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Massive Expansion at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa

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There is nothing in the world quite like the thrill of a gaming experience done right, and thanks to a brand new $100 million expansion to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills can now treat themselves to an extraordinary experience any time they feel like making the 90-minute drive down to Tampa.

The massive expansion project at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa took about two years to complete, and it has improved the facility to the point where it can legitimately claim to offer one of the biggest and most luxurious gaming experiences in the entire world. And in true Hard Rock fashion, the grand opening included a ceremonial guitar smashing!

Let's take a closer look at some of the impressive new amenities you can find there!

Smoke-Free Gaming Expansion

The most significant addition to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino is the massive new gaming floor that is completely smoke-free. While many casinos offer limited non-smoking sections with older machines, this enormous space features over 800 of the newest and most popular slot machines, like Michael Jackson Icon, as well as five live-action blackjack tables.

The new smoke-free gaming floor also features convenient entrances and exits that are right next to valet and ride-share drop-offs, so you won't have any trouble finding the place. You can also enjoy a cocktail at the Video Poker Bar or watch the biggest game of the day on one of the 20 flat screen televisions throughout the smoke-free space.

State-of-the-Art Smoke-Free Poker Room

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Poker enthusiasts will be blown away by the look and feel of the brand new, 46-table poker room that offers Wi-Fi throughout, a sports bar, and more than 40 flat screen televisions. If poker is your thing, the new poker room just became your favorite place in the world. 

Smoke-Free Dining

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With seven different smoke-free dining options to choose from, finding a great meal at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino is never a difficult task. Visitors can dine at the new Council Oak Steak & Seafood, or head over to The Rez Grill, Hard Rock Cafe, Fresh Harvest Buffet, Rise Kitchen & Bakery, Rock 'N Raw, or Jubao Palace Noodle Bar. 

Smoke-Free Shopping

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 As if the new spaces at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino were not already impressive enough, the expansion also included some upgrades to smoke-free shopping destinations like the Hard Rock Store, Rock Shop, Rainmaker, and the Rock Spa & Salon. So, if you are looking for great shopping, you don't even have to leave the facility!

Residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills have known for years that the Seminole Hard Rock Casino was a fantastic destination for a quick day trip or a weekend getaway, but with the new upgrades and expansions, it has evolved into a must-see destination for just about everyone in the state of Florida.

Where else could you find a luxury casino and hotel on the level of a Las Vegas property only 90 minutes from home?

 

Visiting Dunedin: Craft Beer and Open-Air Markets

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To the average person, the little towns that exist along the Gulf Coast might look to be interchangeable. But to those of us who make a habit of visiting these towns regularly, each one has its own personality that has developed over the years. In Dunedin, that personality is built around an impressive lineup of craft breweries and a fabulous open-air farmers' market.

Located just west of Tampa and north of St. Petersburg, Dunedin is about an hour and a half away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. That makes it a perfect destination for a quick day trip, but there is also enough excitement here to turn that day trip into a weekend getaway if you like!

Touring the Dunedin Breweries

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With eight different breweries operating in Dunedin, there is never a shortage of fantastic craft beers to sample. And having that many breweries in such a small area has created a unique opportunity to participate in walking tours that visit multiple options on the same trip.

One of the most iconic choices is Dunedin Brewery, which was the very first microbrewery in all of Florida. There’s a lot of history to enjoy here, but the brewing equipment and the beer it produces all utilize modern technology to create an amazing variety of products.

Two others that should be on your brewery tour list are 7th Sun Brewing Company and Woodwright Brewing Company. 7th Sun is known for making killer IPAs and sour beers, and Woodwright is attached to a woodworking shop that has created just about everything in their tasting room.

In addition to these three breweries, visitors to Dunedin should also check out Cueni Brewing Co., Soggy Bottom Brewing, and Caledonia Brewing. Each offers a slightly different twist on tastings, tours, and taprooms, so make sure you plan to visit as many as possible. 

Dunedin Downtown Market

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Another popular reason to visit Dunedin is the weekly open-air market that is filled with more than 60 vendors selling everything from basic produce to fully cooked meals and everything in between.

The Dunedin Downtown Market takes place every Friday and Saturday from November through the end of May, and then just on Saturday through the end of June. It is located in Pioneer Park right at the corner of Main Street an Douglas Avenue in downtown Dunedin.

The Islands off of Dunedin

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On top of all the action you will find in downtown Dunedin, there are also two fabulous islands located just off the coast that offer some of the most pristine beaches in all of Florida.

Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park both offer stunning white sand beaches in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere that will take your breath away. The parks also provide plenty of choices for hiking, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and observing a wide range of wildlife.

The Dunedin Restaurant Scene

With all that there is to see and do in Dunedin, you are probably going to work up quite the appetite during your visit. Fortunately, the community is also home to a thriving restaurant scene that offers something special for just about every craving.

Three suggestions for a quick lunch are Lucky Lobster, Dunedin Fish Market & Olde Bay Cafe, and Happy's Bayou Bites. All three specialize in creating delicious seafood dishes with their own unique twists.

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If upscale dining is what your palate seeks, a reservation at The Black Pearl should be on your list. With Maple Glazed Pork Belly, White Truffle Lobster Risotto, and Twice Cooked Maple Leaf Duckling, the French and New American style menu here is a foodie's dream come true.

Combining outstanding food with stunning beaches, the excitement of the market, and the range of flavors coming out of the breweries, Dunedin offers a truly unique Florida experience.

 

The only question left to ask is when are you planning to visit?

November Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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The first ten months of 2017 have flown right by us and we are now heading into the holiday season here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. November is typically a month where the activities calendar lightens up a bit, but that is simply not the case this year.

Between all of the social events, arts and education activities, golf and tennis tournaments, and dinner specials, there is something for residents to get excited about just about every single day throughout the month. Let's take a closer look at some of the exiting activities and events you won't want to miss.

Social Events

Fans of the monthly Trivia Challenge will want to check out the brand new Extreme Jukebox event happening in the Hampton Room on Thursday, November 9. There will be a live host leading a game that combines elements of bingo, karaoke, and "Name That Tune."

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We will be celebrating Veterans Day with a Veterans Day Dance in the Hampton Room on Saturday, November 11. There will be a dinner featuring Bourbon Salmon and Sliced Prime Rib followed by live music from Lisa Beck of Solid Rock.

Our Second Annual Car & Truck Show will be taking place in the Activity Center Parking Lot on Sunday, November 12 from 9 am to 3 pm. This will be a great chance for everyone to get out and enjoy the fall weather while appreciating some of the coolest rides you will find here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Anyone who enjoys the Extreme Jukebox event will also want to attend this month's Trivia Challenge on Tuesday, November 21 in the Hampton Room. Dinner this month will feature Boursin Stuffed Chicken Breast.

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If you would like to join a group of people in getting away for Thanksgiving Day, the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning a Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise for Thursday, November 23. We will be heading east to Sanford to board a classic paddleboat for lunch and live entertainment.

Arts & Education

Dr. Joe Coffey will be leading a weekly lecture series on the relationship between the United States and China starting on Wednesday, November 1 and running through Wednesday, December 13. Each of the lectures will take place in the Activity Center Card Room from 4:30 pm to 6 pm.

Local author Linda Tillis will be hosting a Book Reading and Q&A Session at the Coffee Shop on Friday, November 3 from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. Guests at this event can take advantage of a great coffee and croissant special as well!

The Lunch & Learn series will be back on Monday, November 6 with U.S. Air Force Veteran Joe Romiti speaking about patriotism, the history of our country's flag, and the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance. Lunch for this event will include an Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwich with Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry Sauce.  This event will be taking place in the Garden Room.

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More than 50 local craft vendors will be setting up in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, November 28 for the 13th Annual Holiday Boutique. There will be all kinds of great gift ideas to choose from, which makes this the perfect time to start your Christmas shopping for the year!

Golf & Tennis

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Competitive golfers will be lining up to have some fun participating in the Veterans Day Scramble at Skyview on Saturday, November 11. They will also be heading over to The Oaks course for the Pro Shop Open on Saturday, November 18.

If you are new to golf, you might want to join the Newbie Nine Hole League that plays on The Meadows course every Thursday at 3 pm. And you can also get plenty of advice on your golf game at one of Mary Slinkard's Free Golf Clinics scheduled throughout the month.

The Skyview Tennis Center will be a busy place this month with their Burger Bash Tennis Social scheduled for Sunday, November 5, a Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, November 14, and a Tennis Taco Fest right around the corner on December 3.

Dinner Specials

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Skyview Restaurant and The Grille will both be having Thanksgiving Dinner Specials on Thursday, November 23. Skyview will be serving entrees like a Roast Turkey Platter and New York Strip Steak, and The Grille will be having a traditional Thanksgiving Buffet. Both restaurants will be serving from 12 pm to 5 pm and reservations will be required.

In addition to their Thanksgiving Dinner Special, Skyview Restaurant will also be hosting a Wine for the Holidays Tasting on Tuesday, November 7, and a European Pub Night on Tuesday, November 21.

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Over at The Grille, there will be a Fall Harvest Dinner on Thursday, November 2, a Family Feast of Comfort Food on Sunday, November 12, and a Taste of the Southwest on Thursday, November 16.

BellaVita Spa & Fitness

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If you manage to find some time for yourself during the month of November, you might want to head over to BellaVita Spa to take advantage of their Cranberry Orange Massage and Pumpkin Enzyme Facial specials.

And, as if all of that still wasn't enough, start marking your December calendars for the Holiday Tree Lighting on December 5 and make your reservations for the New Year’s Eve Party in the Hampton Room!

For a complete listing of all the events and activities for the month of November, click below.

http://www.citrushillsgolfandcountryclub.com/userfiles/file/November%202017%20Connections%20ONLINE.pdf

 

 

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.

Weekend Trip to America's Best Beach

Everyone knows that Florida's Gulf Coast has some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, but Dr. Stephen Leatherman aka “Dr. Beach” drove that point home last month when he named Siesta Beach on Siesta Key just south of Sarasota as the top beach in America this year.

Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills will be pleased to know that the best beach in the country is located just 2.5 hours south of their community, which makes for a perfect day trip or weekend getaway. If you are looking to check out the pristine white sand and clear blue water of Siesta Beach, we have all the information you need to plan an enjoyable trip.

Where to Stay Near Siesta Beach 

 The Capri at Siesta

The Capri at Siesta

According to TripAdvisor, the number one hotel on Siesta Key is The Capri at Siesta, located right on the most beautiful beach in the country. This charming boutique hotel offers everything from simple studio rooms to suites and villas, and all of the prices are surprisingly reasonable considering the popularity of their location.  Staying at The Capri will get you right into the heart of the action without breaking the bank.

 

Another popular option located right on the beach is Tropical Beach Resorts, where you can park your car right in front of your room and then never bother to use it for the entire length of your stay. Much like The Capri, Tropical Beach Resorts gets high marks for service, friendliness, and cleanliness. It also won't cost you an arm and a leg to stay here for the weekend.

If you are thinking about spending more than a weekend in Siesta Key, you might also want to consider one of the many vacation rentals available all over the island. These often end up being a better deal if you are planning to stay for a week or more, and there are plenty of options to choose from.

 

What to Do Near Siesta Beach

As you might expect, just about everything revolves around the beautiful beaches in Siesta Key. In addition to the stunning Siesta Beach, you can also explore Crescent Beach and Turtle Beach, which are equally beautiful but often get less tourist traffic.

No matter which beach you prefer, you are never far from a parasailing adventure on Siesta Key, which is an excellent way to get a great view of the island.  Snorkeling, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, jet skis, boat tours, and deep-sea fishing are also popular in the area.

There are dozens of local tour companies that offer all kinds of water activities, so just ask your hotel concierge to recommend one, and you can get right down to business.

 

If you are looking for great shopping on Siesta Key, you are definitely going to want to stop at The Gallery. Here you will find all kinds of unique gifts, clothing, and hand-made jewelry.

 

Where to Eat Near Siesta Beach

When you are spending your time relaxing on Siesta Beach, you might be tempted to grab a bite from the Siesta Sun Deck right on the beach, but there are many more options located on the northern end of the island if you are willing to stroll up the beach to Ocean Boulevard.

3.14 Pi is a local favorite for anyone looking to grab some gourmet pizza, delicious wings, and a cold craft beer. All of their pizzas are fantastic, but you can never go wrong with the 3.14 Siesta Pi or the Beach Bum Pi.

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Another casual option is the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, where you will find all of the shellfish and frozen cocktails you could ever desire. They have a great happy hour special from 3-6 pm every single day with half off oysters and crawfish boils.

One of our favorite spots for dinner on Siesta Key is The Cottage, where you will find a fantastic tapas menu featuring          excellent seafood items like Wonton Tuna Tacos, Black Mussels, and Peruvian Ceviche.

 

Not only is Siesta Beach the best beach in the country, but it is also located on a beautiful island, filled with great places to stay, and surrounded by excellent local restaurants. If you are looking for a reason to start planning your next getaway, this is it! See you at the beach!

Weekend Trip: Fort Lauderdale

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

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

Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale

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

 The Pillars Hotel

The Pillars Hotel

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

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

Things to do in Fort Lauderdale

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

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

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

Places to Eat in Fort Lauderdale

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

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

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

 Cafe Seville

Cafe Seville

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

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

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

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

Getting to Margaritaville

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

Entering Paradise

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

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

 

 

Margaritaville Dining

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

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

Wasting Away in Margaritaville

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

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

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

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

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!

Weekend Getaway: The Upper and Middle Keys

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

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

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

Where to Stay

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

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

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

Things to Do

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

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

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

Places to Eat

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

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

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

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

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 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?

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.

Killer Deals: Our Favorite Local Flea Markets

One of the favorite pastimes for many residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills is bargain shopping. And between all of the local discount stores, craft boutiques, and antique shops in the surrounding area, there is an almost never-ending supply of options. But nothing feels quite like a good old-fashioned flea market…and we’ve got plenty of those too.  

Depending on the day of the week and how far you are willing to go, there is always treasure hunting here in Citrus County. These are a few of our favorite local markets.  

Howard’s Flea Market

Fun, Food & Fabulous Finds

With more than 800 covered booths spread out over 55 acres, Howard’s is the largest flea market in Citrus County. This local treasure was started back in 1972 and has won a “Best of the Best” award from the Citrus Chronicle every single year for two decades now.

Bargain hunters will find a wide range of items available at Howard’s. In addition to all of the standard types of flea market items, there is also a great selection of gourmet deli foods. They are open every Friday from 7 am to 2 pm, and every Saturday and Sunday from 6:30 am to 2 pm, and parking is always free.  

You can find Howard’s Flea Market on Suncoast Boulevard right in Homosassa.  

Stokes Flea Market 

If you are looking for a good mid-week flea market, Stokes Flea Market in Crystal River is a great choice. They are open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 am to 2 pm, and Wednesdays are typically busier than Tuesdays.  

As you make your way through the booths at Stokes, you will find all of the typical guns, knives, and jewelry vendors under covered booths towards the front. But those open-air booths at the back are where it gets a lot more interesting. This is where you will find all kinds of random stuff…including some hidden treasures.  

Southern B’s Indoor Flea Market 

It doesn’t have to be a nice day to find some bargains at Southern B’s Indoor Flea Market. They are located right along US-19 in Crystal River, and you will find just about anything you can imagine under the roof here! 

This one is more of a vintage second-hand store than a true flea market, but there are still some amazing finds to be had here. They are open every day from 10 am to 5 pm, so if the weather tries to throw a damper on your shopping plans, Southern B’s is the perfect backup option.  

Webster Westside Market

webster_flea.jpg

If you are willing to travel about an hour southeast of the Villages of Citrus Hills, you will find yourself at the Webster Westside Market in Webster, Florida. This 35-acre market has been packed full of booths for more than 50 years now.

Webster Westside Market is a great place to search for those hard-to-find antiques, but they also have plenty of food vendors and two restaurants on site. They are open every Monday from 6 am to 2 pm during the summer, and then from 5 am to 3 pm from September through April.  

I-75 Flea Market

Another big weekend market is the I-75 Flea Market located off of I-75 just north of Ocala. They are open every weekend from 7 am to 2 pm on Fridays, and from 7 am to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sunday. 

 And if all of these flea markets aren’t quite enough, you might want to check out the massive Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton or Renninger’s Twin Market in Mount Dora.  

Happy shopping!

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!