Day Trips

Everything You Need to Know About the Deep-Sea Fishing Excursion

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Deep-sea fishing is one of the most popular activities for Gulf Coast tourists, but it isn’t always a common activity for people who actually live here. If heading out after some monster fish is something that you have always wanted to try, the Citrus HIlls Vacationers Club has the perfect day trip planned for you in October.

The club is planning an exciting deep sea fishing excursion out of Tarpon Springs that will be the perfect experience for all skill levels ranging from novice fishermen up to semi-professional anglers.

Gulfstar Fishing Charters

This particular trip will be a half-day trip with Gulfstar Fishing Charters, which is one of the most popular charter companies operating out of Tarpon Springs.

One of the best things about deep sea fishing on a chartered excursion is that you don’t have to worry about bringing any fishing gear with you. The captain will provide you with everything you need from rods and reels to bait and hooks. You don’t even need to purchase a fishing license.

The only thing that you will want to bring on this adventure is a cooler full of food and drinks for the day, which will then double as transportation home for all of the fish that you catch.

And as for what to wear, the only requirement is that you plan on being comfortable. It is often about five degrees cooler out on the water, so make sure to dress accordingly.

The Sundance II

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The boat we will be boarding is the Sundance II, which was built by hand 1970. After surviving more than 40 years of cod fishing in New England, the Sundance II has found a new life operating charters here in Florida.

While the boat definitely has a rich history, it also boasts plenty of new technology.

Since its relocation to Florida in 2014, the Sundance II has been fitted with new electronics, a Furuno radar, and a digital fish finder.

What About the Fish?

After cruising for a little over an hour and getting about nine miles away from the shore, we will spend 2-3 hours fishing in water that is between 25 and 40 feet deep.

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Once the captain drops anchor and we start casting our lines baited with squid, there is a good chance that we will see Key West Snapper, Black Seabass, Porgies, and Grouper coming onto the boat.

Another perk that comes with a deep sea fishing charter is that the crew will be happy to clean all of the fish that you catch so that you can take them home in your cooler and cook them up however you like.

Our Trip Details

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning this deep-sea fishing excursion for Thursday, October 3. Tickets are on sale now, and the cost is $105 for members and $110 for guests.

Tickets include round-trip transportation from the Activity Center and everything that comes with the fishing charter, as well as ice to pack your catch for the ride home.

The plan is to leave the Activity Center at 7:30 am and return sometime around 6 pm.

No matter how passionate you are about fishing, this is going to be an amazing experience for everyone who participates. Don’t miss out on the fun, and don’t forget to invite your friends and family over for the cookout when you return!

 

Florida Scalloping Season Starts July 1st!

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Throughout most of the country, the weeks leading up to the 4th of July are filled with fireworks and cookouts. But here along the Gulf Coast, we’re also focused on one of our favorite seafood items: SCALLOPS! 

That’s right! Scalloping season is right around the corner. This year, the season kicks off on Monday, July 1 and runs all the way through Tuesday, September 24.

And whether you enjoy eating scallops or not, spending a day catching them is one of the most exciting things you can do in Citrus County.  

Bay scallops are a type of shellfish that live in shallow waters along the Gulf Coast of Florida just minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills.

They tend to be found living in sea grass areas, where they can blend in well except for their bright blue eyes. If startled, you will see the scallops attempt to make their getaway by quickly opening and closing their shells to propel them backwards.

Scalloping Rules & Regulations 

If you are planning on heading out on your own scalloping adventure this year, you will want to be aware of the rules and regulations that you are going to be expected to follow. First and foremost, anyone out scalloping on their own must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License.

In addition to having a license, there is a limit to how many scallops you are allowed to harvest on any given day. Just as it has been in previous years, the limit in 2019 is two gallons of whole scallops or one pint of scallop meat per person.  

There is also a maximum of 10 gallons permitted for each vessel out in the water. On top of that, the vessel you are using to scallop must leave from and return to a dock that is located within an area where scalloping is permitted.  

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There are only three acceptable ways to harvest scallops; you must either catch them by hand, landing, or dip net. The most popular method is by hand, which is usually done while snorkeling with a mesh bag to hold your catch. You’re also required to utilize diving flags to alert any other boats in the area to your presence.

One particular rule that might seem confusing at first is that any boat that catches scallops in the legal area to do so, must also dock in the same area. It is illegal to catch scallops in the legal area and then unload them outside of the legal area.

The following link will bring you to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with all the official information.

https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

Scheduling a Scalloping Charter

If all of those rules and regulations are making your head spin, you are not alone. Luckily, there is another option. By scheduling a private scalloping charter with one of the many tour companies throughout Citrus County, you can enjoy harvesting your scallops without having to worry about remembering the rules.  

When you go scalloping with a reputable charter company, you will be provided with all the gear and licenses you need, plus a guide who knows all of the details about how much you can harvest.  

There are dozens of local tour companies that would be happy to host your next scalloping adventure. The following link will bring you to a wonderful website, Discover Crystal River, with a few charter companies to consider.

https://www.discovercrystalriverfl.com/play/scalloping/ 

Shucking & Cooking Your Scallops 

After spending a fun afternoon out in the water grabbing scallops and shoving them into your mesh bag, the next step is to get them ready for dinner. But don’t worry, that process isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.  

If you have the benefit of being on a scalloping charter, there is a good chance that shucking your scallops is included in the price. If not, get out your knife and dig in! Here is a great video that breaks down the process for you. 

https://www.saveur.com/video-how-shuck-scallop 

Once you get your scallops shucked and cleaned, it’s time to figure out how to cook them!

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However, scallops are actually incredibly easy to cook. All you need to do is pan-sear them with a little bit of oil over very high heat. Just cooking them for about one minute on each side is all you have to do. There is actually a better chance of you overcooking them than undercooking them.  

Some recommended approaches to cooking scallops include seasoning with salt and pepper, lemon pepper, or blackened Cajun seasoning before you sear them. Many recipes also recommend basting them with butter while cooking.  

While most people prefer their scallops fried in butter with a bit of their favorite seasoning, this article from Coastal Living Magazine offers up 34 delicious scallop recipes for anyone who is looking for something a bit different. The Scallop and Avocado Tostadas sound delicious. 

www.coastalliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/scallops-recipes 

No matter how you like your scallops prepared, there is no denying that spending a day out on the boat harvesting them is one of the biggest benefits to living along The Nature Coast.

This recreational fishing activity combines all of the excitement of the catch that comes with traditional fishing without the worms. If you have ever enjoyed delicious scallops at a local restaurant, this is your chance to get out and catch your own.  

Because some of the best scallops in the world are basically sitting in our backyard, we would all be crazy to not go out scalloping at least a few times each year. The fact that there are so many great charter operations in our area makes it even easier. 

Even if you don’t care for seafood, the treasure hunt feeling you get from scalloping is a blast. Make sure that you don’t let this year’s scalloping season pass you by without filling a few mesh bags of your own!

5 Fun Ways to Spend a Day in Ocala

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Located just an hour drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Ocala is one of the most unique destinations in all of Florida. There is a nearly endless number of things to do in and around this dynamic city, which makes it a perfect day trip destination for Citrus Hills residents.  

Whether you are interested in horseback riding and drag racing or shopping and art, there is something for everyone in Ocala. Let's take a quick look at five different ways to spend an exciting afternoon in "horse country." 

Horse Farm Tours 

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Because horse culture is such an integral part of Ocala, the first option for visitors is always going to be one of the many horse farm tours like the one you will find at Gypsy Gold Farm.  

No one ever has a bad thing to say about a visit to Gypsy Gold Farm, which typically includes a tour of the massive 40-acre property. The tour is filled with stories about both the property and the heritage of the horses that are raised there.  

If you are looking for even more horse-related fun, there is also Farm Tours of Ocala. This fun adventure takes visitors on a walking tour that covers three different farm properties.  

Drag Racing History 

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Visitors looking to experience something even faster than horse racing, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is a popular Ocala attraction that will get your motor running.  

This museum is full of historic drag racing cars, and there is an additional building filled with a fabulous collection of antique cars. You will not be disappointed.  

The Great Outdoors 

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Way back before things took off in Orlando, it was Silver Springs that was attracting people to visit sunny Florida. Silver Springs State Park is still an amazing place to visit any time of year, especially if you are interested in taking the glass bottom boat tour.  

For visitors who prefer flowers to boats, Sholom Park is a gorgeous 44-acre botanical garden that offers another option for enjoying the great outdoors in Ocala.  

Appreciation for the Arts 

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One of Ocala's hidden gems is the diverse collection of artworks on display at the Appleton Museum of Art. This small little museum contains art ranging from ancient Greece all the way up to today's modern art, and walking through the facility is always a relaxing experience.  

Shopping & Dining 

Sometimes, the best days in Ocala are the ones that start out without any plan at all, and that is exactly the type of fun you can find wandering around downtown Ocala.  

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Downtown Ocala features a fun combination of restaurants, boutique shops, and art exhibits that you won't find in other Florida towns. There are also a lot of historic buildings in this area, so make sure you take some time to let yourself wander around.  

With everything from horses to modern art available throughout the year, it's no wonder that Ocala is one of the most popular day-trip destinations for residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. The next time you are looking for a fun way to spend a day, head to Ocala and you are sure to find something amazing.

Day Trip: 24 Hours in Cedar Key

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Located just over an hour northwest of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Cedar Key is a quaint beachfront community that fully embraces the "Old Florida" lifestyle. You won't find many chain stores or restaurants here, but you will find a unique little town that is always a fun place to visit.  

If you have been looking for a different destination for your next day trip, Cedar Key offers the perfect combination of close proximity to our community, unique atmosphere to enjoy, and plenty of fun things to do.  

Let's take a walk through what a perfect day trip to Cedar Key might look like for a resident here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

Morning Activity: Cedar Key Fishing Pier 

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After enjoying a beautiful drive up the Gulf Coast, you will find yourself pulling into Cedar Key at just about the perfect time for a morning stroll down the Cedar Key Fishing Pier.  

This trip is all about embracing the relaxing charm of "Old Florida." And that is exactly what you are going to feel as you kick back and relax watching the fishermen in action on the pier.  

If you are an angler, you might feel compelled to cast a line yourself, but you don't have to fish here to enjoy the sights.  

Lunch: 83 West 

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From the Cedar Key Fishing Pier, it is just a short walk over to one of the best lunches in town at 83 West. This unique restaurant offers two different experiences under one roof, but for lunch, we are going to focus on the more casual version downstairs.  

With everything from shrimp tacos and crab bites to smoked mullet dip and bourbon marinated gator kabobs on the menu, there is plenty of authentic local food to choose from.  

Afternoon Activity: Cedar Key Historical Society Museum 

After lunch, we are heading over to the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum to see the most popular tourist attraction in town. This friendly little museum does a great job telling the story of Cedar Key to anyone who might be interested.  

There are lots of local artifacts on display throughout the museum's self-guided tour, and at only $3 it is also one of the best deals in town as well.  

Dinner: Duncan's on the Gulf 

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When dinner time rolls around, we are heading back to the Cedar Key Fishing Pier for reservations at Duncan's on the Gulf. This hidden gem is known for handling all things seafood-related, but they also have a fantastic selection of steaks and pasta dishes.  

If this is your first time dining at Duncan's, you can feel comfortable choosing any of the specials that might sound interesting. But if that doesn't do the trick for you, there are plenty of great entrees in the Island Dinner section of their menu.  

After enjoying two fabulous meals and a couple of fun destinations in Cedar Key, you are probably going to be ready to get home as quickly as possible. Fortunately for you, the Villages of Citrus Hills is only a little over an hour away, so you will be back home before you know it!

 

May Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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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.  

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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.  

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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 

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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 

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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.  

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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.  

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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.