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Weekend Getaway: 48 Hours in Gainesville

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Are you ready for another weekend getaway?

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

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

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

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

Day One: Casual Dining and School History

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

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

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

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

Day Two: Butterflies, Cubans, and Fine Dining

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

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

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

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

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

Day Three: History, Brunch, and Shopping

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

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

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

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

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

August Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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

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

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

Social Events

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

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

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

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

Education

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

Golf & Tennis

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

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

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

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

Dinner Specials

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

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

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

BellaVita Spa

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

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

5 Fun Things to Do in Inverness

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

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

Embrace History at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum

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

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

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

Take in a Film at the Valerie Theatre

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

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

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

Go Biking on the Withlacoochee State Trail

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

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

Hit the Lake in Fort Cooper State Park

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

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

Enjoy the Local Restaurant Scene

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

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

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

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

July Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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The month of July is known for being hot and humid in Florida, but the activities and events happening here at the Villages of Citrus Hills might be even hotter than the weather this month.

Whether you are looking for fun social events, opportunities to explore arts and education, competition on the golf course or tennis court, or just a great meal, there is something for you on the July calendar.

Social Events

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This month’s social calendar is going to kick off on Sunday, July 7 when 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Tribute Band takes the stage at the Activity Center Auditorium as part of the Sizzlin’ Summer Show Series.

Tickets are going to go quickly for this one, so make sure you get yours soon.

The Hampton Room will be hosting a Comedy Night with Rick Corso on Thursday, July 11 with cocktails at 6 pm followed by the show starting at 7 pm. Rick is a nationally touring comedian who has been featured in Showtime’s Comedy Club All-Stars and Comedy Central’s “The A-List.”

The Hampton Room will also be hosting another installment of Tasty Trivia Tuesday. The competition will take place on July 16, and the menu this month will feature Beef Tips Marsala and Roast Pork with Cinnamon Apple Glaze with plenty of sides and dessert.

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The Hampton Room is going to close out the month with a wild time when DJ Butch Phillips shows up for the Hampton Hoedown on Friday, July 26.

This country-style dancing event will be a super casual party that includes lessons for all of your favorite line dances.

Arts & Education

Lunch & Learn is going to be back in the Garden Room on Tuesday, July 9 at 12 pm. This month's guest will be author Kelly Spence Cain, and the meal will include a Spinach Salad topped with Grilled Chicken Breast and Fresh Strawberries.

The Garden Room will also be hosting the Ageless Beauty Luncheon with Marie Grace on Tuesday, July 23. Marie will be discussing “Flawless Foundation Highlights & Contour” while everyone attending enjoys a Citrus Chicken Salad.

Golf, Tennis, & Pickleball

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The Meadows Course is going to be the focal point of the golf action this month when it hosts the Firecracker Open on Saturday, July 6. Like all of the open tournaments at Citrus Hills, this will be a relaxed event that also includes lunch and beverages following the round.

If you are looking to step up your golf game this month, you might want to think about attending one of PGA/LPGA Pro Mary Slinkard’s Free Golf Clinics. Mary will be working with beginners on July 8, 9, and 10. Then she will be back to fine-tune intermediate golfers on July 16, 23, and 30.

Speaking of clinics, the Skyview Tennis Center will be hosting their monthly Free Beginners Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, July 9 at 11:30 am. You don’t even need to own your own racket to show up and have a great time at this event, but you might find yourself buying one after learning some of the fundamentals.

Pickleball is being promoted as “the fastest growing sport in America,” and that is certainly the case here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. You can learn all about this fun and exciting game by attending Pickleball 101 on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 pm or the third Thursday of the month at 6 pm.

Dinner Specials

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The Fourth of July is obviously the biggest holiday event of the month, and Skyview Restaurant and The Grille are both going to be putting out impressive spreads. You can celebrate with entrees like Memphis Blues Ribs, Honey Barbecue Chicken, and Firecracker Grilled Salmon at Skyview from 12 pm to 4 pm, or you can head down to The Grille for similar specials and live music from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

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Skyview Restaurant is also going to be running “Summer Faire” specials every Friday night throughout the month of July that will include options like Roasted Cod, Baby Back Ribs, Butcher’s Block Beef Tips, and Aztec Chicken.

And you won’t want to miss National Hot Dog Day at The Grille on Wednesday, July 17. They will be serving up hot dog meals from 5 pm to 8 pm, and there will be a full toppings bar so you can create any kind of dog you like.

BellaVita Spa and Fitness

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In between all of the fun things happening around the community this month, you might also want to book some time for self-care at BellaVita Spa. Their specials for the month include the BellaVita Flawless Facial and a Swedish Massage Special.

For what is traditionally considered to be a slower time of year here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, there is actually quite a bit on the schedule throughout the entire month. Make sure that you mark down your favorite options so that you don’t miss out on the fun!

5 Fun Ways to Spend a Day in Ocala

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Located just an hour drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Ocala is one of the most unique destinations in all of Florida. There is a nearly endless number of things to do in and around this dynamic city, which makes it a perfect day trip destination for Citrus Hills residents.  

Whether you are interested in horseback riding and drag racing or shopping and art, there is something for everyone in Ocala. Let's take a quick look at five different ways to spend an exciting afternoon in "horse country." 

Horse Farm Tours 

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Because horse culture is such an integral part of Ocala, the first option for visitors is always going to be one of the many horse farm tours like the one you will find at Gypsy Gold Farm.  

No one ever has a bad thing to say about a visit to Gypsy Gold Farm, which typically includes a tour of the massive 40-acre property. The tour is filled with stories about both the property and the heritage of the horses that are raised there.  

If you are looking for even more horse-related fun, there is also Farm Tours of Ocala. This fun adventure takes visitors on a walking tour that covers three different farm properties.  

Drag Racing History 

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Visitors looking to experience something even faster than horse racing, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is a popular Ocala attraction that will get your motor running.  

This museum is full of historic drag racing cars, and there is an additional building filled with a fabulous collection of antique cars. You will not be disappointed.  

The Great Outdoors 

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Way back before things took off in Orlando, it was Silver Springs that was attracting people to visit sunny Florida. Silver Springs State Park is still an amazing place to visit any time of year, especially if you are interested in taking the glass bottom boat tour.  

For visitors who prefer flowers to boats, Sholom Park is a gorgeous 44-acre botanical garden that offers another option for enjoying the great outdoors in Ocala.  

Appreciation for the Arts 

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One of Ocala's hidden gems is the diverse collection of artworks on display at the Appleton Museum of Art. This small little museum contains art ranging from ancient Greece all the way up to today's modern art, and walking through the facility is always a relaxing experience.  

Shopping & Dining 

Sometimes, the best days in Ocala are the ones that start out without any plan at all, and that is exactly the type of fun you can find wandering around downtown Ocala.  

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Downtown Ocala features a fun combination of restaurants, boutique shops, and art exhibits that you won't find in other Florida towns. There are also a lot of historic buildings in this area, so make sure you take some time to let yourself wander around.  

With everything from horses to modern art available throughout the year, it's no wonder that Ocala is one of the most popular day-trip destinations for residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. The next time you are looking for a fun way to spend a day, head to Ocala and you are sure to find something amazing.