Clearwater

Upcoming Events with the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club

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In addition to all of the exciting events and activities happening here at the Villages of Citrus Hills each and every month, there are also lots of fun excursions available to members thanks to the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club.  

If you have been throwing around the idea of taking a fun day trip to somewhere like Tampa or Clearwater, you'll be delighted to learn that the Vacationers Club has already done the planning for you...and they're also taking care of the transportation, so all you have to do is show up and enjoy yourself! 

Tampa Bay Downs 

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We have spent entire blog posts discussing how much fun there is to be had rooting for the horse races at Tampa Bay Downs, and you can experience that fun for yourself with the Vacationers Club on Saturday, April 27.  

Tickets for this event include roundtrip transportation, group seating for the races, and a massive buffet lunch.  

Tampa Bay Rays 

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Baseball season is already back in full swing, and the Vacationers Club is planning two trips to see the Rays in action this summer. There will be groups heading down to see the Rays host the New York Yankees on Friday, May 10 and the Boston Red Sox on Friday, September 20.  

In addition to the standard things like a ticket to the game and roundtrip transportation, anyone attending these events will also receive a free Tamp Bay Rays hat.  

Early Bird Dinner Theater 

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Anyone looking for a day trip with a bit of culture will want to be involved in the group heading to Clearwater on Saturday, May 18 for Early Bird Dinner Theater.  

Following the lunch buffet, the curtain will go up for a live performance of "The Dixie Swim Club", which is a hysterical play that focuses on the lives of five southern women who get together once a year.  

Publix Aprons Cooking School 

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Looking for a good way to improve your skills in the kitchen? There is nothing quite like the Publix Aprons Cooking School for that!  

On Thursday, May 30, a group will be heading down to Tampa for a private class where instructors will teach four different dishes while pairing each with a perfect wine accompaniment.  

Anyone attending the class will learn fresh new dishes like Blistered Tomato and Burrata Crostini, Crispy Miso-Glazed Pork Belly, Marinated Flat-Iron Steak, and Mixed Berry Crumble. And then there is the complimentary wine! 

Eastern Caribbean Escape 

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The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club was largely founded based on their members' love for cruising, so there is rarely a year that goes by where they aren't working on some type of ocean adventure.  

The next big cruise will be happening January 4 to 11 with Holland America Line, and it will take travelers to Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, and the Bahamas. Cabins are available from $600 to $900, so reserve yours today.  

As with any of the trips being planned by the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club, you can find more information about anything you might be interested in at the Activity Center. Just pick out a few events that sound interesting and get yourself signed up!

Spring Training 2017 - 6 Teams to Watch Nearby

Spring is one of the busiest times of the year for many of the communities that surround the Villages of Citrus Hills.

We have the pleasure of being located close to the Spring Training homes of six different Major League Baseball teams, so if you are looking for a fun way to spend a day before those teams head north for the summer, here is a little background on each of the six teams you can visit.

New York Yankees - Tampa

The past few seasons have not been kind to the Yankees, but their current rebuild is likely to produce a number of interesting stories to watch at their Spring Training home in Tampa this year. Gone are Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann, which will make room for up-and-comers like catcher Gary Sanchez, who burst onto the scene last year, and first base prospect Greg Bird, who hopes to follow in Sanchez’s footsteps this year.

The Yankees were also active on the free agent market bringing in talented veterans like Aroldis Chapman, Matt Holiday, and Chris Carter, so there should be plenty of pieces to complement the pinstriped youth movement.

Toronto Blue Jays - Dunedin

Last year was supposed to be the year that the Blue Jays returned to the World Series, but those dreams were derailed by the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship series. Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, just getting back to the playoffs is going to be difficult this year after losing Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Saunders, Brett Cecil, Joaquin Benoit, and R.A. Dickey all to free agency.

The team that will be taking the field in Toronto is definitely going to have a lot less firepower this year, but they still have an extremely deep pitching staff. Watching how those arms come around this spring will be able to tell us a lot about what to expect from the Blue Jays in 2017.

Philadelphia Phillies - Clearwater

This is the first spring training in Clearwater without Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard in more than a decade. There hasn’t been much winning for the Phillies in recent years, but things are looking better and better as many of the team’s young prospects like Odubel Herrera have started to produce.

In addition to all of the great young talent the Phillies will be working with this year, they have also added proven commodities like Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders, and Joaquin Benoit through various trades and free agency.

Detroit Tigers - Lakeland

After failing to make the playoffs last season, many experts expected the Detroit Tigers to tear apart their entire roster and start from scratch with a complete rebuild. But as the winter wore on, it became clear that the upper management in Detroit was going to take one more shot with their core in 2017.

Many of the regular Tigers like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, and J.D. Martinez are back in Lakeland this spring getting ready to take one last shot at getting to the World Series together.

Pittsburgh Pirates - Bradenton

Much like the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates are a team that is bringing back the same roster that failed to make the playoffs last year. But the difference between the two clubs is that the team that makes its spring home in Bradenton is much younger.

Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen had a terrible 2016 campaign, and has been dealing with trade rumors all winter long, but he is still on the Pirates roster and might come into the season with a massive chip on his shoulder. Combine that with all of the young talent that fills out the rest of the lineup and there is plenty to watch out for in Bradenton.

Baltimore Orioles - Sarasota

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The Baltimore Orioles had a fantastic year in 2016, but they fell just short at the end and lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card Game. Since then, the O’s have said goodbye to catcher Matt Wieters, as well as Pedro Alvarez, Steve Pearce, Yovani Gallardo, Nolan Reimold, Michael Born, and Vance Worley.

With all of those subtractions, this is going to be a much different lineup in 2017. But the core of sluggers Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo is still intact. New to the Orioles this year are outfielder Seth Smith and catcher Willington Castillo.

Whether you are a baseball junkie or just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, Spring Training games are always relatively inexpensive to attend and can be lots of fun if you know a little bit about what the teams are likely to be working on when you see them.

With this little bit of background, you should be able to have a great time at any of the local games over the next few weeks!

5 Romantic Ideas for Valentine's Day near the Villages of Citrus Hills

The most romantic day of the year is right around the corner, and if you don’t already have something planned for your significant other, you are already behind the eight ball. But don’t worry, because we have got you covered with some of the best local and not-so-local options for a romantic dinner out on the town.

Vintage on 5th, Crystal River

If you are looking to stay local and have a romantic meal, Vintage on 5th in Crystal River is going to be one of the top options on your list. This former church building has been completely renovated into a warm and inviting restaurant. And on top of the wonderful ambiance, you will also find some truly fantastic meals here.

The main focus of the menu is fresh fish and hand-cut beef, so you are going to have plenty of choices from both land and sea. There is also a delicious list of side dishes like fried green tomatoes. And in the event, that you don’t want to go all out with a formal meal, you could also opt to hang at the wine bar and order from their awesome tapas menu.

Katch Twenty Two, Lecanto

Another great new restaurant that is also close to home is Katch Twenty Two, located in Lecanto. Chef Richard Wiggins has only been operating here since 2016, but he brings with him a lifetime of experience making some of the most delicious cuisine.

Seafood is the name of the game at Katch Twenty Two, and Chef Richard puts his own unique twists on a wide range of a constantly evolving menu. No matter what you order here, you are sure to get a flavor experience that you will not soon forget.

Motor City Pasta Company, Inverness

For some couples, the only requirements for a romantic Valentine’s Day celebration is a large margherita pizza, a bottle of wine, and a great movie. If that sounds like you, then you probably already have a few bottles of wine and a Netflix subscription, so all that’s missing is a great pizza.

Located right up the road in Inverness, Motor City Pasta Company is one of the best spots for pizza in all of Citrus County, and it is close enough to the Villages of Citrus Hills that you can pick up your pie and make it home before it cools off.

La Cuisine French Restaurant, Ocala

Part of the romantic experience of a fabulous dinner date is the conversations that you will have with your partner on the way to and from the restaurant. If you would like to allow plenty of time for those conversations to percolate, a venture out to Ocala is the perfect choice, and La Cuisine French Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in town.

If you are craving a classic French dish like Duck à l'orange, you can definitely find that on Chef Patrice Perron’s menu. But there is also Hand Cut Beef Filet and Breaded Grouper on the menu.

Cuvee 103, Clearwater

Nothing says romance quite like an overnight trip to a coastal town, and if you are planning a trip like that, Cuvee 103 in Clearwater is the perfect place to make dinner reservations for that special evening.

They are running a great three course prix fix menu for Valentine’s Day that is sure to delight your taste buds, ranging from duck breast and Chilean sea bass to surf ’n turf and lobster-stuffed beef tenderloin.

Whether you are looking for something close to home or an overnight trip complete with a romantic dinner, there are more than a few fantastic choices surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills.

In addition to all of the great restaurants surrounding our community, keep in mind that both Skyview Restaurant and The Grille are also planning fabulous menus for your Valentine’s Day celebration.

 

 

 

Great Day Trip: Caladesi Island

While its exact ranking will vary slightly from year-to-year, no one will deny that Caladesi Island is one of the absolute best beaches in America.

This practically untouched state park is located just west of Clearwater, but the only way to get there is to take the 15-20 minute ferry from Honeymoon Island.  Including the ferry ride, Caladesi Island State Park is just under 2 hours away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. 

America’s Best Beach

Once you arrive at Caladesi Island, it is easy to see why it was rated the top beach in America in 2008 and continues to be featured on similar lists year after year. This beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear water remains undeveloped. There are no highways, no traffic, no homes, and no commercial buildings. 

While the island is completely undeveloped, there are still plenty of amenities like a snack stand, umbrellas for rent, and lifeguards on duty when in season. In addition to having great sand, and warm water, the beach is also a great place for shelling because it is not overpopulated with tourists. 

For the Active Beachgoers

The idea of relaxing on an untouched beach sums up a perfect day for many of us, but those who need a little more activity will not be disappointed either. Caladesi Island State Park has three miles of nature trails that weave their way through the island’s interior. 

There is also a three-mile kayak trail through the bay. As you hike or paddle around the island, you are likely to spot some of the local gopher tortoises burrowing in the sand dunes. 

Because of the lack of tourist traffic, local anglers will find great salt-water fishing both from the island’s beaches and the surrounding waters. There are also plenty of picnic areas, and if you have your own boat, you can make a reservation to dock it at the Caladesi Island Marina for an overnight trip. 

Stopping for Dinner

There is a small cafe located right on Caladesi Island, but if you are going to be passing through Clearwater on your way back home, you will definitely want to consider stopping at Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza. This family-owned pizzeria makes some of the best pizza you will ever try. In addition to their fantastic pizza, Cristino’s also specializes in chicken wings that are smothered in garlic and caramelized onions, homemade lentil soup, and their famous panzerotti!

Another great local restaurant that you might want to try is Eatin’ Fresh, but they are only open for lunch, so you will want to make sure to plan your day accordingly and either get back from the island in time to eat or eat before you head out to the beach. Eatin’ Fresh has a great selection of fresh seafood including some outstanding fish tacos and the original Stone Claw Taco. 

The ideal trip to Caladesi Island probably starts with a light lunch of Stone Claw Tacos at Eatin’ Fresh around 11:00 am. From there, you can head out to Honeymoon Island to catch the ferry to Caladesi Island and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach or exploring the nature trails. Follow your beach adventure with a coal oven pizza from Cristino’s and you will be both relaxed and well-fed for your trip back home to the Villages of Citrus Hills.