Weekend Getaways

5 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

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

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



Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island State Parks

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

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

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

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

Dunedin Fine Art Center

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

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

Dunedin Histoy Museum

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

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

Pinellas Trail

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

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

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

 

Weekend Getaway: 48 Hours in Gainesville

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Are you ready for another weekend getaway?

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

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

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

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

Day One: Casual Dining and School History

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

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

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

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

Day Two: Butterflies, Cubans, and Fine Dining

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

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

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

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

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

Day Three: History, Brunch, and Shopping

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Getaway: New Smyrna Beach

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Residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills typically feel that the Gulf Coast offers the best version of the Florida retirement lifestyle, but that doesn't mean that a weekend trip to the Atlantic Coast isn't warranted every once in a while.  

With its crashing waves and laid-back atmosphere, New Smyrna Beach is the perfect destination for Gulf Coast beach bums looking to head east for a relaxing weekend getaway. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, this is our best advice for making the most out of your trip.  

Places to Stay in New Smyrna Beach

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TripAdvisor.com doesn't always get it right in their rankings of the best hotels in a particular area, but we think they are right on the money in having The Black Dolphin Inn ranked at the top of their list for New Smyrna Beach. This stunning bed and breakfast will cater to your every need and have you staying right near all of the action downtown.

If staying on the beach is more of a priority for you, then the Atlantic Plaza comes highly recommended in New Smyrna Beach. These oceanfront condos will have you sleeping within steps of those famous Atlantic Ocean waves.  

Things to Do in New Smyrna Beach 

The beach is one of the popular tourist attractions in New Smyrna Beach, and we highly recommend planning to spend the bulk of your weekend enjoying the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. You will find that surfing, boogie boarding, and body surfing are all popular here, but strolling through the sand looking for shells can be just as enjoyable if you don't want to get wet.

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In between beach sessions, you will also want to check out some of the many local art galleries that you will find around town. New Smyrna Beach is known as a "small art town," which means that there are lots of independent local artists that have come together to create a very unique cultural community.

 

Places to Eat in New Smyrna 

In keeping with the theme of everything else, you will find the restaurant scene offers a fantastic selection of casual restaurants serving up world-class food paired with some truly outstanding wine lists.  One of the popular restaurants is SoNapa Grille, which is known for their Lobster Bisque and their wine list, but won't disappoint you with anything in between those either.  

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Other popular restaurants include The Garlic, which has a special approach to all of your favorite garlic-forward dishes, and Norwood's Eatery & Treehouse Bar, which is definitely one of the coolest destinations in town.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the fantastic dining you will find in New Smyrna Beach, which makes this a perfect destination to revisit.  

With fantastic restaurants, first-class lodging, and one of the best beaches you will find along the Atlantic Coast, there is no reason not to make the two-hour drive for a weekend getaway as often as you can. When are you going to be taking your next trip?

7 Citrus Hills Themed New Year's Resolutions for 2019

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Whether you’re ready for it or not, 2019 has arrived, and we are all planning for it to be the best year ever here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

And if you have not yet committed to picking a resolution for the new year, we have put together a few Citrus Hills themed suggestions that will help you get more out of your fabulous life here along Florida's Nature Coast.  

Attend More Social Events 

Spending more time with friends and neighbors is one of the most popular New Year's Resolutions here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but we suggest taking that idea one step farther and committing to attending more of our regular social events throughout the year.  

There are dozens of fun and exciting events happening every month around the community and making a point to attend as many of them as possible is a great way to fill up your social calendar while spending quality time with friends and neighbors.

Dinners with Friends 

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In addition to attending the many social events happening around our community throughout the month, you can also spend more time with friends and neighbors by planning a regular dinner at Skyview Restaurant, The Grille, or the Tiki Bar.  

This can be an extra special resolution if you can get a group of friends to all commit to meeting for dinner on a specific day each month.  

Join a Class at PrimoVita 

Another popular resolution is to work on getting yourself into better shape, and there are tons of fun options to help you out with that in the form of exercise classes at the PrimoVita Fitness Center.  

Whether you are looking for beginner Pilates or advanced yoga, there is a class that is perfect for everybody who is looking to improve their fitness in 2019.  

Hit the Range More Often 

If improving your golf game is high on your list for the coming year, a great New Year's resolution that you can make is to put a priority on getting yourself to the Skyview Driving Range more frequently.  

Like most resolutions, this one will be more powerful if you attach real numbers to it, so pick a specific number of times you want to hit the range each week or month and hold yourself to it.

 Read Good Books at the Pool 

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Reading more books is also a popular resolution, and the pools throughout the Villages of Citrus Hills are perfect places to kick back with a good one.  

The Coffee Shop is another popular spot to catch up with your reading or a friend. 

Pick Up a New Hobby 

If you would like to bring a new hobby into your life this year, there are quite a few excellent clubs to choose from that meet regularly all over the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

We have everything from Bocce to Wood Carving, and all you have to do is call up the club leader for more information. 

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Plan a Trip 

For members who are looking to add a little more excitement to their lives in 2019, we recommend checking out some of the exciting trips that the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club has planned for the coming year.  

And if you can't find anything there that excites you, there are dozens of day and weekend trips that we have profiled on the blog over the years.  

You can't put it off any longer. 2019 has arrived, and just like 2018 it will fly by before you know it. Make sure you get the most out of the new year by making a resolution to take advantage of all that there is to see and do here at the Villages of Citrus Hills!

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!