionist, and comedian Donna Moore will be performing her famous impersonations of all of your favorite divas like Marilyn Monroe, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and Cher! Dinner for this event starts at 6:30 pm with the show following at 7:15 pm.

This month's Trivia Challenge will take place on Tuesday, May 16. "The Crocs" were the big winners last month, but the May challenge is anyone's game!

Friday, May 19 will be the start of the Flicks & Floats Summertime Movie Series. This fun event combines two of our favorite things: the Activity Center Pool and great movies! This month, the movie will be “Allied”, and you can watch it on the big screen from the pool or one of the surrounding lounge chairs!

Golf & Tennis

There will be a Cinco De Mayo Open tournament on Saturday, May 6 on the Oaks Course. This event early in the month will make a great tune-up for the Men's Better Ball Major Event on May 8 and the Memorial Day Tournament on May 29.

If you need to improve your game, golf pro Wayne Larson will be hosting Free Golf Clinics for beginners on May 1, 2, and 3. Then he will be back for intermediate clinics on May 9, 16, and 23.

This month's Free Beginner's Tennis Clinic is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 at 11 am at the Skyview Tennis Center. If you are considering learning to play tennis over the summer, this is the perfect place to get started.

Dinner Specials

Saturday, May 6 is the Kentucky Derby, and the Tiki Bar is celebrating with a great selection of specialty drinks like the Mint Julep, Grey Goose Oaks Lilly, and Stella Artois Cimosa! Don't forget to break out your best hat for the race!

The Tiki Bar will be hosting Oldies with Elvis night on Thursday, May 11. This fun evening will feature live music from a special guest, as well as drink specials like The Elvis Presley Cocktail, Blue Hawaiian, and A Velvet Elvis.

If you are looking to celebrate Mother's Day on May 14 or Memorial Day on May 29, you can do so by enjoying great meals from either Skyview Restaurant or The Grille on Mother's Day. Then there will be cookout specials at Skyview Restaurant and the Tiki Bar on Memorial Day.

Enjoy the month of May!

Shutterbugs: Everything to Know About the Citrus County Camera Club

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the perfect image is even stronger than that for members of the Citrus County Camera Club.

They are the Art Center of Citrus County's largest club, and they invite photographers of all skill levels to get together monthly to share their passion for the art of photography.

Let's explore everything this popular local club has to offer. 

About the Citrus County Camera Club

The Citrus County Camera Club meets on the first Monday between September and June, except where that Monday falls on a holiday. The meetings start promptly at 6:30 pm and are held in the Arts & Education Building at the Art Center of Citrus County, which is less than 5 minutes from our gate.

Many of these monthly meetings will feature a presentation or discussion about some aspect of photography by a member or a guest speaker. The goal of every meeting is to help all members develop their photography skills at their own pace. There are also many other events held throughout each month where members can attend workshops and seminars to focus in on specific aspects of photography.

Camera Club Photo Contests

One of the most popular aspects of the Citrus County Camera Club is the monthly photo contest. During most months that the club meets, a portion of that meeting will be dedicated to reviewing all of the member entries into that month's contest. Each month has a unique theme, and awards are given to the top three photos.

At the end of the year, the members will vote on a "Best of the Best" award, which is chosen from all of the award-winning photographs taken throughout the year. There are also awards for photographers who win the most merit awards throughout the year. 

Upcoming Events

In addition to the standard monthly meetings, the Citrus County Camera Club has some type of activity planned for just about every other week between the months of September and June. One recent experience that members enjoyed was a three-day field trip to St. Augustine where they had the chance to shoot at Ft. Mantanzas National Park, Anastasia State Park, and an Alligator Farm.

On Monday, April 24, the club took a group field trip to shoot the stunning sunset from the end of Fort Island Trail. There are also Photoshop seminars planned for each of the first four Tuesdays in the month of May.

Camera Club Marketplace

If you are looking to buy or sell any photography equipment, the Citrus County Camera Club makes it easy to do using the Marketplace on their website. This feature is reserved for members who are current on their dues, but can be an excellent way to sell off a lens that is collecting dust or to pick up a new camera from a trusted source at a discounted price. 

Photo Opportunities

Another great feature that can be found right on the Camera Club website is a list of great photo opportunities that you can find all over Citrus County. No matter what you are looking to photograph, there are some great ideas in this list that break down exactly where to go and the best times to shoot there.

Whether you are a seasoned photographer looking to share some of your wisdom or a rookie shutterbug just getting into photography for the first time, the Citrus County Camera Club is a tremendous resource that can help you meet and develop friendships with people who share your passion for photography.

Weekend Getaway: Port Charlotte

Located about halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Port Charlotte is the perfect Gulf Coast destination for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills who are looking to venture a little further south than Tampa for their next getaway.

Traveling by car takes about three hours, which makes it just far enough away to feel like a vacation, but still close enough that you don't spend your whole weekend traveling.

Let's check out some of the best places to stay, things to do, and places to eat that you will find in Port Charlotte!

Places to Stay in Port Charlotte

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One of the biggest appeals about a weekend in Port Charlotte is that visitors have some amazing bed and breakfast accommodations to choose from. The Banana Bay Waterfront Motel is a local favorite that offers an Old Florida feel situated right on the bay. If renting kayaks and strolling along the docks is your idea of a relaxing weekend, this is a great location.

Another popular B&B is the Tropical Paradise Bed & Breakfast, where hosts Cliff and Joanne go out of their way to make sure that every detail is taken care of. Their home is located on a beautiful lot that features a covered pool and access to the canal.

If your preference is to stay at one of the chain hotels, there are also quite a few of those to pick from in Port Charlotte. One of the highest rated hotels in town is the Sleep Inn & Suites Port Charlotte, where you will find a gorgeous outdoor pool and all of the other amenities you would expect from a big brand hotel.

Things to Do in Port Charlotte

Once you iron out the details of where you are going to stay in Port Charlotte, the next step is to figure out exactly what you are going to be doing during your weekend getaway. For many people, that choice is as simple as enjoying the water…and there are a few different ways to do that in Port Charlotte. Depending on where you stay, you will likely have access to a number of water sports, fishing piers, and even some boating experiences.

Another relaxing way to enjoy the water in Port Charlotte is to spend a day at Port Charlotte Beach Park. Here you can stroll on the boardwalk, collect a wide range of shells, or jump right into the water! The park is also a perfect place to have an evening picnic while watching the sunset.

Since Port Charlotte is the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, many residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills plan their visits during the early spring months. However, Port Charlotte is also home to the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs, which is a minor-league affiliate of the Rays. That means that you can catch a game here throughout the summer, and minor league baseball games are always fun to see in person!

Places to Eat in Port Charlotte

Assuming that you are going to be staying at one of the local bed and breakfasts, you probably won't have to worry about finding a good spot for coffee and breakfast in the morning. But when the time for lunch rolls around, The Philadelphian should be the first local restaurant on your list. Here you will find authentic Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks that will absolutely blow your mind.

If you are thinking about heading over to Port Charlotte Beach Park for a sunset picnic but don't feel like packing dinner, grabbing a delicious pie from Pioneers Pizza is always a solid option. We recommend going with either the Formaggio or the Meat Lovers specials!

Every weekend getaway needs at least one fancy dinner, and the place for that in Port Charlotte is JD's Jazz Club & Fine Dining. Here you will find a first-class fine dining menu that is accompanied perfectly by live music and delicious cocktails. The only question here is whether you will get more enjoyment from the food or the music!

If you are looking for a great place to spend a relaxing weekend, Port Charlotte along the bay, is filled with waterfront activities and delicious dining.

 

Weekend Getaway: The Upper and Middle Keys

There’s no place like home here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but it’s nice to get away every now and then, and when the time comes there is nothing quite like a getaway to the Florida Keys.

While we have already covered all kinds of great places to stay, things to do, and outstanding restaurants in Key Largo and Key West, there are also dozens of spots in between those destinations that also make for a great weekend getaway.

So, let's explore the Upper and Middle Keys.

Where to Stay

Islamorada is one of the most popular places to stop for many tourists making the journey from the mainland all the way down to Key West, but it is also a destination in and of itself. Here you will find the Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina, which offers every bit of the paradise you would imagine exists in the Keys. With all of the resort amenities offered at the Postcard, this is a one-stop shop for a weekend getaway.

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If you are looking for a more secluded getaway, Duck Key could be the perfect destination for you. The place to stay here is the Hawks Cay Resort, which offers standard hotel-style rooms, as well as more private villas.

If being as close to the beach as possible is important to you, then the Rainbow Bend Fishing Resort in Marathon should be on your short list. This is also the place to stay if you are looking to spend the weekend fishing, which is one of the many ways to enjoy yourself in the Keys.

Things to Do

Craft beer lovers will be thrilled to know that there are two different breweries located right in Islamorada. Both the Florida Keys Brewery and the Islamorada Beer Company Brewery and Tasting Room offer up a fantastic selection of local beer in a traditional Florida Keys atmosphere.

Another fun way to spend a weekend in the Keys is to get right into the water. In Duck Key, you will find swimming with dolphins, scuba diving, and chartering your own fishing expedition. No matter what you are looking to do on the water, there are plenty of choices in the Keys.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Marathon for animal lovers is The Turtle Hospital.  They have been rehabbing injured sea turtles and educating the public about them since 1986, and it is consistently recommended among the top places for animal enthusiasts to visit in all of the Keys.

Places to Eat

When you are heading out to eat in the Keys, the atmosphere is almost as important as the food. One of the best places to find that environment in Islamorada is the Islamorada Fish Company, where you will find a massive outdoor restaurant with a menu full of great seafood. We recommend trying the Grouper Reuben!

Whether you are staying there or not, the place to eat in Duck Key is Alma, which is located on the property at Hawks Cay Resort. This high-end restaurant divides its menu evenly between local seafood dishes and excellent cuts of meat, and everything is delicious.

In addition to all of the excellent seafood, you will also find plenty of Cuban restaurants throughout the Keys. One of our favorite spots is La Nina Restaurant in Marathon. It might not look like much from the outside, but this little restaurant will blow you away with their Cuban pork and beef dishes.

You can find ways to spend an entire weekend exploring any single town in the Upper and Middle Keys. You can also have a blast cruising from key to key in search of specific destinations. Whatever your idea of a great weekend might be, you can make it a reality in the Florida Keys.

April Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

We are already cruising into the month of April here in 2017. They say that April showers bring May flowers, but here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we shoot for great weather every day no matter what month it is, and we don't expect April to be any different.

If you are looking for some fun and exciting ways to fill your calendar this month, the Activity Center staff has put together another schedule that is packed with interesting invitations.

Let's check out some of the fun activities and events coming up!

Social Events

One of the first social events this month is the Broadway & Beyond Dinner Show on Thursday, April 6 in the Hampton Room. Doors for this event open at 5 pm, and a dinner featuring Boursin-Stuffed Chicken Breast and Sliced Prime Rib is scheduled for 5:30 pm. After dinner, Mary Jo Vitale will take the stage to perform a selection of Broadway hits and some light opera classics.

Speaking of opera, the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club will be sponsoring a trip to the opera in Tampa on Sunday, April 9. This trip to the Straz will be for the matinee performance of Giacomo Puccini's famous Tosca.

There will be a special Seder Dinner event on Monday, April 10 in the Windsor Room. The menu for this meal will feature a choice of Beef Brisket or Roasted Chicken, as well as Matzo Ball Soup, Tsimis, Kugel, Green Beans, and Sponge Cake.

Another holiday tradition happening at the Villages of Citrus Hills this month is the annual Easter Egg Hunt in the Hampton Room that is scheduled for Saturday, April 15 at 9 am. This is a great event to bring your grandchildren, as there will be face painting, coloring stations, a magic show, and even an appearance by the Easter Bunny himself.

The Brentwood Bullies were the winners of the February Trivia Challenge, but that title is up for grabs again on Tuesday, April 18. If you think you have the skills to take down the champs, put together your team and we'll see you in the Hampton Room!

Arts & Education

It's going to be a busy month for the Speaker Series, and it will kick off on Tuesday, April 4 with a talk led by representatives of The Greener Side Haven. They will be talking about the different ways that your pet trusts you, and also giving some information about their work in rescuing abused animals.

Wednesday, April 12 will be another pet-related Speaker Series event. This one features Dr. Victoria Schad and Dr. Alli Fritz discussing topics about common behavioral issues and the importance of non-core vaccines.

Ricky Barlow from Merrill Lynch Bank of America and Susan Wood from Pacific Life will be in the Activity Center Auditorium on Wednesday, April 19 discussing all of the ins and outs regarding social security benefits and how to make the best financial decisions during your retirement years.

The final education event of the month is more of a fundraiser. On April 27, there will be an LBDC Benefit Luncheon in the Garden Room. The special guest speaker will be Cardiologist Nishant K. Newell, MD. $5 of each ticket sold for this event will benefit the American Heart Association.

Golf & Tennis

The two big golf events scheduled for April are the 2017 Skyview Men's Match Play Championship on April 3 and 4, and the Citrus Hills Ladies' Club Championship on April 17 and 18. Both of these events are the type of tournament that our serious golfers have been planning for all winter.

If you are looking for a more relaxed golf event, the Jelly Bean Open is scheduled for an 8:30 am start on Saturday, April 8 on The Oaks course. Make sure you bring your Easter Bunny ears for this one!

Anyone looking to improve their golf game can take advantage of the Free Golf Clinics with Golf Pro Wayne Larsen. This month, Wayne will be helping beginners on April 3, 4, and 5. Then he will be helping intermediate golfers on April 11, 18, and 25.

Over at the Skyview Tennis Center, there will be a Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, April 11. Then you can put those skills to work at the Tennis Burger Bash mixed doubles tournament on Sunday, April 30.

Dinner Specials

The biggest dinner special of the month is going to be the Easter Dinner at Skyview Restaurant and The Grille. On Sunday, April 16, Skyview will be serving delicious a la carte meals from 12 pm to 5 pm. During that same time, The Grille will be hosting a fabulous buffet featuring Prime Rib, Baked Ham, Chicken, and Salmon.

Tuesday, April 11 will also be a big night for dinner specials here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. Skyview Restaurant will be serving a special Surf & Turf menu, while The Grille is having their Wild Game Night.

BellaVita  

If you can find some time for yourself during the busy month of April, you might also want to check out specials like the Revitalizing Cream Peel Facial and the Shellac Spa Manicure at BellaVita Spa.

We hope you have a wonderful month full of fun and excitement!

Spring Fitness: 7 BellaVita Classes You Should Try This Spring

Spring has officially arrived here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, and that means it’s the perfect time of year to be thinking about fitness and exercise. If you are looking to ramp up your workout schedule in the coming months, the BellaVita Spa & Fitness Center has a class schedule that can fit just about anyone’s exercise style and schedule.

All of the classes at BellaVita are absolutely free for members to attend, but are restricted to members only. They are usually about an hour long, and most don’t require you to bring anything other than a pair of shoes and a positive attitude…and there are even some where you won’t need the shoes!

If you would like to expand your exercise horizons this spring, we have picked out seven interesting classes that you might want to consider!

Aquacise

If joint pain has prevented you from doing any type of aerobic exercise in the past, you absolutely have to try aquacise. This is a shallow water exercise class that takes place in the pool to limit the impact and stress on your joints. All fitness levels are welcome for this one, and all you need to bring is a bathing suit.

Group Circuit Training

For some people, the social aspect of exercising is just as important as the physical aspect. If you happen to be one of those people, you will fit right in at the Group Circuit Training class. Members participating in this class enjoy the upbeat music pulsing in the background as they make their way through a series of strength training and cardiovascular machines that are designed to provide a full body workout.

Line Dancing

Not all exercise has to feel like exercise. One of the exciting classes you will find at BellaVita are the line dancing sessions, which are available for beginners, intermediate, and advanced dancers. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet or have been dancing for years, instructor Pam Hall will be sure to get the absolute best out of you once you are out on her dance floor!

Spinning

Riding a stationary bike was never very much fun back in the day. Most of us had one in our basement that just sat around collecting dust. But since the concept of spinning has injected new life into those bikes, everyone loves participating in this great cardio workout. Make sure you bring a towel for this one, because you are definitely going to work up a sweat!

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese practice uses rhythmic exercises to tone and strengthen muscles. As a tremendous side benefit, Tai Chi does an amazing job at reducing stress. It is also known for increasing flexibility, energy, and relaxation, so what’s not to like, right?

Yoga

Speaking of stretching and relaxation, there are multiple types of yoga classes happening at BellaVita throughout the week. Members can participate in Gentle & Healing Yoga, Restorative Yoga, or Classic Yoga for beginners. No matter what stage you are at in your practice, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yoga at BellaVita.

Zumba

If you are looking for a more upbeat form of aerobic exercise, it doesn’t get any better than Zumba. These high-energy classes feature motivating music and unique dance moves that let you get a workout in while having a blast. This is also a fun way to get to know some of your neighbors in a positive environment.

BellaVita Spa & Fitness Center offers an astounding number of different exercise classes that take place throughout the week. For the most updated schedule of classes, check out their page on the Club Happenings website, or just swing by BellaVita in person and pick up a copy. Have fun!

Fish Fridays: 5 Local Seafood Restaurants to Visit During Lent

No matter what your religious affiliation, almost everyone can appreciate a good fish fry. And while many religions require a meatless diet on Fridays during forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, just as many non-religious people participate in the tradition simply because seafood is delicious.

The restaurants within the Villages of Citrus Hills have great seafood entrees available every Friday. There are also many great restaurants in Citrus County serving a great fish Friday, so we’ve pulled together a list of five seafood restaurants for you to try.  

There are so many in our area we’ll probably have to do a listing every month.

Seafood Seller & Cafe

The Seafood Seller & Cafe has a casual atmosphere and is located inside the Crystal River Mall, where they anchor the food court. They stay one of the most popular seafood restaurants in all of Citrus County.

If you’ve never visited before, you will not believe the quality of the food that can be found at the mall! One of the signature items to try is the Blue Crab Balls, but everything on the menu is fantastic. Other popular selections include the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos, Blackened Grouper Dinner, Oyster Po Boy Sandwiches, and Crawfish!

Peck’s Old Port Cove

If you like your seafood to come with a view, Peck’s Old Port Cove at the end of the scenic Ozello Trail is the perfect destination. Here you can pull up a chair overlooking the water of Crystal Bay right in the heart of Crystal River Preserve State Park.

Soft Shell Blue crabs are one of the specialties here, and Peck’s does an appreciable job of sautéing them in plenty of butter. They also serve a delicious fried seafood platter.

Stumpknockers on the River

Another renowned fish spot in Citrus County is Stumpknockers on the River. This locally owned restaurant sits right on the Withlacoochee River, and their most popular specialty is the Fried Catfish Dinner. There are many Lent-friendly entrees on their menu, like the Peel & Eat Shrimp, Stuffed Flounder, and the Fab 4, which features shrimp, scallops, mussels, and crab legs.

Dan’s Clam Stand

Many people make the mistake of assuming that fried fish is all that there is to eat on Fridays during Lent, but that definitely isn’t the case. At Dan’s Clam Stand, shellfish is their passion. Here you will find amazing deep fried shrimp and clams and wonderful conch fritters.

Katch Twenty-Two

Another common misconception about the Lent season is that the seafood has to be fried and served in an ultra-casual environment. If you are looking to buck that trend and go for something a bit elegant, Katch Twenty-Two is one of Citrus County’s premier seafood restaurants. There is a wide range of options on Chef Richard’s constantly evolving menu, but amazing seafood dishes are always a feature that takes advantage of our location along the Gulf Coast.

The Lenten season stretches out for a total of seven Fridays during the months of March and April this year, but it doesn’t even have to be a Friday during Lent for you to enjoy one of these excellent local seafood restaurants. No matter when you plan to visit, make sure you are hungry when you do

Spring Training 2017 - 6 Teams to Watch Nearby

Spring is one of the busiest times of the year for many of the communities that surround the Villages of Citrus Hills.

We have the pleasure of being located close to the Spring Training homes of six different Major League Baseball teams, so if you are looking for a fun way to spend a day before those teams head north for the summer, here is a little background on each of the six teams you can visit.

New York Yankees - Tampa

The past few seasons have not been kind to the Yankees, but their current rebuild is likely to produce a number of interesting stories to watch at their Spring Training home in Tampa this year. Gone are Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann, which will make room for up-and-comers like catcher Gary Sanchez, who burst onto the scene last year, and first base prospect Greg Bird, who hopes to follow in Sanchez’s footsteps this year.

The Yankees were also active on the free agent market bringing in talented veterans like Aroldis Chapman, Matt Holiday, and Chris Carter, so there should be plenty of pieces to complement the pinstriped youth movement.

Toronto Blue Jays - Dunedin

Last year was supposed to be the year that the Blue Jays returned to the World Series, but those dreams were derailed by the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship series. Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, just getting back to the playoffs is going to be difficult this year after losing Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Saunders, Brett Cecil, Joaquin Benoit, and R.A. Dickey all to free agency.

The team that will be taking the field in Toronto is definitely going to have a lot less firepower this year, but they still have an extremely deep pitching staff. Watching how those arms come around this spring will be able to tell us a lot about what to expect from the Blue Jays in 2017.

Philadelphia Phillies - Clearwater

This is the first spring training in Clearwater without Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard in more than a decade. There hasn’t been much winning for the Phillies in recent years, but things are looking better and better as many of the team’s young prospects like Odubel Herrera have started to produce.

In addition to all of the great young talent the Phillies will be working with this year, they have also added proven commodities like Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders, and Joaquin Benoit through various trades and free agency.

Detroit Tigers - Lakeland

After failing to make the playoffs last season, many experts expected the Detroit Tigers to tear apart their entire roster and start from scratch with a complete rebuild. But as the winter wore on, it became clear that the upper management in Detroit was going to take one more shot with their core in 2017.

Many of the regular Tigers like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, and J.D. Martinez are back in Lakeland this spring getting ready to take one last shot at getting to the World Series together.

Pittsburgh Pirates - Bradenton

Much like the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates are a team that is bringing back the same roster that failed to make the playoffs last year. But the difference between the two clubs is that the team that makes its spring home in Bradenton is much younger.

Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen had a terrible 2016 campaign, and has been dealing with trade rumors all winter long, but he is still on the Pirates roster and might come into the season with a massive chip on his shoulder. Combine that with all of the young talent that fills out the rest of the lineup and there is plenty to watch out for in Bradenton.

Baltimore Orioles - Sarasota

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The Baltimore Orioles had a fantastic year in 2016, but they fell just short at the end and lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card Game. Since then, the O’s have said goodbye to catcher Matt Wieters, as well as Pedro Alvarez, Steve Pearce, Yovani Gallardo, Nolan Reimold, Michael Born, and Vance Worley.

With all of those subtractions, this is going to be a much different lineup in 2017. But the core of sluggers Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo is still intact. New to the Orioles this year are outfielder Seth Smith and catcher Willington Castillo.

Whether you are a baseball junkie or just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, Spring Training games are always relatively inexpensive to attend and can be lots of fun if you know a little bit about what the teams are likely to be working on when you see them.

With this little bit of background, you should be able to have a great time at any of the local games over the next few weeks!

Enjoying a Fabulous Weekend in Winter Park

Winter Park is known for the wild peacocks that roam the old McKean estate.  

Winter Park is known for the wild peacocks that roam the old McKean estate.

 

Located about 15 minutes north of Orlando and a little over 90 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, the town of Winter Park often gets overlooked as a weekend getaway destination. However, if you are looking for a great place to enjoy the arts, history and fine dining, it doesn’t get much better than Winter Park.

Places to Stay in Winter Park 

The Alfond Inn

The Alfond Inn

When looking for a place to stay in Winter Park, The Alfond Inn should definitely be the top option on your list. This boutique hotel offers an interesting experience for art lovers, as the walls of the hotel are decorated with pieces from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which we will get to in a few minutes.

In addition to being an art lover’s dream, The Alfond Inn is also pet friendly, and they offer a number of different packages that include such things as bicycle rentals, boat tour tickets, and picnic lunches to enjoy in one of the local parks.

Park Plaza Hotel

Park Plaza Hotel

While we can’t say enough about The Alfond Inn, staying at the Park Plaza Hotel is also a wonderful experience. The history of this hotel dates back to 1922, so there is plenty to appreciate here as well.

Things to Do in Winter Park

One of the first stops for anyone spending time in Winter Park is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. At the Morse Museum, visitors can spend a day exploring a massive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Morse Museum

Morse Museum

The museum’s permanent collection includes jewelry, pottery, paintings, and different glass works that were designed by Tiffany throughout his career. One of the interesting exhibits you will find here is the chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Located on the campus of Rollins College, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum contains more than 5,000 historic paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs.  Highlights in the Cornell Museum collection include 30 Bloomsbury Group paintings and drawings, and 156 photographs taken by Andy Warhol.

Another place worth a visit in Winter Park is the Kraft Azalea Park. This 11-acre park is the perfect setting for spending a relaxing afternoon outdoors. There are trails and a boat dock if you are into that sort of thing, but most of the people who visit this beautiful green space prefer to simply sit on one of the many benches and enjoy their surroundings.

Scenic Boat Tour

Scenic Boat Tour

Last but not least, the highly-rated Scenic Boat Tour should be near the top of your “To Do” list. This hour-long guided cruise takes passengers through three of the seven lakes and two, narrow manmade canals on the tranquil Winter Park chain of lakes. In addition to the various wildlife, plants, flowers, and trees you’ll encounter along the way, you’ll also see opulent private homes and exquisite estates as you cruise along the shoreline.

Places to Eat in Winter Park

There are dozens of great places to eat in Winter Park, but Prato is one of the few places that has something for everyone. This casual Italian restaurant is all about simplicity, and it doesn’t hurt that they offer seating with a view on their patio. Whether you choose the pizza, pasta, or the Veal Marsala, everything is delicious at Prato.

Prato

Prato

If you are in the mood for unique dining, Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine offers an experience that you will not soon forget. Visitors who are new to Turkish food should definitely consider the Mixed Grill for Two, which allows them to try a variety of chicken and lamb dishes.

Another choice is The Wine Room that offers a classy atmosphere and a tapas menu that will have your mouth watering. And with a name like “The Wine Room,” you know that they are going to have the perfect wine to pair with just about anything you choose to order.

The Wine Room

The Wine Room

With two very unique hotels for lodging, plenty of parks and museums to explore, and some of the best dining you will find anywhere, Winter Park has everything you need for a fabulous weekend getaway. A lot of times people looking to get away in Florida are going to more well-known destinations, this is one that you can have all to yourself!

 

Local Attractions: The Historic Valerie Theatre in Inverness

While most of the buildings you see here at the Villages of Citrus Hills are brand new and state-of-the-art, we are literally surrounded by Old Florida towns that are overflowing with historical significance. One popular local attraction that specializes in taking visitors back in time is the amazing Valerie Theatre in Inverness.

Whether you are attending a live performance or viewing a classic film, the Valerie is one of the most breathtaking theaters you will find anywhere. Located right in the heart of downtown Inverness, the theatre holds a special place in the hearts of just about everyone who lives nearby.

About the Valerie Theatre

The Valerie Theatre was originally built by Pearl G. Maddox between the years of 1926 and 1927. The theatre specialized in showing the silent films that were popular at the time, and admission costs were typically 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. The first film ever shown there was The Only Woman back in 1927.

When movies with sound became popular, Herbert Pittman from Clearwater leased the theatre and installed the necessary technology. Aside from the short time that it was closed for reconstruction after a devastating fire in 1939, the Valerie Theatre operated all the way up until 1987.

In 2009, the building was purchased by the city of Inverness and the entire facility was renovated to create the brand-new Valerie Theatre Cultural Center, which celebrated its grand opening in 2015 and hosts concerts, plays, and movies today.

Events at the Valerie Theatre

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If you are a fan of classic films starring brilliant actors like Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly, and Paul Newman, then the Valerie Theatre is definitely a place that you will be visiting frequently. They show an iconic film each and every Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.

In the month of March Footloose, Dial M for Murder, The Sting, and Singin’ in the Rain will be featured.

There are also a number of exciting live performances that will be gracing the stage of the Valerie Theatre in the coming months. The current schedule lists an upcoming performance by local jazz artist Johny Carlsson on March 25, and four members of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra that are known locally as The Valerie String Quartet on April 29.

Valerie Theatre Information

If you are interested in attending a show at the Valerie Theatre, you can purchase your tickets online right from their website. Tickets are also available at the theatre box office, which is open every Thursday through Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm.

When the date of your show arrives, you can feel comfortable knowing that the dress code at the Valerie Theatre is extremely casual. In most cases, jeans and tennis shoes are considered appropriate attire. And there is always plenty of free parking in the municipal parking lots just off of Courthouse Square.

If you are looking for a great dinner option for before or after a show, you might want to check out one of the excellent nearby restaurants like Little Italy of Inverness Deli, Motor City Pasta Company, or Pine Street Pub.

There aren’t many places you can go where you will find the combination of entertainment and historical significance that you get at the Valerie Theatre in Inverness. So, the next time you are looking for some great entertainment, make sure you check out their website to see what is playing at the Valerie!

March Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

The month of March is known for unpredictable weather in some parts of the country, but here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, the only thing we have to worry about this month is making sure we remember to set all of our clocks forward an hour on Sunday, March 12!

Other than that, we are all set for another fantastic month filled with fantastic events and activities.

Social Events

The first big event of the month will be the Vacationers Club trip to Tampa to see the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New York Rangers on Monday, March 6. There are two seating options available, both include round-trip transportation to the game.

The last Big Show Series event of the year will be held on Tuesday, March 14 in the Activity Center Auditorium. If you are a fan of the Beatles, and particularly Paul McCartney, you will be absolutely blown away by the way that The McCartney Years are able to replicate the McCartney that you remember.

Another fun event that is planned for the month of March is the Party at Gatsby’s in the Hampton Room on Thursday, March 16. Blair Crimmins & The Hookers will be rocking out all of your favorite ragtime hits, and there will be coffee, desserts, and light appetizers served.

The Shabbat Dinner Club will be back in action on Friday, March 24 in the Garden Room at The Grille. Dinner for this event will include your choice of Sliced Sirloin with Mushroom Sauce or Broiled Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce along with side dishes and Key Lime Pie for dessert.

If you thought that the monthly Trivia Challenge was a good time, you won’t believe how much fun we are going to have at the Interactive Game Show Night and Dinner event on Thursday, March 30. There will be a professional game show host on hand to conduct Citrus Hills’ versions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Jeopardy, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, Hollywood Squares, and Deal or No Deal.

Arts & Education

We mentioned last month that you don’t want to miss out on the Paint Your Pet Party at the Crystal River Mall on Saturday, March 4. Residents will be provided with transportation to the event, food and drinks at the event, and all the necessary supplies for a ticket price of $72.

Amy Southgate from Royal Caribbean will be the guest speaker at the quarterly Citrus Hills Vacationers Club meeting on March 23 at 11 am. She will be discussing an upcoming cruise leaving from Boston, as well as their newest monster ship “Oasis of the Seas.”

Dr. Chris Reudink from Pa-C of Citrus Orthopedic & Joint Institute will be speaking at the Wellness Wednesday event on Wednesday, March 29 at 2 pm. The topic of this discussion will be Non-Surgical Patient Care for Spine Health.

Golf & Tennis

The golf month will kick off with the Four-Leaf Clover Open on Saturday, March 4 on The Oaks course. Then, the 2017 Skyview Ladies’ Club Championship will be held on March 8 and 9. And if you are looking to improve your game, Golf Pro Wayne Larsen will be hosting free clinics for beginners on March 6-8, and free clinics for intermediate golfers on March 14, 21, and 28.

The Free Beginner Tennis Clinic will be held on March 14 this month, which will be just in time to get you ready for the Men’s and Women’s Club Doubles Championship on March 10-12. There will also be a Tennis Burger Bash mixed doubles event on March 30.

Dinner Specials

St. Patrick’s Day is on Friday, March 17, and both Skyview Restaurant and The Grille have big specials planned for the occasion. Skyview Restaurant will be serving Corned Beef & Cabbage, Baked Scallop Pie, Bangers & Mash, and Stout Braised Lamb Shank, while The Grille is going to be cooking up Corned Beef & Cabbage, Braised Lamb Shank, Black & Tan Pork, Scallop Pie, and Irish Steak.

As if that wasn’t appetizing enough, Skyview Restaurant is also planning a Clambake special for March 9, a Brazilian Steakhouse Night on March 14, and a Napa Valley Wine Dinner on March 28. Then over at The Grille, there will be a Red-Carpet Night special on March 9 and a Taste of the Pacific Rim special on March 28.

In addition to all of these scheduled activities, you should also make some time this month to stop by BellaVita Spa, where they will be running Spring Forward Facial and Springtime Serenity specials all month long. As usual, if you have questions about any of the activities or events happening this month, be sure to contact the Activity Center Service Desk for more information!

For all the activities and events happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills click below into the link below for our Connections Club Newsletter for March 2017.

http://www.citrushillsgolfandcountryclub.com/userfiles/file/March%202017%20Connections_ONLINE.pdf

 

Weekend Getaway - Marco Island

Located approximately four hours south of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Marco Island is one of the most peaceful and romantic destinations in Florida.

This little island offers fabulous resorts as well as quiet little hideaways, beautiful beaches and exciting Gulf Coast fishing, and some of the most delicious restaurants you will find anywhere. It’s the perfect getaway location for anyone looking to spend a romantic weekend at the beach!

Places to Stay on Marco Island

When you are talking about places to stay on Marco Island, the conversation almost always has to start with the JW Marriot Marco Island Beach Resort. This vacation paradise offers the complete first class experience of Marco Island. They have their own private white sand beach, two private 18-hole golf courses, a fabulous spa, three swimming pools, 10 restaurants, and beautiful state-of-the-art guest rooms. Everything you need for a relaxing weekend getaway will be right at your fingertips here.

Another first-class choice is the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, which is a Mediterranean-themed resort that boasts a wide range of unique amenities like smoothies on the beach and the ringing of “the captain’s bell” at sunset. The hotel also offers an excellent concierge staff that will be happy to arrange dinner reservations at local restaurants or tee times at some of the best golf courses in all of Florida.

If something a little bit simpler is what you are looking for, the friendly people at The Boat House Motel are consistently ranked as one of the very best places to stay on Marco Island according to TripAdvisor. Staying at The Boat House Motel feels more like staying with old friends.

Things to do on Marco Island

Whether you plan to stay at one of the larger resorts or rent a quiet cottage, getting as close to the beach as possible is the name of the game at Marco Island, so spending time kicking back on those beautiful white sand beaches is definitely the most popular thing to do on the island. One of the best beaches around is South Marco Beach, which is a favorite for shelling and strolling along the waterfront.

Another popular way to spend your time in Marco Island is to head out on the open sea for some big- time fishing! There are dozens of local fishing charters that operate just about every day of the week, so ask your hotel staff to recommend their favorite, and you’ll be reeling in a monster in no time at all.

If you are more of a landlubber, the Marco Island Historical Museum is a great way to spend some time away from the water. This cool little museum is free to the public and offers all kinds of interesting insight into the history of the island.

Places to Eat on Marco Island

For a fairly small island, Marco Island is absolutely packed with amazing places to eat! Your first stop on at least one of the mornings you spend there should be Doreen’s Cup of Joe. This is one of the most unique and interesting coffee shops you will ever find. The breakfast menu is delicious, and the coffee is the best you will find north of Cuba.

You are also going to want to stop at The Italian Market and Deli for an afternoon treat. Both the pizza and the subs here are out of this world, and the personality is pretty outstanding too. Owners Jimmy and Susan Barney bring all of the Italian flair of a Brooklyn deli to the island, and they really don’t miss a beat!

 

 

Hidden in a little strip mall is where you will find one of the classiest restaurants on the island. Finn Bistro specializes in fresh fish that is cooked to perfection and plated in a way that makes you love the dish before you taste it. No matter what happens to be on the menu during your visit, you can be sure that it will taste terrific.

No matter what type of lodging, activities, or dining you are looking for, there really is something for everyone here on Marco Island. That’s why this is one of our top weekend getaways for anyone here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.