Citrus County

5 Fun Things to Do in Dunnellon

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Known for its prime location along the Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers, as well as its historic downtown district, Dunnellon is one of the many hidden gems residents will find located all around the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Because of its location just over 20 minutes north of our community, Dunnellon is one of the popular day trip destinations for our residents. And with everything from river tubing and horseback riding to airboat tours and shopping, there is never a dull moment in this nearby town.

Let’s take a closer look at five of the most fun things you can do while spending a day up in Dunnellon.

Tubing Down the Rainbow River

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One of the most popular things to do in Dunnellon is break out a tube or kayak and spend the day floating down the Rainbow River. This is a great way to take in the beauty of the area without having to do a whole lot of work.

The best places to start any tubing or kayaking adventure here are Rainbow River State Park and the KP Hole County Park. There are companies available to rent tubes or kayaks near both locations, so the only thing you have to bring is a swimsuit.

Rainbow Springs State Park

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While Rainbow Springs State Park is best known for being a perfect launch point for a day out on the Rainbow River, the park offers so many additional amenities that it actually deserves a place of its own on this list.

In addition to river access, Rainbow Springs State Park offers some of the best hiking and camping areas you will find this close to the Villages of Citrus Hills. So whether you are looking for a wilderness weekend or just a picnic outside, this is the type of location you definitely want to experience.

Happy Acres Ranch

If horses are your passion, then Happy Acres Ranch is going to be the type of place you want to visit over and over again.

This working ranch specializes in trail rides, lessons, and boarding. They have over 50 miles of trails to explore on horseback, so there is always a new path to explore while you are out riding.

In addition to being a great place for horseback riding, Happy Acres Ranch also offers campers and cottages for rent if you want to turn Dunnellon into your home for the weekend.

Airboat Tours

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While exploring the Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers by kayak can be quite relaxing, airboat tours offer visitors a much more exciting version of that same experience. These flat-bottom boats are powered by massive fans attached to the back of them.

Local companies like Captain Bob’s Airboat Tours offer regularly scheduled tours that will get you up close and personal with all kinds of local plants and native wildlife. Plus there is the fun of actually getting to experience riding on an airboat.

Historic Shopping District

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Most of the small towns throughout the state have some interesting boutique stores for shoppers to explore, but Dunnellon has the Historic Village Shops of Dunnellon, which is a collection of those types of stores that work together to create an amazing shopping experience.

The Historic Village Shops of Dunnellon also hosts a market of local crafters and artists on the first Saturday of each month. So if you are planning on shopping in town, that is the best time to visit.

With everything from tubing down the Rainbow River to exploring the Historic Villages Shops of Dunnellon, this quaint little town is packed with fun and adventure for anyone who wants to visit. And since it is located just a short drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills, there is no reason you can’t plan to head up to Dunnellon on a regular basis.

Benefits of Living in Citrus County



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Florida is a big state with a wide range of different options that appeal to different people for different reasons.  

But if you are considering relocating to the Sunshine State, Citrus County, which just so happens to be the home of the Villages of Citrus Hills, presents one of the best options you could choose for a number of reasons.  

Residents of Citrus County are in a position to enjoy all of the best aspects of Florida at the same time. They get to experience the famous Florida climate. They are right next to the Gulf Coast, while still not too far from the Atlantic Coast. Great cities like Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville are just a short drive away, and the entire region is filled with amazing state parks and forests.  

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant benefits of living in Citrus County: 

53% Will Never Be Built On 

Many people who relocate to Citrus County don’t realize this fact until after they move here, but more than half of the county is protected areas that will never see any type of construction. This assures residents that Citrus County will never suffer from becoming overbuilt the way other parts of Florida have.  

Ideal Climate 

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The location of Citrus County along the Gulf Coast near the central part of Florida gives it one of the best climates in the entire country. The average high in the summer is in the low 90’s, and the average low in the winter is in the mid-40’s. This moderate climate allows residents to avoid the cold winters without having to endure the 100+ degree summers that residents find in southern Florida and Arizona.  

Low Cost of Living 

Like all Florida residents, those living in Citrus County are not subjected to any state income tax. However, unlike some of the more urban parts of the state, Citrus County residents enjoy a relaxed atmosphere where they don’t have to worry about gouging prices that you might find in many popular tourist areas. The cost of living is very reasonable in Citrus County.  

Parks and Trails 

Whether you are looking for large state parks, great walking trails built from abandoned railroad lines, or small community parks that offer some of the best sunset views you will find anywhere, Citrus County has them all. There are an unbelievable number of different parks and trails throughout the county that all offer their own unique version of nature in Citrus County.  

Day Trips to “Old Florida” Towns 

Mount Dora

Mount Dora

Another advantage that the geographic location of Citrus County offers is that residents are within a short drive of quite a few different “Old Florida” towns that all make for great day trips. Many of these small towns have great historic shopping districts, outstanding restaurants, and plenty of history and art museums.  



An Enormous Amount of History 

From the historic sites of the Second Seminole War to the shell mounds of ancient natives, Citrus County is packed with tons of great history and plenty of places to learn all about it. The county also has a long history of producing outstanding thoroughbred horses, including multiple Kentucky Derby champions.  

Gulf Coast Lifestyle 

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Living in Citrus County places you right in the heart of the Gulf Coast Lifestyle. Fishing, boating, and sunbathing at the beach will all be only minutes away. You can also participate in popular local activities like collecting scallops, catching stone crab claws, or swimming with the manatees.  

Close to Tampa and Orlando 

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While the communities of Citrus County are known for their small-town environments, the big-city lifestyle is never very far away with both Tampa and Orlando being only a short drive away. This gives Citrus County residents access to great shopping, cultural events, and professional sports teams that many people like to experience from time to time.  

As you can see, Citrus County is one of the most optimal locations for an active adult lifestyle in Florida. Make sure to include a tour through Citrus County and the Villages of Citrus Hills on your next trip to Florida so that you can see the area for yourself.

Bird Watching at Flying Eagle Preserve

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Eagle

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



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

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

Bird Watching at Flying Eagle Preserve 

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Kestrel

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

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

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

Flying Eagle Nature Center 

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

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

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

Recreational Activities

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

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

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

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

 

5 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

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

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



Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island State Parks

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

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

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

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

Dunedin Fine Art Center

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

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

Dunedin Histoy Museum

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

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

Pinellas Trail

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

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

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

 

Weekend Getaway: 48 Hours in Gainesville

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Are you ready for another weekend getaway?

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

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

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

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

Day One: Casual Dining and School History

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

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

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

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

Day Two: Butterflies, Cubans, and Fine Dining

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

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

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

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

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

Day Three: History, Brunch, and Shopping

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

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

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

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

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