Villages of Citrus Hills

Bird Watching at Flying Eagle Preserve

Eagle

Eagle

While there is no shortage of great attractions all along the Gulf Coast to the west of the Village of Citrus Hills, there are also plenty of interesting places to the east of our community. One of the best places in the area for bird watching is Flying Eagle Preserve, which is located throughout the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes.  



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This amazing string of natural bodies of water mixed with marshes, swamps, and islands is located just east of Inverness. The entire preserve includes just over 16,000 acres ranging from Inverness on its west side to the Withlacoochee River on its right side.  

The entire area is vitally important to facilitating local water drainage, and just happen to also be an amazing place for bird watching and other outdoor activities.  

Bird Watching at Flying Eagle Preserve 

Kestrel

Kestrel

With more than 16,000 acres to cover, this is not a “sit on a bench and wait” type of birding experience. However, if you are willing to trek through the woods across the area, you are bound to see some fascinating birds.  

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

Some of the birds you might spot here include Anhingas, Purple Martins, Wood Ducks, Northern Harriers, Sandhill Cranes, Eastern Screech-Owls, Brown Thrashers, Prairie Warblers, Le Conte’s Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, Eastern Bluebirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, and American Kestrels.  
Whether you are a seasoned bird watcher looking to cross a specific species off of your bucket list or are more of a novice just looking to appreciate a beautiful collection of flying colors, Flying Eagle Preserve is a great place to explore the types of birds that inland Florida has to offer compared to the coastal birds you will find along much of the Nature Coast.  

Flying Eagle Nature Center 

Flying Eagle Preserve also contains the 150-acre Flying Eagle Nature Center, which is a complete group campsite.  

The property features a multipurpose building, a lodge, two residences, six cabins, and a total of 10 camping sites. There is also a large commercial kitchen, an outdoor pavilion with seating for up to 400 people, and a swimming pool.  

Most of the buildings here were built in the 1970s when the area was owned and maintained by the Boy Scouts of America. From 2006 to 2012, the property was maintained by the Gulf Ridge Council and the district is currently looking for a new long-term management partner.  

Recreational Activities

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In addition to bird watching throughout the preserve and camping at or near the Flying Eagle Nature Center, there are also a host of more active recreational features in the area. Bicyclers will love making use of the 13 miles of paved trails and hikers will want to take advantage of the 16 miles of wooded trails.  

There are also nine miles of multi-use trails that are marked as “equestrian-friendly”, so horseback riding is also a very popular activity at Flying Eagle Preserve. There are even equestrian facilities at the Flying Eagle Nature Center.  

Provided you adhere to the rules and regulations set by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Flying Eagle Preserve is also a great place for fishing and hunting. One of the best fishing spots in the preserve is the Moccasin Slough Bridge.  

It might take you days or even weeks to explore everything included in the 16,000 acres of Flying Eagle Preserve, but since the edge of the park is located less than 20 minutes away in Inverness, heading back for multiple trips will never be a problem.

 

5 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

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Located west of Tampa and under two hours from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Dunedin is a beach lover's paradise that also offers a unique version of that small-town Florida culture.

Because the entire area is stunningly beautiful, you won’t ever have to work very hard to find a perfect way to spend some time in Dunedin. But we can make your next day trip even easier by suggesting these five fun things to do in this amazing little town along the Gulf.



Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island State Parks

Caladesi Island State Park is one of the most popular destination for anyone visiting Dunedin, and all it takes is one quick look at this untouched island paradise to understand why so many people flock to this park.

The beautiful white sand beaches are the primary attraction here, and there is nothing wrong with planning to spend your entire visit kicking back with your feet in the water. In addition to the beaches, Caladesi Island State Park is also a fantastic spot for boating and fishing.

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If you like spending time at Caladesi Island State Park, you will also want to be sure to check out its twin island to the north, Honeymoon Island State Park. This is another island park that boasts white sand beaches, outstanding fishing, and first-class boat launches.

In addition to the standard amenities, Honeymoon Island State Park also offers a three-mile trail that runs through the center of the island where you can catch glimpses of local wildlife like gopher tortoises, armadillos, eagles, and great horned owls.

Dunedin Fine Art Center

You don’t need a perfect day to enjoy Dunedin, and you can even have a blast there on a rainy day if you visit attractions like the Dunedin Fine Art Center. This local art center has been hosting classes and exhibits for more than 35 years now.

It can be fun to stop by at any time, but you will get the most out of your visit if you schedule it around a class to get your hands dirty with anything from clay pottery to drawing to digital arts.

Dunedin Histoy Museum

Another popular indoor attraction in Dunedin is the Dunedin History Museum. This small museum tells the story of Dunedin through a rich collection of historical artifacts and documents.

The museum is also the meeting place for the Downtown Dunedin Walking Tours, which are a fabulous way to get to know this fascinating little Florida town.

Pinellas Trail

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Dunedin is also one of the mid-point stops on the Pinellas Trail, which is a rail trail that runs through Pinellas County from Tarpon Springs all the way down through St. Petersburg.

By starting your trail adventure in Dunedin, you have the option of heading in either direction on the 38-mile trail, which can take you to any of the other stops on the trail like Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, South Pasadena, or Gulfport.

No matter what attractions you might be planning to enjoy in Dunedin, you can also have a great pint before or after at one of the many local breweries. There is also plenty of great shopping at the Dunedin Downtown Market, so make sure you plan on spending some time there before heading back home.

 

Weekend Getaway: 48 Hours in Gainesville

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Are you ready for another weekend getaway?

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

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

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

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

Day One: Casual Dining and School History

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

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

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

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

Day Two: Butterflies, Cubans, and Fine Dining

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

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

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

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

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

Day Three: History, Brunch, and Shopping

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

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

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

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

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

August Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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

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

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

Social Events

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

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

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

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

Education

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

Golf & Tennis

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

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

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

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

Dinner Specials

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

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

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

BellaVita Spa

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

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

Everything You Need to Know About the Deep-Sea Fishing Excursion

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Deep-sea fishing is one of the most popular activities for Gulf Coast tourists, but it isn’t always a common activity for people who actually live here. If heading out after some monster fish is something that you have always wanted to try, the Citrus HIlls Vacationers Club has the perfect day trip planned for you in October.

The club is planning an exciting deep sea fishing excursion out of Tarpon Springs that will be the perfect experience for all skill levels ranging from novice fishermen up to semi-professional anglers.

Gulfstar Fishing Charters

This particular trip will be a half-day trip with Gulfstar Fishing Charters, which is one of the most popular charter companies operating out of Tarpon Springs.

One of the best things about deep sea fishing on a chartered excursion is that you don’t have to worry about bringing any fishing gear with you. The captain will provide you with everything you need from rods and reels to bait and hooks. You don’t even need to purchase a fishing license.

The only thing that you will want to bring on this adventure is a cooler full of food and drinks for the day, which will then double as transportation home for all of the fish that you catch.

And as for what to wear, the only requirement is that you plan on being comfortable. It is often about five degrees cooler out on the water, so make sure to dress accordingly.

The Sundance II

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The boat we will be boarding is the Sundance II, which was built by hand 1970. After surviving more than 40 years of cod fishing in New England, the Sundance II has found a new life operating charters here in Florida.

While the boat definitely has a rich history, it also boasts plenty of new technology.

Since its relocation to Florida in 2014, the Sundance II has been fitted with new electronics, a Furuno radar, and a digital fish finder.

What About the Fish?

After cruising for a little over an hour and getting about nine miles away from the shore, we will spend 2-3 hours fishing in water that is between 25 and 40 feet deep.

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Once the captain drops anchor and we start casting our lines baited with squid, there is a good chance that we will see Key West Snapper, Black Seabass, Porgies, and Grouper coming onto the boat.

Another perk that comes with a deep sea fishing charter is that the crew will be happy to clean all of the fish that you catch so that you can take them home in your cooler and cook them up however you like.

Our Trip Details

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning this deep-sea fishing excursion for Thursday, October 3. Tickets are on sale now, and the cost is $105 for members and $110 for guests.

Tickets include round-trip transportation from the Activity Center and everything that comes with the fishing charter, as well as ice to pack your catch for the ride home.

The plan is to leave the Activity Center at 7:30 am and return sometime around 6 pm.

No matter how passionate you are about fishing, this is going to be an amazing experience for everyone who participates. Don’t miss out on the fun, and don’t forget to invite your friends and family over for the cookout when you return!