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Weekend Getaways

12 Hours In St. Petersburg

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While many people think of St. Petersburg as an extension of Tampa, local residents will tell you that this fun-filled city has a personality that is all its own. It also has plenty of things to do, which makes it an excellent day trip option for residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

If you are looking for a perfect day trip destination and don't want to be bothered with all of the research that goes into

planning an exciting getaway, we have taken care of all the details for you and put together a choose-your-own-adventure style trip to St. Pete.

Let's dive in and check out some of the options!

 

Morning Activity - Art & History 

Depending on what time you leave, the hour and forty-minute drive will probably have you arriving in St. Petersburg with a few hours to kill before lunch. We recommend starting off your day with a little bit of culture at one of the many art galleries and museums that the city has to offer.

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Three of the most popular options for this part of the trip are the Duncan McClellan Gallery, the Ted Williams Museum, and the Salvador Dali Museum. Each offers a slightly different type of cultural experience, but all three are highly recommended attractions in St. Pete.  

Lunch - Bodega

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For lunch, we are heading over to the EDGE District to check out a little place called Bodega. St. Pete residents can't get enough of the Cuban-style food you will find here, so make sure you try one of their soon-to-be-world-famous sandwiches.  

Bodega is also known for having outstanding Cuban coffee and some of the best fresh juices in the city.

 

 

 Early Afternoon - Close to Nature 

After lunch, it's time to get outside at places like Fort De Soto Park and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

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If the beach is your happy place, then Fort De Soto Park could be your own personal paradise in St. Petersburg. This stunning county park includes five islands to explore by canoe, kayak, or bicycle. There is also a historic fort and museum that appeals to all of those history buffs out there.  

For anyone who is more interested in wildlife, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve offers a lake, marsh, swamp, and woods that are filled with a wide range of animals from the land, air, and sea. There is also a Pioneer Settlement living history museum for visitors to explore.  

 Late Afternoon - Out on the Water 

After having some fun getting close to nature, it's time to ratchet that excitement level up a notch and get out on the water.  

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One of the most popular boat tours in the area is St. Petersburg Speedboat Adventure, which offers a 2-hour self-drive speedboat tour for two passengers in the same boat. You will have an absolute blast cruising up and down Tampa Bay in these little boats.  

For day trippers who are looking for something a little more upscale out on the water, you could skip the speedboats and charter a private yacht from Tampa Bay Yacht Charter that will have you cruising Tampa Bay in style before dinner.  

Dinner - Brick & Mortar

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Dinner at Brick & Mortar is the perfect way to wrap up a fun day exploring the sights and sounds of St. Petersburg. This fun and innovative restaurant will astound you with a wide range of small and large plates that are perfect for sharing.  

We recommend getting a few things that are inside your comfort zone and then getting wild with a few dishes that might be pushing your boundaries a bit…and don't forget to order the truffle fries!

 

There is a good chance that you are going to be completely exhausted after all of this fun in St. Pete. But we are just scratching the surface with everything that there is to do here in the Sunshine City, so it won't be long before you are planning another trip with a brand-new itinerary!

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!

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!

Tampa Concert Calendar: 8 Summer Shows You Won't Want to Miss

There are hundreds of things to love about life here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but one of the perks that often goes overlooked is the fact that just about every major concert tour makes a stop right down the road in Tampa.

The big national acts will pack the house at large venues like Raymond James Stadium, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, and the Amalie Arena. But there are also plenty of smaller venues like the Tampa Theatre and the Capitol Theatre for more intimate shows.

If you are looking to catch a great concert this summer, we have pulled together a list of eight shows that you definitely won't want to miss.

Luke Bryan - June 23 - Raymond James Stadium

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 Serious country music fans pretty much plan their summers around the annual Luke Bryan concert at this point, and Tampa is going to have an outstanding date this year. Luke will be out promoting and performing songs from his most recent album, "What Makes You Country," which debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and the Billboard Top Country Albums.

 

 Rascal Flatts - July 20 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

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 You might not realize it, but Rascal Flatts has been around for almost 20 years now, and they have sold an astounding 22.5 million albums and have 15 number one hits under their belts. They're heading out on the road again this summer with Dan and Shay & Carly Pearce.

 

Chicago / REO Speedwagon - July 21 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

Another can't-miss show heading to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater this summer will be the combo of Chicago and REO Speedwagon hitting the stage on July 21. Fans of either group will be excited about the show, and most people who are fans of one group are also thrilled to see the other.

 

Dave Matthews Band - July 25 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

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 The Dave Matthews Band has become a modern-day version of The Grateful Dead with a similarly passionate fan base that simply doesn't miss shows. After taking the summer of 2017 off, the band is back this summer and we can expect those fans to be as excited as ever. Expect to hear all of your favorite DMB classics, as well as some new songs from the album that should be out soon.

 

Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town - August 3 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

Just as joint concerts are popular with classic rock bands, they are also something we see more and more of from the country genre. On August 3, we will have the opportunity to catch country stars Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town at the same show here in Tampa. Miranda is amazing.

Taylor Swift - August 14 - Raymond James Stadium

Speaking of amazing ladies, the iconic Taylor Swift will be in town on August 14 as a part of her Reputation Stadium Tour. Whether you love her or hate her, you'll know every song she sings, and you're sure to have a blast at this one.

 

Jeff Beck & Paul Rodgers with Ann Wilson - August 26 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

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Anytime you have the chance to see one of Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time," you'd be crazy to miss out on the opportunity. And that is exactly what you will have when this former Yardbird shows up in Tampa on August 26. Jeff will be joined by Paul Rodgers, as well as Ann Wilson from Heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Simon - September 7 - Amalie Arena

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 Jeff Beck might be the best guitarist passing through Tampa this summer, but Paul Simon could be the most admired songwriter we will have the chance to see this year. This farewell tour could be your last opportunity to see the legend headlining, and it will happen in one of the most intimate arenas in the city.

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?

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.

Visiting Dinosaur World in Tampa

Many benefits come with living just north of a city like Tampa, and one such benefit is that residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills never have to worry about finding fun and exciting activities to keep visiting children occupied. Whether we are talking about kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or just good friends, one of the coolest places to take any visiting children is Dinosaur World.

This awe-inspiring 20-acre facility is located just east of Tampa in Plant City, which is also known for hosting the Florida Strawberry Festival each and every March. Here you will find more than 200 life-sized dinosaur models, as well as an overwhelming amount of educational information on all things prehistoric.

Getting to Dinosaur World

The fastest way to get to Dinosaur world is to take US-41 south towards Tampa and then use US-98 to connect to I-75 and continue heading south. As I-75 makes its way down towards the city, you will exit onto I-4 heading east towards Plant City. 

Dinosaur World is located just off of exit 17, shortly before Plant City.

The Dinosaur World Experience

Children absolutely love Dinosaur World, and a big reason for that is that the facility offers an astounding number of activities to keep them occupied throughout their time at the park.

But before heading to those activities, you might want to take them through the Prehistoric Museum. Here they can see things like dinosaur eggs and raptor claws, as well as a number of other unique artifacts. The Prehistoric Museum also includes the Animatronics Exhibit, where visitors can see life-sized dinosaurs that come to life with sounds and movements.

The Exploration Cave is another educational adventure where children get to interact with a real-life paleontologist who will act as their tour guide as they move through a massive cave, dig site, and workstation. Then, when the kids are ready to get their hands dirty, they can participate in activities like the Fossil Dig, Dino Gem Excavation, and the Bone Yard!

With ticket prices of $16.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors, and $11.95 for kids, it's actually hard not to get your money's worth with all of the great things to see and do at Dinosaur World.

 

http://dinosaurworld.com/florida/

Dining Near Dinosaur World - Fred's Southern Kitchen

Dinosaur World encourages visitors to bring coolers packed with their own preferences for food and snacks, but if you are looking for a great restaurant located nearby, just about everyone will enjoy a meal from Fred's Southern Kitchen. Actually, a trip to Fred's for some "Slow Food, Fast" might be worth the drive even if you aren't heading to Dinosaur World!

The buffet-style menu here always contains Jack Black Oak Smoked Pork Ribs, Golden Fried Chicken, Crispy Catfish, Grilled Tilapia, Fresh Vegetables & Casseroles, and Skillet Cornbread. On top of that, there is a rotating list of Daily Entree Specials, as well as a Salad Table and a Dessert Table. And don't forget that all kids 10 and under eat for free on Mondays and Tuesdays!

Since Dinosaur World is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, you could plan your trip on any Monday or Tuesday and include a free meal for the kids at Fred's Southern Kitchen. But even if those days don't work with your schedule, both places are always going to deliver a fantastic experience that is perfect for the whole family!

The Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa

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

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

Henry B. Plant

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

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

The Tampa Bay Hotel

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

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

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

Henry B. Plant Museum                                                                                   

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

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

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

Dining Near the Museum

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

Weekend Trip to America's Best Beach

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

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

Where to Stay Near Siesta Beach 

 The Capri at Siesta

The Capri at Siesta

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

 

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

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

 

What to Do Near Siesta Beach

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

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

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

 

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

 

Where to Eat Near Siesta Beach

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

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

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

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

 

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

Day Trip: Cape Canaveral

The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral is one of the top ten most popular attractions in all of Florida. But this coastal town also offers plenty of other reasons to visit for the day. When you combine those exciting attractions with all of the great restaurants here, there is no reason not to schedule a day trip to experience Cape Canaveral.

Getting to Cape Canaveral

Getting to Cape Canaveral from the Villages of Citrus Hills takes just a touch more than two hours. The easiest path by car is to take Florida's Turnpike towards Orlando like you are going to the airport, then head east on 528 until you hit the Atlantic Coast.

Towards the very end of your trip, you will notice that 528 leads you right onto A1A, which means that you are about to arrive at your destination.

The Cape Canaveral Experience

The most popular attraction in Cape Canaveral is the Kennedy Space Center. People come from all over the world to take part in the astronaut experiences you will find throughout the museum and in the live tours available here. In addition to the space center itself, Cape Canaveral is also home to the Air Force Space & Missile History Center and the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory.

But just focusing on the aerospace experience would be selling beautiful Cape Canaveral short. Another extremely popular local attraction is the Brevard Zoo, which sits on 75 acres of land and contains more than 650 different animals from all over the world. Animal lovers will also be thrilled to experience the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science, where they can learn about animals of the past like the Woolly Mammoth and Saber-toothed Cat.

One of the most scenic attractions you will find in Cape Canaveral is the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, which is located right on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. In 2016, the base started offering a three-hour tour on Fridays and Saturdays that includes the chance to explore the lighthouse first-hand.

Still looking for more to experience in Cape Canaveral? Don't forget about the Canaveral National Seashore, which contains 24 miles of undeveloped seashore. This area is filled with trails to explore the local wildlife and foliage, but many visitors also enjoy simply sitting on one of the few beaches that aren't surrounded by development.

Cape Canaveral Dining

Just as you would expect from a popular coastal town, there are plenty of great places to eat in Cape Canaveral. If you are looking for a quick bite for breakfast or lunch, there are some great cafes like Cafe Monte Carlo, Vargas Cafe, Euro Kafe' Etcetera, and Southern Charm Cafe to choose from, and they all offer their own unique twists on local cuisine.

One of our favorite cafe-style seafood restaurants in the area is Crackers Island Grille, where you will find a cozy little dining room and a great outdoor seating area. Mahi Tacos are the signature item here, and they are good enough to merit the trip East all by themselves.

 

Another fine family owned restaurant is the Sage Bistro.  Every unique creation from the kitchen is made from scratch and all the fish served is freshly caught.

 

The Kennedy Space Center is always the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Cape Canaveral, and it is well worth the drive all by itself. But this great Atlantic coastal town also offers a wide range of other attractions, as well as some of the best cafes you will find anywhere in Florida. So, the next time you are looking to get away for a day, head east past Orlando and visit Cape Canaveral.

The following link is full of information for your next visit.

https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

 

The Next:  Rocket Launch: July 2, 2017 7:30 PM | SpaceX Falcon 9 Intelsat 35e

 

Weekend Trip: Fort Lauderdale

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

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

Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale

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

 The Pillars Hotel

The Pillars Hotel

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

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

Things to do in Fort Lauderdale

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

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

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

Places to Eat in Fort Lauderdale

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

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

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

 Cafe Seville

Cafe Seville

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

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

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

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

Getting to Margaritaville

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

Entering Paradise

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

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

 

 

Margaritaville Dining

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

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

Wasting Away in Margaritaville

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

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

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

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

Day Trip: Ybor City

Ybor City is a historic neighborhood located just northeast of downtown Tampa. Cigar manufacturers founded this amazing little community in the 1880s, and it has a rich history that combines Cuban, Spanish, and Italian influences into a culture that is truly unique. The neighborhood has maintained its sense of history over the years, and that is what makes just walking through this fabulous place so enjoyable.

Spending the day in Ybor City can take you in a number of different directions, but we highly recommend that each of those paths start out with a cafe con leche from one of the local Cuban coffee shops. After that, the choice is yours, but of course we have some suggestions.

The Ybor City Experience

Anyone interested in learning more about the rich history of Ybor City should make it a point to start their day at the Ybor City Museum. Located inside the historic Ferlita Bakery Building, this is where you will find an excellent base of knowledge about Ybor City.

Another must-see destination for history buffs is the Cigar Industry Walking Tour, which will start at the Ybor City Museum and take you through the neighborhood with a tour guide pointing out all of the historic buildings and explaining the role they played when cigar making was at the height of its popularity.

 

Anyone who is a fan of fine art will love spending time at the Hoffman Porges Gallery. The Ybor City Museum Society also runs regular tours that highlight some of the amazing architecture you will find throughout the community. 

The Ybor City Restaurant Scene

With the combination of culture that you will find in Ybor City, it is no surprise that this neighborhood is also known for having some of the best restaurants in all of Tampa.

The local icon here is the Columbia Restaurant, which is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Florida. Started in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant, this restaurant has been serving delicious Spanish and Cuban cuisine for more than 110 years!

 

 

Another favorite Ybor restaurant is La Terrazzo Restaurante Italiano, which focuses on serving Northern Italian classics. If you are craving a perfect Caprese Salad or Scaloppine al Marsala, this is the place you’’ll want to head to.

If you prefer something a little more casual, you might check out Al's Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que, the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, or The Bricks of Ybor. All are known for having excellent food and exceptional service.

The Ybor City Nightlife

Not only is Ybor City known for its history and dining, but the neighborhood is also famous for having an exciting nightlife scene where you can find all kinds of entertainment on just about any night of the week.

On any given night, there will be multiple venues offering a wide range of live music. There are also more formal shows like the Flamenco Show at the Columbia Restaurant, and if you are feeling adventurous you could also look into Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary's!

 

 

 

There are also plenty of restaurants that keep serving late into the night, so you are always going to be able to find something to eat in Ybor City!

No matter what type of adventure you are looking for, there is something for everyone in Ybor City. And since it is located just 85 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, it is the perfect distance for a day trip or an overnight excursion that can be planned on a whim any time you like!

Weekend Getaway: Port Charlotte

Located about halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Port Charlotte is the perfect Gulf Coast destination for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills who are looking to venture a little further south than Tampa for their next getaway.

Traveling by car takes about three hours, which makes it just far enough away to feel like a vacation, but still close enough that you don't spend your whole weekend traveling.

Let's check out some of the best places to stay, things to do, and places to eat that you will find in Port Charlotte!

Places to Stay in Port Charlotte

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One of the biggest appeals about a weekend in Port Charlotte is that visitors have some amazing bed and breakfast accommodations to choose from. The Banana Bay Waterfront Motel is a local favorite that offers an Old Florida feel situated right on the bay. If renting kayaks and strolling along the docks is your idea of a relaxing weekend, this is a great location.

Another popular B&B is the Tropical Paradise Bed & Breakfast, where hosts Cliff and Joanne go out of their way to make sure that every detail is taken care of. Their home is located on a beautiful lot that features a covered pool and access to the canal.

If your preference is to stay at one of the chain hotels, there are also quite a few of those to pick from in Port Charlotte. One of the highest rated hotels in town is the Sleep Inn & Suites Port Charlotte, where you will find a gorgeous outdoor pool and all of the other amenities you would expect from a big brand hotel.

Things to Do in Port Charlotte

Once you iron out the details of where you are going to stay in Port Charlotte, the next step is to figure out exactly what you are going to be doing during your weekend getaway. For many people, that choice is as simple as enjoying the water…and there are a few different ways to do that in Port Charlotte. Depending on where you stay, you will likely have access to a number of water sports, fishing piers, and even some boating experiences.

Another relaxing way to enjoy the water in Port Charlotte is to spend a day at Port Charlotte Beach Park. Here you can stroll on the boardwalk, collect a wide range of shells, or jump right into the water! The park is also a perfect place to have an evening picnic while watching the sunset.

Since Port Charlotte is the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, many residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills plan their visits during the early spring months. However, Port Charlotte is also home to the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs, which is a minor-league affiliate of the Rays. That means that you can catch a game here throughout the summer, and minor league baseball games are always fun to see in person!

Places to Eat in Port Charlotte

Assuming that you are going to be staying at one of the local bed and breakfasts, you probably won't have to worry about finding a good spot for coffee and breakfast in the morning. But when the time for lunch rolls around, The Philadelphian should be the first local restaurant on your list. Here you will find authentic Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks that will absolutely blow your mind.

If you are thinking about heading over to Port Charlotte Beach Park for a sunset picnic but don't feel like packing dinner, grabbing a delicious pie from Pioneers Pizza is always a solid option. We recommend going with either the Formaggio or the Meat Lovers specials!

Every weekend getaway needs at least one fancy dinner, and the place for that in Port Charlotte is JD's Jazz Club & Fine Dining. Here you will find a first-class fine dining menu that is accompanied perfectly by live music and delicious cocktails. The only question here is whether you will get more enjoyment from the food or the music!

If you are looking for a great place to spend a relaxing weekend, Port Charlotte along the bay, is filled with waterfront activities and delicious dining.

 

Weekend Getaway: The Upper and Middle Keys

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

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

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

Where to Stay

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

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

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

Things to Do

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

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

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

Places to Eat

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

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

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

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

Enjoying a Fabulous Weekend in Winter Park

  Winter Park is known for the wild peacocks that roam the old McKean estate.     

Winter Park is known for the wild peacocks that roam the old McKean estate.

 

Located about 15 minutes north of Orlando and a little over 90 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, the town of Winter Park often gets overlooked as a weekend getaway destination. However, if you are looking for a great place to enjoy the arts, history and fine dining, it doesn’t get much better than Winter Park.

Places to Stay in Winter Park 

 The Alfond Inn

The Alfond Inn

When looking for a place to stay in Winter Park, The Alfond Inn should definitely be the top option on your list. This boutique hotel offers an interesting experience for art lovers, as the walls of the hotel are decorated with pieces from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which we will get to in a few minutes.

In addition to being an art lover’s dream, The Alfond Inn is also pet friendly, and they offer a number of different packages that include such things as bicycle rentals, boat tour tickets, and picnic lunches to enjoy in one of the local parks.

 Park Plaza Hotel

Park Plaza Hotel

While we can’t say enough about The Alfond Inn, staying at the Park Plaza Hotel is also a wonderful experience. The history of this hotel dates back to 1922, so there is plenty to appreciate here as well.

Things to Do in Winter Park

One of the first stops for anyone spending time in Winter Park is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. At the Morse Museum, visitors can spend a day exploring a massive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

 Morse Museum

Morse Museum

The museum’s permanent collection includes jewelry, pottery, paintings, and different glass works that were designed by Tiffany throughout his career. One of the interesting exhibits you will find here is the chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Located on the campus of Rollins College, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum contains more than 5,000 historic paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs.  Highlights in the Cornell Museum collection include 30 Bloomsbury Group paintings and drawings, and 156 photographs taken by Andy Warhol.

Another place worth a visit in Winter Park is the Kraft Azalea Park. This 11-acre park is the perfect setting for spending a relaxing afternoon outdoors. There are trails and a boat dock if you are into that sort of thing, but most of the people who visit this beautiful green space prefer to simply sit on one of the many benches and enjoy their surroundings.

 Scenic Boat Tour

Scenic Boat Tour

Last but not least, the highly-rated Scenic Boat Tour should be near the top of your “To Do” list. This hour-long guided cruise takes passengers through three of the seven lakes and two, narrow manmade canals on the tranquil Winter Park chain of lakes. In addition to the various wildlife, plants, flowers, and trees you’ll encounter along the way, you’ll also see opulent private homes and exquisite estates as you cruise along the shoreline.

Places to Eat in Winter Park

There are dozens of great places to eat in Winter Park, but Prato is one of the few places that has something for everyone. This casual Italian restaurant is all about simplicity, and it doesn’t hurt that they offer seating with a view on their patio. Whether you choose the pizza, pasta, or the Veal Marsala, everything is delicious at Prato.

 Prato

Prato

If you are in the mood for unique dining, Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine offers an experience that you will not soon forget. Visitors who are new to Turkish food should definitely consider the Mixed Grill for Two, which allows them to try a variety of chicken and lamb dishes.

Another choice is The Wine Room that offers a classy atmosphere and a tapas menu that will have your mouth watering. And with a name like “The Wine Room,” you know that they are going to have the perfect wine to pair with just about anything you choose to order.

 The Wine Room

The Wine Room

With two very unique hotels for lodging, plenty of parks and museums to explore, and some of the best dining you will find anywhere, Winter Park has everything you need for a fabulous weekend getaway. A lot of times people looking to get away in Florida are going to more well-known destinations, this is one that you can have all to yourself!

 

Weekend Getaway - Marco Island

Located approximately four hours south of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Marco Island is one of the most peaceful and romantic destinations in Florida.

This little island offers fabulous resorts as well as quiet little hideaways, beautiful beaches and exciting Gulf Coast fishing, and some of the most delicious restaurants you will find anywhere. It’s the perfect getaway location for anyone looking to spend a romantic weekend at the beach!

Places to Stay on Marco Island

When you are talking about places to stay on Marco Island, the conversation almost always has to start with the JW Marriot Marco Island Beach Resort. This vacation paradise offers the complete first class experience of Marco Island. They have their own private white sand beach, two private 18-hole golf courses, a fabulous spa, three swimming pools, 10 restaurants, and beautiful state-of-the-art guest rooms. Everything you need for a relaxing weekend getaway will be right at your fingertips here.

Another first-class choice is the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, which is a Mediterranean-themed resort that boasts a wide range of unique amenities like smoothies on the beach and the ringing of “the captain’s bell” at sunset. The hotel also offers an excellent concierge staff that will be happy to arrange dinner reservations at local restaurants or tee times at some of the best golf courses in all of Florida.

If something a little bit simpler is what you are looking for, the friendly people at The Boat House Motel are consistently ranked as one of the very best places to stay on Marco Island according to TripAdvisor. Staying at The Boat House Motel feels more like staying with old friends.

Things to do on Marco Island

Whether you plan to stay at one of the larger resorts or rent a quiet cottage, getting as close to the beach as possible is the name of the game at Marco Island, so spending time kicking back on those beautiful white sand beaches is definitely the most popular thing to do on the island. One of the best beaches around is South Marco Beach, which is a favorite for shelling and strolling along the waterfront.

Another popular way to spend your time in Marco Island is to head out on the open sea for some big- time fishing! There are dozens of local fishing charters that operate just about every day of the week, so ask your hotel staff to recommend their favorite, and you’ll be reeling in a monster in no time at all.

If you are more of a landlubber, the Marco Island Historical Museum is a great way to spend some time away from the water. This cool little museum is free to the public and offers all kinds of interesting insight into the history of the island.

Places to Eat on Marco Island

For a fairly small island, Marco Island is absolutely packed with amazing places to eat! Your first stop on at least one of the mornings you spend there should be Doreen’s Cup of Joe. This is one of the most unique and interesting coffee shops you will ever find. The breakfast menu is delicious, and the coffee is the best you will find north of Cuba.

You are also going to want to stop at The Italian Market and Deli for an afternoon treat. Both the pizza and the subs here are out of this world, and the personality is pretty outstanding too. Owners Jimmy and Susan Barney bring all of the Italian flair of a Brooklyn deli to the island, and they really don’t miss a beat!

 

 

Hidden in a little strip mall is where you will find one of the classiest restaurants on the island. Finn Bistro specializes in fresh fish that is cooked to perfection and plated in a way that makes you love the dish before you taste it. No matter what happens to be on the menu during your visit, you can be sure that it will taste terrific.

No matter what type of lodging, activities, or dining you are looking for, there really is something for everyone here on Marco Island. That’s why this is one of our top weekend getaways for anyone here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

5 Weekend Getaways in Greater Florida

One of the best things about living here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is that all of the amazing tourist destinations throughout the state of Florida are just a stone’s throw away. That means that our residents have the luxury of being able to head out on a weekend getaway to all of those famous Florida destinations pretty much any time they like.  

Of course, there are so many fantastic destinations across the state that it can actually be hard to choose which one to visit first. For that reason, we put together this list of five weekend getaways that should definitely be on your list!

Key West 

If you chose the Gulf Coast because you prefer the calmer pace of life compared to the Atlantic Coast, then you will like the laid-back feel of beautiful Key West. This amazing little town is one of the fun spots in Florida, and you can get there by flying into their airport, taking a jet boat from the mainland, or driving down US Highway 1.  

Once you’re in Key West, everything revolves around Duval Street. This is where you will find plenty of shopping, dining, and more bars than you could possibly visit. There are also some really great local tours like the Hemingway Estate, as well as the beautiful Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and the ultimate photo op spot at the Southernmost Point!

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/key-west.html

Miami - South Beach 

If exciting nightlife is your cup of tea, then a weekend in South Beach is just what the doctor ordered! Pick any of the fabulous hotels along the famous A1A and you will be set to enjoy all that this vibrant town has to offer. 

While you are in Miami, make sure to visit the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab for some of the best stone crab claws you’ll find anywhere. You can dress up and eat in their restaurant, or go super casual and enjoy the same food over on their take-out side.

For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/miami-beach.html

Naples 

Keeping our focus in the southern part of the state, if relaxing on the water is more your speed, then Naples will appeal to you. This is the ultimate destination for visitors who enjoy a calm and upscale atmosphere that is also accompanied by some spectacular high-end shopping.

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/naples.html

Panama City Beach 

Moving up north into the panhandle area, Panama City Beach has a reputation as a spring break destination, but it is also a fabulous spot for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills who are looking to get away for a weekend.  

This little gem features 27 miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, along with world-class golf facilities, two excellent state parks, and enough delicious restaurants to ensure that you never run out of options.

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/panama-city-beach.html

Daytona Beach 

Another popular destination that certainly ranks at the top of the list of any NASCAR fan is the home of the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach. Here you will find the amazing Daytona International Motor Speedway and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. There are also many other great attractions that make a weekend in Daytona Beach fun for everyone even when it isn’t race week.

For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/daytona-beach.html

 

Whether you are looking for exciting nightlife or beachfront relaxation, there is something for everyone to be found on a weekend getaway somewhere in the state of Florida. So, next time you start feeling the urge to get away, take out your Florida map and book the next trip!