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Villages of Citrus Hills

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.

May Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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In the stock market, there is a commonly repeated phrase that advises investors to "sell in May and go away." Here in Florida, we experience a similar phenomenon during this late spring season when many of our friends and neighbors pack up their things and head north for the summer. But for those of us who plan on sticking around, the folks at the Activity Center are still hard at work coming up with fun things to keep us busy throughout the month.

During the month of May, residents at the Villages of Citrus Hills will have the opportunity to stay busy with a wide range of fun activities.  From a dance party, a baseball game, to golf tournaments, dinner specials, and amazing opportunities to pamper ourselves at the spa. No matter what type of activity or event you are looking for, there is definitely something on the calendar to keep you active!

Social Events 

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One of the bigger social events of the month will be Dance Night with Second Slice on Wednesday, May 9 in the Hampton Room.

This four-piece band will have you up on your feet all night long. 

There will also be a cash bar starting at 6:30 pm before the band hits the stage from 7 pm to 10 pm.

The Shabbat Dinner Club will be celebrating the end of their season with a Shabbat Cocktail Party from 5 pm to 7 pm in the Garden Room on Friday, May 11. In true Shabbat style, there will be plenty of great food here with an over-the-top hors d'oeuvres table, trays of Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms, Sesame Chicken Fingers, and Spinach Phyllo Triangles. There will also be a pasta bar that you won't want to miss.

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The Tiki Bar is hosting a Music Trivia Night on Thursday, May 24. If you are passionate about music, you won't want to miss this fun evening hosted by James Brocato of Brocato Entertainment. 

                                                           James will be performing from 5 pm to 7 pm before hosting the trivia portion of the evening from 7 pm to 8 pm.

Golf & Tennis

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Casual golfers will want to mark their calendars for the Cinco de Mayo Open on Saturday, May 5 and the Memorial Day Tournament on Monday, May 28. The Cinco de Mayo Open will be held on The Oaks course, and the Memorial Day Tournament will be held over at Skyview. Both will have divisions for men's, ladies', and mixed, and the Cinco de Mayo Open will also have a "Couples Only" division.

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The stakes will be a little more serious at the Men's A/D-B/C Better Ball Tournament at Skyview on Monday, May 7 and Tuesday, May 8.

All Skyview Men's members are invited to participate, and teams will be assigned by the pro shop based on handicaps. For this event, everyone will be hitting from the white tees.

The summer months are also an excellent time to work on your tennis game over at the Skyview Tennis Center. There will be a Free Beginner Tennis Clinic held there on Tuesday, May 8 at 11 am. Whether you are completely starting from scratch or just looking to improve your skills, everyone is welcome to participate. Rackets are available to borrow if needed. 

Dinner Specials 

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In addition to being Cinco de Mayo, Saturday, May 5 is also Kentucky Derby Day this year! In order to celebrate, Skyview Restaurant will be featuring Mint Juleps and encouraging everyone to wear their best Derby Day attire in their bar area from 5 pm to 7 pm. There will also be a Kentucky Derby party out at the Tiki Bar that will feature Mint Juleps along with Margaritas and Mexican food for the combined holiday.

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Sunday, May 13 is Mother's Day, and Skyview Restaurant is celebrating with spectacular a la carte dinners including Prime Rib, Seafood Stuffed Flounder, and Filet Bordelaise from 12 pm to 5 pm.

                                                            There will also be a Mother's Day Buffet over at The Grille from 12 pm to 5 pm.

Skyview Restaurant and The Grille will both be featuring over-the-top specials for Memorial Day on Monday, May 28.  The Skyview Restaurant Menu will be more grill-oriented with Grilled New York Strip Steaks, Barbecue Chicken, and St. Louis Style Ribs. And they'll be cooking low and slow at The Grille before serving up Fireball Whiskey Baby Back Ribs and Smoked Brisket.

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In addition to all of the group events and activities happening throughout the Villages of Citrus Hills this month, there will also be some exciting ways to pamper yourself at the BellaVita Spa if you happen to find some quiet time.

They will be running specials on Pure Love Hot Stone Massages and Island Dream Spa Pedicures all month long.

So, whether your goal is to get out and have a blast with friends, hit the golf course or tennis court, or enjoy some delicious meals, we have got you covered pretty much all month long here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. The only question left to answer is how you are going to fit all of this fun into your personal schedule!

Rays Tickets: 4 Day Trips with the Vacationers Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Mermaids & Margaritas Festival

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Located just west of downtown Crystal River is the peaceful Fort Island Gulf State Park. But that beautiful beach is going to be anything but relaxing on Saturday, April 14 during the Mermaids and Margaritas Festival from 12 pm to 8 pm.

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This all-day festival was created by "The Mertailor" Eric Ducharme, who has been selling the best swimmable mermaid tails on the market since 2009. Along with a great selection of mermaid apparel, the festival will also feature three local bands, lots of amazing food, and enough margaritas to make Jimmy Buffett jealous. 

 

The Mermaid Contests

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When you attend a festival that is sponsored by a company that makes swimmable mermaid tails, you can certainly expect to find plenty of people dressed up as mermaids. Those people will be competing in a Mermaid Costume Contest sponsored by MezMerEyes starting at 2 pm.

There will also be a Ms. Mermaid and Mr. Merman contest held later in the day at 5 pm.

The Live Music

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This fun-filled festival will kick off with live music right at 12 pm when The TJ Brown Band takes the stage. He might not be a Florida native, but Thomas Junior (T.J.) Brown has been a Florida resident since he was nine years old, and his version of country music feels well-grounded in our local Florida culture.

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Following The TJ Brown Band, the parrot heads will be out for The Landsharks. This Jimmy Buffett tribute band has toured all over Florida while holding down a steady two-year gig playing at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville in Orlando. Add a Hawaiian shirt and a margarita to your mermaid tail and you will fit right in with this crowd!

After the Ms. Mermaid and Mr. Merman contest, Homosassa native Ashley Young will take the stage to perform for her hometown residents. After spending time in both Nashville and New York City, Ashley is on the move again and will be singing all over Florida for much of the summer. 

The Food

Spending the day at the beach can be a real blast, but you are going to get hungry at some point! Fortunately, there are plenty of Citrus County businesses that will be on hand to help you out.

When you are ready for a meal, you'll be able to choose between pizza from Light My Fire Mobile Pizza Co., tacos and rice bowls from Riviera Mexican Cantina, seafood from Dan's Clam Shack, and all kinds of bar and grill food from Dawg House Dogs & Grill, Inc.

If you're just looking for something to munch on in between meals, there will also be snacks available from Kona Ice of Citrus County, Lynn's Ice Cream, Calypso Concessions, Tropical Acai Bowls, and Pop Fusions Gourmet Ice Pops.

The Booze

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With all of the exciting festivities planned for the Mermaids & Margaritas Festival, it's easy to forget about the margaritas part of the event. But don't worry, because Riviera Cantina will make sure to remind you that they will be selling those margaritas all day.

There will also be beer and wine for sale. Visitors can choose from Budweiser, Bud Light, Landshark, Bud Light Straw-Ber-Ritas, Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas, and Bud Light Mong-o-Ritas, as well as a selection of merlot, cabernet, and white zinfandel.

Getting to the Party

One important thing that every mermaid and merman planning to attend the event needs to know is that there will be no parking available at Fort Island Gulf Beach. Everyone attending will need to park at the lot on the corner of US-19 and Fort Island Trail, across from the Winn Dixie Plaza and Clawdaddy's.

There will be a free shuttle taking people back and forth out to the beach from this free parking lot.

No matter how serious you are about your mermaid costume, just about everyone could benefit from just a little bit more glitter in their lives. So, grab your tail, and we'll see you at Fort Island Gulf Beach on April 14!

April Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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The weather is warming up around the country as we move into the second quarter of 2018, and things are heating up here at the Villages of Citrus Hills as well! Over the past few months, residents have seen improvements to the community that have included repaved walking trails, upgrades to the dog park, and a brand-new dock on Lake Marie.

In addition to enjoying those upgraded amenities during the month of April, there’s also a wide range of activities and events that are in the works thanks to the wonderful people at the Activity Center. Whether you are looking for fun social events, inspiring educational seminars, golf or tennis competition, or just a great bite to eat, we've got you covered with information on all of the best things happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills this month.

Social Events

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Comedian Rocky LaPorte will be performing in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, April 10 at 7 pm. With a performance on The Tonight Show and a feature on Comedy Central Presents on his resume, there isn't much that Rocky hasn't accomplished in the comedy world during his long career. But on this night, his only focus is making you laugh.

On April 25, there will be a Dinner Show with Valerie Sneade in the Hampton Room. The meal will include Boursin Stuffed Chicken Breast and Sliced Prime Rib, and it will be followed with a fun, dinner party-style performance where Valerie Sneade will be singing all of those classic pop songs that you used to play on 45s!

Arts & Education

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The Speaker Series returns to the Activity Center Auditorium on Thursday, April 12 when two doctors from Countryside Animal Clinic will be discussing taking the best possible care of your furry, four-legged friends. This event is scheduled to start at 6 pm.

Lunch & Learn will be hosting three financial experts from Merrill Lynch on Wednesday, April 18 at The Grille. The lunch menu will feature a Caprese Chicken Sandwich, and the discussion will be focused on how to best manage your retirement assets with a focus on IRAs.

Craft lovers won't want to miss the Spring Farmers Market and Craft Fair happening in the Activity Center Parking Lot on Sunday, April 22 from 10 am to 2 pm. In addition to local produce vendors, there will also be some amazing craft vendors selling their creations, as well as live entertainment.

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There will be a Piano Workshop in the Activity Center Auditorium on Saturday, April 28 from 2 pm to 5 pm. If you have ever regretted the fact that you didn't stick with learning how to play the piano, this is the perfect opportunity to get a quick refresher course to get you playing again! Almost zero experience is required, and you will learn how to continue to develop your abilities moving forward.

Golf & Tennis

It is also going to be an exciting month for the ladies with the Skyview Ladies’ Spring Invitational happening on Monday, April 9 and the Citrus Hills Ladies' Club Championship being held on Monday, April 16 and Tuesday, April 17.

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If you are looking for a more relaxed event, you won't want to miss the April Fool's Open played on The Oaks course on Saturday, April 14. And if you are looking to improve your golf game this month, there will be free clinics hosted by Mary Slinkard happening throughout the month.              

Over at the Skyview Tennis Center, the Men's and Women's Club Championship Doubles Tournament will take place on April 20-22. But if you aren't quite up to that level of competition, you might want to check out the Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, April 10.

Dinner Specials

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As they do every month, our friends at Skyview Restaurant are going to be going all out on their dinner specials in April. Two that we are most excited about are the Farm to Fork Dinner on Thursday, April 5 and the Asian Buffet Night on Thursday, April 26.

The Grille will be serving up all of your favorite dishes as part of their "Grille Favorites Menu" on Thursday, April 12, and they are also planning a fun "Tax Day Menu" for Tuesday, April 17.

Reservations will be required for Alfresco Spring Elegance night at the Tiki Bar on Thursday, April 26. This is the one special you definitely don't want to miss this month, as it will feature delicious surf and turf options along with live entertainment from Snap Dare.

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In addition to all of the fun activities and events happening throughout the Villages of Citrus Hills this month, BellaVita Spa is running specials on Coconut and Lavender Sugar Back Scrubs and Ginger Facials.  

 

 

 

And with all of those options available, the choice is yours on just how active you want to be in the month of April!

Weekend Getaway: Port St. Lucie

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Residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills often start out their wish list of weekend getaways with popular Florida tourist destinations like Orlando, Daytona Beach, Miami, and Key West. But after exploring many of the most popular destinations across the state, they often find that it is the little towns in between that are the real hidden gems.

Port St. Lucie is one of those places.

Located along what is known as "The Treasure Coast," Port St. Lucie sits on the Atlantic side of Florida just north of West Palm Beach and about three hours south of Daytona Beach. If you are looking for a weekend getaway filled with affordable hotels, stunning golf courses, and delicious dining, this is the hidden gem that you have been looking for.

Where to Stay in Port St. Lucie

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Whether you are planning on golfing or not, the best place to stay in Port St. Lucie is definitely the Sheraton PGA Vacation Resort Villas. This fabulous facility will have you feeling like you are staying at a tropical resort for a price that is comparable to (and often cheaper than) the nearby Holiday Inn Express.

All of the rooms at the Sheraton are either one-bedroom or two-bedroom villas that come complete with separate living areas, kitchenettes, and even dining tables, so you will feel right at home here. The resort also offers an elegant outdoor pool, access to fishing in the St. Lucie River, and a full staff of experts who will be available to help you book your tee times at local golf courses.

What to Do in Port St. Lucie

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With over 30 beautiful golf courses to choose from, there is no beating around the bush about the fact that you are going to be bringing your clubs to Port St. Lucie. And, the PGA Courses are at the top of just about every golfer's list for a weekend round. But in addition to those championship-level PGA courses, visitors will also find places like Legacy Golf & Tennis Club and Hammock Creek Golf Club to be up to their standards.

If you happen to find time outside of golfing, we also recommend hitting the local waterways in Port St. Lucie. Whether you prefer to rent a fishing boat out on the St. Lucie River or to relax in the sand during low tide at Walton Rocks Beach, there is something so soothing about the water on a weekend getaway that will make you feel like all is right with the world.

Where to Eat in Port St. Lucie

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The culinary scene in Port St. Lucie offers selections from around the world. If you are looking for a unique dining experience, you might want to try making a reservation at Fernando's Dockside Grille for Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine or Machu Picchu Restaurant for a Peruvian meal.

But if that international flair isn't quite your style, there are also plenty of classic American options like Buffalo Chophouse, where you will find a full range of traditional steak and seafood dishes.

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For a casual meal in a fun environment, it's hard to beat a good Irish pub, and that is precisely what you will find at Shindig Irish Restaurant & Pub. Their menu features all of the classic Irish dishes like Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, and Shepherd's Pie, but they also have plenty of Florida seafood options, as well as a selection of American pub food.

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And for a quick meal on the go, it doesn't get any better than Taco Dive. This self-described "hole in the wall" uses nothing but fresh ingredients to create some of the most interesting tacos you will find anywhere. The classics like steak, pork, chicken, and beef are all good here, but don't sleep on the BLT Dive Style taco that features Applewood bacon, fried egg, pimento cheese, arugula, and tomato!

We certainly don't blame you if you prefer to start your weekend getaway wish list by checking out some of Florida's best tourist hotspots. But make sure that you keep the golfers' paradise of Port St. Lucie on your list as well because this is one of the best-kept secrets in all of Florida!

 

Visiting Dunedin: Craft Beer and Open-Air Markets

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

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

Touring the Dunedin Breweries

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

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

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

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

Dunedin Downtown Market

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

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

The Islands off of Dunedin

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

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

The Dunedin Restaurant Scene

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

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

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

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

 

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

March Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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Between St. Patrick's Day, Lent Fridays, and Major League Baseball's Spring Training, there’s already an overwhelming amount of activity happening all around the Villages of Citrus Hills in the month of March. And thanks to the dedication of the Activity Center staff, there are also quite a few activities and events happening right here in our community.

If you are looking to fill up your calendar with fun and exciting things to do this month, we have hand-picked all of the very best things to look forward to in March!

Social Events

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The biggest social events of the month always start out with the Show Series, and the month of March is not an exception.  The Orlando Jazz Orchestra will be performing "A Tribute to the Big Band Era" on Tuesday, March 13, and Johnny Contardo, Johnny Tillotson, & Ron Dante on Thursday, March 22.

There will be plenty of fun in the Hampton Room on Thursday, March 8 with The Not-So-Newlywed Game Show and Dinner scheduled to start with dinner at 6:30 pm followed by the game show at 7:30 pm. Four lucky couples will be selected from a hat to participate.

The Garden Room will be hosting a Seder Dinner on Friday, March 30. This meal will feature a menu of chicken matzo ball soup, beef brisket or roasted chicken, tsimis, kugel, green beans, and sponge cake.

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The Easter Bunny will be hosting an Easter Egg Hunt and Brunch in the Hampton Room on Saturday, March 31, and all of your favorite little ones are invited to attend!

 

 

 Arts & Education

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club has been planning all kinds of trips to local and international destinations over the past few years. If you have been thinking about getting more involved with the club, the first step is attending one of their quarterly meetings, and the next one will take place on Thursday, March 15 at 10 am in the Activity Center.

The Activity Center Auditorium will be hosting guest speakers from The Greener Side of Heaven, Inc. to discuss their work at local animal shelters on Monday, March 19. This will be a very informative discussion for anyone who loves animals.

Golf & Tennis

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For the more competitive golfers, the Citrus Hills Couples Championship on March 16 and 17 is coming up.  But, if you aren't quite ready to compete in one of our major events, you might want to think about attending one of the free golf clinics. This month, PGA/LPGA teaching pro Mary Slinkard will be working with beginners on March 5, 6, and 7. Then she will be back to work with intermediate golfers on March 13, 20, and 27.

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The Skyview Tennis Center will be hosting a Spring Break Mixed Doubles Round Robin on Sunday, March 11 from 1-3 pm. The tournament will be followed by dinner and live music, so this is one that you won't want to miss!

There will also be a Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, March 13 at 11 am.

 

Dinner Specials

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Saturday, March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, and that is definitely a night that you are going to want to think about going out to dinner. Skyview will be serving a special menu featuring Irish Soda Bread, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Irish Bangers and Mash.

The Grille will be offering a similar menu of a la carte items.

In addition to feeling a bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, you might also be interested in checking out the Asian Family Feast at The Grille on March 11.

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And please find time for yourself this month.  Make an appointment at BellaVita Spa. Lemon is the theme this month as they will be doing Lemongrass Hand and Arm Retexturizing Treatments and Lemon Dream Spa Pedicures all month long.

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Have a great month full of activities and events, and we will see you at the Activity Center!

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

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

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

New York Yankees, Tampa

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

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Clearwater

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

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

Toronto Blue Jays, Dunedin

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

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

 

 Detroit Tigers, Lakeland

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Bradenton

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

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

Baltimore Orioles, Sarasota

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

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

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

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