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Cruising the Key West Express Out of Fort Myers

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Key West is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Florida but getting there by traveling down US Highway 1 is a long journey that makes it just a bit too far away for quick trips. However, there is a speedboat shuttle service operating out of Fort Myers that changes all of that!

The Key West Express

The Key West Express is a high-speed catamaran that takes passengers back and forth from Fort Myers to Key West just about every day. The boat can reach speeds as high as 40 miles per hour, which will cover the distance between the mainland and the keys in about three and a half hours.

You can structure your tickets on the Key West Express to accommodate a trip of just about any length you like. Some people prefer just to go down and enjoy the island for a quick day trip, while others opt to spend a few days in paradise before making their return trip. The world is your oyster.

Grabbing the Discount

If you are looking to experience the Key West Express on the cheap, they offer an excellent discount for anyone who purchases their tickets online at least eight days before they venture out on the open seas.

This will bring the cost of a round-trip ticket down from $155 for adults and $145 for seniors to $140 on weekends and $125 if you travel on a weekday. For the most up-to-date information click on the link below.

https://www.keywestexpress.net/

Enjoying Key West

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One of the most beautiful things about Key West is that you will never have a hard time looking for something fun to do there! If it is your first trip to the island, we recommend taking either the Conch Train Tour or the Trolley Tour to get an idea of what areas you might like to explore further. From there, you  can choose to spend your time relaxing on beautiful beaches, devouring exciting history, or strolling up and down Duval Street.

If the beach is your preferred way to pass the time, you have your choice between Smathers Beach, Higgs Beach, and Fort Zachary Taylor. Each of these destinations offers a slightly different experience and taking one of the tours will be a great help in deciding which is right for you.

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For the history buffs, we highly recommend taking the time to enjoy tours of the Hemingway House and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Both of these attractions will impress you with their attention to detail and impressive artifacts.

 

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Finally, making your way up and down Duval Street should include stops at famous spots like The Smallest Bar, Sloppy Joe's, and Margaritaville. After that, be sure to venture off Duval a bit as well. You will find that a thriving foodie community has sprouted in Key West over the past few years and there are some amazing chefs working just off of the main drag.

 

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Whether you prefer to spend your time relaxing on the beach, learning about the history of a unique island paradise, or partying on Duval Street, having the ability to get to Key West quickly is a game changer for Florida residents and tourists.

 

 

The Key West Express makes a great day trip for anyone who is already in Fort Myers, but it might be a bit of a journey for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills to pull off in one day. By planning your trip to include a stay in Fort Myers as well, you can enjoy two amazing Florida towns in one getaway!

August Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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The hot and sticky month of August has arrived, but the activities and events calendar here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is packed with plenty of cool things to do throughout the month.

Whether you are looking for exciting social events, fun opportunities to learn, clinics for improving your golf or tennis game, or just a great meal with friends, we have got you covered with everything happening around the community this month. Let's take a closer look at some of the exciting activities and events coming your way in the month of August!

Social Events

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The August social events will kick off with the Citrus Hills Cruise-In on Friday, August 11 in the Tiki Bar parking lot. Sponsored by the Citrus MOPARS, this event is completely free to attend, and will feature all of the very best muscle and sports cars from around the community.

The next edition of our monthly Trivia Challenge will be held on Tuesday, August 15 in the Hampton Room. This month, the dinner menu will include Baked Haddock, Chicken Parmesan, Penne Pasta with Garlic, and lots of veggie and dessert options. Dinner starts at 5:45 pm and the trivia fun will follow around 6:30 pm.

It wouldn't be summer in the Villages of Citrus Hills without a Flicks & Floats party at the Activity Center Pool. This month's movie night is set for Friday, August 18, and the movie will be The Accountant starring Ben Affleck as a brilliant but lethal numbers wizard.

There will be plenty of buttery popcorn available, but you can also get 10% off of a meal at Skyview Restaurant or The Grille by showing your tickets for this event!

The biggest party of the summer will definitely be the 10th Annual Copacabana Night on Friday, August 25 in the Hampton Room. This year, the event will feature a menu of Cuban Pulled Pork, Chicken and Red Peppers in Garlic Wine Sauce, and some delicious sides.

There will also be salsa lessons and a live orchestra, so this is one summer party that you don't want to miss out on.

Arts & Education

The new Coffee Shop will be holding an Interactive Reading event on Tuesday, August 8 from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. Local author Ronnie Allen will be present for a group reading of her first novel, Gemini: The Sign Behind the Crime. There will also be a Q&A and book signing after the reading.

On Saturday, August 12, the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club will be taking a group trip down to Tampa to see Motown The Musical at the Straz Performing Arts Center. Tickets to this event are $125 and include orchestra seating and round-trip transportation to the event.

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is also planning a trip to St. Petersburg to see The Chihuly Glass Collection by artist Dale Chihuly at The Morean Arts Center. In addition to exploring the glassblowing exhibit, there will be plenty of time to venture out and see other popular St. Petersburg attractions.

There will be a Lunch & Learn event in the Garden Room on Thursday, August 31 at 12:30 pm with guest speaker Lisa Dider discussing American Madams (1870-1910). Lunch for this talk will include a Caprese Chicken Sandwich and Pasta Salad, followed by a slice of Strawberry Cloud Cake.

Golf & Tennis

The big golf event of August will be the Southern-Sky Two Person Championship that will start at Skyview at Terra Vista on Saturday, August 26 and conclude at Southern Hills Plantation Club on Sunday, August 27. If you would like to participate in this unique pairs tournament that covers two different courses, you must register with the Skyview Pro Shop by August 14.

If you are looking to improve your golf game during the month, you should definitely make a point to attend Golf Pro Wayne Larsen's Free Golf Clinics. This month, Wayne will be working with beginners on August 7, 8, and 9. Then he will be back to work with intermediate golfers on August 15, 22, and 29.

Anyone looking to learn the basics of tennis is welcome to attend the Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, August 8 at 11 am. As always, the only thing required to attend this clinic is a pair of tennis shoes. The Skyview Tennis Center will be happy to loan you a racket for the clinic.

Dinner Specials

 Skyview Restaurant has some exciting Tuesday night dinner specials planned for the month of August. You won't want to miss their Greek Night on August 12 or the Asian Feast on August 29.

 

Both dinners are scheduled to start at 5 pm and run through 8 pm.

It's all about mixers over at the Tiki Bar, and they will be mixing it up this month with block parties for Cambridge Greens on August 3, Canterbury Lakes on August 17, and Celina Hills on August 31. They will also be hosting a Singles Social Happy Hour on Tuesday, August 29 from 4 pm to 6 pm.

If those mixers and the warm weather aren't enough to get you to the Tiki Bar this month, you might want to visit for their Beers Around the World special on Thursday, August 24 or the Fantasy of Flights Wine Night on Tuesday, August 29.

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If you are interested in pampering yourself, you might want to try a Citrus Surprise Spa Pedicure at the BellaVita Spa.

 

With all of the exciting things happening around our community during the month of August, there is absolutely no reason not to get out of the house and have some fun!

Visiting Dinosaur World in Tampa

Many benefits come with living just north of a city like Tampa, and one such benefit is that residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills never have to worry about finding fun and exciting activities to keep visiting children occupied. Whether we are talking about kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or just good friends, one of the coolest places to take any visiting children is Dinosaur World.

This awe-inspiring 20-acre facility is located just east of Tampa in Plant City, which is also known for hosting the Florida Strawberry Festival each and every March. Here you will find more than 200 life-sized dinosaur models, as well as an overwhelming amount of educational information on all things prehistoric.

Getting to Dinosaur World

The fastest way to get to Dinosaur world is to take US-41 south towards Tampa and then use US-98 to connect to I-75 and continue heading south. As I-75 makes its way down towards the city, you will exit onto I-4 heading east towards Plant City. 

Dinosaur World is located just off of exit 17, shortly before Plant City.

The Dinosaur World Experience

Children absolutely love Dinosaur World, and a big reason for that is that the facility offers an astounding number of activities to keep them occupied throughout their time at the park.

But before heading to those activities, you might want to take them through the Prehistoric Museum. Here they can see things like dinosaur eggs and raptor claws, as well as a number of other unique artifacts. The Prehistoric Museum also includes the Animatronics Exhibit, where visitors can see life-sized dinosaurs that come to life with sounds and movements.

The Exploration Cave is another educational adventure where children get to interact with a real-life paleontologist who will act as their tour guide as they move through a massive cave, dig site, and workstation. Then, when the kids are ready to get their hands dirty, they can participate in activities like the Fossil Dig, Dino Gem Excavation, and the Bone Yard!

With ticket prices of $16.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors, and $11.95 for kids, it's actually hard not to get your money's worth with all of the great things to see and do at Dinosaur World.

 

http://dinosaurworld.com/florida/

Dining Near Dinosaur World - Fred's Southern Kitchen

Dinosaur World encourages visitors to bring coolers packed with their own preferences for food and snacks, but if you are looking for a great restaurant located nearby, just about everyone will enjoy a meal from Fred's Southern Kitchen. Actually, a trip to Fred's for some "Slow Food, Fast" might be worth the drive even if you aren't heading to Dinosaur World!

The buffet-style menu here always contains Jack Black Oak Smoked Pork Ribs, Golden Fried Chicken, Crispy Catfish, Grilled Tilapia, Fresh Vegetables & Casseroles, and Skillet Cornbread. On top of that, there is a rotating list of Daily Entree Specials, as well as a Salad Table and a Dessert Table. And don't forget that all kids 10 and under eat for free on Mondays and Tuesdays!

Since Dinosaur World is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, you could plan your trip on any Monday or Tuesday and include a free meal for the kids at Fred's Southern Kitchen. But even if those days don't work with your schedule, both places are always going to deliver a fantastic experience that is perfect for the whole family!

The Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa

Located just a bit west of Downtown Tampa, The Henry B. Plant Museum is one of the most beautiful museums you will ever see.

Originally constructed as one of the most elegant hotels in all of Florida, this mind-blowing property is sometimes referred to as "Florida's Original Magic Kingdom," and there is definitely good reason for that.

Henry B. Plant

In order to better appreciate the specific details of the museum, we first have to understand the man himself. Henry B. Plant was born in 1819 in Branford, Connecticut. Following the Civil War, he saw tremendous potential in connecting the south via railroad, and set out to build an empire doing just that.

As he continued to grow his southern railroad empire, Plant expanded further and further into Florida. When his railroad finally made its way to Tampa, the city exploded with growth and has never looked back.

The Tampa Bay Hotel

After connecting the city of Tampa to the rest of the world with his railroads, Plant's next major project would be the construction of the fabulous Tampa Bay Hotel.

Because his vision for the hotel was so far beyond what anyone considered reasonable, he could not find any investors to partner with on the project and ended up footing the entire $2.5 million bill himself. He then kicked in another $500,000 to furnish the property after it was constructed.

After Plant's death, the city of Tampa continued operating the hotel for about 30 years before turning it into a museum and giving a significant portion of the grounds to the University of Tampa in 1933.

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With all of the history that went into creating the Tampa Bay Hotel, the building itself is worth the trip. However, the large portion of the first floor that acts as the Henry B. Plant Museum offers even more insight into what life might have been like at the hotel during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In addition to all of the artifacts that are part of the museum's permanent collection, there are also a number of temporary exhibits that make their way through the museum.

This year, visitors have the pleasure of viewing an exhibit dedicated to the dining experiences of the museum during its peak years. There are detailed explanations of the type of meals served, the required dress for those meals, and some of the unique dining customs of the time.

Dining Near the Museum

Spending a day at the Henry B. Plant Museum learning about what it was like to attend a fancy dinner in the early 1900s is a good way to work up an appetite. Luckily, there are quite a few excellent restaurants located right by the museum.

If the idea of learning about high-end dining gets you excited to experience your own fancy dinner, you will want to make a reservation at Mise En Place for the perfect conclusion to your trip to Tampa. This is one of the best restaurants in the city, and it just happens to be located near the museum. Just be sure to keep in mind they are closed Sunday and Monday.

For those looking for more casual dining, TamPiz has delicious pizza in a relaxed setting and is located nearby.

 

A 2minute walk from the museum is another historic building originally built in 1891 as the stable for the Tampa Bay Hotel.  It has gone through many transformations over the years and is now the home to the Oxford Exchange. 

 

 

 

It is a European-inspired space featuring a restaurant, bookstore, coffeehouse & shop with decor & gifts. 

 

Whether you are passionate about the history of Tampa or just looking for something different to do on a rainy day, the Henry B. Plant Museum is only 90 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills and offers over 100 years worth of local history, not to mention the fact that the building itself is stunning. Visiting the museum and having a great meal afterwards is just one more way to enjoy the fact that we are located so close to the city of Tampa.

Day Trip: Cape Canaveral

The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral is one of the top ten most popular attractions in all of Florida. But this coastal town also offers plenty of other reasons to visit for the day. When you combine those exciting attractions with all of the great restaurants here, there is no reason not to schedule a day trip to experience Cape Canaveral.

Getting to Cape Canaveral

Getting to Cape Canaveral from the Villages of Citrus Hills takes just a touch more than two hours. The easiest path by car is to take Florida's Turnpike towards Orlando like you are going to the airport, then head east on 528 until you hit the Atlantic Coast.

Towards the very end of your trip, you will notice that 528 leads you right onto A1A, which means that you are about to arrive at your destination.

The Cape Canaveral Experience

The most popular attraction in Cape Canaveral is the Kennedy Space Center. People come from all over the world to take part in the astronaut experiences you will find throughout the museum and in the live tours available here. In addition to the space center itself, Cape Canaveral is also home to the Air Force Space & Missile History Center and the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory.

But just focusing on the aerospace experience would be selling beautiful Cape Canaveral short. Another extremely popular local attraction is the Brevard Zoo, which sits on 75 acres of land and contains more than 650 different animals from all over the world. Animal lovers will also be thrilled to experience the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science, where they can learn about animals of the past like the Woolly Mammoth and Saber-toothed Cat.

One of the most scenic attractions you will find in Cape Canaveral is the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, which is located right on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. In 2016, the base started offering a three-hour tour on Fridays and Saturdays that includes the chance to explore the lighthouse first-hand.

Still looking for more to experience in Cape Canaveral? Don't forget about the Canaveral National Seashore, which contains 24 miles of undeveloped seashore. This area is filled with trails to explore the local wildlife and foliage, but many visitors also enjoy simply sitting on one of the few beaches that aren't surrounded by development.

Cape Canaveral Dining

Just as you would expect from a popular coastal town, there are plenty of great places to eat in Cape Canaveral. If you are looking for a quick bite for breakfast or lunch, there are some great cafes like Cafe Monte Carlo, Vargas Cafe, Euro Kafe' Etcetera, and Southern Charm Cafe to choose from, and they all offer their own unique twists on local cuisine.

One of our favorite cafe-style seafood restaurants in the area is Crackers Island Grille, where you will find a cozy little dining room and a great outdoor seating area. Mahi Tacos are the signature item here, and they are good enough to merit the trip East all by themselves.

 

Another fine family owned restaurant is the Sage Bistro.  Every unique creation from the kitchen is made from scratch and all the fish served is freshly caught.

 

The Kennedy Space Center is always the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Cape Canaveral, and it is well worth the drive all by itself. But this great Atlantic coastal town also offers a wide range of other attractions, as well as some of the best cafes you will find anywhere in Florida. So, the next time you are looking to get away for a day, head east past Orlando and visit Cape Canaveral.

The following link is full of information for your next visit.

https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

 

The Next:  Rocket Launch: July 2, 2017 7:30 PM | SpaceX Falcon 9 Intelsat 35e

 

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!

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!

 

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.

5 Weekend Getaways in Greater Florida

One of the best things about living here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is that all of the amazing tourist destinations throughout the state of Florida are just a stone’s throw away. That means that our residents have the luxury of being able to head out on a weekend getaway to all of those famous Florida destinations pretty much any time they like.  

Of course, there are so many fantastic destinations across the state that it can actually be hard to choose which one to visit first. For that reason, we put together this list of five weekend getaways that should definitely be on your list!

Key West 

If you chose the Gulf Coast because you prefer the calmer pace of life compared to the Atlantic Coast, then you will like the laid-back feel of beautiful Key West. This amazing little town is one of the fun spots in Florida, and you can get there by flying into their airport, taking a jet boat from the mainland, or driving down US Highway 1.  

Once you’re in Key West, everything revolves around Duval Street. This is where you will find plenty of shopping, dining, and more bars than you could possibly visit. There are also some really great local tours like the Hemingway Estate, as well as the beautiful Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and the ultimate photo op spot at the Southernmost Point!

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/key-west.html

Miami - South Beach 

If exciting nightlife is your cup of tea, then a weekend in South Beach is just what the doctor ordered! Pick any of the fabulous hotels along the famous A1A and you will be set to enjoy all that this vibrant town has to offer. 

While you are in Miami, make sure to visit the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab for some of the best stone crab claws you’ll find anywhere. You can dress up and eat in their restaurant, or go super casual and enjoy the same food over on their take-out side.

For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/miami-beach.html

Naples 

Keeping our focus in the southern part of the state, if relaxing on the water is more your speed, then Naples will appeal to you. This is the ultimate destination for visitors who enjoy a calm and upscale atmosphere that is also accompanied by some spectacular high-end shopping.

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/naples.html

Panama City Beach 

Moving up north into the panhandle area, Panama City Beach has a reputation as a spring break destination, but it is also a fabulous spot for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills who are looking to get away for a weekend.  

This little gem features 27 miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, along with world-class golf facilities, two excellent state parks, and enough delicious restaurants to ensure that you never run out of options.

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/panama-city-beach.html

Daytona Beach 

Another popular destination that certainly ranks at the top of the list of any NASCAR fan is the home of the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach. Here you will find the amazing Daytona International Motor Speedway and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. There are also many other great attractions that make a weekend in Daytona Beach fun for everyone even when it isn’t race week.

For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/daytona-beach.html

 

Whether you are looking for exciting nightlife or beachfront relaxation, there is something for everyone to be found on a weekend getaway somewhere in the state of Florida. So, next time you start feeling the urge to get away, take out your Florida map and book the next trip!

Great Day Trip from the Villages of Citrus Hills to Cedar Key

With all of its unique shops and restaurants, as well as plenty of great history and wildlife attractions, Cedar Key contains all of the amenities of a great tourist town without all of the tourists!

This once-small fishing village has gradually turned itself into one of the more popular day-trip locations for Florida residents who are looking for a location that is not so tourist-focused.

Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills can drive to Cedar Key in about an hour and fifteen minutes by taking US-41 north to Country Road 40 and then US-19 North, then turning left and taking FL-24 all the way to the coast.

The breathtaking views you will see driving from the mainland out to Cedar Key alone make the whole trip worthwhile!

Once you arrive in Cedar Key, you will definitely want to see some of the wonderful historic sites, museums, wildlife preserves and state parks.

There are also great locations for fishing and boating, as well as great small town shopping and restaurants to keep you busy for the day.

Cedar Key Historical Museum 

One of your first stops in Cedar Key should be the Cedar Key Historical Museum. Even if you aren’t curious about the interesting history of the island, you will still want to grab all of the visitor information located here to plan the rest of your day.

If you are interested in the history of Cedar Key, this great little museum will walk you through the entire history of the island including Civil War artifacts and brooms made from palmettos.

You will learn all about the town’s storied history with the railroad industry, cedar and palm products, and gulf coast seafood. 

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Preserve

Another popular attraction in Cedar Key is the nine-mile drive through the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Preserve.

As you drive through the preserve, you can expect to see alligators, turkeys, otters, and many different types of birds. You will also want to stop near the Shell Mound Campground to see the 28-foot high mound of ancient shells. 

Seahorse Key Lighthouse 

Just south of Cedar Key is Seahorse Key, which is home to the Seahorse Key Lighthouse.

This key is only accessible by boat, and the lighthouse is only open on certain days of the year, but there are a number of tour companies in Cedar Key that will either take you past Seahorse Key or allow you to get out and look around the island.

Like everything else in this area, the lighthouse has a storied history including the pivotal role it played in the Second Seminole War and the Civil War.  

Shopping in Cedar Key

If shopping is what you are looking for, Cedar Key is perfect for that as well!

Most of the shops are on either Dock Street or Second Street, so that is the best place to start your shopping spree. You will definitely want to check out Cedar Key Canvas, Dilly Dally Gally, The Island Trading Post, and The Salty Needle Quilt Shop.

Dining in Cedar Key 

Your long day of history, wildlife, boating, and shopping will probably cause you to work up quite an appetite. That won’t be a problem though, because Cedar Key has an excellent collection of local restaurants.

One of the most popular restaurants in Cedar Key is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, and they are known for their famous clam chowder. 

If you plan to visit Cedar Key more than once, you will also want to try eating at Kona Joe’s Island Cafe, Ken’s Cedar Keyside Diner, and the Big Deck Raw Bar. Each of these restaurants is known for putting out outstanding food accompanied by friendly service. 

As you can see, there really is something for everyone in Cedar Key.

And because it is only 75 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, this might be the type of place you find yourself going back to over and over again!

5 Vacationers Club Trips You Won't Want to Miss

There is nothing like a good vacation to help you recharge your batteries and relax your mind. And whether you are looking for a short day trip or a long cruise, the Citrus Hills Vacationer’s Club is always working on something exciting that will fit your needs. They are currently planning five amazing trips for this spring that you definitely won’t want to miss! 

Valentine’s Cruise 

Looking for a special trip to take with your significant other this Valentine’s Day season? Well, the Vacationers Club has got you covered with a five-night cruise through the Western Caribbean. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas will depart from Tampa on Saturday, February 11 and then head for stops in Key West and Cozumel.

This amazing adventure will give you the opportunity to get away for the most romantic week of the year, and what could be more romantic than spending a day in Key West followed by a day in Mexico! 

Ringling Museum Day Trip 

Also, taking place on Saturday, February 11 will be the Vacationer’s Club day trip to Sarasota to visit The Ringling Circus Museum. This is the ultimate experience for anyone who grew up as a fan of the amazing Ringling Brothers circus.

If you have never been to the museum before, it is one of the most amazing tributes to the circus that you will find anywhere. The large estate houses an art museum, circus museum, the famous Ringling Mansion, and the historic Asolo Theater.  

Wicked Day Trip 

Another day trip this February is the trip to the Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa on Saturday, February 25 for a performance of Wicked. As one of the most popular and captivating musicals in recent years, Wicked is an amazing experience that you simply don’t want to miss.

Tickets for this trip are $155 per person, which includes a ticket to the show and round-trip transportation. There will also be a brief stop for lunch before the 2 pm show.

Three Days in Savannah 

As much as we love heading south and cruising around the Caribbean, it’s hard to ignore the amazing places like Savannah, Georgia that are just north of us. The Vacationer’s Club is planning a three day, two-night excursion to this beautiful and historic city from March 21 to March 23.

Tickets for this trip are $689 per person, and that includes two nights at the Staybridge Inn and Suites. Also included are two dinners, three breakfast meals, a trolley tour of Savannah’s Historic District, an evening show at the Savannah Theater, a tour of Tybee Island, a tour of the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum, and an optional tour of Bonaventure Cemetery.  

All-Inclusive Cruise to Cuba 

If a visit to Cuba has long been on your bucket list, March 24 is the date that you want to mark on your calendar. That is the date that the Vacationer’s Club will be embarking on a seven-night cruise to Cuba that leaves from Montego Bay, Jamaica. The ship will then be making stops in Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Punta Frances, and Cienfuegos.

There are inside and outside cabins available for this trip, with inside cabins priced at $2125 per person and outside cabins priced at $2285 per person. There are also balcony and suite cabins available upon request.  

Whether you are looking for a simple day trip to see a show in Tampa or you want to get on a cruise ship and sail the high seas, the Citrus Hills Vacationer’s Club has something interesting planned for you. Make sure you book your tickets soon so that you don’t miss out on these great opportunities. 

Day Trip To Tarpon Springs

The historic town of Tarpon Springs is located about an hour south of the Villages of Citrus Hills right on the Gulf Coast, just north of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater.  

The town represents an interesting combination of rich history and modern culture with a dash of Greek heritage. If you are passionate about history, shopping for antiques, or excellent Greek food, Tarpon Springs will make an excellent day trip for you and your family. 

History of Tarpon Springs 

Tarpon Springs received its name when some of the first visitors to the town observed a number of Tarpon jumping out of the water out in the Gulf of Mexico.

As you can probably guess, the Tarpon Fishing here is excellent. But that wasn’t originally the most popular sea item in Tarpon Springs. 

Tarpon Springs is also known as “The Sponge Capital of the World” because its 51-mile coast was once filled with sponges. In the early 1900s, many Greek sponge divers made their way to Tarpon Springs to harvest these sponges, which led to Tarpon Springs having the largest Greek population in all of Florida. 

In 1947, just about all of the sponge fields around Tarpon Springs were destroyed, so most of the sponge industry was then converted to fishing and shrimping. However, “The Sponge Capital of the World” lives on in spirit with attractions like the Sponge Docks and Spongeorama.  

The first stop for any history buffs visiting Tarpon Springs should be the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society’s Welcome Center and Museum. Other great historic sites include the Tarpon Springs Historic District, the Safford House, Old Tarpon Springs City Hall, and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  

Tarpon Springs Attractions 

One of the most popular attractions in Tarpon Springs is known as The Sponge Docks. This wharf area is filled with boats, but has also become populated with great shopping and restaurants.  

You can stroll the docks, tour sponge boats, visit dozens of small shops, and find great authentic Greek cuisine, all in one central location. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium is also located right next to The Sponge Docks. 

Another popular attraction in Tarpon Springs is the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. This former high school turned theater plays host to a wide variety of community theater and music events throughout the year. There is a lot of information about upcoming shows on their website, where you can find the perfect event to schedule your trip around. 

Wine drinkers will absolutely want to plan on stopping at the Tarpon Springs Castle Winery. This beautiful facility offers daily tours, information on how their handcrafted wines are produced, and plenty of tasting opportunities.

Dining in Tarpon Springs  

With its rich Greek heritage, Tarpon Springs is known for having some of the best Greek restaurants in Florida. If you are a fan of Greek cuisine, you will have more than your fair share of options in Tarpon Springs.

The most popular Greek restaurant is probably Hellas Restaurant and Bakery, but you will also find outstanding Greek food at Mykonos, Mr. Souvlaki, and The Original Mama Maria’s Greek Cuisine.  

While Greek food is obviously a staple in Tarpon Springs, there are plenty of other options as well. Rusty Bellies at the end of The Sponge Docks is known for serving great seafood, and the Tarpon Tavern has some outstanding pub-style cuisine. You might also want to try the Caribbean food at the Jerk Center and the pizza at Plum Tomato. 

The ideal day trip to Tarpon Springs would contain a little bit of history in the morning, followed by pizza or pub food for lunch. After that, you could plan an afternoon of shopping at The Sponge Docks, followed by a Greek dinner and a show at the Tarpon Spring Cultural Center.  

Even if you can’t find a show that sparks your interest, there is still plenty to do here, which is what makes Tarpon Springs a great place to spend the day!