Florida

Weekend Getaway: 48 Hours in Gainesville

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Are you ready for another weekend getaway?

Looking for a destination that is packed full of fun outdoor activities and unbelievably delicious dining options?

Located just a little over an hour north of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Gainesville is a thriving college town that offers one of the best destinations for a weekend getaway packed full of great food and fun activities.

While just about everyone in Florida knows that Gainesville is the place to be during home football games every fall, we have actually found the town is just as enjoyable during the rest of the year as well.

If you are in the market for an easy weekend getaway where all the details are planned out in advance, here is the 48-hour itinerary that we recommend for a first trip to “The Swamp.”

Day One: Casual Dining and School History

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Assuming that you are going to plan on arriving in Gainesville hungry, our first stop is going to be Public & General. This is a hip lunch spot where patrons serve themselves from a menu of specialty sandwiches or by customizing a cheese and charcuterie plate.

Following lunch, we are going to introduce you to the thing that Gainesville is most famous for: The University of Florida. We’ll spend the afternoon exploring the exciting student union building and walking past the massive Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

For dinner on your first night in town, it has to be The Top. This casual downtown restaurant specializes in big-time burgers, but make sure that you also order some of their famous Corn Nuggets.

You’re welcome to hang out at The Top as late as you like, but when you’re ready for a change of scenery we recommend a quick stroll over to Madrina’s for a fantastic selection of craft cocktails to close out your night.

Day Two: Butterflies, Cubans, and Fine Dining

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The first stop for our second day in Gainesville is going to be the 6,400-square-foot Butterfly Rainforest. On any given day, you will find up to 50 different species of butterflies occupying this amazing space, making it the most popular non-football-related attraction in all of Gainesville.  

After enjoying the Butterfly Rainforest, our next stop is La Cocina De Abuela for some authentic Cuban cuisine. This is a great lunch spot because everything is fast and easy. Just pick the type of rice, beans, and meat you want and you’re on your way. We recommend going with the Mojo Pork.  

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Following lunch we’re heading back outdoors to explore the swamps that this town is known for at Paynes Prairie. This is a beautiful outdoor space that might give you the chance to catch a glimpse of an authentic Florida gator, wild horses or even bison.

For your second dinner in Gainesville, it’s time to class things up a bit, so we’re making reservations at Ember’s Wood Grill. This is a first-class steakhouse so you can feel confident ordering your favorite cut, and make sure you get the Lobster Mashed Potatoes.  

After having an outstanding meal at Ember’s Wood Grill, there is nothing wrong with heading straight to bed. But if you would rather enjoy your last night in town, we suggest heading down to Sidecar Gainesville to cap off your visit in true college fashion.

Day Three: History, Brunch, and Shopping

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The last popular attraction that you have to see on your first trip to Gainesville is the Florida Museum of Natural History. This is a small museum, but it is packed full of interesting local history, and you can’t argue with the price because it’s FREE! 

We can’t recommend coming back from any 48-hour adventure without having a decent brunch, and the place to find a great one in Gainesville is Daybreak Pleasant Street. Whether you are looking for basic pancakes, huevos rancheros, or something a little more specific like the Daybreak Hash, this is a brunch that will not let you down.  

If you are looking to do a bit of shopping before heading back home, downtown Gainesville is the perfect place to explore all kinds of unique shops that all feature plenty of University of Florida gear.  

In addition to all of the things to see and do in Gainesville, there are also plenty of lodging options in and around this popular college town.  

So the next time you are looking for a good destination for a little weekend getaway, think about heading north to Gainesville….just remember to check the football schedule before you book your trip!

August Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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The dog days of summer have officially arrived here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have plenty of indoor fun and games to keep us busy as we make our way through the month of August.

Whether you are looking for fun social events, an opportunity to educate yourself, a fun golf experience that doesn’t require skill or sunblock, or just a delicious dinner special, we have thatyou covered on all counts with this month’s activities and events.

Let’s take a quick look at the calendar and highlight some of the exciting things happening around our community this month.

Social Events

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The first big social event of the month will be a Comedy Night featuring Rahn Hortman in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, August 6. Rahn is a hysterical local guy from Tampa that you might have seen performing at The Improv, Sidesplitters, or the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

Tasty Tuesday Trivia will be back in the Hampton Room for another installment on Tuesday, August 20 starting at 5:45 pm. This month’s trivia theme is “Music,” and the menu will include Boursin-Stuffed Chicken Breast and Sliced Sirloin Topped with Mushroom Sauce.

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The biggest party of the summer will be Copacabana Night in the Hampton Room on Friday, August 23. Everything for this event will have a Latin feel to it, including the 8-piece Latin band on the stage and the Roasted Mojo Pork on the menu.

Friday, August 30 will be the first Farm Fresh Friday event in the Activity Center Parking Lot. Beasley Farms will be setting up a fresh produce stand right in our community, so don’t miss out on the chance to pick up some amazing produce straight from the farm.

Education

There will be a Crime Prevention Workshop in the Activity Center Auditorium on Wednesday, August 14 at 3 pm. As a part of this workshop, The Crime Prevention Task Force will be leading an open discussion addressing popular topics like identity theft and other scams.

Golf & Tennis

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If you are looking to participate in a golf outing this month, The Meadows Course will be hosting the Awesome August Open on Saturday, August 4. There will be an 8:30 am shotgun start for this event, which is a great way to keep your competitive game fresh for the fall season.

Another way to keep your game crisp during the summer months is to participate in one of the Free Golf Clinics hosted by Golf Pro Mary Slinkard. This month, she will be working with beginners on August 5, 6, and 7. Then she will be back to work with intermediate golfers on August 13, 20, and 27.

Our golf community is also planning a fun event at TopGolf Tampa this month on Monday, August 19. Not only is a visit to TopGolf an exciting experience, but it is also one that comes with air conditioning, which makes it a perfect adventure for a Monday in August.

There will also be a Free Beginner Tennis Clinic at the Skyview Tennis Center on Tuesday, August 13 at 11:30 am. These clinics are always a fantastic opportunity to learn about all things tennis here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Dinner Specials

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Not only is it going to be hot outside this month, but there is also going to be plenty of heat in the kitchen at Skyview Restaurant. They are planning an Italian Night on August 1, a Turkey Buffet on August 15, and a Hawaiian Night on August 29.

In addition to those specific dinner specials, don’t forget about the new Summer Faire menu that Skyview Restaurant is serving every Friday, or the Saturday night Prime Rib special.

Over on the other side, The Grille is planning a celebration for National Red Wine Day on August 28, and the Tiki Bar will be hosting a Karaoke Night on Tuesday, August 6.

BellaVita Spa

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In addition to all of the events and activities happening around the community this month, BellaVita Spa is also offering a Swedish Massage Special and a Bioelements Herbology Facial all month long for anyone looking to beat the heat and relax for a bit.

It’s going to be a great, warm month here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but we also have plenty of cool experiences on our Activities Calendar. Make sure that you make a point to get out of the house and enjoy some of these fun events.

5 Fun Things to Do in Homosassa

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Being located near small towns like Inverness and Crystal River while also being close to bigger cities like Orlando and Tampa is one of the best things about life here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. But our community is also located near some of the most amazing natural attractions in all of Florida.

When you are ready to get out and embrace Florida’s Nature Coast, one of the best places to do just that is Homosassa. Located just 10 miles south of Crystal River and about half an hour from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Homosassa offers up a world of possibilities for anyone looking to get outside.

Let’s take a quick look at five fun things to do in Homosassa.

Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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Known as the place in Florida for getting up close and personal with manatees, Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is an amazing experience with nature that never disappoints.

One of the main attractions here is the underwater observatory that lets you see the manatees from a different perspective without having to jump into the water. The park also offers plenty of education on manatees for anyone looking to learn more about our beloved sea cows.

And there is so much more for you than just manatees here. The park is also home to a stunning collection of wildlife, amazing birding opportunities, and excellent hiking trails.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

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If you like your outdoor adventures to come with a bit of history, then Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park should be the top Homosassa destination on your list.

This area was once the home of a 5,100-acre sugar plantation. Today, you can explore the ruins of that plantation, which includes a towering masonry chimney, iron gears, and a cane press.


The park also has a picnic site, which makes it a perfect destination for outdoor meals in Citrus County.

Alpaca Magic USA

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Just when you thought you had seen everything that Florida’s Nature Coast had to offer, a little place called Alpaca Magic USA showed up on your to-do list.

This working farm in Homosassa started out with two alpacas back in 1996, and they have slowly grown that number to 20 alpacas calling the farm home today.

Visiting Alpaca Magic USA is completely free, and all guests get to visit with the alpacas while learning a bit about them. Plus, there is a gift shop with all kinds of alpaca-related products.

Airboat Tours

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While visiting state parks and alpaca farms represent calm ways to spend an afternoon in Homosassa, you can also kick up the excitement level by heading out on one of the many local airboat tours.

Companies like Top Gun Airboat Tours and Native Sun Tours are always taking visitors out through the Gulf Coast marshes, and those amphibious airboats can make for quite the wild experience.

Festivals of Homosassa

One of the great festivals in Homosassa is Shrimpapalooza that normally happens in the month of March. The annual festival is hosted by the Rotary Club of Homosassa Charitable Foundations. Thousands of party goers from all over the state attend every year emphasizing the fun in fundraising. With an awesome Parade, Live Music, Tons of Great Food, there is guaranteed fun for all ages.

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The Homosassa Arts, Crafts and Seafood Festival is one of West Central Florida’s most beloved fall festivals.  The festival includes a juried art show, true crafts, live entertainment, and delicious seafood along with other tasty delicacies.

Homosassa is packed full of relaxing ways to enjoy nature without having to venture too far from home. So whether you are looking for fun with manatees, an exciting airboat tour, or a weekend on the water, you can have it all in Homosassa.

Everything You Need to Know About the Deep-Sea Fishing Excursion

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Deep-sea fishing is one of the most popular activities for Gulf Coast tourists, but it isn’t always a common activity for people who actually live here. If heading out after some monster fish is something that you have always wanted to try, the Citrus HIlls Vacationers Club has the perfect day trip planned for you in October.

The club is planning an exciting deep sea fishing excursion out of Tarpon Springs that will be the perfect experience for all skill levels ranging from novice fishermen up to semi-professional anglers.

Gulfstar Fishing Charters

This particular trip will be a half-day trip with Gulfstar Fishing Charters, which is one of the most popular charter companies operating out of Tarpon Springs.

One of the best things about deep sea fishing on a chartered excursion is that you don’t have to worry about bringing any fishing gear with you. The captain will provide you with everything you need from rods and reels to bait and hooks. You don’t even need to purchase a fishing license.

The only thing that you will want to bring on this adventure is a cooler full of food and drinks for the day, which will then double as transportation home for all of the fish that you catch.

And as for what to wear, the only requirement is that you plan on being comfortable. It is often about five degrees cooler out on the water, so make sure to dress accordingly.

The Sundance II

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The boat we will be boarding is the Sundance II, which was built by hand 1970. After surviving more than 40 years of cod fishing in New England, the Sundance II has found a new life operating charters here in Florida.

While the boat definitely has a rich history, it also boasts plenty of new technology.

Since its relocation to Florida in 2014, the Sundance II has been fitted with new electronics, a Furuno radar, and a digital fish finder.

What About the Fish?

After cruising for a little over an hour and getting about nine miles away from the shore, we will spend 2-3 hours fishing in water that is between 25 and 40 feet deep.

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Once the captain drops anchor and we start casting our lines baited with squid, there is a good chance that we will see Key West Snapper, Black Seabass, Porgies, and Grouper coming onto the boat.

Another perk that comes with a deep sea fishing charter is that the crew will be happy to clean all of the fish that you catch so that you can take them home in your cooler and cook them up however you like.

Our Trip Details

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning this deep-sea fishing excursion for Thursday, October 3. Tickets are on sale now, and the cost is $105 for members and $110 for guests.

Tickets include round-trip transportation from the Activity Center and everything that comes with the fishing charter, as well as ice to pack your catch for the ride home.

The plan is to leave the Activity Center at 7:30 am and return sometime around 6 pm.

No matter how passionate you are about fishing, this is going to be an amazing experience for everyone who participates. Don’t miss out on the fun, and don’t forget to invite your friends and family over for the cookout when you return!

 

5 Fun Things to Do in Inverness

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Located just under fifteen minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Inverness offers the perfect combination of nature and history, along with a growing restaurant scene that keeps getting better and better.

Whether you are looking to explore local history at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, take in a little culture at the Valerie Theatre, get outdoors on the Withlacoochee State Trail or at Fort Cooper State Park, or just grab an excellent bite to eat, there is never a dull moment in Inverness. Let’s take a quick run through five of our favorite things to do in Inverness.

Embrace History at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum

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If you are interested in learning about the history of Citrus County, there is no better place to start than the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum. This historic building in the heart of town was built in 1912 and served as the local courthouse until 1978.

Today, the first floor features a number of exhibits detailing the rich history of Citrus County.

On the second floor, the old courtroom still looks just as it did when Elvis came to town in 1961 to film a movie there. The courtroom is also available to rent for private parties.

Take in a Film at the Valerie Theatre

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Located right across the street from the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum is the equally historic Valerie Theatre. This gorgeous theatre was reopened to the public in 2015, and it is currently hosting a wide range of live stage performances and film showings.

Originally built in the mid-1920s by Mrs. Pearl G. Maddox, the Valerie Theatre was named after her daughter and designed to show silent films. Many local residents believed that the building closed for good in 1987, but the city bought it in 2009 and local residents pitched in to restore it to its former glory.

Today, you can catch weekly showings of classic films at the Valerie Theatre. And there are also plenty of live stage shows scheduled throughout the year.

Go Biking on the Withlacoochee State Trail

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Anyone looking to get outside and experience the beautiful Florida weather can take advantage of the fact that the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail runs right through Inverness.

This long stretch of former railroad was purchased from CSX Transportation in 1989 as one of the very first acquisitions of Florida’s Rails-to-Trails program. Because of its former life as a railroad corridor, the entire length of the trail is flat, making it perfect for biking. Starting from Inverness, bikers can head north up to Citrus Springs, or they can venture south all the way down through Hernando County to Trilby.

Hit the Lake in Fort Cooper State Park

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Another way to enjoy nature in Inverness is to head out for a day at Fort Cooper State Park. Not only is this massive 700-acre state park a part of the Withlacoochee State Trail, but it is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and the Seminole Heritage Trail.

Fort Cooper State Park is also home to Lake Holathlikaha, which is open for all kinds of boating activities throughout the year.

Enjoy the Local Restaurant Scene

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Inverness might be a small town, but this nearby community packs a serious punch when it comes to outstanding local restaurants. Whether you are looking for a neighborhood pub, an Italian deli, first-class pizza, or any other type of cuisine, you can find it in Inverness.

As you plan your visits to our neighbor down the road, make sure that you check out some of the great restaurants there like Pine Street Pub, Little Italy of Inverness, Motor City Pasta Company, and Kawa Sushi House.

Not only is there a never-ending list of exciting activities and events here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but there is also plenty to keep you busy right in Inverness.

Don’t miss your chance to get to know everything that this next-door-neighbor town has to offer!