Florida

10 Favorite Weekend Getaway Destinations in Florida

Over the years, we have published dozens of articles highlighting some of the best weekend getaway destinations in Florida. But one thing that we have never done is put together an article highlighting the best of the best when it comes to getting out of town for a few days.  

If you are thinking about planning a weekend getaway of your own, we believe these ten destinations are the best places to start. So pick whichever one that you haven't been to yet and start planning your next trip! 

Daytona Beach Pier

Daytona Beach Pier

Daytona Beach 

Everyone knows that Daytona Beach is home to the famous Daytona International Speedway. And if NASCAR is your thing, this is definitely a trip that should be on your list. But there is also a lot more that Daytona Beach has to offer for a weekend getaway.  

You can choose to stay at a wide range of excellent resorts located right along the "World's Most Famous Beach," and you won't want to leave without taking a stroll out onto the Daytona Beach Pier. 

Las Olas Boulevard

Las Olas Boulevard

Fort Lauderdale 

Fort Lauderdale is known for two things: it's iconic beachfront and the equally iconic shopping available on Las Olas Boulevard. This is a perfect destination for anyone who is passionate about arts and culture mixed with beachfront living.  

While you are in Fort Lauderdale, make sure that you take the time to drive, ride, or stroll through Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and stop for burgers and beer at the park restaurant.  

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Jacksonville 

The Jaguars put Jacksonville back on the map, but Florida residents have always known that this is a great spot for a weekend getaway. If you’re looking for an affordable way to stay at a luxury beachfront hotel, this is your destination. Jacksonville is also home to more than 20 miles of beautiful beaches, and they have the largest urban park system in the country.

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Key West 

You might think you know what to expect from a weekend in Key West, but you honestly haven't lived the complete Florida experience until you’ve explored some of the outstanding bars and restaurants that are located just off of the famous Duval Street.  

Miami Sunset

Miami Sunset

Miami 

Miami is best known for the late-night club scene you will find in South Beach, but this popular tourist destination actually has something for everyone. And because there are so many tourists that frequent the area, you can always find an Uber driver, and there are often some great deals on last-minute hotel rooms. 

While you are in town, make sure that you head down to Joe's Stone Crab. They offer two versions of the Joe's experience with the casual take-out side and the formal restaurant side.  

Disney World Magic Kingdom

Disney World Magic Kingdom

Orlando 

It's all about the theme parks in Orlando, and since Florida residents get discounted admission, this is the type of getaway that will make all of your friends and relatives around the country jealous.  

While you are in Orlando, head over to one of the interesting seasonal events at Epcot, and don't forget to check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. 

Gallery Night

Gallery Night

Pensacola 

When you are ready to start exploring the Panhandle, Pensacola is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Here you will find lots of history that you can explore through walking tours. Plus, the city is also home to a thriving community of artists with galleries.  

Pensacola is also home to the National Naval Aviation Museum and the world-famous Blue Angels.  

St. Lucie Trail Golf Club

St. Lucie Trail Golf Club

Port St. Lucie 

Most of our favorite weekend getaway destinations are cities or towns that are filled with fun things to do and great places to eat. But if you are looking for a getaway that is focused on golfing in a relaxing environment, Port St. Lucie should be at the top of your list.  

Port St. Lucie is also the winter home of the New York Mets, so make sure you plan your trip around Spring Training! 

Nights of Lights

Nights of Lights

St. Augustine 

In terms of history, no city in the country can match what you will find in St. Augustine. Known as the "Nation's Oldest City," it is here that you will find landmarks like Castillo de San Marcos, Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth, and the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse.  

But don't let the history make you think that St. Augustine doesn't have a modern flair as well. The city is also home to a thriving restaurant scene where you will be hard pressed to run out of options.  And now is the perfect time to visit as they have the Nights of Lights running nightly November 23rd, 2019 through February 2nd, 2020.

Palm Beach Zoo

Palm Beach Zoo

West Palm Beach 

Don't let the name fool you because West Palm Beach is actually located on the east coast of Florida, just north of Fort Lauderdale. This classic "Old Florida" community is home to stunning white sand beaches, as well as four different retail districts to keep all the shopaholics happy.  

West Palm Beach is also home to the Palm Beach Zoo and the Norton Museum of Art.  

When you live at the Villages of Citrus Hills, you may never feel the urge to leave the community. But if you decide to venture out, you can’t go wrong with any of the destinations we’ve mentioned here.

5 Fun Things to Do in Clearwater

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Located on the Gulf Coast just west of Tampa, Clearwater is a little more than 90 minutes away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. And while those 90 minutes might not seem like much, spending time in this beachside paradise will make you feel like you are miles from anywhere resembling your normal life.

If you are looking to plan a weekend getaway to the beach or simply want a fresh day trip destination, the Clearwater area is packed full of things to do. Let’s jump right into the warm water and check out five fun things to do on your next trip to this white sand paradise.


Hit the Beach

When a destination is known around the world for its beautiful white sand beaches, spending some time enjoying those beaches should be at the very top of every visitor’s list.

Clearwater Beach is the most popular beach destination in the area, and it offers an absolutely gorgeous stretch of pristine sand and crystal clear water. This is the perfect place to lay out, walk with your feet in the water, or go for a swim.

So grab a towel, kick off your shoes, and get ready to hit the beach.

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Beach Walk

When you are ready for a break from the beach, the Beach Walk pedestrian area offers a nice place to stroll along a paved sidewalk under the shade of palm trees.

The road is pushed back a bit from this area, which is also filled with local shops, restaurants, and an old-time ice cream parlor.

You won’t believe some of the cool things you will find in the boutique shops along the Beach Walk, so this is the perfect way to get your shopaholic fix in Clearwater.

Pier 60

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Another popular destination that isn’t far from the beach is Pier 60. This 1,080-foot fishing pier is the perfect place to cast a line in Clearwater, day or night.

There is a small fishing shop right on the pier that can fix you up with everything you need to catch local fish like Spanish mackerel and spotted trout.

The pier also features a constant flow of entertainment from local musicians and jugglers, so there is always something to see and do here. It’s also a wonderful spot to watch the sunset.

Kayaking & Standup Paddleboarding

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Whether you prefer to kick back in a kayak or do your paddling while standing up, there are a number of fantastic paddling options around Clearwater for anyone who prefers to relax out on the water.

Spending some time exploring the waters around Sand Key Park, Moccasin Lake Nature Park, or Cliff Stephens Park is an activity that you could base an entire trip around.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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In addition to everything there is to do outdoors, Clearwater is also home to the famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This massive aquarium features all kinds of marine life on display, including Winter, the dolphin who served as the inspiration for the movie Dolphin’s Tale.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium specializes in marine rehabilitation, so you can also learn quite a bit about how they are working to improve conditions for marine life along the Gulf Coast.

From kicking back on the beach to paddling kayaks through untouched nature parks, everything in Clearwater is focused on relaxation. So the next time you feel the need for a day or two of recovery, let Clearwater help you reconnect to nature in whatever way works best for you.

 

November Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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We are winding our way towards the end of 2019 and preparing to head into another holiday season filled with family, friends, and fun. But the holidays aren’t the only thing happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills this month.

In addition to whatever you have planned with your loved ones, our friends over at the Activity Center also have plenty of excitement on deck for the month of November. So, whether you are looking for social events, educational opportunities, a little friendly competition, or just a great meal, we have plenty to keep you busy all month long.

The Big Show Series

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The Big Show Series will make its triumphant return to the Activity Center Auditorium when Summer Breezin’ takes the stage on Friday, November 1. This tribute to Seals & Crofts and America will be performing two different shows starting at 6 pm and 8:15 pm.

The Big Show Series will also be bringing Orleans to the Activity Center Auditorium stage on Thursday, November 14 at 6 pm and 8:15 pm. This is the original band that you know for hits like “Still the One” and “Dance With Me.”

Social Events

The first big social event of the month will be the Activity Club Showcase & Member Social on Sunday, November 3 in the Activity Center Auditorium from 1 pm to 3 pm. This showcase is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about all of the fantastic clubs that exist in our community.

If dinner and a show is what you are looking for, then you’ll want to be in the Hampton Room on Thursday, November 7 for Yesterday Once More, which will be a tribute to the music of The Carpenters. The dinner menu for this event will include Chicken Piccata and Sliced London Broil in Mushroom Sauce.

Monday, November 11 is Veterans Day, and we will be celebrating in the Hampton Room with the 16th Annual Veterans Day Dinner Dance. This year’s buffet menu will include Bourbon Salmon and Thin-Sliced Prime Rib, then there will be live music courtesy of Lisa Beck from Rock Solid.

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The 4th Annual Car & Truck Show will be taking place on Sunday, November 17 from 9 am to 3 pm in the Activity Center Parking Lot. Everyone is welcome to stop by to check out the coolest vehicles in our community, and you can register to have your vehicle participate at the Activity Center.

Tasty Trivia Tuesday will be back in the Hampton Room on Tuesday, November 19. This month’s theme is going to be “Television,” and the menu will feature Caprese-Stuffed Chicken and Sliced London Broil in Mushroom Sauce.

Art & Education

The Activity Center will be hosting an AARP Smart Driver Course on Saturday, November 9 starting at 9 am. This course offers a great refresher on important topics like defensive driving techniques and it can provide helpful updates on new driving laws.

Doc Talk will be back in the Activity Center Auditorium on Wednesday, November 13 at 6:30 pm. This month’s speakers will be discussing everything you need to know about Colon Cancer Prevention.

Representatives from Countryside Animal Clinic will be speaking in the Activity Center Auditorium on Thursday, November 21 at 6 pm. Topics for this Speaker Series event will include “Hot Topics in Veterinary Medicine” and “Acupuncture 101.”

Golf & Tennis

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Competitive golf events will be happening throughout the month with the Giving Thanks Open on The Oaks Course on November 2, the Veterans Day Scramble at Skyview on Monday, November 11, and the Skyview Men’s Better Ball Tournament closing out the month on November 25 and 26.

If you are looking to improve your game, you might want to check out one of the Free Golf Clinics with PGA/LPGA teaching professional Mary Slinkard. She will be working with beginners on November 4, 5, and 6. Then there will be clinics for intermediate golfers on November 11, 12, and 13.

Another option for improving your golf game this winter is participating in the “Newbie” Nine-Hole Golf League that plays every Thursday on The Meadows Course.

This month’s Free Beginner Tennis Clinic will be held on Tuesday, November 12 at the Skyview Tennis Center. This is a perfect introduction to tennis that requires absolutely no prior experience or equipment.

Dinner Specials

Skyview Restaurant is taking us around the world with their November dinner specials. Some of the highlights this month include Taste of Spain Wine Dinner on November 5, French Cuisine Night on November 14, and Bay Scallop Night on November 16.

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The Grille is planning a fabulous Thanksgiving Day Buffet that will feature all of the turkey day classics, as well as Carved Prime Rib, Carved Honey-Baked Ham, and Peel & Eat Shrimp. The buffet will be up from 12 pm to 5 pm on Thanksgiving Day, and reservations will be required.

BellaVita Spa

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Our friends at BellaVita Spa are also getting into the holiday season with specials like a Pumpkin Spice Pedicure and a Pumpkin Spice Massage. So if you happen to find any free time to pamper yourself this month, that is where you want to be heading.

Between everything happening and whatever else you might have planned with your family and friends, there is no doubt that November is going to be a very busy month here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. Make sure you get the most out of it by marking some of these activities and events on your calendar and enjoying them!

Stone Crab Season Has Finally Arrived

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As we ease into the coming fall and winter seasons here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, one of the many bright spots on the horizon is the return of Stone Crab season in Florida.

Whether you prefer to get out on the water and catch your own or simply buy them from one of our local fresh seafood markets, those delicious stone crab claws are going to be plentiful throughout the rest of this year and the first part of 2020.




About Stone Crab Claws

Unlike so much of the seafood that comes out of the Gulf of Mexico, stone crab claws are actually a renewable resource since they are able to regrow their claws after those claws are harvested by local fishermen.

Stone crabs are able to regenerate their claws over the course of about a year, and with a life expectancy of about 8-9 years, they can produce that delicious claw meat quite a few times in their lives.

Catching Stone Crab Claws

Like any seafood that you might be looking for here in Florida, there are plenty of rules and regulations to be aware of when it comes to stone crab claws. The most important of those is the fact that you can only catch stone crabs when they are in season from October 15 through May 15.

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Any amateurs fishing for stone crab need to obtain a saltwater fishing license and respect limits of just five traps, only collecting one gallon of claws per day, and making sure that all of those claws are at least 2 ¾ inches long.

Of course, if you don’t feel like remembering all of the details, you can always go the charter route and let the captain take care of worrying about the rules, or you can just purchase claws that someone else harvested at one of our many local seafood markets.

Cooking Stone Crab Claws

There are four ways to cook your freshly harvested stone crab claws, and the easiest one is to throw them right into a pot of boiling water. The only tips you need to worry about here are to make sure that you season the water with plenty of salt and be careful not to overcook the claws.

Another simple way to cook your fresh stone crab claws is to put them in a casserole dish with a little bit of water at the bottom and bake them covered in the oven at 350 degrees.

The slightly more complicated way to cook stone crab claws that often produces a better quality meal is to steam them in a basket over a pot of boiling water. It’s really only complicated in that you have to have the right equipment. Once again, you want to be careful not to overcook the claws.

Boiling your stone crab claws should take about 5-10 minutes. For steaming and baking allow 8-10 minutes. You know they’re done when they smell like delicious crab meat. You will also see the color change and brighten.

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In Florida we love to grill all year round, so why not grill our claws. Simply put the claws on a medium heat grill for about 5 minutes for each side. The temperature for grilling should be between 300 and 325 Fahrenheit. When you are grilling, it's advisable to spread olive oil or butter on the claws.

Again, it is crucial to check the crab claws when heating them. Baking and grilling can give out sweet meat, but overheating them will make the meat tough and lose the flavor.

Stone Crab Claw Dippage

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One of the things that make stone crab claws so popular is that there is a wide variety of things you can dip them in. For many home cooks, the best place to start is with drawn butter or cocktail sauce.

Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami is probably the most popular stone crab restaurant in the world, and they are known for serving stone crab claws with a unique mustard dipping sauce. Thanks to websites like Epicurious, you can make a great mustard sauce for your home-cooked stone crab claws using their version of that recipe.

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If you are a stone crab expert looking for some new flavors, this article from News-Press offers some unique twists on dipping sauces like Brandy Mustard Sauce, Jalapeno Honey Sauce, Ginger Scallion Sauce, and Spicy Marinara Sauce.

However you prefer to cook and dip your stone crab claws, there is no denying that they are one of the best treats available throughout the winter here in Florida. Make sure you take the time to enjoy plenty of these local delicacies this year!

Choosing Your Home: How Much Square Footage Do You Really Need?

The Westchester Floor Plan

The Westchester Floor Plan

Deciding exactly how big you want your new home to be here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is one of the first steps that every new home buyer struggles with. And while it can often be hard to imagine the difference between 2,200 square feet and 2,800 square feet, the difference in size is a very real factor that must be given a serious amount of attention.

Whether you are planning to downsize from a larger home, upgrading from a smaller condo, or looking for something right in the sweet spot for a perfect retirement lifestyle, there are more than a few options to be had here in our community. In order to get to the heart of your needs, all you have to do is ask yourself the right questions.

How Much Home Can You Afford?

The first factor that comes into play when deciding how much square footage someone needs in their new home is how much they can actually afford. Understanding what your new home is going to cost is a great way to come around to a starting point on how much space you can actually afford.

Once you have a rough estimate of what your new home is going to cost, you can quickly figure out a reasonable range of home sizes you have to choose from.

Do You Plan on Staying Here Forever?

How long you plan to call this new house your home is another critical factor that you are going to want to spend some time thinking about. If you are only planning to spend a few years in this house, you have less to worry about.

However, if the goal is for this new house to be your “forever home,” then you are going to want to nail down each and every detail to make sure that you enjoy your lifestyle here for years to come.

What Does Your In-Home Lifestyle Look Like?

Another way to look at the same question is to examine what your lifestyle will look like once you are moved into your new home. Are you the type of family where everyone needs their own separate space? Or are you comfortable with everyone sharing the same open living spaces?

There are no right or wrong answers here, so the trick is to be completely honest with yourself on how you and your family will ultimately occupy the space you are building.

Do You Need Your Own Personal Space?

With so many of our floor plans offering extra bedrooms and flex rooms that can be converted into different kinds of spaces, this is also a time to be honest with yourself about how much personal space you are going to want to have in your new home.

If there is any chance that you are going to be taking up a hobby like scrapbooking or crafting that will need a dedicated space, this is the time to make sure that you are going to have the square footage to accommodate those activities.

How Often Do You Expect Visitors?

How often you plan on hosting visiting friends and family is another factor that can increase the amount of square footage you will need in your new home. Just as you are going to want to know whether you need dedicated personal space, having a spare room ready for visitors will require extra square footage that you need to account for.

Once again, there are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. It is also important to remember that today’s open floorplan designs maximize square footage in a way that older homes simply can’t compete with, so the same amount of square footage is going to feel much bigger in a modern home.

Regardless of how much square footage you ultimately decide on, you are going to love everything about your new lifestyle here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

Let’s get started talking about your new home in our community!