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12 Hours In St. Petersburg

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While many people think of St. Petersburg as an extension of Tampa, local residents will tell you that this fun-filled city has a personality that is all its own. It also has plenty of things to do, which makes it an excellent day trip option for residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

If you are looking for a perfect day trip destination and don't want to be bothered with all of the research that goes into

planning an exciting getaway, we have taken care of all the details for you and put together a choose-your-own-adventure style trip to St. Pete.

Let's dive in and check out some of the options!

 

Morning Activity - Art & History 

Depending on what time you leave, the hour and forty-minute drive will probably have you arriving in St. Petersburg with a few hours to kill before lunch. We recommend starting off your day with a little bit of culture at one of the many art galleries and museums that the city has to offer.

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Three of the most popular options for this part of the trip are the Duncan McClellan Gallery, the Ted Williams Museum, and the Salvador Dali Museum. Each offers a slightly different type of cultural experience, but all three are highly recommended attractions in St. Pete.  

Lunch - Bodega

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For lunch, we are heading over to the EDGE District to check out a little place called Bodega. St. Pete residents can't get enough of the Cuban-style food you will find here, so make sure you try one of their soon-to-be-world-famous sandwiches.  

Bodega is also known for having outstanding Cuban coffee and some of the best fresh juices in the city.

 

 

 Early Afternoon - Close to Nature 

After lunch, it's time to get outside at places like Fort De Soto Park and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

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If the beach is your happy place, then Fort De Soto Park could be your own personal paradise in St. Petersburg. This stunning county park includes five islands to explore by canoe, kayak, or bicycle. There is also a historic fort and museum that appeals to all of those history buffs out there.  

For anyone who is more interested in wildlife, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve offers a lake, marsh, swamp, and woods that are filled with a wide range of animals from the land, air, and sea. There is also a Pioneer Settlement living history museum for visitors to explore.  

 Late Afternoon - Out on the Water 

After having some fun getting close to nature, it's time to ratchet that excitement level up a notch and get out on the water.  

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One of the most popular boat tours in the area is St. Petersburg Speedboat Adventure, which offers a 2-hour self-drive speedboat tour for two passengers in the same boat. You will have an absolute blast cruising up and down Tampa Bay in these little boats.  

For day trippers who are looking for something a little more upscale out on the water, you could skip the speedboats and charter a private yacht from Tampa Bay Yacht Charter that will have you cruising Tampa Bay in style before dinner.  

Dinner - Brick & Mortar

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Dinner at Brick & Mortar is the perfect way to wrap up a fun day exploring the sights and sounds of St. Petersburg. This fun and innovative restaurant will astound you with a wide range of small and large plates that are perfect for sharing.  

We recommend getting a few things that are inside your comfort zone and then getting wild with a few dishes that might be pushing your boundaries a bit…and don't forget to order the truffle fries!

 

There is a good chance that you are going to be completely exhausted after all of this fun in St. Pete. But we are just scratching the surface with everything that there is to do here in the Sunshine City, so it won't be long before you are planning another trip with a brand-new itinerary!

Benefits of Living in Citrus County

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Florida is a big state with a wide range of different options that appeal to different people for different reasons.  

But if you are considering relocating to the Sunshine State, Citrus County, which just so happens to be the home of the Villages of Citrus Hills, presents one of the best options you could choose for a number of reasons.  

Residents of Citrus County are in a position to enjoy all of the best aspects of Florida at the same time. They get to experience the famous Florida climate. They are right next to the Gulf Coast, while still not too far from the Atlantic Coast. Great cities like Tampa, Orlando, Ocala and Gainesville are just a short drive away, and the entire region is filled with amazing state parks and forests.  

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant benefits of living in Citrus County.

Public and Protected Lands

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Many people who relocate here don’t realize that Citrus County covers approximately 700 square miles, of which more than 152,000 acres are set aside as public and protected land. Half of the county is a protected area that will never see any type of construction. This assures residents that Citrus County will never suffer from becoming overbuilt the way other parts of Florida have.

Ideal Climate

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One of the main reasons people move to Florida is the year-round sunshine.  In a state known for great weather, Citrus County has Florida’s best.   

Unlike humid South Florida, the region surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills doesn’t have the Everglades water effect.  We instead sit on the Central Ridge.  At 260 feet above sea level, the Villages of Citrus Hills benefits from the breezes off the nearby Gulf of Mexico, keeping the climate temperate all year round. 

Citrus County’s year-round average is about 72 degrees with 65 percent humidity.  In fact, comfortable days are the norm.  We enjoy 274 days a year in the temperature “comfort zone”, which falls between 65 and 75 degrees.  It also means you won’t spend the whole summer hiding from the heat in your air-conditioned home.  Beautiful weather isn’t just a perk; it will improve your quality of life. 

An Enormous Amount of History

From the historic sites of the Second Seminole War to the shell mounds of ancient natives, Citrus County is packed with tons of great history and plenty of places to learn all about it. The county also has a long history of producing outstanding thoroughbred horses, including multiple Kentucky Derby champions.  

Low Cost of Living

Like all Florida residents, those living in Citrus County are not subjected to any state income tax. However, unlike some of the more urban parts of the state, Citrus County residents enjoy a relaxed atmosphere where they don’t have to worry about gouging prices that you might find in many popular tourist areas. The cost of living is very reasonable in Citrus County.  

Parks and Trails

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Whether you are looking for large state parks, great walking trails built from abandoned railroad lines, or small community parks that offer some of the best sunset views you will find anywhere, Citrus County has them all. There are a number of different parks and trails throughout the county that all offer their own unique version of nature in Citrus County.

 Day Trips to “Old Florida” Towns

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Another advantage that the geographic location of Citrus County offers is that residents are within a short drive of quite a few different “Old Florida” towns that all make for great day trips. Many of these small towns have great historic shopping districts, outstanding restaurants, and plenty of history and art museums.  

 

Gulf Coast Lifestyle

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Living in Citrus County places you right in the heart of the Gulf Coast Lifestyle. Fishing, boating, and sunbathing at the beach will all be only minutes away. You can also participate in popular local activities such as scalloping, catching stone crab, or swimming with the manatees.

 


Close to Tampa and Orlando

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While the communities of Citrus County are known for their small-town environments, the big-city lifestyle is never very far away with both Tampa and Orlando being only a short drive away. This gives Citrus County residents access to great shopping, cultural events, and professional sports teams that many people like to experience from time to time.

 

As you can see, Citrus County is one of the most optimal locations for an active adult lifestyle in Florida. Make sure to include a tour through Citrus County and the Villages of Citrus Hills on your next trip to Florida so that you can see the area for yourself.  Who knows you may decide to call us home!

The Top 5 Places to Take Visitors in Citrus County

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One of our favorite things about living in Citrus County is that there is an endless number of things to see and do.  There is always something happening right here in the Villages of Citrus Hills, and there are just as many fun attractions throughout the rest of the county.  

All of these attractions and activities are great for those of us who call Citrus County home, but they can be a little overwhelming for those who are just visiting with us for a short time. For that reason, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top five places everyone must see while visiting in Citrus County.  

5. Fort Island Gulf Beach

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Fort Island Gulf Beach is one of those places that you probably say, “We should come here more often,” just about every time you visit. It has beautiful white sand beaches, public restrooms, and a great boardwalk overlooking the water.  

When your guests visit the Gulf Coast of Florida, they are definitely going to want to SEE the Gulf Coast. This is the perfect way for them to see it right here in Citrus County, and it’s also an extremely relaxing way to spend a day.

4. The Withlacoochee State Trail 

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Bicycling is a fun way to show your guests a good time outdoors, making the most of our great Florida weather. There are lots of trails to choose from around Citrus County, but the Withlacoochee State Trail is the one that is a must-see attraction. 

This is a perfect place for cyclists of all skill levels. You can take your time and cruise just a few miles, or push the envelope and explore all 46 miles of former train tracks.


3. Rainbow River Tubing

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 If your visitors are looking for something a little more adventurous that is still a great representation of life in Citrus County, taking them tubing on the Rainbow River is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. 

Tubing is popular from the beginning of April through the end of September and is the kind of experience that your visitors will be sure to tell everyone back home about!

 

2. Downtown Inverness 

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Whether your guests are interested in history, shopping, or great food, there is something for everyone to enjoy just a few miles away in downtown Inverness.  

Every tour of Inverness should start at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, but you might also want to explore the local shopping or grab some takeout food and head to Fort Cooper State Park for a picnic lunch.


1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 

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A lot of people who visit Florida want to get to the beach, which we addressed with number five on this list. But the main interest for many who visit Citrus County specifically is to see live manatees, and the best place to do that is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park!  

Visitors can get up close and personal with live manatees from the underwater observatory. They can also learn a lot more about these local mammals from the information sessions held regularly at the park.

Among each of these five attractions, you will definitely show your guests some of the very best highlights of Citrus County. And if you haven’t been to all of these places yourself, what are you waiting for?

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!

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.

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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.

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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!

 

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!

5 Places to Take Your Holiday Guests in Citrus County

One of our favorite things about living in Citrus County is that there is an endless amount of things to see and do.  There is always something happening right here in the Villages of Citrus Hills, and there are just as many fun attractions throughout the rest of the county.  

All of these attractions and activities are great for those of us who call Citrus County home, but they can be a little overwhelming for those who are just visiting with us for a short time. For that reason, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top five places everyone must see while visiting in Citrus County.  

5. Fort Island Gulf Beach 

Fort Island Gulf Beach is one of those places that you probably say, “We should come here more often,” just about every time you visit. It has beautiful white sand beaches, public restrooms, and a great boardwalk overlooking the water.

When your guests visit the Gulf Coast of Florida, they are definitely going to want to SEE the Gulf Coast. This is the perfect way for them to see it right here in Citrus County, and it’s also an extremely relaxing way to spend a day. 

4. The Withlacoochee State Trail 

Bicycling is a fun way to show your guests a good time outdoors, making the most of our great Florida weather. There are lots of trails to choose from around Citrus County, but the Withlacoochee State Trail is the one that is a must-see attraction. 

This is a perfect place for cyclists of all skill levels. You can take your time and cruise just a few miles, or push the envelope and explore all 46 miles of former train tracks. 

3. Rainbow River Tubing 

If your visitors are looking for something a little more adventurous that is still a great representation of life in Citrus County, taking them tubing on the Rainbow River is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Tubing is popular and with the beautiful forecast for the next week it will be the kind of experience that your visitors will be sure to tell everyone back home about! Kayaking or canoeing is another way to see the beautiful Rainbow River if the tubing is not of interest. 

2. Downtown Inverness 

Whether your guests are interested in history, shopping, or great food, there is something for everyone to enjoy just a few miles away in downtown Inverness.

Every tour of Inverness should start at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, but you might also want to explore the local shopping or grab some takeout food and head to Fort Cooper State Park for a picnic lunch.  

1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 

A lot of people who visit Florida want to get to the beach, which we addressed with number five on this list. But the main interest for many who visit Citrus County specifically is to see live manatees, and the best place to do that is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park!

Visitors can get up close and personal with live manatees from the underwater observatory. They can also learn a lot more about these local mammals from the information sessions held regularly at the park.  

Among each of these five attractions, you will definitely show your guests some of the very best highlights of Citrus County. And if you haven’t been to all of these places yourself, what are you waiting for?

The Manatees are Back for the Winter

There are dozens of reasons why Florida is a great place to live, but one of the top reasons has to be that the weather is nice and warm during the winter months.

Many of our friends and neighbors here in the Villages of Citrus Hills go north for the summer only to come running back at the first sign of winter.

Ironically, our local manatee population demonstrates the exact same behavior!

West Indian Manatees are extremely popular animals in Citrus County due to our year round population of them, which gets especially large during the winter months.

Despite their enormous size, these sea mammals have relatively little body fat and require warm water in order to survive. For that reason, they tend to migrate to the warm spring waters such as Crystal River and Homosassa Springs during the winter months. 

Another way that manatees are similar to our snowbird friends and neighbors is that once they find a place they like, they will return to the same spot year after year. It is not uncommon for a mother and her calf to go their separate ways out at sea for the entire summer and then be spotted hanging out together in their usual winter habitat the following year. 

As the manatees begin to migrate back towards our local springs for the winter, now is a great time to be planning your next manatee encounter. Whether you are looking to swim alongside the manatees, kayak near them, or observe them from dry land, there are great places to do all of those in Crystal River and Homosassa Springs!

Crystal River

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The best places to see manatees in the Crystal River area are Three Sisters Springs and the Kings Bay Manatee Sanctuary. Both of these places are best accessed by boat, but you can only get so close. In order to get up close and personal you will have to be in a kayak or canoe.

There are also a number of tour companies that operate out of the Crystal River area that specialize in manatee tours. These companies can take you right up to the popular manatee areas and many will instruct you on swimming right along with the manatees!

Homosassa Springs 

If you are looking to learn more about manatees, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the best place in the region. There is a daily educational program that gives visitors some background on manatees including their history and the rehabilitation efforts that are conducted at the park. 

The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park also has what they call the “Fish Bowl,” which is an underwater viewing area similar to what you would expect to find at an aquarium. This gives visitors the chance to get up close and personal with manatees without even getting wet!

Tampa Electric Company 

Because manatees are attracted to warm waters, they also tend to be attracted to power plants. One really interesting place to observe them is from the Tampa Electric Company near the mouth of the Hillsborough River. The warm water that the power plant discharges into the river is like a magnet for manatees, and the company has built a visitor center, overlook, and walkway for visitors to observe this phenomenon. 

Whether you prefer to break out your kayak and meet the manatees in their natural environment in Crystal River or stay on dry land and observe them from a distance at Homosassa Springs or the Tampa Electric Company power plant, make sure you take some time to get out and see these amazing sea mammals near the Villages of Citrus Hills this winter.

Withlacoochee State Forest Just Minutes From the Villages of Citrus Hills

Located just a short drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills is Withlacoochee State Forest, the third largest forest in Florida. The Citrus Tract is 41,222 acres and provides a tremendous number of opportunities for Citrus Hills residents to get out and enjoy their wonderful natural environment.

Like most state parks and forests, Withlacoochee State Forest has all the amenities that you would expect to find; camping, fishing, boating, and hiking. But in addition to those activities, there are also areas devoted to off-road motorcycle and ATV riding and horseback riding.

Here are just a few of the highlights of Withlacoochee State Forest and Citrus County that make living here a great outdoor adventure!

Camping & Boating 

There are many camping locations throughout Withlacoochee State Forest. Some of the most popular areas are Holder Mine Recreation Area, Mutual Mine Recreation Area, and Tillis Hill Recreation Area.

There are also many locations throughout the forest that are devoted to canoeing. The Withlacoochee South River, which flows directly through the forest, contains many points for canoes to enter or exit. Depending on the start and stop points, canoe enthusiasts can plan trips ranging from 3 miles all the way up to 14.4 miles.

Croom Motorcycle Area

The Croom Motorcycle Area at Withlacoochee State Forest is a haven for dirt bike and ATV riders. This 2600-acre facility offers courses and trails for riders of all skill levels. There is also a training area for riders who are just getting their feet wet. More experienced riders will enjoy the rougher trails that have been left as natural as possible.

The motorcycle park is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Riders who are looking to stay near the park for an extended period of time will be delighted to find that there is a campground here as well. 

Withlacoochee State Trail

The Withlacoochee State Trail is currently the longest rail-trail in the state of Florida. The trail was originally part of Henry Plant’s railroad that ran from Croom to Inverness. Over the years, the rail line was part of the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Coast Line, and CSX Transportation. In 1989, CSX Transportation sold the line to the state of Florida so that it could be paved as part of their Rails to Trails program.

The current trail runs from Citrus Springs down to within six miles of Dade City, for a total of 46 miles. The trail takes its visitors through everything from suburbs, to small towns, to historic landmarks. The trail is popular for walking, biking, and skating. It also has areas where horseback riding is available. There are many locations along the trail that feature a wide variety of dining and hotel accommodations.

The Florida Trailtrotter Program

Withlacoochee State Forest contains two different horse trails that are featured in The Florida Trailtrotter Program. The Bear Head Hammock Horse Trail is 8.4 miles long, and the Little River Ranch Trail is 8 miles long.

According to the Trailtrotter Program, one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of the state parks and forests in Florida is on horseback.

The Florida State Forest Trailwalker Program

The Florida State Forest Trailwalker Program encourages Florida residents and visitors to experience the natural beauty of the state by exploring a number of different trails throughout each of the state forests.

There are a total of nine different trails in Withlacoochee State Forest that are part of the Trailwalker Program. There are a number of shorter trails like Mud Spring, McKethan Lake, Hog Island, Johnson Pond, and Oxbow that are all less than 2 miles long. There are also some longer trails like Richloam South, which is 12.3 miles long!

Whether you are looking for fast-paced dirt bike action, slow-paced canoe trails, or the experience of horseback riding through a natural environment, there are plenty of options available in Withlacoochee State Forest and along the Withlacoochee State Trail.

Considering its close proximity to Citrus Hills, it’s easy to see why this is a very popular outdoor destination for our residents.

 

 

How to Get the Most Out of Living So Close to Disney World

Many people who choose to move to the Villages of Citrus Hills do so because of the great weather, reasonable cost of living, and overwhelming number of options for golfing. But the fact that Walt Disney World is located only an hour and a half away is definitely a factor that many residents come to appreciate over the years.  

There is simply no other attraction on the planet that is quite like Disney World. Whether you visit the parks with grandchildren, grown children, or as an adult couple, there is a never-ending and always-changing collection of things to see and do that will take your breath away time and time again.  

In order to help you get the most out of the fact that you will be living right up the road from the theme park destination that people travel to from around the world, we put together six key tips that particularly apply to local residents.  

Invest in an Annual Pass 

Disney World goes out of its way to take care of Florida residents by offering annual passes that come at steep discounts to purchasing tickets at the gate. Locals can purchase a “Weekday Pass” for as little as $13.66 per person each month.

If you want access on the weekends too, that price goes up to a little over $25 per person, which is still a huge discount for anyone who plans to visit more than a few times each year. 

Take Advantage of the Off-Season 

Since Disney World is such a kid-focused destination, most families tend to visit during the summer months when school is out. But since you are planning to live here all year, you will have the advantage of enjoying the parks during the winter months when the crowds are much lighter.  

Some of the best times to visit the park are in the fall right after the new school year starts, during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and right after the New Year and into early February.  

Stay On-Site Once in a While 

Living just a short car ride away means that you have the luxury of driving down for the day and then heading home at night. But you are definitely doing yourself a disservice if you don’t make it a point to stay at the parks at least a few times every year.

Disney World is the gold standard for every measure of service and customer satisfaction, and the onsite hotels are no exception. Staying in the onsite hotels also adds even more “magic” to the Disney World experience.

Learn Which Rides Differ from Park Hours 

As a local resident who takes advantage of the great deals Disney offers on annual passes, you are going to get to know each of the parks a lot better than most of the people who are only able to visit once every few years.

Using your “insider” information to your advantage, take note of which rides open and close at times that are different from the main park gates. You might also want to keep notes on which rides have longer lines at different times of the day.  

There’s an App for That 

Whether or not you bother to keep your own notes, you can have access to lots of great notes that other people have collected over the years by taking some time to download all of great Disney World apps that work as virtual tour guides.

There are literally dozens of these apps available for iPhone and Android, so take some time to search for the best ones and you will be amazed at how they enhance your Disney experience.  

There’s More Than Just Disney

It’s also important to remember that there is even more to the Orlando theme park scene than the four major Disney parks. You might also want to make plans to explore SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND, and Universal Studios throughout the year.

Whether you are looking to spoil your grandkids or happen to be a kid-at-heart yourself, there is no limit to the fun and excitement you can find at Walt Disney World, just a short drive away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. 

 

Make sure that you do everything you can to take advantage of living so close to this magical destination.

Great Day Trip: Caladesi Island

While its exact ranking will vary slightly from year-to-year, no one will deny that Caladesi Island is one of the absolute best beaches in America.

This practically untouched state park is located just west of Clearwater, but the only way to get there is to take the 15-20 minute ferry from Honeymoon Island.  Including the ferry ride, Caladesi Island State Park is just under 2 hours away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. 

America’s Best Beach

Once you arrive at Caladesi Island, it is easy to see why it was rated the top beach in America in 2008 and continues to be featured on similar lists year after year. This beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear water remains undeveloped. There are no highways, no traffic, no homes, and no commercial buildings. 

While the island is completely undeveloped, there are still plenty of amenities like a snack stand, umbrellas for rent, and lifeguards on duty when in season. In addition to having great sand, and warm water, the beach is also a great place for shelling because it is not overpopulated with tourists. 

For the Active Beachgoers

The idea of relaxing on an untouched beach sums up a perfect day for many of us, but those who need a little more activity will not be disappointed either. Caladesi Island State Park has three miles of nature trails that weave their way through the island’s interior. 

There is also a three-mile kayak trail through the bay. As you hike or paddle around the island, you are likely to spot some of the local gopher tortoises burrowing in the sand dunes. 

Because of the lack of tourist traffic, local anglers will find great salt-water fishing both from the island’s beaches and the surrounding waters. There are also plenty of picnic areas, and if you have your own boat, you can make a reservation to dock it at the Caladesi Island Marina for an overnight trip. 

Stopping for Dinner

There is a small cafe located right on Caladesi Island, but if you are going to be passing through Clearwater on your way back home, you will definitely want to consider stopping at Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza. This family-owned pizzeria makes some of the best pizza you will ever try. In addition to their fantastic pizza, Cristino’s also specializes in chicken wings that are smothered in garlic and caramelized onions, homemade lentil soup, and their famous panzerotti!

Another great local restaurant that you might want to try is Eatin’ Fresh, but they are only open for lunch, so you will want to make sure to plan your day accordingly and either get back from the island in time to eat or eat before you head out to the beach. Eatin’ Fresh has a great selection of fresh seafood including some outstanding fish tacos and the original Stone Claw Taco. 

The ideal trip to Caladesi Island probably starts with a light lunch of Stone Claw Tacos at Eatin’ Fresh around 11:00 am. From there, you can head out to Honeymoon Island to catch the ferry to Caladesi Island and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach or exploring the nature trails. Follow your beach adventure with a coal oven pizza from Cristino’s and you will be both relaxed and well-fed for your trip back home to the Villages of Citrus Hills.

A Day at the Beach: Pine Island Park Beach

One of the best things about living along Florida’s nature coast is that there are so many quiet little beachfront parks located up and down the coast along the Gulf of Mexico. Here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we are within driving distance of quite a few excellent beaches, and Alfred A. McKethan Pine Island Park Beach is one of our favorites.  

Getting Out to Pine Island 

Pine Island is located about an hour away from the Villages of Citrus Hills in the southern half of the Chassahowizka Wildlife Management Area. Getting there is a breeze if you take US-19 south from Homossassa and then a right in Weeki Wachee.

 

Once you get close to the coast, you’ll make another right onto Pine Island Drive. From there, you will have the pleasure of cruising through a stunning natural habitat that feels like you’re driving across a Caribbean island or one of the Florida Keys.  

White Sand Beaches & Crystal Clear Water

As in most of the beaches along the nature coast, you are going to find yourself surrounded by beautiful white sand once you arrive at Pine Island Park Beach. Enjoying a few hours lounging in the sand is a great way to start your visit, but if you are feeling adventurous, head on out into the water where there are plenty of great swimming areas.

Because of its location, this isn’t the type of beach where you are going to be bothered by speedboats or jet skis flying past while you are trying to relax. Everything is calm out here, and that’s the way the people who visit like it.

Willy’s Tropical Breeze Cafe 

When you get hungry, there is a small cafe located right at the park that serves everything from burgers to seafood. They also have excellent coffee for their early morning guests.

Because Willy’s offers open air seating that is pretty much right on the beach, this is a very popular option for patrons looking for a sunset view during dinner. If you have the opportunity to stay for dinner, we highly recommend it.  

Picnicking at the Park 

In addition to Willy’s Cafe, there are also many picnic areas located throughout the park. So if you are looking to create your own amazing sunset dinner, you might want to think about picking up a few steaks and some charcoal on the way down. There are multiple charcoal grills available at each of the picnic areas.  

The Playground Area 

One other aspect that attracts visitors to the park is the large playground area for the kids. While the older visitors are definitely more impressed by the white sand beaches and gorgeous sunsets, the kids are all about diving headfirst down the slide.  

So when your grandkids are in to visit along with their parents, a day at the park out on Pine Island really does have something for everyone.  

With so many beachfront parks to choose from, it can take a resident here at the Villages of Citrus Hills years to explore them all. We encourage everyone to take their time and do exactly that, but after spending a day at Pine Island Beach Park, you might not want to go anywhere else next time.