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Tampa Bay

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!

August Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

The height of summer is here, and we are only one month away from rolling through the Labor Day holiday and cruising straight into the cool fall months when the activities and events really heat up here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

But just because we are excited about the coming fall season, don't let yourself overlook some of the activities and events that will be happening over the next few weeks in our community. Whether you are looking for fun social events, competitive sports and recreation, or just a great meal, we have the inside scoop on what's happening at Citrus Hills this month!

Social Events

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The first big social event of the month will be the Magic & Comedy Dinner Show featuring Jon Armstrong on Tuesday, August 14 in the Hampton Room. This fun-filled magic comedy show will start at 7 pm following a dinner of Roasted Pork with Cinnamon Apple Glaze, Bourbon Salmon, Buttered Herb Noodles, and Steamed Mixed Vegetables.

Trivia Tuesday is back in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, August 21. The Sharks took down the contest with 50 points last month, but August is a new month, and everyone is ready to compete. Dinner for this month's Trivia Tuesday will feature Chicken Marsala and Baked Haddock.

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Then the biggest party of the summer will happen on the very last day of the month when Copacabana Night takes over the Hampton Room on Friday, August 31. The fun will start with a Latin-themed dinner of Cuban Pulled Pork and Chicken and Peppers in Garlic Wine Sauce. Then, things will really get wild when a 10-piece Latin band takes the stage. Don't leave your dancing shoes at home for this one!

Sports fans will also want to be sure to book their tickets this month for three fall trips that the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning. There will be a group heading down to see the Tampa Bay Rays host the New York Yankees on Thursday, September 27. The club is also planning trips to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, November 11 and Sunday, December 2.

Sports & Recreation

The Oaks Course at Citrus Hills will be the place to be on Saturday, August 4 when they host the Awesome August Open. This fun outing will be a great way to prepare for some more serious ones like the Citrus Hills Labor Day Open, Skyview Ryder Cup Tournament, and Skyview Men's Shootout happening in September.

Another way to gear up for those September tournaments is to stop by the driving range at Skyview. And they just happen to be running a special from August 6 through August 12 that will hook you up with 10 FREE buckets of balls if you buy or upgrade an electronic range key.

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There will also be Free Golf Clinics with Mary Slinkard happening throughout the month of August. Mary will be working with beginners on August 6, 7, and 8. Then she will be back for intermediate clinics on August 14, 21, and 28.

Anyone who is new to tennis will find plenty of helpful coaching at the Free Beginner Tennis Clinic held at the Skyview Tennis Center on Tuesday, August 14. All golf and social members are invited to attend, and no equipment is required.

Other competitive events happening around the community this month include a fun Wallyball game at BellaVita every Wednesday from 4 pm to 5 pm and a Pickleball 101 event happening on the first and third Thursday of the month.

Dinner Specials

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Our friends at Skyview Restaurant are really going to be testing our diets this month with a Turkey Buffet special on Tuesday, August 14 and a European Pub Night on Tuesday, August 28. The Turkey Buffet will include all of your favorite Thanksgiving foods, and the European Pub Night be featuring entrees like Jameson Glazed NY Strip, Fish & Chips, and Braised Lamb Shank.

Sunday, August 26 is National Hot Dog Day, and The Grille is celebrating with a hot dog special from 3 pm to 8 pm. Dress your dogs up however you like with chili, cheese, sauerkraut, onions, tomatoes, pickles, and more!

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And if you find yourself craving hot dogs at other times during the month, don't forget that every Wednesday is Wing Dog Wednesday at The Tiki Bar with 30 cent wings and $3 hot dogs.

 

BellaVita Spa

In addition to all of the fun events and activities happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills this month, BellaVita Spa is offering a Peppermint & Rosemary Muscle Soothing Massage all month long.

 

Have a wonderful August!

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?

 

Rays Tickets: 4 Day Trips with the Vacationers Club

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We're only a few weeks into the 2018 Major League Baseball season, but our hometown Tampa Bay Rays are already struggling for all of the reasons we predicted in our season preview. Despite the team's struggles, they are still going to be involved in one of the most exciting division races of the season…they just won't be competing to win.

As the summer progresses, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are going to be firing hard at each other for the top spot. While the Yankees probably have the better team overall, the Red Sox jumped out to a quick lead after their hot start this month.

As these elite teams compete for the 2018 American League East pennant, each of them will make multiple trips down to Tampa to take on the Rays.

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club has already put together plans to attend four of those games over the next few months. Let's take a quick look at what we might expect to see each time one of the top two teams in the division comes to town!

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Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox - Thursday, May 24 - 7:10 pm

The first club trip down to Tropicana Field will be held on Thursday, May 24 for the last game in a series of three that will start earlier that week.

The Red Sox are likely to be favored in any game against the Rays that Chris Archer

isn't pitching, and we can also expect to see some exciting offense anytime a lineup that features studs like Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez comes to town.

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Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees - Saturday, June 23 - 4:10 pm

The New York Yankees will make their first trip to Tampa in the middle of June, and there is a good chance that they will have caught up to the Red Sox in the division race by then.

With power hitters like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez hitting in the heart of the lineup, referring to the Yankees as the Bronx Bombers is going to be very appropriate this season.

This is also a free jersey giveaway game where everyone in attendance will receive a Rays/Devil Rays reversible jersey!

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Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox - Sunday, August 26 - 1:10 pm

The Red Sox will be back in town for an early afternoon game on Sunday, August 26. And if we know the Red Sox, there will likely be some trade deadline additions to their team this time around.  Depending on where they are sitting relative to the Yankees and who becomes available at the deadline, there could be some real excitement to see in this series.

Sundays are kid’s days at the Trop, so the promotional calendar will feature DJ Kitty Slippers for all kids attending.

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Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees - Thursday, September 27 - 1:10 pm

Before closing out their season with a home series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rays will host the New York Yankees once last time in a weekday series that could see them clinching the AL East pennant on any given day.

This could be a chance to see the dramatic conclusion of an epic pennant race, and it could happen right here in sunny Florida!

 

Each of these Citrus Hills Vacationers Club trips to see the Tampa Bay Rays includes a ticket to the game in a group section, roundtrip transportation, and a free Rays hat. Make sure that you call the Activity Center to reserve your spot for one or all of these trips soon!

 

Where to Catch the Best Spring Training Games Near the Villages of Citrus Hills

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It might feel like just yesterday that the Houston Astros clinched their first World Series title, but the 2018 Major League Baseball season is coming up quickly on our calendars.  Spring training has begun, and there will be competitive games happening across the state of Florida for much of the next two months.

Six different teams make their winter homes near the Villages of Citrus Hills, and we have put together a few reasons that each are worth visiting during the next few weeks. So, whether you are a passionate baseball fan or just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, we will have you up to speed when it comes to the spring training games happening nearby.

New York Yankees, Tampa

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It's no secret that our hometown Rays suddenly become second-class citizens in Tampa while the Yankees are in town for spring training. And there will be plenty of excitement at George Steinbrenner Field this winter after the Bronx Bombers came up just short of another World Series appearance in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

To build on the talented young core that the Yankees put together last season, they went out and traded for power-hitting outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who will now team with sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez to create one of the most intimidating offenses that baseball has seen in years.

Philadelphia Phillies, Clearwater

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After the Philadelphia Eagles shocked the world by winning the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback last month, anything seems possible in the City of Brotherly Love this year. However, a deep playoff run still seems a bit ambitious for a Phillies team that was one of the worst in all of baseball last season.

One bright spot that will be worth watching this spring will be outfielder Rhys Hoskins, who came out of nowhere in the middle of last summer to smash 18 home runs in only 50 games. If Hoskins can continue to develop his skills while other key players like Maikel Franco also improve, the Phillies could be one of the most pleasant early surprises of the year.

Toronto Blue Jays, Dunedin

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The Toronto Blue Jays are another local spring training destination where you won't find many honest World Series believers. But with that said, there is still going to be plenty of excitement wherever the Blue Jays go with power hitters like John Donaldson and Justin Smoak in the lineup.

Donaldson proved that he is still one of the best hitters in baseball last season while Smoak had a stunning breakout campaign. Those two have taken over the power hitting from aging slugger Jose Bautista, who will find himself in a position battle with Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk this spring.

 

 Detroit Tigers, Lakeland

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With long-time veterans like Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton all finding new homes over the course of the 2017 season, the Tigers that reported to Lakeland this winter have a completely different look from the ones we are used to seeing.

What the Tigers are counting on is continued production from aging veterans like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. They are also

looking for guys like James McCann and Nick Castellanos to step into leadership roles in the clubhouse.

If those things happen, and some of the young players received in trades last season blossom into major league prospects, the Tigers could actually be one of the most fun teams to watch this spring.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Bradenton

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The Pirates shocked the baseball world this winter when they dumped ace pitcher Gerrit Cole and former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen for pennies on the dollar in trades with the Astros and the Giants. Those sudden moves created some friction in the clubhouse that will be the biggest story of spring training in Bradenton this year.

Players like Josh Harrison have made it clear that they are not happy with the front office, but we have seen manager Clint Hurdle work miracles with the Buccos before. The big question will be whether any of the players that general manager Neil Huntington received as compensation for Cole and McCutchen can contribute in a meaningful way. If so, those contributions need to start right away.

Baltimore Orioles, Sarasota

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Orioles fans can understand what the Pirates fans are going through as they have watched their front office attempt to shop stud third baseman Manny Machado for the better part of the past year now.

Fortunately for them, Machado is still around, and he is planning to move back to shortstop for the upcoming season. How he adjusts to his old position will be interesting to watch this spring.

We will also be keeping a close eye on the performances of center fielder Adam Jones and closer Zach Britton. Along with Machado, both are slated to be unrestricted free agents following the season, so all three will be playing hard for new contracts and will become potential trade targets in July.

No matter how good or bad they might look on paper, every major league team has plenty of interesting things to watch for during spring training. And with these six teams all making their winter homes within a short drive of the Villages of Citrus Hills, we recommend scheduling a visit with each of them over the next few weeks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 Season Preview

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With Raymond James Stadium in Tampa just about an hour and a half away, a lot of our residents consider the Bucs their adoptive NFL team.

After posting a 9-7 record last season and just missing the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reloaded with some impressive talent on the offensive side of the ball over the offseason, and are looking like they will be one of the more exciting teams in the explosive NFC south this year.

That new level of excitement is likely what attracted the producers at HBO to choose the Bucs to be the featured team on this year's edition of their Hard Knocks show, which began airing on August 8. The show will provide all of us with an inside look at this year's team, but first let's take a look at some of the key things they did to improve this offseason.

The Bucs Are Getting Offensive

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Everything in the Buccaneers offense revolves around the playmaking ability of quarterback Jameis Winston. Last year, we saw both sides of that coin with Winston accounting for some unbelievable highlight reel plays, as well as more than a few ugly interceptions.

 

There is no reason not to expect Winston to take another dramatic step forward this year and hopefully establish himself on the level of the other quarterbacks in his division, which just happens to be three pro bowlers in Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees.

Jameis found his groove with wide receiver Mike Evans last season, and that led to Evans being the most targeted wideout in the entire league. That trend was likely to continue no matter what, but the Buccaneers should be able to scheme more opportunities for Evans after adding free agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson to start opposite him. This will give Winston two dynamic big play receivers and should lead to one of the best offenses the fans in Tampa have ever seen.

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In order to improve the passing game even further, the Bucs spent their first-round pick on tight end O.J. Howard out of Alabama. While receiving tight end Cameron Brate is still going to be around for red zone packages, Howard is more of a dual threat player that can catch the ball, and should also be able to open up some holes for running back Doug Martin when he returns after the three games remaining on his suspension.

Don't Get So Defensive

With the Buccaneers focusing most of their offseason efforts on upgrading their offensive weapons, they did very little to improve what was a middle of the road defense last season.

Two improvements that they did make were signing defensive lineman Chris Baker from the Redskins and safety J.J. Wilcox from the Cowboys. Those moves should add some depth, but any real improvement in this defensive unit is going to have to come from young stars like linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves taking big steps forward.

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While they didn't make many moves on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, perhaps the most significant move was defensive coordinator Mike Smith's decision to return and sign an extension instead of taking a head coaching job elsewhere. Coach Smith has a proven track record of getting the most out of his players, and he should have no problem shaping this defense into a formidable unit by the end of the season. 

The Lonely Kicker

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Following their first preseason game, the Bucs officially cut ties with kicker and former second round pick Robert Aguayo. After struggling through most of his rookie year, Aguayo was not looking much better in his sophomore camp, and the front office decided that they would be more comfortable with veteran Nick Folk.

In addition to playing in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are also staring down the barrel of a daunting non-division schedule that features matchups with the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants. If they are going to evolve into a playoff team this year, they are going to have to prove that they can score on some of the best defenses in the league while slowing down some of the best offenses.

Fortunately, they appear to have just enough tools to do both!

The Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa

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

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

Henry B. Plant

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

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

The Tampa Bay Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dining Near the Museum

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

Day Trip: 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!

Drop The Puck: Your Tampa Bay Lightning Season Preview

After what has felt like one of the shortest summers ever, the Tampa Bay Lightning are back in action when the puck dropped on Thursday, October 13. And after falling just one game short of the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, that game didn’t come soon enough.  

The team that fell just short of beating the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins will be bringing back almost the exact same lineup this season, with a few notable upgrades. As long as they can stay healthy, there is championship upside in Tampa Bay next spring.  

Key Players to Watch This Year 

Steven Stamkos - After skating through trade rumors for more than a season now, Stamkos chose to stay with the Lightning and signed a massive free agent deal during the offseason. Look for the captain to be back in action anchoring the top line.  

Jonathan Drouin - Set to become a restricted free agent following this upcoming season, there is a lot of money to be made if Drouin can put together an entire season of scoring like he did in the playoffs last year.

Nikita Kucherov - As a restricted free agent that didn’t agree to a deal all summer, we have to worry that the status of Kucherov’s contract is creating a distraction in the locker room. It’s also possible that general manager Steve Yzerman could ship him out of town because of it.  

Tyler Johnson - TJ scored nearly 30 goals just two seasons ago, but something wasn’t quite right for pretty much the duration of the 2015-2016 season. He says that it was a lingering wrist injury and that all systems are go to get back to scoring goals for the second line this season.   

Ben Bishop - Expect Bishop to get the Stamkos treatment as this year’s “player in the last year of his contract.” Rumors are going to fly all season long, but as long as Ben is healthy and productive in the net, expect him to be the goaltender the Bolts look to in the playoffs.

Andrei Vasilevskiy - The Lightning’s uber-talented backup goaltender showed impressive form after taking over for an injured Bishop in the conference finals last spring. He then signed a 3-year extension this offseason. If anything happens to Bishop, this young goalie is more than capable of stepping up.

 Storylines to Watch 

In addition to the storylines that are related to individual players, there are three key things that are going to make or break the upcoming season for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  

First and foremost, the team needs to be more explosive with scoring, particularly on the power play. Tyler Johnson returning to form could be a big factor there, but look to see if the rest of the team can chip in as well.

The second major story to watch this season will be whether or not the Bolts are able to get any impact from their youngest players. Slater Koekkoek is the guy most people expect to contribute in his first full season, but watch for other young players to come up from their farm team, the Syracuse Crunch, over the year.  

Finally, the Lightning are going to have to do something about the fact that they have two outstanding goalies and the expansion draft is looming following the season. If the team is playing well, they likely will keep Bishop for another playoff run and risk losing Vasilevskiy in the draft. But if injuries slow this team down, there is a good chance Bishop gets traded for more young talent.  

Barring any major injuries, this Tampa Bay Lightning team is going to be a slight improvement on the outstanding team that took the Penguins to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. They should be thrilling to watch and make a run deep into the playoffs…so get ready for plenty of hockey nights in Tampa!