Day Trips

May Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

may-.jpg

Whether you are ready for it or not, the month of May has officially arrived, and we are getting ready to kick off another summer season here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  During the summer months, we tend to slow down on outdoor activities like golf and tennis, but we also pick up on fun social events and great dinner specials. And no matter what type of fun you are looking for around the community, there is something for just about everyone in May.  

Let's jump into the details and take a quick look at some of the most exciting events and activities happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills this month.  

Social Events 

The social fun will kick off right away with a 1950s Prom Dance taking over the Activity Center Auditorium on Saturday, May 4. In order to make it feel just like the high school dance from "Back to the Future," the theme is going to be "Enchantment Under the Sea" and there will be prizes for the best costumes! 

On Friday, May 10, the Vacationers Club is planning a bus trip to Tampa to see the Tampa Bay Rays host the New York Yankees. The Rays are off to a hot start this year, and every game against the Yankees is going to be a close one, so this is a great chance to see the home team in action.  

Comedy Night Alan Schubowsky May 2019 EB.jpg

If you're looking for a laugh, you won't want to miss comedian Alan Schubowsky performing in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, May 14. Alan has performed on huge stages all over the world, and he is going to be cracking up everyone in attendance for this special event.  

Tasty Trivia Tuesday will be back in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, May 21. Dinner this month will include Swiss Chicken, Bourbon Salmon, Potatoes Au Gratin, Broccoli with Red Pepper and Shallots, Salad, Rolls, and German Chocolate Cake.  

Slice of Summer Poolside Party May 2019 EB.jpg

The biggest social event of May will actually be happening on the very last day of the month. That is when the Slice of Summer Poolside Party will be taking place at the Activity Center. DJ Benny Cruz will be playing all of your favorite songs by the pool at this exciting dance party under the stars.  

Arts & Education 

Dr. Trish Kallenbach will be speaking about Holistic Pet Nutrition in the Activity Center Auditorium on Tuesday, May 7 at 10 am. During her presentation, she will be covering everything you might want to know about how a healthier diet can improve your pet's lifestyle.  

The Healing Power of Music will be back in The Garden Room on Thursday, May 16 this month. Gayle Cohen will be focusing on topics like everyday stress, loss, divorce, and other issues while covering how music can help our bodies heal.  

Golf & Tennis 

Cinco de Mayo Open May 2019 EB.jpg

The Oaks course will be hosting the Cinco de Mayo Open on Saturday, May 4 at 8:30 am. This will be one of the most enjoyable golf outings of the summer, so make sure you don't forget to sign up to participate.  


The more serious golf event this month will be the Men's Better Ball A/D - B/C tournament at Skyview on May 6 and 7. This exciting tournament is open to all Skyview members, and everyone will be playing from the white tees.  

If you are simply looking for a way to improve your golf game, we highly recommend heading out for one of the Free Golf Clinics with our resident expert, Mary Slinkard. There will be clinics for complete beginners on May 6, 7, and 8. Then there will be intermediate clinics on May 14, 21, and 28.  

The monthly Free Beginner Tennis Clinic at the Skyview Tennis Center will be happening on Tuesday, May 14 at 11 am. If you have been thinking about dusting off that old racket and need a refresher on some of the basics, this is the perfect place to get that.  

Dinner Specials 

Mother's Day May 2019 EB.jpg

Mother's Day meals are going to be big at Skyview Restaurant and The Grille this month. Both of our community restaurants will be celebrating with specials on Sunday, May 12. Skyview Restaurant will be serving up fabulous entrees, while The Grille is going to be the destination for anyone looking for a spectacular buffet-style offering. 

In addition to their Mother's Day special, Skyview Restaurant is also going to be hosting a Spring Wine Dinner on Tuesday, May 7 and a Turkey Buffet on Thursday, May 23.  

Memorial Day Buffet May 2019 EB.jpg

Not to be outdone, The Grille is staking its claim as the place to be on Memorial Day for a first-class summer BBQ Buffet featuring everything from Baby Back Ribs to Smoked Brisket.  


The Tiki Bar is going to be the place to be on the first weekend of the month with a huge party for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 that will be almost immediately followed by another wild party for Cinco de Mayo on May 5.  

Mothers Day Massage Special May 2019 EB(1).jpg

In addition to all of the events that the people at the Activity Center have planned for the month of May, there are also some fantastic Mother's Day specials happening all month long at BellaVita Spa.  

Whether you are planning to hit all of the social events or are booking some private time for yourself at the spa, make sure you have a great month here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Exploring the Big Bend Shellfish Trail

ShellfishTrailMap_web_Page_10-791x1024.jpg


Seafood is extremely popular across the state of Florida, and shellfish is practically a way of life along the Gulf Coast. Here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we have the luxury of being located right next to the Big Bend Shellfish Trail, which is where you will find one of the best sources of fresh shellfish in the entire country.  

Whether your preference is for clams, oysters, blue crabs, shrimp, or stone crabs, you can find all of them as you make your way up and down the trail. But with so many options to choose from, figuring out how to best enjoy the trail can be a bit overwhelming.  

Let's take a closer look at what exactly the Big Bend Shellfish Trail has to offer! 

About the Trail 

The Big Bend Shellfish Trail is comprised of the working waterfront communities in Dixie, Levy, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties ranging from Steinhatchee to Yankeetown.  

At one time, this area was better known for its fishing boats, but a 1995 ban on gill net fishing forced the local workers to evolve into shellfish harvesters. Today, you will find large piles of crab traps sitting on docks the entire way up the coast, and it isn't too hard to find the shellfish that make their way into those traps either! 

Types of Shellfish 

Big Bend.png

Scallops and Stone Crabs are probably the most sought-after shellfish you will find along the Big Bend Shellfish Trail. Both are limited in terms of fishing season and restricted to certain catch limits, which means that supplies are almost always limited, making them rather expensive.  

On the flip side, you will find all of the clams, shrimp, and blue crabs you could ever want throughout the salty marsh waters of the Big Bend Shellfish Trail.  

Big Bend Destinations 

Because the entire Big Bend Shellfish Trail is located within a short driving distance of the Villages of Citrus Hills, each of the popular stops along the trail would be an excellent day trip for our residents.  

Cedar Key is probably the most popular tourist destination along the trail, and it is also a favorite day trip spot for local residents. In addition to being a beautiful island, this is also a prime spot for oysters and clams, and there are also a number of farm-to-table shellfish restaurants on the island.  

If you are looking for a scalloping adventure, Steinhatchee is the place to find your charter service. And that won't be hard here considering the area is filled with working shellfish boats.  

Another excellent destination for a Big Bend Shellfish Trail day trip is Suwannee, where you will find some of the best stone crab fishing of the entire Gulf Coast. This is also a great place to track down clams, oysters, and blue crabs as well.  

Whether you are looking to get out on the water and catch your own shellfish or stay on dry land and enjoy a fantastic seafood experience at a locally owned restaurant, the Big Bend Shellfish Trail can help you out either way. So if you are passionate about your shellfish, it's time to get out and start exploring the trail!

New Team in Town: Meet the Orlando Apollos

5ba53067c82af.image.jpg


Have you noticed that there have been spring football games on TV this year? Our desire to see gridiron action all year round is finally coming true thanks to the brand new AAF, and we are in a prime spot to witness this new league with nearby Orlando getting one of the eight inaugural franchises.  

If you are a football lover that is looking for a team to root for this spring, the Orlando Apollos are interested in giving you that opportunity. And it looks like they are going to end up being pretty good, so we will have lots to root for here at the Tiki Bar.

What is the AAF? 

The AAF is the American Alliance of Football, and it was founded by television producer Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian. Former players Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, and Justin Tuck are also heavily involved in the new league, which officially kicked off on February 9 of this year.  

While it was initially conceived as a competitor to the NFL, much like the XFL positioned itself, the AAF has since evolved to see itself as a minor league for the NFL. There have already been discussions about the NFL loaning out some of its younger players to the AAF in hopes of developing them faster.  

Do I Know Any Apollos? 

Steve Spurrier.jpg

The brand new AAF wanted to make a big splash when they announced that the Orlando Apollos would be their first franchise, and they did that in April of 2018 by unveiling that Florida legend Steve Spurrier would be their first head coach.  

That's right, the "old ball coach" is back in business.  

In addition to Spurrier, football fans will certainly recognize names like Bob Sanders, Donnie Abraham, and Lito Sheppard coaching on the defensive side of the ball.  

When it comes to the players in the huddle for the Apollos, quarterback Garett Gilbert has been lighting up the scoreboard throwing to his favorite target, Charles Johnson. And then there is the running back tandem of D'Ernest Johnson and De'Veon Smith churning up yardage on the ground.  

Are They Any Good? 

With only one loss in their first six games, the Orlando Apollos are already the class of the AAF. That means that they are well on their way to making an appearance in the four-team playoff set to happen this April.  

The Apollos offense has proven to be the best in the league thus far, and the defense is currently ranked as the second-best unit in terms of yards allowed.  

When Can I See Them? 

ApollosImage-718x490.jpg

The Apollos are scheduled to host their final two games of the inaugural season at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 13. The April 6 contest will be against the San Diego Fleet, then the April 13 regular season finally will take place against the second place Birmingham Iron.  

Following the regular season, there will be a four-team playoff starting on Sunday, April 21 and concluding with a championship game on Sunday, April 27. And unless something goes terribly wrong in the next four weeks, Coach Spurrier should have his team in the hunt for the first ever AAF title.  

Not only are we blessed to have a new football team competing right down the road in Orlando, we are also fortunate that the team is playing extremely well to start the season. If you are looking for a fun weekend activity to keep you busy over the next few weeks, start following the Apollos and get excited about the AAF!

7 Citrus Hills Themed New Year's Resolutions for 2019

depositphotos_81812734-stock-photo-pen-writes-2019-resolutions-on.jpg

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 

Happy Hour Dec 2018 EB.jpg

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 

Buddy Brew Wednesday May 2018 EB 2.jpg

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. 

activity club link2.jpg

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!

Birding with a Naturalist at Fort Cooper State Park

With its location right in the middle of Florida's Nature Coast, Citrus County is one of the best places in the entire world for nature-lovers who are looking to hit the trails and take in the scenery. And one of the ways to get started doing just that is to participate in the monthly naturalist-guided bird walks at Fort Cooper State Park.  

Because the park is only a quick 20-minute drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills, it is considered "home base" for many of the nature lovers that call our community home. It is also "home base" for a local expert who makes herself available to guide and teach on the second Tuesday of every month from December through May.  

Meet the Naturalist 

Dee Bolton is a member of the National Audubon Society, and she has been studying birds and wildlife across the country for the better part of her life. After spending time in Colorado, California, Arizona, Minnesota, and Key Largo, she has migrated to The Nature Coast where she has worked as a guide at Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and Fort Cooper State Park.  

With that wide breadth of experience under her binoculars, Dee is one of the most knowledgeable guides you will find anywhere in the Sunshine State. Her birding walks at Fort Cooper State Park start at the lake at 8:30 in the morning, and allows everyone attending to appreciate a diverse collection of winged wildlife.  

Get to Know the Birds 

Snowy_Egret_m17-70-632_l_1.jpg

With the walk starting along the shores of Lake Holathlikaha, visitors are likely to spot water-loving birds like Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, White Ibises, and Sandhill Cranes. 

Barred_Owl_m50-4-005_l.jpg

Then, as they make their way around the Sandhill Loop Trail, bird lovers will be on the lookout for Bachman's Sparrows, Hairy Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Common Ground-Doves. This is also an area where you might catch a glimpse of a Sherman's Fox Squirrel or a Gopher Tortoise.  

As Dee leads visitors further back into the woods, they will be looking for songbirds like Magnolia Warblers, Hooded Warblers, Red-Eyed Vireos, Yellow-Billed Cuckoos, and Grey-Cheeked Thrushes. And at the deepest parts of the walk, they might even see an Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl, or Chuck-Will's-Widow.

Equipment You Will Need 

Like any fun activity, birding is going to be much more enjoyable if you have the necessary equipment. But unlike some of the more complicated ways to spend your time out in the woods, the tools required here are relatively simple. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and maybe a set of binoculars.  

If you are looking to take your birding to the next level, you might want to invest in a reliable guidebook, and you could always spring for a nicer pair of binoculars. Assuming you are already planning to dress according to the weather, that is all you need for a successful birding walk.  

Whether you are an experienced bird watcher or someone who is just thinking about getting into it for the first time, the Birding with a Naturalist events at Fort Cooper State Park are the perfect way to get your feet wet without having to venture too far from home. See you at the park!

12 Hours In St. Petersburg

St Pete.jpg

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.

S Dali Museum.png

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

Bodega.jpg

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.

Fort de Soto.jpg

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.  

speed-boat-adventures-san-diego-attraction.jpg

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

BrickandMortar_DTSP-7.jpg

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!

5 Reasons to Start Hiking

Citrus-Hiking-Trail.jpg

While fancy water-based activities like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding definitely have their place in the life of any active adult here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, one simple activity that just about everyone could do a little more of is hiking.  

It might not be talked about in the same light as some of the more exciting things that you can be doing outdoors, but the fact that our community is completely surrounded by local, state, and national parks filled with trails for hikers of all skill levels is precisely the kind of thing that needs more press coverage.  

One of the best things about hiking is that you are never too old to get out in the woods. And, just in case you felt otherwise, we found six reasons that prove just that.  

Everyone Needs Exercise 

No matter what doctor you see or what condition your overall health is in, just about every appointment includes a recommendation to get more exercise. So, if you are looking for ways to add a little exercise to your routine, there is no better option than an enjoyable hike through one of our neighboring parks.

The Price is Right 

Not only is hiking great for fulfilling the required exercise that today's active adults are looking for, it also isn't going to cost you anything at all outside of a good pair of shoes.  

Most of the great trails in Citrus County are located in parks that are open to the public with no fees.  

Go at Your Own Pace 

It is no secret that some outdoor activities can be a bit strenuous for retirees, but one of the best things about hiking is that you can take your time and move forward through a trail at whatever pace works best for your current fitness level.  

And since many of the local trails are greatly underutilized, you will be hard pressed to find anyone out there who is going to rush you through your workout.  

3683_WITHLA_10_DSC0039_copy.jpg

Rails to Trails

If you are a complete beginner, then the local rails to trails options will be the perfect place for you to get used to walking through the woods without having to actually leave a smooth, paved surface.  

The Rails to Trails program has converted old railroad rails into paved trails all over the state, and we are blessed to have some great choices like the Withlacoochee State Trail right in our backyard.  

Enhanced Benefits 

If you aren't sold on hiking at this point, you're probably just looking for an excuse not to get out and enjoy the beauty of our local parks. But one last thing that might change your mind is the fact that relaxing out on a trail has been proven to increase clarity of thought and creativity.  

No matter what reasons speak most to you, heading over to one of our many local parks and getting yourself out on a trail is one of the very best things that you can do for your physical and mental health. So where are you planning to hike this weekend?

The Top 5 Places to Take Visitors in Citrus County

citrus county map.gif

One of our favorite things about living in Citrus County is that there is an endless number of things to see and do.  There is always something happening right here in the Villages of Citrus Hills, and there are just as many fun attractions throughout the rest of the county.  

All of these attractions and activities are great for those of us who call Citrus County home, but they can be a little overwhelming for those who are just visiting with us for a short time. For that reason, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top five places everyone must see while visiting in Citrus County.  

5. Fort Island Gulf Beach

FortIslandGulfBeach.jpg

Fort Island Gulf Beach is one of those places that you probably say, “We should come here more often,” just about every time you visit. It has beautiful white sand beaches, public restrooms, and a great boardwalk overlooking the water.  

When your guests visit the Gulf Coast of Florida, they are definitely going to want to SEE the Gulf Coast. This is the perfect way for them to see it right here in Citrus County, and it’s also an extremely relaxing way to spend a day.

4. The Withlacoochee State Trail 

Withlacooch.jpg

Bicycling is a fun way to show your guests a good time outdoors, making the most of our great Florida weather. There are lots of trails to choose from around Citrus County, but the Withlacoochee State Trail is the one that is a must-see attraction. 

This is a perfect place for cyclists of all skill levels. You can take your time and cruise just a few miles, or push the envelope and explore all 46 miles of former train tracks.


3. Rainbow River Tubing

11.jpg

 If your visitors are looking for something a little more adventurous that is still a great representation of life in Citrus County, taking them tubing on the Rainbow River is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. 

Tubing is popular from the beginning of April through the end of September and is the kind of experience that your visitors will be sure to tell everyone back home about!

 

2. Downtown Inverness 

Inverness.jpg

Whether your guests are interested in history, shopping, or great food, there is something for everyone to enjoy just a few miles away in downtown Inverness.  

Every tour of Inverness should start at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, but you might also want to explore the local shopping or grab some takeout food and head to Fort Cooper State Park for a picnic lunch.


1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 

HomosassaSpsSP.jpg

A lot of people who visit Florida want to get to the beach, which we addressed with number five on this list. But the main interest for many who visit Citrus County specifically is to see live manatees, and the best place to do that is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park!  

Visitors can get up close and personal with live manatees from the underwater observatory. They can also learn a lot more about these local mammals from the information sessions held regularly at the park.

Among each of these five attractions, you will definitely show your guests some of the very best highlights of Citrus County. And if you haven’t been to all of these places yourself, what are you waiting for?

Florida College Football Preview

florida college football.png

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

university-of-miami-hurricanes-roundel-27inch-round-area-rug.jpg

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

FSU.png

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

university-of-florida-gators-roundel-27inch-round-area-rug.jpg

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

3a77fc94d35afb156738288f89495bc9--knight-logo-sports-logos.jpg

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

USF Bulls.jpeg

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

Exterior-1250x450.jpg

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

Poker-Room-Header-1250x450.jpg

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

fine-dining-interior-hero_1250x450.jpg

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

shoppingHeader.jpg

 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

Key-West-Express-sunset-650.jpg

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

tours-key-west-counch-train-2.jpg

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.

hem-home-002.jpg

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.

 

usa-florida-margaritaville.jpg

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.

 

Duval st.jpg

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

lukebryan-1080x1080-raymond-1520871008-4939.jpg

 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

Rascal-Flatts-Image.png

 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

Dave-Matthews.jpg

 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

Jeff-Beck-Paul-Rodgers-Ann-Wilson-v2b-ALT-r8-GEN.jpg

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

152086635587901935-1520890410-502.jpg

 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.

Rays Tickets: 4 Day Trips with the Vacationers Club

TB Rays.jpg

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

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

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

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

red-sox.jpg

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

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

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

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

NY YANKS.png

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

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

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

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

red-sox.jpg

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

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

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

NY YANKS.png

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

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

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

 

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

 

Visiting Dunedin: Craft Beer and Open-Air Markets

Dunedin Florida.jpg

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

brewmap-visit.jpg

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

ShowImage.jpg

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

honeymoon-island-caladesi.jpg

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.

Black Pearl.jpg

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

Spring-Training.jpg

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

NY Yankees.jpg

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

brighthouse3.jpg

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

Toronto BJ.jpg

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

Detroit Tigrs.jpg

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

bradenton_300x276.jpg

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

2011_edsmith.jpg

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.

5 Local Wineries to Put on Your To Do List

Wineries.jpg

With such an astounding number of exciting tourist attractions surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills, our residents are always finding new adventures all around them. One easy activity that just about everyone will enjoy is visiting some of the outstanding wineries of the region.

Whether you see yourself as an amateur sommelier, or you are looking to up your wine knowledge, or just looking for something fun to do on a Saturday afternoon, these wineries in and around Citrus County offer the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a wide range of excellent local products.

Copp Winery, Crystal River

copp-brewery-logo.jpg

Located right down the road in Crystal River, Copp Winery is one of the friendliest and inviting winery atmospheres you will find anywhere. They do an excellent job of putting novice wine drinkers at ease with their three tasting rules: relax, enjoy, and don't worry. 

Copp Winery produces a wide range of wines that includes the most common varietals, but they also specialize in creating some unique blends and sweet wines.

There are plenty of options to try by the glass at their wine bar, and they also sell bottles and cases to take with you.  They also micro brew ales.

If you are having a few glasses in the wine bar, you might also want to plan on ordering the Cheese Sampler Plate or the Bruschetta Pomodoro from their Snack Bar menu. Both are excellent.

Whispering Oaks Winery, Oxford

whispering oaks winery.jpg

You won't find any traditional choices on the wine list at Whispering Oaks Winery. That's because they make all of their wines from locally grown and freshly harvested blueberries.

Located just a bit east in Sumter County, Whispering Oaks is doing some amazing things with one of the hottest new trends in the world of wine. They also serve fantastic flatbreads that can be paired up with whatever blueberry wine you decide is right for the moment.

And if you are planning an evening trip to Whispering Oaks, you should make a reservation for one of their steak nights that includes a fantastic steak dinner on the stunning patio next to the wood grill and koi pond.

Lakeridge Winery, Clermont

Lakeridge Winery Logo.png

With more than 200 acres of vineyards under contract across the state of Florida, Lakeridge Winery in Clermont is one of the largest and most impressive wineries in the entire state. But that doesn't stop them from paying particular attention to every single bottle they produce, as well as every single customer that walks through their doors.

The wine offerings include many of the standards like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but we recommend tasting their Chablis, which is a blend of Florida Muscadine grapes. The winery has tours every day of the week, and they also have a great retail area where you can purchase all kinds of gift items along with their wines.

Backyard Barn Winery and Microbrewery, Wildwood

Backyard Barn Winery.png

While visiting a winery always sounds like an excellent idea for wine drinkers, you might have a hard time convincing your beer drinking friends to tag along. That won't be a problem if you are heading to Barnyard Barn Winery because they also brew their own small-batch beers with the same level of craftsmanship that they put into their wines.

 

This is an excellent place to visit if you are planning to spend some time in the tasting room. And make sure that you check their website for upcoming events because they regularly host live music nights.

Katya Vineyards, Ocala

Katya Vineyards.jpg

Located in downtown Ocala, Katya Vineyards offers another excellent selection of local wines to choose from. In addition to their own wines, they also carry a number of carefully chosen imported wines and craft beers in their tasting room.  Be sure to try their flagship white blend.

Katya Vineyards also offers a Wine Club program where you can have their wines shipped right to your door at whatever schedule works best for you!

 

November Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

november.jpg

The first ten months of 2017 have flown right by us and we are now heading into the holiday season here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. November is typically a month where the activities calendar lightens up a bit, but that is simply not the case this year.

Between all of the social events, arts and education activities, golf and tennis tournaments, and dinner specials, there is something for residents to get excited about just about every single day throughout the month. Let's take a closer look at some of the exiting activities and events you won't want to miss.

Social Events

Fans of the monthly Trivia Challenge will want to check out the brand new Extreme Jukebox event happening in the Hampton Room on Thursday, November 9. There will be a live host leading a game that combines elements of bingo, karaoke, and "Name That Tune."

Veterans Day Dance Nov 2017 EB.jpg

We will be celebrating Veterans Day with a Veterans Day Dance in the Hampton Room on Saturday, November 11. There will be a dinner featuring Bourbon Salmon and Sliced Prime Rib followed by live music from Lisa Beck of Solid Rock.

Our Second Annual Car & Truck Show will be taking place in the Activity Center Parking Lot on Sunday, November 12 from 9 am to 3 pm. This will be a great chance for everyone to get out and enjoy the fall weather while appreciating some of the coolest rides you will find here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Anyone who enjoys the Extreme Jukebox event will also want to attend this month's Trivia Challenge on Tuesday, November 21 in the Hampton Room. Dinner this month will feature Boursin Stuffed Chicken Breast.

Travel-Thanksgiving St John 2017 email.jpg

If you would like to join a group of people in getting away for Thanksgiving Day, the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning a Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise for Thursday, November 23. We will be heading east to Sanford to board a classic paddleboat for lunch and live entertainment.

Arts & Education

Dr. Joe Coffey will be leading a weekly lecture series on the relationship between the United States and China starting on Wednesday, November 1 and running through Wednesday, December 13. Each of the lectures will take place in the Activity Center Card Room from 4:30 pm to 6 pm.

Local author Linda Tillis will be hosting a Book Reading and Q&A Session at the Coffee Shop on Friday, November 3 from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. Guests at this event can take advantage of a great coffee and croissant special as well!

The Lunch & Learn series will be back on Monday, November 6 with U.S. Air Force Veteran Joe Romiti speaking about patriotism, the history of our country's flag, and the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance. Lunch for this event will include an Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwich with Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry Sauce.  This event will be taking place in the Garden Room.

Holiday Boutique 2017 EB.jpg

More than 50 local craft vendors will be setting up in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, November 28 for the 13th Annual Holiday Boutique. There will be all kinds of great gift ideas to choose from, which makes this the perfect time to start your Christmas shopping for the year!

Golf & Tennis

Veterans Day Nov 2017 EB(1).jpg

Competitive golfers will be lining up to have some fun participating in the Veterans Day Scramble at Skyview on Saturday, November 11. They will also be heading over to The Oaks course for the Pro Shop Open on Saturday, November 18.

If you are new to golf, you might want to join the Newbie Nine Hole League that plays on The Meadows course every Thursday at 3 pm. And you can also get plenty of advice on your golf game at one of Mary Slinkard's Free Golf Clinics scheduled throughout the month.

The Skyview Tennis Center will be a busy place this month with their Burger Bash Tennis Social scheduled for Sunday, November 5, a Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, November 14, and a Tennis Taco Fest right around the corner on December 3.

Dinner Specials

Thanksgiving Dinner Skyview Nov 2017 EB.jpg

Skyview Restaurant and The Grille will both be having Thanksgiving Dinner Specials on Thursday, November 23. Skyview will be serving entrees like a Roast Turkey Platter and New York Strip Steak, and The Grille will be having a traditional Thanksgiving Buffet. Both restaurants will be serving from 12 pm to 5 pm and reservations will be required.

In addition to their Thanksgiving Dinner Special, Skyview Restaurant will also be hosting a Wine for the Holidays Tasting on Tuesday, November 7, and a European Pub Night on Tuesday, November 21.

Fall Harvest Taste of Elegance Nov 2017 EB(4).jpg

Over at The Grille, there will be a Fall Harvest Dinner on Thursday, November 2, a Family Feast of Comfort Food on Sunday, November 12, and a Taste of the Southwest on Thursday, November 16.

BellaVita Spa & Fitness

Pumpkin Facial.jpg

If you manage to find some time for yourself during the month of November, you might want to head over to BellaVita Spa to take advantage of their Cranberry Orange Massage and Pumpkin Enzyme Facial specials.

And, as if all of that still wasn't enough, start marking your December calendars for the Holiday Tree Lighting on December 5 and make your reservations for the New Year’s Eve Party in the Hampton Room!

For a complete listing of all the events and activities for the month of November, click below.

http://www.citrushillsgolfandcountryclub.com/userfiles/file/November%202017%20Connections%20ONLINE.pdf

 

 

August Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

August2012.jpg

The hot and sticky month of August has arrived, but the activities and events calendar here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is packed with plenty of cool things to do throughout the month.

Whether you are looking for exciting social events, fun opportunities to learn, clinics for improving your golf or tennis game, or just a great meal with friends, we have got you covered with everything happening around the community this month. Let's take a closer look at some of the exciting activities and events coming your way in the month of August!

Social Events

Mopar August 2017 EB.jpg

The August social events will kick off with the Citrus Hills Cruise-In on Friday, August 11 in the Tiki Bar parking lot. Sponsored by the Citrus MOPARS, this event is completely free to attend, and will feature all of the very best muscle and sports cars from around the community.

The next edition of our monthly Trivia Challenge will be held on Tuesday, August 15 in the Hampton Room. This month, the dinner menu will include Baked Haddock, Chicken Parmesan, Penne Pasta with Garlic, and lots of veggie and dessert options. Dinner starts at 5:45 pm and the trivia fun will follow around 6:30 pm.

It wouldn't be summer in the Villages of Citrus Hills without a Flicks & Floats party at the Activity Center Pool. This month's movie night is set for Friday, August 18, and the movie will be The Accountant starring Ben Affleck as a brilliant but lethal numbers wizard.

There will be plenty of buttery popcorn available, but you can also get 10% off of a meal at Skyview Restaurant or The Grille by showing your tickets for this event!

The biggest party of the summer will definitely be the 10th Annual Copacabana Night on Friday, August 25 in the Hampton Room. This year, the event will feature a menu of Cuban Pulled Pork, Chicken and Red Peppers in Garlic Wine Sauce, and some delicious sides.

There will also be salsa lessons and a live orchestra, so this is one summer party that you don't want to miss out on.

Arts & Education

The new Coffee Shop will be holding an Interactive Reading event on Tuesday, August 8 from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. Local author Ronnie Allen will be present for a group reading of her first novel, Gemini: The Sign Behind the Crime. There will also be a Q&A and book signing after the reading.

On Saturday, August 12, the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club will be taking a group trip down to Tampa to see Motown The Musical at the Straz Performing Arts Center. Tickets to this event are $125 and include orchestra seating and round-trip transportation to the event.

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is also planning a trip to St. Petersburg to see The Chihuly Glass Collection by artist Dale Chihuly at The Morean Arts Center. In addition to exploring the glassblowing exhibit, there will be plenty of time to venture out and see other popular St. Petersburg attractions.

There will be a Lunch & Learn event in the Garden Room on Thursday, August 31 at 12:30 pm with guest speaker Lisa Dider discussing American Madams (1870-1910). Lunch for this talk will include a Caprese Chicken Sandwich and Pasta Salad, followed by a slice of Strawberry Cloud Cake.

Golf & Tennis

The big golf event of August will be the Southern-Sky Two Person Championship that will start at Skyview at Terra Vista on Saturday, August 26 and conclude at Southern Hills Plantation Club on Sunday, August 27. If you would like to participate in this unique pairs tournament that covers two different courses, you must register with the Skyview Pro Shop by August 14.

If you are looking to improve your golf game during the month, you should definitely make a point to attend Golf Pro Wayne Larsen's Free Golf Clinics. This month, Wayne will be working with beginners on August 7, 8, and 9. Then he will be back to work with intermediate golfers on August 15, 22, and 29.

Anyone looking to learn the basics of tennis is welcome to attend the Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, August 8 at 11 am. As always, the only thing required to attend this clinic is a pair of tennis shoes. The Skyview Tennis Center will be happy to loan you a racket for the clinic.

Dinner Specials

 Skyview Restaurant has some exciting Tuesday night dinner specials planned for the month of August. You won't want to miss their Greek Night on August 12 or the Asian Feast on August 29.

 

Both dinners are scheduled to start at 5 pm and run through 8 pm.

It's all about mixers over at the Tiki Bar, and they will be mixing it up this month with block parties for Cambridge Greens on August 3, Canterbury Lakes on August 17, and Celina Hills on August 31. They will also be hosting a Singles Social Happy Hour on Tuesday, August 29 from 4 pm to 6 pm.

If those mixers and the warm weather aren't enough to get you to the Tiki Bar this month, you might want to visit for their Beers Around the World special on Thursday, August 24 or the Fantasy of Flights Wine Night on Tuesday, August 29.

Citrus Surprise Pedi  2017.jpg

 

If you are interested in pampering yourself, you might want to try a Citrus Surprise Spa Pedicure at the BellaVita Spa.

 

With all of the exciting things happening around our community during the month of August, there is absolutely no reason not to get out of the house and have some fun!

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.