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Villages of Citrus Hills

Stone Crab Season – October 15 to May 15

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Florida stone crabs are known around the world for their delicious claw meat. But did you know that many of the stone crabs on menus around the country come from right here near the Villages of Citrus Hills? 

Whether you prefer them served cold with mustard sauce or warm with drawn butter, the experience of cracking and eating these crab claws is something you will never forget! 

About Stone Crabs

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One of the most interesting aspects of Florida stone crabs is that they are actually a renewable resource. When the crabs are caught in the traps of professional stone crabbers, the crabbers only take one claw from each crab and the crabs are then returned to the water.

As a defense mechanism, stone crabs are able to survive losing a claw and then regenerate that claw in about a year.  

The average stone crab has a lifespan of 8-9 years, and they are generally found in sandy ocean bottoms and seagrass beds along Citrus County’s coastline out to a depth of about 20 feet. Large stone crabs can weigh as much as one pound. They feed on oysters, snails, and various other small marine life. Female stone crabs can spawn as many as six times each year, producing up to one million fertilized eggs each time. In addition to humans, stone crabs can also find themselves being hunted by octopuses and grouper.  

Catching Stone Crabs

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The Florida stone crab harvesting season lasts seven months each year from October 15 through May 15. During this time, many amateur fishermen also hunt for stone crabs. 

Amateur crabbers are required to hold a salt water fishing license from the state of Florida, and they must adhere to certain regulations.

They are limited to a total of five traps, and they cannot catch more than one gallon of claws per day. The claws must all be a minimum of 2-3/4 inches.  

Eating Stone Crab

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While some find enjoyment in catching their own stone crab, many others prefer to let the professionals do the catching and simply focus on the eating. 

Probably the most popular place for stone crab near the Villages of Citrus Hills is Charlie’s Fish House & Seafood Market in Crystal River.  

The restaurant was originally started as an oyster bar by Charlie Kofmehl all the way back in 1960. The oyster bar was an immediate success, serving the best fresh fish and seafood in Citrus County. In the early seventies, Charlie turned the oyster bar over to his two sons, Jimmy and Phil.

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After years of continuing to grow the business, Jimmy and Phil decided to build a brand-new restaurant in 1990. The new waterfront restaurant had seating for 160 guests compared to seating for 30 in the old oyster bar. In honor of their father, Jimmy and Phil changed the name to Charlie’s Fish House.


Since then, the family business has continued to grow and guests can now find a third generation of Kofmehls working there.

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The restaurant menu at Charlie’s Fish House features a chilled stone crab appetizer with a mustard dipping sauce. There is also a 1-1/4 pound warm stone crab entree. In addition to stone crab, the menu features plenty of other local seafood favorites like oysters, grouper, shrimp, and scallops. If you prefer to cook your own seafood, Charlie’s Seafood Market sells fresh stone crab claws, as well as fresh caught grouper, mullet, red snapper, and even oysters. They can even ship stone crab to anyone you like across the country! 

Charlie’s also sponsors the Stone Crab Jam Music and Food Festival every fall in Crystal River. The festival is a fun-filled day of live music, exciting exhibits, and tons of stone crab.  

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11thAnnual “Stone Crab Jam” 

is Saturday, November 3rd, 12 Noon until 10 PM, 560 N. Citrus Avenue

Downtown Historic Crystal River, FL 34423 

 

Whether you are a seafood nut, or just looking for a fun experience to share with your family, catching or eating Florida stone crab is a fantastic option. When you live in the Villages of Citrus Hills, you can choose to catch your own, cook your own, or let a place like Charlie’s take care of everything for you!

5 Reasons to Start Hiking

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While fancy water-based activities like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding definitely have their place in the life of any active adult here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, one simple activity that just about everyone could do a little more of is hiking.  

It might not be talked about in the same light as some of the more exciting things that you can be doing outdoors, but the fact that our community is completely surrounded by local, state, and national parks filled with trails for hikers of all skill levels is precisely the kind of thing that needs more press coverage.  

One of the best things about hiking is that you are never too old to get out in the woods. And, just in case you felt otherwise, we found six reasons that prove just that.  

Everyone Needs Exercise 

No matter what doctor you see or what condition your overall health is in, just about every appointment includes a recommendation to get more exercise. So, if you are looking for ways to add a little exercise to your routine, there is no better option than an enjoyable hike through one of our neighboring parks.

The Price is Right 

Not only is hiking great for fulfilling the required exercise that today's active adults are looking for, it also isn't going to cost you anything at all outside of a good pair of shoes.  

Most of the great trails in Citrus County are located in parks that are open to the public with no fees.  

Go at Your Own Pace 

It is no secret that some outdoor activities can be a bit strenuous for retirees, but one of the best things about hiking is that you can take your time and move forward through a trail at whatever pace works best for your current fitness level.  

And since many of the local trails are greatly underutilized, you will be hard pressed to find anyone out there who is going to rush you through your workout.  

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Rails to Trails

If you are a complete beginner, then the local rails to trails options will be the perfect place for you to get used to walking through the woods without having to actually leave a smooth, paved surface.  

The Rails to Trails program has converted old railroad rails into paved trails all over the state, and we are blessed to have some great choices like the Withlacoochee State Trail right in our backyard.  

Enhanced Benefits 

If you aren't sold on hiking at this point, you're probably just looking for an excuse not to get out and enjoy the beauty of our local parks. But one last thing that might change your mind is the fact that relaxing out on a trail has been proven to increase clarity of thought and creativity.  

No matter what reasons speak most to you, heading over to one of our many local parks and getting yourself out on a trail is one of the very best things that you can do for your physical and mental health. So where are you planning to hike this weekend?

October Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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We’re rolling right into the fourth quarter of 2018, and October is going to be another month that is packed full of activities and events here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

Whether you’re looking for an excuse to get dressed up and hang out with friends, an opportunity to learn something new, a little competition, or just a great meal, we have got you in mind with all of the most exciting things happening around our community this month.  

Social Events

The first big social event of the month will be the Shabbat Dinner in the Garden Room on Friday, October 5. This month, dinner will consist of Bourbon Salmon and Chicken Marsala with sides, and then there will be Key Lime Pie for dessert.  

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Sliced Turkey and Baked Ham will be on the menu at the Harvest in the Hills Dinner Show in the Hampton Room on Saturday, October 13. In addition to a harvest-style meal, there will also be live entertainment from The Michael and Jennifer McLain Band featuring Dan Kelly.  

The monthly Trivia Challenge will be held on Tuesday, October 16 this month, and it will be happening with a Halloween twist! In addition to the normal buffet-style meal, there will also be trick-or-treat candy for everyone.  

On Friday, October 19, Charlie De will be performing a variety of music at the Dancing Through the Decades event in the Hampton Room. Following a dinner of Boursin-Stuffed Chicken Breast and Prime Rib, the music will take guests on a walk from the 60s all the way up to today's hits.  

Arts & Education 

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Lunch & Learn will be back in the Garden Room on Monday, October 15 at 11:30 am. This month, our guest will be photographer Jerry Dawson, who will be discussing his nature photography following a grilled chicken Caesar wrap for lunch.  

Speaker Don Dittatore will be talking about Avoiding Scams in Today's World in the Windsor Room on Tuesday, October 23 at 3 pm. This discussion will cover how senior citizens can avoid being taken advantage of in today's modern world.  

Golf & Tennis 

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The big golf event this month will be the Ghost Open at Citrus Hills on Saturday, October 6. After that, most golfers will be spending the rest of the month practicing for the big November events like the Harvest Invitational Tournament, the Veterans Day Tournament, and the Skyview Men's Better Ball Tournament.  

There will also be free golf clinics for beginners and intermediate golfers at Citrus Hills during the month of October. Beginners can get free coaching on October 8, 9, and 10. Then, intermediate golfers can get help with their game on October 16, 23, and 30.  

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This month's Free Beginner's Tennis Clinic will be held at Skyview Tennis Center on Tuesday, October 9 at 11 am. That clinic should be a big help for anyone who wants to participate in the Tennis Burger Bash, which will also be held at Skyview Tennis Center on Sunday, October 14.  

Tennis players can also look forward to the Tennis Players Golf Tournament on Sunday, November 4. This fun scramble will be starting from the Skyview Tennis Center with options to play 18 holes on The Oaks course or 9 holes on The Meadows course.  

Dinner Specials 

The big October dinner special at Skyview Restaurant is going to be an Oktoberfest event happening each and every Thursday throughout the entire month. Diners will get to choose from options like Sauerbraten, Potato Crusted Cod, Chicken Riesling, and Veal Holstein.  

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Skyview Restaurant will also be hosting a California Wine Country Dinner on Tuesday, October 9. This dinner will include four separate courses, each with a unique wine pairing. And Julie Swift from Jameson Ranch Vineyards will be explaining each of the pairings as they are served.  

On Thursday, October 18, the Tiki Bar will be hosting Alfresco Fall Elegance. Entrees for this meal will include Filet Mignon, Diver Scallops, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Honey Cilantro  

Lime Salmon. There will also be live music provided by Snap Dake.  

BellaVita Spa & Fitness

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 October is also a great month to pamper yourself, so make sure that you pencil in some time to head over to BellaVita Spa and take advantage of their specials like a Pumpkin Facial and a Pumpkin Sugar Massage.

 

With everything happening here at the Villages of Citrus Hills during the month of October, it should be no problem to fill your social calendar with all kinds of unique experiences thanks to the hard-working people at the Activity Center. For more information on any of these great events, don't hesitate to give them a call!

The Top 5 Places to Take Visitors in Citrus County

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

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

5. Fort Island Gulf Beach

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

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

4. The Withlacoochee State Trail 

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

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


3. Rainbow River Tubing

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

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

 

2. Downtown Inverness 

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

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


1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 

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

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

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

7 Benefits of Building a New Home

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One of the biggest questions faced by many people who are relocating to Florida is whether they are better off to build a new home or buy an existing one.

 

While there are advantages to both options, building a new home has certain key benefits that just can’t be matched when buying an existing one.

 

Here are the seven top benefits of building a new home instead of buying a resale:

 

  • Choose the Exact Look and Floor Plan

 

When you choose to build your new home from scratch, you get to build it the way you want it. You will have the option to choose the ideal floor plan you want and you will also be able to choose the materials and color schemes that fit your personality.

 

  • Personalize Each and Every Detail

 

Another big selling point for new home construction is that you will have the ability to personalize many aspects of your home. Adding features like a pot filler above the stove or a particular type of recessed lighting in a certain spot are easy to integrate when they are added before the walls go up.

 

  • New Homes Have Warranties

 

Should anything go wrong with your new construction home in the first few years, it will almost certainly be covered under your warranty. The same cannot be said with a resale home, where what you see is often what you get and you could be opening yourself up to tremendous risk if something goes wrong down the road.  

 

  • Save Energy With New Technologies

 

Whether you are selflessly concerned about protecting the environment or more interested in protecting your bank account from high energy costs, the modern green technologies that will be included in your new home will actually be able to do both!

 

Your new home is sure to have energy efficient appliances, and it may also feature energy saving technologies in its roofing materials, windows, and ventilation system.

 

  • Modern Style and Design

 

Building a new home instead of buying a resale also guarantees that you are on the cutting edge of the most modern style and design in the industry. At Citrus Hills you will have all of the design features that are popular today like granite countertops, open concept kitchens, elegant master suites, and covered lanais.

 

  • Lower Maintenance Costs

 

Simply put, new homes will require less maintenance. Your home will already have a fresh coat of paint and a brand new roof, air-conditioner and appliances, so those types of maintenance projects and replacements will not be necessary until years down the road. You will also be able to design your landscaping in a way that can help you save on maintenance there as well.

  

  • You’re the Only One

 

Another advantage of purchasing a new home is the feeling of knowing that you are the only person who has ever lived there. You won’t have to ever consider what might have happened in the home before you lived there. Everything will be brand new and built just for you.

 

Building a new home from the ground up gives you the ability to create the home of your dreams where every detail matches your expectations.

 

While there are pros and cons to both building a new home and buying a resale, for most people the benefits of building a new home far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

How Much House Do You Really Need in a Retirement Community?

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With all of the amenities available to residents at the Villages of Citrus Hills, planning to spend your retirement years here is an easy decision to make. But where things get a little more complicated is when you have to decide exactly how much house you are going to need once you are living here in Florida.

In most cases, you will have a good general idea of how big of a house you are looking for, but we have learned over the years that spending just a little extra time weighing the pros and cons of going a little bit larger or a little bit smaller can be the difference between an almost perfect retirement and one that actually is perfect.

If you are struggling with deciding exactly how much house you are going to need in your retirement years, we suggest taking some time to talk through each of the following five concerns to see how each of them might impact your new lifestyle.

 

Where Do You Spend Time?

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One of the biggest differences in the floorplans here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is the size of rooms like the great room, kitchen, and master bedroom. Depending on where you typically spend the most time, you might realize that you would like just a little bit more space in one of these places.

Of course, if you are the type of person who expects to spend the majority of your time out in the community or kicking back on your lanai, then any cost associated with upgrading these interior spaces will be a wasted expense.

 

 

Will You Be Hosting Guests?

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The most common reason that many residents choose to go a little bigger on their retirement home is that they are expecting to host guests on a regular basis.

Whether we are talking about long-time friends, children, or grandchildren, having an extra bedroom or two when hosting visitors is always going to be a plus.

What Are Your Hobbies?

Speaking of extra bedrooms, if you are considering picking up a new hobby during your retirement years, you will definitely want to make sure that you have plenty of room to explore your projects without leaving clutter all over the house.

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Crafting, puzzle building, and woodworking are all popular retirement community hobbies, and they all require plenty of extra space. And even hobbies like reading and writing can be much more enjoyable if they have their own space in your home.

 

 

What is Your Budget?

The first three questions probably got you thinking about pushing towards a slightly bigger retirement home, but the counterargument that you have to consider now is whether you can actually afford that extra space.

In addition to being able to afford the house itself, it is also important to keep in mind that larger homes will be more expensive in terms of maintenance and utilities.

How Do You Feel About Maintenance?

Speaking of maintenance, another great point to consider is that there are many options like the Care-Free floorplans at the Villages of Citrus Hills that include all of the necessary exterior maintenance on your home.

That means you won't ever have to bother with cutting grass, trimming the hedges, or exterior painting. But if you're the type of person who enjoys that type of work (aka crazy), you might not find much value in a home where someone else does the work for you.

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Determining the right size for your retirement home is a complicated process that really boils down to analyzing your lifestyle, contrasting it with your budget, and finding the home that best fits those two together. And here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we have options to cover just about any conclusion you reach.

September Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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Labor Day Weekend has finally arrived, and we are ready to put the summer heat behind us and move into the cooler autumn months here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. For our residents, that means that the activities and events calendar is filling up with all kinds of fun things that you want to be aware of.

Whether we are talking about exciting social events, golf and tennis competitions, or great dinner specials at our community restaurants, there is constantly something to do throughout the month of September. Let's take a closer look at some of the major activities and events this month!

Social Events

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The September social calendar is going to kick off in the Activity Center Auditorium on Friday, September 7 with an End of Summer Dance Party that will have everyone movin' and groovin'. Second Slice will be on stage performing a variety of hits that will keep

members and their guests boogying all night long.

There will be a Crime Prevention Workshop in the Activity Center Auditorium on Monday, September 10 at 1 pm. This workshop will be led by former law enforcement officers in our community, and it will provide insight into helping citizens be more aware of potential threats.

Tasty Trivia Tuesday is also back this month with a night of random knowledge in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, September 18. Dinner for this event will include Boursin Stuffed Chicken Breast and Sliced Sirloin in Mushroom Sauce along with salad, sides, and dessert.

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Another big event in the Hampton Room this month will be stand-up comedian Carl Guerra hosting a Comedy Dinner Show on Wednesday, September 26. You won't want to miss this high-energy comedy act, or the delicious meal that will be served with the performance.

September also marks the end of the baseball season, but the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club has one big trip to see the Tampa Bay Rays left on the calendar for the 2018 season. On Thursday, September 27, they will be taking a bus down to Tropicana Field to see the Rays host the surging New York Yankees.

Golf & Tennis

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The big golf event of September will be happening right at the beginning of the month on Saturday, September 1 when The Oaks Course at Citrus Hills hosts the Labor Day Open. Beverages and lunch will be provided after this fun holiday event, and you can get more information in the pro shop.

There will also be free golf clinics hosted by Mary Slinkard happening throughout the month of September. And no matter where your game is at this time of year, everyone could use a little tweaking heading into the big October events like the Skyview Member-Member Tournament, the Citrus Hills Ghost Open, and the Skyview Men's Club Championship.

The Skyview Tennis Center will be hosting its monthly Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, September 11 at 11 am. If you are thinking about getting into tennis this fall, this is the perfect opportunity to get some free coaching to improve your game in a hurry.

Dinner Specials

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The big dinner event at Skyview Restaurant this month will be the South American Wine Dinner on Tuesday, September 11. This fun dinner will feature four separate courses that are each paired with a unique South American wine, but it is limited to 50 guests, so make sure you make your reservations fast!

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The Tiki Bar will also be pulling out all the stops this month with impressive dinner specials on Wednesdays this month like a Seafood Boil Night on September 12, a Gourmet Mac & Cheese Night on

 

September 19, and a Barbecue Rib Night on September 26.

And don't forget that the Tiki Bar is the place to be for all the college football and NFL action when it kicks off this month!

BellaVita Spa

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With everything happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills this month, it might be hard to find any time to yourself. But if you can manage to find some quiet time, you'll want to check out the Detox Stem Cell

 

Facial special happening all month long at BellaVita Spa.

 

And while you have your calendars open, check out what you have planned for New Year's Eve, because tickets for the New Year's Eve Gala in the Hampton Room go on sale September 1!

5 Local Restaurants You Might Not Know About

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It's no secret that there are more than a few great restaurants here in Citrus County. In fact, we have three outstanding options right here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

With so many choices available, there are bound to be some restaurants that slip through the cracks when we are deciding on a place for dinner. And on top of that, there are always new places opening up all around our community.

To help you keep your dinner plans fresh and exciting, we pulled together a list of five excellent restaurants that you might not know about just yet!

    Kelly's Half Shell Pub

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One of the newest on the Citrus County restaurant scene is Kelly's Half Shell Pub in Crystal River. This new joint is all about oysters, and you can order them just about any way you like!

Oysters Rockefeller is popular, but if you are feeling brave, we recommend trying their Spicy Raw Oysters!  In addition to the half shell menu, Kelly's also has some killer pub food with feature items like Reuben Eggrolls, Irish Poutine, Guinness Mussels, and Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi.

 

Los Magueyes of Inverness

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Another new restaurant that just recently opened its doors is Los Magueyes of Inverness. They specialize in authentic Mexican cuisine, and according to a number of local diners, they are absolutely knocking it out of the park.

The homemade salsas are the main selling point at Los Magueyes, but keep in mind that each entrée is

going to be prepared just  like it would be if you were actually dining in Mexico. Ole!

   Habaneros Mexican Grill

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Because one new Mexican restaurant just wouldn't be enough, Inverness has also welcomed Habaneros Mexican Grill to the local dining scene recently. And while Los Magueyes of Inverness is the place for great salsa, Habaneros is where you should be going to satisfy your guacamole cravings!

The menu here is every bit as authentic as Los Magueyes of Inverness, so you can definitely add it to your regular rotation of local Mexican options.

 

 

 

Sauced Hogs BBQ Bar & Grill

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As you drive through Hernando, you might not even notice the next restaurant on our list, but this nondescript white building is the home of some of the best BBQ in Citrus County today.

One thing that patrons are loving about Sauced Hogs is that their menu is not exclusively BBQ items. In addition to serving up some awesome BBQ plates, you will also find a great Reuben sandwich here, as well as some solid burgers and salads.

 

 

 

West 82 Bar & Grill

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While it is not a new restaurant, the fact that it is located inside Plantation on Crystal River has kept West 82 Bar & Grill off of the radar of many Citrus County diners. However, the food you will find here is nothing short of exceptional.

 

With appetizers like Smoked Mullet Dip and Baked Brie and Wild Mushrooms, you can tell from the very first bite that everything you eat at West 82 is going to be amazing.

 

Everyone at the Villages of Citrus Hills knows that the food at Skyview Restaurant, The Grille, and the Tiki Bar is outstanding. But when the situation calls for something outside the gates, these five restaurants in Citrus County are more than happy to step up and serve you!

Florida College Football Preview

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As we count down the days until this summer heat cools off a bit, it is only natural to start thinking about the upcoming football season. There is always a lot of great college football being played all over the state of Florida.

To help get you ready for the upcoming season, we put together a quick breakdown of the five major college teams that make their home in the Sunshine State. And if you are looking for an excuse to plan a day trip, we have also highlighted all of the biggest matchups coming to Florida this year.

Miami Hurricanes

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The Miami Hurricanes and their famous "turnover chain" were the class of the Florida teams in 2017. Head coach Mark Richt had them playing way above anyone's expectations before falling to Clemson in the ACC title game.

This year, we can expect to see the same aggressive defense from the Hurricanes. The big question is whether Richt will stick with Malik Rosier at quarterback or make a move to one of the three extremely talented freshmen on his roster.

 

If you are looking for a reason to visit Miami, the Hurricanes will be hosting LSU, North Carolina, and Florida State early in the year. Then, Duke and Pitt will both be coming to town in November.

Florida State Seminoles

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The Florida State Seminoles rolled into the 2017 season with lofty expectations, but things fell apart in a hurry when quarterback Deondre Francois went down with a knee injury in the first game of the year. After stumbling through the rest of the season and posting a 7-6 record, head coach Jimbo Fisher took a lucrative offer to jump ship and move to Texas A&M.

 

That means that the major story of 2018 in Tallahassee is going to be whether new head coach Willie Taggart can turn this program around before things get any worse. With impressive talent across the board and an entirely new coaching staff, Taggart is a safe bet to do just that. Look for him to lean on his impressive young running backs early in the year.

The Seminoles kick off their season hosting Virginia Tech on Labor Day Weekend. They will also be hosting big games against Clemson, Boston College, and Florida later in the year.

Florida Gators

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There was also a head coaching change in Gainesville this year, and the Florida faithful were happy to welcome back former Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen as the head of their program. Mullen was at the helm of the offense during the glory days when Tim Tebow was lighting up the SEC, and he expects the Gators attack to return to that level of prominence this year.

 

 

While there is plenty of talent for Mullen to work with on the offensive side of the ball, Florida has some glaring red flags on defense. Look for that to be the issue on early road trips to Tennessee and Mississippi State. Later in the season, the Gators will be hosting big games against LSU, Georgia, Missouri, and South Carolina. 

CF Knights

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The UCF Knights went on a magical run in 2017 that culminated with them taking down a solid Auburn team in the Peach Bowl. However, the loss of head coach Scott Frost has left this program with more questions than answers heading into 2018.

New head coach Josh Heupel believes that his Knights will be even more explosive this year, and home games against Pitt, Temple, and Navy all make for a great reason to spend a weekend in Orlando.

 

 

South Florida Bulls

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2018 will be the second year at USF for head coach Charlie Strong, and he expects to see continued improvement implementing his style of offense, which focuses on the running game. The Bulls were in the top ten in the nation in rushing last season, but replacing offensive players like D'Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice, as well as quarterback Quinton Flowers, is going to be a difficult task.

 

The biggest games of the year for the Bulls will be an early matchup hosting Georgia Tech and the regular season finale against UCF, but we will also see East Carolina, UConn, and Tulane make their way down to Tampa for games this year.

There is nothing quite like seeing a college football game in person, and with five talented teams taking the field in Florida this year, there are going to be great games happening almost every weekend. Get out your calendar and start planning your next weekend getaway before those tickets get too expensive!

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!

Beat the Heat: 5-Indoor Activities to Enjoy at the Villages of Citrus Hills

Warm weather is one of the biggest reasons that Florida is such a popular retirement destination, but many residents will agree that there are times during the summer months where that heat can detract from some of the popular outdoor amenities here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Fortunately, there is also a great selection of indoor activities available to our members. So, when the heat index gets to be just a bit too much, these are some of the things we recommend doing around the community to enjoy your days without spending too much time in the heat.

Relax at the Coffee Shop

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One of the newest places to beat the heat at the Villages of Citrus Hills is the Coffee Shop. Spend a few minutes soaking up the cool air conditioning and you will be primed and ready for a great cup of coffee to accompany whatever summer reading you have set out to work on this year.

The Coffee Shop is located right between the Citrus Hills Pro Shop and PrimoVita. They are open from 7 am to 11 am every morning during the summer and you can get a FREE refill on any medium or large coffee on Fridays.

Fitness Center

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For many residents who are looking to avoid the heat, they need to replace the exercise they would be getting from whatever outdoor activities they are not participating in, so heading to one of the community fitness centers can be a great way to stay inside without missing out on those Fitbit steps.

BellaVita and PrimoVita both offer state of the art exercise equipment and lots of fun classes to keep you moving throughout the summer, all while enjoying the cool indoor temperatures.

BellaVita Spa

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Speaking of BellaVita, you can also spend some quality indoor time at the spa! Because who doesn't love a good spa day, right?

We make a point to mention the BellaVita Spa Specials of the month in our monthly Activities and Events blogs, but you can also catch those specials in your Connections Newsletter each month. 

Indoor Club Meetings

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Joining one of the many clubs that exist around the community is another great way to get yourself involved in an indoor activity over the summer. With ballroom dancing, billiards, bridge, mah-jongg, and wood carving, there are plenty of indoor options to choose from.

One of the most active clubs at the Villages of Citrus Hills is the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club, which would be a great place to start if you are looking to attend an interesting meeting.

Skyview Happy Hour

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Another great way to pass some time indoors this summer is to head over to Skyview Restaurant for their Happy Hour specials every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 5 pm to 8 pm. There are always great drink specials to be had, and you can either order dinner from the bar menu or head into the restaurant following a few drinks.

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Of course, the Tiki Bar is also a great place to enjoy a few cocktails during the warm months, but you might want to wait until after Happy Hour at Skyview Restaurant to head over there so that the outside air has a chance to cool down a bit.

No matter how you prefer to spend your time, there are plenty of fun and exciting indoor activities around the Villages of Citrus Hills to keep you busy all summer long. So, don't let the warm weather get you down, stay active indoors!

10 Reasons Why Retirement is Awesome!

Our readers have requested a reprint of this article, so here you go.

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1. You get to decide what to do every day. Unlike the predictability of your former life (work, dinner, TV, sleep, repeat), now you get to decide each day’s structure.

2. There's time to give back. Many retirees find it enormously rewarding to volunteer their skills to worthy charitable organizations, whether it's the Lions Club, animal shelters, the food pantry or a community college.

3. Travel, travel, travel. Almost everyone's bucket list includes a trip to some special place, from the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China to the Grand Canyon.

4. Catch up on TV and movies you've always wanted to see. Maybe you were too busy with your career and kids to follow some of the great directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and Robert Altman. Now you have time to go on Netflix, Amazon or even borrow CDs from the library.

5. You can still work part time. Just because you're retired doesn't mean you can't work part time. A lot of people carry over assignments from their old company, while others parlay their personal interests into a moneymaking venture.

6. Spend more time with family and grandchildren. Spending time together helps to form lasting connections between family members. Relish the opportunity of this time to create deep and wonderful memories that last a lifetime.

7. You can sleep whenever you want. Retirement isn’t about sleeping, it’s about recharging when you need it, not just when you can fit it in.

8. Senior discounts are yours for the asking! Take advantage of your age and experience with substantial savings. Google “Senior discounts” to get an idea of what’s available.

9. There's no pressure, no stress and no problems. It's the freedom that retirees appreciate so much: Freedom from the pressure to get ahead at work, get your child into college and keep up with the neighbors.

10. You now have the time to do nothing. Finally, there's time to enjoy the pleasure of sitting on the back deck and soaking up the atmosphere, reflecting on your life and enjoying the cool breezes across your face

Lakeridge Winery Summer Grape Stomp

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Located in Clermont, about an hour southeast of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Lakeridge Winery is the largest winery in the state of Florida. They are best known for offering some of the most outstanding premium wines made in Florida, but they also throw one wild party when it’s time to harvest their grapes each summer.

Now in its 24th year, the annual Summer Harvest Grape Stomp has evolved into a full-blown, weekend-long festival complete with grape stomping competitions, live entertainment, delicious food, and exciting tours and tastings.

This year, the event will be happening at the Lakeridge Winery on August 10, 11, and 12.

Grape Stomping History

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The practice of stomping on grapes to make wine dates all the way back to 200 B.C., but new technologies have made the method all but obsolete here in 2018. However, it’s still an extremely fun activity, which is why it’s so popular at many American wineries during the summer harvest season.

The Grape Stomp at Lakeridge Winery is one of the most famous wine festivals of the entire year here in Florida and jumping feet-first into a barrel of grapes can be a fantastically fun family activity for all ages.

Live Entertainment

While wine will definitely excite your senses of taste, smell, and sight, adding a little music will help to get one more sense involved. And aside from a 30-minute break in between bands, there will be live music performances for the entire duration of the Summer Grape Stomp.

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On Friday, August 10, the Nightly Groove Band will take the stage first and be followed by The Dave Capp Project. The Saturday schedule will feature Baby Blues & The No Attitude Band followed by the Ronnie Duncan Band, and then Sunday the Smoking' Torpedoes and Buddy Blues take the stage.

There will also be separate performances in the Wine & Cheese Bar on Saturday and Sunday featuring The Rusty & Laurie Wright Duo, Joe Hand, and Jeff Whitfield.

Don't Forget the Cheese

Speaking of the Wine & Cheese Bar, it will be open on Saturday and Sunday of the event serving up some delicious cheese tray options that will make a perfect accompaniment to whatever type of wine you might be enjoying.

The food court will also be open throughout the entire weekend that include American, Greek, Mexican, seafood, BBQ, and more. This is also the spot to enjoy a cold slushy or soft drink in between glasses of wine.

Fun & Games

Winery visits are typically considered an "adults only" type of activity, but the Summer Grape Stomp has plenty of fun activities for the younger grape stompers in your family as well. Just Fantastic will be on hand demonstrating some of their most popular inflatable games for the kids.

Of course, fun and games aren't just for the kids. The winery also plans to have cornhole games going throughout much of the weekend, so make sure your bean bag toss is in mid-summer form.

Tours & Tastings

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If you haven’t visited the Lakeridge Winery before, this event is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of their fascinating tours and tastings.

These tours run every 15-20 minutes during the festival, and they typically finish up in the tasting area, which includes anywhere from six to eight different stations positioned in the production facility.

Getting to Lakeridge Winery

You can get to Lakeridge Winery by heading out either FL-44 or FL-48 from Inverness, and it takes just about an hour to get there from the Villages of Citrus Hills. There are also four hotels nearby if you would like to make a weekend trip out of the festival.

With 80 acres of vineyards, 420,000 gallons of tank capacity, and over 20,000 bottles sitting in the "Sparkling Wine Cave," it is easy to see that Lakeridge Winery is one of the premier Florida destinations for wine lovers. If that includes you, or even if you just think the idea of stomping some grapes sounds fun, then this is an event that you won't want to miss.

July Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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As we roll into the dog days of summer here in 2018, we are going to get every bit of the hot and humid weather that Florida is known for! This makes it very easy to spend most of our time at home enjoying the modern luxury of air conditioning, but it can also make us feel just a bit antisocial.

In order to counteract that, the great team at the Activity Center has put together another full calendar of events that will keep you engaged with your friends and neighbors throughout the month of July. Let's take a few minutes to break down some of the exciting events happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills this month.

Social Events

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The first social event of the month will be an informational meeting for the Ka Nalu Nui Paddle Club at BellaVita Spa and Fitness Center from 8 am to 12 pm on Wednesday, July 11. If you have ever wanted to learn more about standup paddle boarding, paddle tours of local waterways, or the excitement of dragonboat racing, this is your chance to get involved.

On Thursday, July 12, there will be a Name That Tune Game Show and Dance happening in the Hampton Room. This event will be based on the classic game show that we all loved, and it will be followed by a fun evening of drinks and dancing.

Tasty Trivia Tuesday is back in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, July 17. This month, the dinner buffet will include Tossed Salad, Pot Roast, Chicken Maryland, Glazed Baby Carrots, Parsley Steamed Red Bliss Potatoes, Rolls, and Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Motivational speaker Gayle Cohen will be hosting a musically interactive seminar and luncheon in the Hampton Room on Wednesday, July 25. She will use her 35-year career to demonstrate how music has the power to heal mind, body, and soul.

Sports & Recreation

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Competitive golfers won't want to miss the Stars & Stripes Tournament at Skyview on Wednesday, July 4 or the Firecracker Open at the Citrus Hills Course on Saturday, July 7. Both events will have an 8:30 am shotgun start.

And if your golf game isn't quite ready for a big tournament, you might want to consider attending one of the Free Golf Clinics hosted by Golf Pro Wayne Larsen this month. Wayne will be working with beginners on July 9, 10, and 11. Then he will be back to work with intermediate golfers on July 17, 24, and 31.

This month's Free Beginner Tennis Clinic will be held on Tuesday, July 10 at the Skyview Tennis Center starting at 10 am. The clinic is geared towards complete novices, and you don't even need to own a racket to come learn about the game with us.

Dinner Specials 

The Fourth of July holiday is all about enjoying a great cookout, and the people at Skyview Restaurant and The Grille are going to be offering up just that this year.

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Skyview will be serving a lunch buffet with Memphis Blue Ribs, Honey Barbecued Chicken, and Firecracker Grilled Salmon. Then, The Grille will be taking the evening shift with dinner entrees like Spicy Honey Glazed Chicken Breast, Grilled Sirloin with Corn and Black Bean Salsa, and Pulled Pork with Peach Bourbon BBQ Sauce.

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You'll also want to plan on attending Italian Night at Skyview Restaurant on July 31, which will include entree options like Veal Parmesan, Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Giardino, Salmon Piccata, and Eggplant Parmesan.

And if you find yourself craving some chicken wings this month, make sure you remember that the Tiki Bar will be having 30 cent wings on special for "Wing Wednesday" every Wednesday in July.

BellaVita Spa and Fitness

And if you just need some pampering, book yourself an appointment for one of the specials this month at the spa.

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You can choose between the Seaside Therapy Spa Pedicure with Epsom salts and a marine cooling mask, or, the Summer Serenity Swedish Massage with essential oils to melt any stress away. 

 

For a look at a complete listing of all the activities and events this month at the Villages of Citrus Hills please click on the link below.

http://www.citrushillsgolfandcountryclub.com/userfiles/file/July%202018%20Connections%20ONLINE.pdf

 

Have a Wonderful July!

Are You Ready for This Year’s Scalloping Season?

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Throughout most of the country, the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July are filled with fireworks and cookouts. But here along the Gulf Coast, we’re also focused on one of our favorite seafood items: SCALLOPS!

That’s right! Scalloping season is right around the corner. This year, the season kicks off on Sunday, July 1 and runs all the way through Monday, September 24. And whether you enjoy eating scallops or not, spending a day catching them is one of the most exciting things you can do in Citrus County.

Scalloping Rules & Regulations

If you are planning on heading out on your own scalloping adventure this year, you will want to be aware of the rules and regulations that you are going to be expected to follow. First and foremost, anyone out scalloping on their own must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License.

In addition to having a license, there is a limit to how many scallops you are allowed to harvest on any given day. Just as it has been in previous years, the limit in 2018 is two gallons of whole scallops or one pint of scallop meat per person.

There is also a maximum of 10 gallons permitted for each vessel out in the water. On top of that, the vessel you are using to scallop must leave from and return to a dock that is located within an area where scalloping is permitted.

Scheduling a Scalloping Charter

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If all of those rules and regulations are making your head spin, you are not alone. Luckily, there is another option. By scheduling a private scalloping charter with one of the many tour companies throughout Citrus County, you can enjoy harvesting your scallops without having to worry about remembering the rules.

When you go scalloping with a reputable charter company, you will be provided with all the gear and licenses you need, plus a guide who knows all of the details about how much you can harvest.

There are dozens of local tour companies that would be happy to host your next scalloping adventure, but here are just a few:

      Fun2Dive - http://www.fun2dive.com/scallop-trips/

      River Ventures - https://riverventures.rezdy.com/catalog/61542/scalloping

      Red Ed’s Adventures - http://www.homosassaredfish.com/scalloping.php

 

Shucking & Cooking Your Scallops

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After spending a fun afternoon out in the water grabbing scallops and shoving them into your mesh bag, the next step is to get them ready for dinner. But don’t worry, that process isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.

 

If you have the benefit of being on a scalloping charter, there is a good chance that shucking your scallops is included in the price. If not, get out your knife and dig in! Here is a great video that breaks down the process for you.

https://www.saveur.com/video-how-shuck-scallop

Once you get your scallops shucked and cleaned, it’s time to figure out how to cook them! The most common way to prepare scallops is to pan fry them on each side for about a minute. Keep in mind that you are more likely to overcook them than to undercook them. So don’t panic!

While most people prefer their scallops fried in butter with a bit of their favorite seasoning, this article from Coastal Living Magazine offers up 25 unique recipes for anyone who is looking for something a bit different. The Scallop-Spinach Spread and the Scallop and Avocado Tostadas sound delicious.

www.coastalliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/scallops-recipes

No matter how you like your scallops prepared, there is no denying that spending a day out on the boat harvesting them is one of the biggest benefits to living along The Nature Coast.

 

Make sure that you don’t let this year’s scalloping season pass you by

 without filling a few mesh bags of your own!

Kayaking: Things You Need to Know Before Pushing Off for the First Time

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Having some fun in the sun is one of the best things about living along the Gulf Coast of Florida, and kayaking is one of our absolute favorite ways to do just that here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. Our community is surrounded by popular kayak destinations, so if you are looking for a fun activity to enhance the summer, we have the perfect idea for you!

While there isn't a whole lot to know when it comes to paddling your kayak, purchasing one and getting out to use it can actually be pretty intimidating for a first timer. In order to help with that, we put together this simple guide to make pushing off as easy as possible for you.

Buying a Kayak

The act of purchasing a kayak that will best suit your needs can be as complicated as you want to make it. As long as it floats, most any kayak can get you where you want to go, but there are an endless number of different options you can tweak to make sure that you get the most out of your investment.

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The most important factor in evaluating how well any kayak will fit your needs is the size of the kayak. You will find that the longer and wider kayaks offer more stability, are faster in the water, and can carry more equipment with you. On the flip side, shorter and narrower kayaks are easier to maneuver in the water, and the fact that they are lighter makes them easier to transport.

Another factor that you will want to consider is the shape of the hull. Kayaks with flat hulls will offer greater stability, while kayaks with round hulls will allow you to change course much more efficiently.

 

 

 

Tips for Beginners

The most important thing to remember any time you are out on the water is that safety should always be a top priority. And the most important safety precaution that a kayaker can take is to always wear a properly fitting life vest. On top of that, it is always safer to kayak with a friend or a group of friends so that you have someone to help you if something goes wrong.

One of the best ways to get started kayaking is to go on a group trip with an experienced guide. This will help you learn the basics like how to hold the paddle and steer the boat in a completely safe environment.

When you are ready to head out without a guide, make sure that you always have a plan for where you will be kayaking, and it never hurts to have a change of clothes with you…just in case!

Where to Kayak

You don't have to look very hard to find a great kayak destination near the Villages of Citrus Hills, and most of our residents get started by exploring the crystal-clear water of the Rainbow River just north of the community.

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Once you have mastered the Rainbow River, we recommend taking some time to explore other nearby destinations like The Withlacoochee River, the Chassahowitzka River, and the Crystal River.

In addition to exploring local rivers, there are also lots of state parks that feature boat launches, and don't forget to hit up all of the popular manatee destinations as well!

No matter how much boating experience you have, kayaking is the kind of thing that just about anyone can learn and enjoy. And with so many local destinations surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills, there is no reason not to spend your summer getting out and exploring our local waterways.

June Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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Summer has officially arrived here along the Gulf Coast of Florida, and the activities calendar here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is heating up right in step with the temperature.

This month, our activities and events include a number of old favorites with some exciting new ones mixed in to keep things interesting. 

Social Events

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The first social event of the month will be the "Broadway and Beyond" Dinner Show in the Hampton Room on Wednesday, June 6. Mary Jo Vitale will be taking center stage to perform a selection of Broadway hits, opera classics, and more, following a delicious meal of Sliced Sirloin topped with Mushroom Gravy and Bourbon Pecan Chicken.

Tasty Trivia Tuesday will return to the Hampton Room on Tuesday, June 19 with a menu that features Baked Ham with Pineapple Raisin Sauce and Turkey and Gravy. If you think you have what it takes to compete in this knowledge battle, the only way to prove it is to put together a team of your own or join an existing one at the event!

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On Thursday, June 21, the Hampton Room will once again be hosting the fun. This time, it will be a Classic Rock Party featuring The Cara James Gang playing all of your favorite classic rock hits from the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Doors for this event will open at 6:30 pm with the music following at 7 pm.

Sports & Recreation

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There are still plenty of golfers hanging around our courses this summer, and the best ones will be competing in the Men's Pinehurst Major Championship Event on June 11 and 12. They will also be playing in the US Open-style US Impossible Tournament on Saturday, June 16.

If your golf game isn't quite up to competition level, you might want to attend one of Golf Pro Wayne Larsen's free clinics this month. Wayne will be working with beginners on June 4, 5, and 6. Then he will be back to work with intermediate golfers on June 12, 19, and 26.

But if golf isn't your thing, there will also be a Pickleball Summer Bash on Saturday, June 16.

Dinner Specials

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The big holiday on the calendar this month is Father's Day on June 17, and between Skyview Restaurant and The Grille, there’s going to be plenty to choose from. Skyview will be hosting an over-the-top brunch buffet that every dad will love. But if you aren't able to make it to brunch, you can plan on having one of the four Father's Day Entrees that will be available that evening at The Grille.

The Grille is also planning a Burgers and Brews event for Thursday, June 28 that will feature Salmon Burgers, Jerked Turkey Burgers, Bacon Bourbon Burgers, Surf & Turf Burgers, and Veggie Burgers along with some delicious craft beers to choose from.

BellaVita Spa and Fitness

And, as always, keep a moment for yourself this month.  BellaVita Spa is offering Summer Berry Facials, Pomegranate Lime Ultimate Spa Pedicures, and Sweet Citrus Massages as their specials all month long.

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So, you really don't have any excuses at all not to get out and get active here at the Villages of Citrus Hills this month!

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?

 

Cruising the Key West Express Out of Fort Myers

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

The Key West Express

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

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

Grabbing the Discount

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

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

https://www.keywestexpress.net/

Enjoying Key West

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Nature Coast Recommended Reading

If you are an avid reader, you will be thrilled to discover that there are a number of fiction and non-fiction books that have been published about Florida’s Nature Coast over the years

It’s no secret that the areas surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills has a way of commanding the attention of various artists, and authors have been no exception.

Here are some of the interesting history, tour guide, and fiction books that cover the Nature Coast that current and prospective residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills might want to check out. 

Cedar Key, Florida:  A History by Kevin McCarthy

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The history of Cedar Key, Florida is a fascinating story, and author Kevin McCarthy presents that history in a well-researched manner that keeps the reader engaged while still hitting on all of the facts about Cedar Key.  This tiny island community has seen and survived plenty over the years, and McCarthy does a great job of capturing exactly what makes “Old Florida” and the Nature Coast so popular.

 

Disaster at Dawn:  The Cedar Keys Hurricane of 1896 by Alvin Oickle

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If you like the historical perspective presented in McCarthy’s book, this is an excellent follow-up read that takes a closer look at one particular event in Cedar Key’s history.  In 1896 there was a hurricane that leveled everything on the island and killed dozens of people.  Oickle chronicles the devastating impact of that hurricane and how it forever changed the way we would experience Cedar Key.

 

 Levy County (Images of America) by Carolyn Cohens

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A picture is worth a thousand words.  This is another great book that shows the history of Levy County through pictures.  The pages are packed with great photos of Cedar Key, Chiefland’s Train Depot Museum, the Suwannee Valley Theater, the Watermelon Festival, the Christmas Parade of Lights and the Williston Peanut Festival.  Touching on all the history that makes Levy County such a fascinating place.

 

A Naturalist’s Guide to Cedar Key, Florida by Harriet Smith

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With this book, author Harriet Smith takes on the role of travel guide as she profiles 19 different self-guided walks and boat trips that she recommends taking to explore the areas surrounding Cedar Key.  She includes plenty of detailed information about the different types of wildlife and foliage you will find on each of these trips.

 

 

Backroads and Byways of Florida by Zain Deane

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This is a really interesting book that profiles 12 different day trips and weekend excursions that you could take through less-traveled areas of Florida.  No matter what type of excursion you are looking for, this book promises to deliver on memorable trips to must-see Florida attractions that are often overlooked by tourists and even locals.

 

 

Cedar Key:  A Jack Shaw Adventure by James West

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If fiction reading is your preference, this is a great place to start!  This book tells the story of Jack Shaw, a jaded personal injury lawyer turned private investigator who finds himself wrapped up in a wild plot to instigate war in the Middle East.  There is a large portion of the book that is set in Cedar Key.

 

 

Shadow Over Cedar Key by Ann Turner Cook

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This mystery novel features Brandy O’Bannon, a Florida reporter who is investigating the disappearance of a mother and daughter during Hurricane Agnes.  Parts of the story include a private detective who placed a classified ad asking the woman to come forward and the possibility that her skeleton was found in the basement of a Cedar Key hotel.

 

While these particular books are all currently available on Amazon, a quick trip to on the of local libraries will allow you to find many more books on the Nature Coast that are not as widely available.