Crystal River

Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk and Refuge

Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk and Refuge

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We are right in the middle of manatee season here along Florida's Nature Coast, and one of the best places in the world to see them in person is right here in our backyard at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River.  

It is important to understand that seeing Three Sisters Springs from the boardwalk and exploring the area from the water are two completely different experiences. Depending on what you are looking for, either option could make for a great afternoon in Citrus County.  

Three Sisters Springs from the Boardwalk

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With 57 acres of preserve occupying this Florida wetland, there is a lot to see and do around Three Sisters Springs. And one of the best ways to take it all in is from the 1/4-mile boardwalk that connects different viewing platforms around the property.  

The fee for visiting Three Sisters Spring varies based on the season. It is $15 for a one-day adult pass during manatee season, which is double the cost during the off-manatee season. Of course, if you are interested in actually seeing manatees, the added cost for the winter season is more than reasonable. 

In order to get to the boardwalk, you have to take the trolley from the Three Sisters Springs Center. Those trolleys head out to the boardwalk about every 30 minutes, and they are operating every day of the week during manatee season.  

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On top of providing transportation between the Three Sister Springs Center and the boardwalk, the trolleys also continue on to three other destinations around Crystal River.  

Three Sisters Springs by Water

Another way to get up close and personal with the manatees during their peak season is to visit Three Sisters Springs by water. There is nothing quite like cruising through the springs in a kayak or canoe, so this should definitely be on your Citrus County bucket list.  

There are no boat ramps or access points located within the reserve, but there are plenty of options to get into the water located nearby. For most people, the best option is to launch from Kings Bay and then making your way out to the springs.  

Anyone exploring the springs by water should be careful to respect the restricted manatee habitats.  

The following is a link for the Three Sisters Springs.

http://www.threesistersspringsvisitor.org/page/By%20Boardwalk 

The Manatee Festival

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If you have been thinking about making a special trip to Three Sisters Springs, this weekend is actually the perfect opportunity. They are hosting a Manatee Festival on Saturday, January 19 and Sunday, January 20.  

The boardwalk area will be open from 9 am to 3 pm on both days and admission will be completely free to public visitors. This will allow you to see manatees from the boardwalk without having to pitch up the usual $15 admission fee.  

Whether you are a manatee expert or just someone looking for something fun to do this weekend, Three Sisters Springs offers ways to get up close and personal with manatees on dry land via their boardwalk or in the water.

 

We highly recommend taking the time to attend the Manatee Festival there this weekend.

Are You Ready for This Year’s Scalloping Season?

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Throughout most of the country, the weeks leading up to the Fourth 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 Sunday, July 1 and runs all the way through Monday, 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.

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 2018 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.

Scheduling a Scalloping Charter

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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, but here are just a few:

      Fun2Dive - http://www.fun2dive.com/scallop-trips/

      River Ventures - https://riverventures.rezdy.com/catalog/61542/scalloping

      Red Ed’s Adventures - http://www.homosassaredfish.com/scalloping.php

 

Shucking & Cooking Your Scallops

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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! The most common way to prepare scallops is to pan fry them on each side for about a minute. Keep in mind that you are more likely to overcook them than to undercook them. So don’t panic!

While most people prefer their scallops fried in butter with a bit of their favorite seasoning, this article from Coastal Living Magazine offers up 25 unique recipes for anyone who is looking for something a bit different. The Scallop-Spinach Spread and 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.

 

Make sure that you don’t let this year’s scalloping season pass you by

 without filling a few mesh bags of your own!

Kayaking: Things You Need to Know Before Pushing Off for the First Time

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Having some fun in the sun is one of the best things about living along the Gulf Coast of Florida, and kayaking is one of our absolute favorite ways to do just that here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. Our community is surrounded by popular kayak destinations, so if you are looking for a fun activity to enhance the summer, we have the perfect idea for you!

While there isn't a whole lot to know when it comes to paddling your kayak, purchasing one and getting out to use it can actually be pretty intimidating for a first timer. In order to help with that, we put together this simple guide to make pushing off as easy as possible for you.

Buying a Kayak

The act of purchasing a kayak that will best suit your needs can be as complicated as you want to make it. As long as it floats, most any kayak can get you where you want to go, but there are an endless number of different options you can tweak to make sure that you get the most out of your investment.

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The most important factor in evaluating how well any kayak will fit your needs is the size of the kayak. You will find that the longer and wider kayaks offer more stability, are faster in the water, and can carry more equipment with you. On the flip side, shorter and narrower kayaks are easier to maneuver in the water, and the fact that they are lighter makes them easier to transport.

Another factor that you will want to consider is the shape of the hull. Kayaks with flat hulls will offer greater stability, while kayaks with round hulls will allow you to change course much more efficiently.

 

 

 

Tips for Beginners

The most important thing to remember any time you are out on the water is that safety should always be a top priority. And the most important safety precaution that a kayaker can take is to always wear a properly fitting life vest. On top of that, it is always safer to kayak with a friend or a group of friends so that you have someone to help you if something goes wrong.

One of the best ways to get started kayaking is to go on a group trip with an experienced guide. This will help you learn the basics like how to hold the paddle and steer the boat in a completely safe environment.

When you are ready to head out without a guide, make sure that you always have a plan for where you will be kayaking, and it never hurts to have a change of clothes with you…just in case!

Where to Kayak

You don't have to look very hard to find a great kayak destination near the Villages of Citrus Hills, and most of our residents get started by exploring the crystal-clear water of the Rainbow River just north of the community.

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Once you have mastered the Rainbow River, we recommend taking some time to explore other nearby destinations like The Withlacoochee River, the Chassahowitzka River, and the Crystal River.

In addition to exploring local rivers, there are also lots of state parks that feature boat launches, and don't forget to hit up all of the popular manatee destinations as well!

No matter how much boating experience you have, kayaking is the kind of thing that just about anyone can learn and enjoy. And with so many local destinations surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills, there is no reason not to spend your summer getting out and exploring our local waterways.

5 Local Wineries to Put on Your To Do List

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

 

Top 10 Reasons to Live in Citrus County

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As any resident of the Villages of Citrus Hills will happily tell you, there are hundreds of great reasons to choose Citrus County as your retirement destination. Depending on your own personal interests, there are a number of different things about our community that might excite you.

To help make sure that you don't miss the most important reasons to head our way, we have put together a list of the top 10 reasons to live in Citrus County!

10. Great Healthcare

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One of the reasons to live in Citrus County that often goes overlooked is the fact that we have an outstanding network of healthcare providers.

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Between Citrus Memorial Health System and Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center, you won't believe the quality of care that is available here, should you ever need it.

 

9. Close to Major Cities…

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Because we’re situated just over an hour from both Orlando and Tampa, there are big-city amenities associated with both of those cities that are available to residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills.

This is great to know for things like catching shows, shopping, or attending professional sporting events, but it can be an even bigger deal if you need to fly out of one of the international airports in those cities.

8. …Not Too Close Though

While many of our residents think nothing of driving to Orlando or to Tampa for a day, we are also located far enough away that you don't have to worry about any of the stress that comes with city living. Like big-city traffic.

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7. Fantastic Golf Courses

One amenity that Citrus County residents are not lacking is quality golf courses. In addition to the excellent courses here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, there are also more than a dozen other public and private courses to choose from in the area.

6. Beautiful Local Parks

Being "just far enough" from the big cities goes hand-in-hand with the number of local, state, and national parks you will find throughout Citrus County. Whether you are looking for a great picnic spot, a place to relax on the beach, or a walk through the woods, you will never run out of quality options here.

5. Rich History

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Many of our local parks also boast impressive history that tells the incredible story of the area. But in addition to the local parks, you will also find lots of history in downtown areas like Inverness and Crystal River, as well as in our local museums. 

 

4. The Nature Coast

Another thing our residents love about all of the local parks in Citrus County is the amazing amount of wildlife you can find there. We are located right in the heart of Florida's "Nature Coast," so there is never a shortage of wildlife to be seen, especially if you are passionate about birding.

3. Wide Array of Dining Options

You can find a single great restaurant in just about any town across the country, but here in Citrus County we are proud of the fact that we have an incredibly wide range of excellent restaurants. No matter what style of food you are looking for, you can find someone making it right here.

2. Pristine Waterways

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Between the Withlacoochee River, Crystal River, Kings Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico, there are more waterways to explore in and around Citrus County that most people know what to do with. Whether you are passionate about kayaking, fishing, or just heading out for a cruise, there is always something happening on the waterways around the Villages of Citrus Hills.

 

1. The Manatees

As much as we love to brag about the rest of the wildlife you will find throughout Citrus County, our biggest selling point is that we are the only place in Florida where you can swim along with giant manatees right in their natural habitat. 

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Between Homosassa Springs and Three Sisters Springs, manatees make their homes here in Citrus County and our residents love to stop by to appreciate them.

As we said before, this list is just the tip of the iceberg as far as reasons you might choose to live in Citrus County. Come on down and see for yourself!

American Diners: 5-Restaurants in Citrus County for a Delicious Classic Meal

Everyone loves comfort food, and no one does comfort food quite like the classic American diner. Here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we have the good fortune of being surrounded by an incredible selection of local diners.

If you are looking for a place that serves the best of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner favorites and is willing to put sausage gravy on just about everything, we have five perfect places that are guaranteed to keep your belly full for a price that won't break the bank.

Grannie's Restaurant - Crystal River

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When we’re talking about diners in Citrus County, the conversation pretty much HAS to start with Grannie's Restaurant in Crystal River.  

This place isn't set up to impress you with fancy bells and whistles. It's a basic brick building with a simple sign on the outside. Inside, it's just a basic counter service diner with a few tables. But when the food comes out at Grannie's, everyone's mouth will be watering.

Breakfast is the name of the game here, so you will definitely want to try the sausage gravy and smoked ham. However, Grannie's also puts out some delicious lunch options. Their fried catfish lunch is outstanding.

 

Sara's Diner - Crystal River

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Located just down the road from Grannie's is another diner that is a Citrus County staple. Sara's Diner has a similar look to Grannie's on the inside with counter seating and a few tables, but the lunch food is the big attraction here.   The reuben is one of the most popular items on the menu here, and it stands up to the hype as one of the best sandwiches you will find in Crystal River. Sara's also serves an excellent turkey club, and the chop steak dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy will surely fill you up.

Breakfast Station - Multiple Locations

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Most people don't include chain restaurants when they’re talking about diners, but Breakfast Station has done such a good job of staying true to the classic diner experience that you honestly wouldn't know they have ten stores across central Florida. Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills have their pick between three locations in Citrus County: Beverly Hills, Crystal River, and Homosassa.

 

As for the food at Breakfast Station, they deliver a consistent quality that continues to impress customers. Railroad Yard Omelets are probably the most popular choice here, but they also serve traditional breakfasts, as well as some not-so-traditional dishes like the Grand Junction, which is a breaded chicken filet on a biscuit smothered in sausage gravy.

Sugarmill Restaurant - Homosassa

While most of our local diners close for the day around 3 pm, the Sugarmill Restaurant in Homosassa stays open for dinner as well. This is where you can find classic diner-style dinners like chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes, chop steak sandwiches, and chicken parmesan with spaghetti.

The omelets are all spectacular, and the home fries might be the best in Citrus County.

The Front Porch - Dunnellon

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Since they advertise themselves as a "Restaurant & Pie Shop," you can probably guess what the big selling point is at The Front Porch in Dunnellon. If you are in the mood for a slice of pie, this is the place you want to be. 

They also have a wonderful breakfast menu and the lunch menu is also a big attraction with delicious soups and a Cuban Melt that will make you feel like you've been whisked off to Havana.

Make a point to try all five!  Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks for a Successful Scallop Season in 2017

Another Crystal River summer is upon us, and that means that we are right around the corner from another scallop season. Chasing down bay scallops is one of the most popular summer pastimes here in Citrus County, and we have covered the topic multiple times before with details on the rules of scalloping

 https://www.citrushills.com/blog/florida-scalloping-season-is-here

and some of the popular local scallop charter companies.

https://www.citrushills.com/blog/e58ymh4fit01rhy53qk5vonaoc40q9

This year, scallop season kicks off on July 1 and runs through September 24. If you are an experienced scallop hunter, that is pretty much all you need to know. But if you are new to this kind of adventure, or would like to improve your game, we have put together a few tips and tricks that will help you impress your fellow scallopers over the course of the summer.

Understand the Rules

The first trick to being a great scallop hunter is knowing exactly what the rules and regulations are when you are out collecting these delicious shellfish. First and foremost, you must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License prior to collecting any scallops, unless you go scalloping with one of our local fishing charter companies.

You also need to be aware that there is a daily limit on how many scallops you can collect. This year's scallopers are restricted to only two gallons of scallops in their shells, or one pint of actual scallop meat. There is no restriction on the size of the scallops, but the limits on volume are very precise.

Bring the Right Equipment

Most commercial tools are not permitted for recreational scalloping. The preferred container for most scallop hunters is a simple mesh bag, which you can find at a number of different retailers throughout Citrus County. You will also want to have diving equipment that you are comfortable working with in shallow waters.

If you don't have your own equipment, you might consider signing up for a scallop excursion with one of the local charter companies that provide all of the equipment you will need.

Know Where to Look

 

If you have the benefit of heading out with a local charter company, you will likely be working with an experienced guide who will take you right to the best scallop locations.

However, if you are working on your own, you should know that scallops prefer to make their homes in grassy areas that range from four to eight feet of water.

 

 

Practice Your Diving

Whether you are navigating a boat or diving yourself, you should always be alert to diving flags. These are your best clue to avoid running into other divers in more ways than one. In addition to dive flags, you should also make every effort to practice diving prior to heading out looking for scallops.

Diving gear can take some time to get used to, and you don't want to waste any time on your scalloping adventure figuring out how to best fit your new mask.

Study Scallop Shucking

If you are going scalloping on your own, you are going to have to shuck them yourself. This is not difficult once you learn how, but learning can be a difficult task if you don't have the right teacher.

Spend a few minutes before your trip refreshing yourself on the basics so that you don't end up with a big bag of scallops and no clue how to shuck them.

Once again, if you are heading out with a charter tour, your guide will likely take care of the shucking for you. But it never hurts to have a little background information before you hit the water!

No matter how much scalloping you plan to do this summer, having a solid base of knowledge before you start will make the entire experience more enjoyable.

Once you have the basics down, the only thing left is to learn how to make a good seasoning and locating a great cast iron skillet to cook the day’s haul!

March Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

The month of March is known for unpredictable weather in some parts of the country, but here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, the only thing we have to worry about this month is making sure we remember to set all of our clocks forward an hour on Sunday, March 12!

Other than that, we are all set for another fantastic month filled with fantastic events and activities.

Social Events

The first big event of the month will be the Vacationers Club trip to Tampa to see the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New York Rangers on Monday, March 6. There are two seating options available, both include round-trip transportation to the game.

The last Big Show Series event of the year will be held on Tuesday, March 14 in the Activity Center Auditorium. If you are a fan of the Beatles, and particularly Paul McCartney, you will be absolutely blown away by the way that The McCartney Years are able to replicate the McCartney that you remember.

Another fun event that is planned for the month of March is the Party at Gatsby’s in the Hampton Room on Thursday, March 16. Blair Crimmins & The Hookers will be rocking out all of your favorite ragtime hits, and there will be coffee, desserts, and light appetizers served.

The Shabbat Dinner Club will be back in action on Friday, March 24 in the Garden Room at The Grille. Dinner for this event will include your choice of Sliced Sirloin with Mushroom Sauce or Broiled Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce along with side dishes and Key Lime Pie for dessert.

If you thought that the monthly Trivia Challenge was a good time, you won’t believe how much fun we are going to have at the Interactive Game Show Night and Dinner event on Thursday, March 30. There will be a professional game show host on hand to conduct Citrus Hills’ versions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Jeopardy, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, Hollywood Squares, and Deal or No Deal.

Arts & Education

We mentioned last month that you don’t want to miss out on the Paint Your Pet Party at the Crystal River Mall on Saturday, March 4. Residents will be provided with transportation to the event, food and drinks at the event, and all the necessary supplies for a ticket price of $72.

Amy Southgate from Royal Caribbean will be the guest speaker at the quarterly Citrus Hills Vacationers Club meeting on March 23 at 11 am. She will be discussing an upcoming cruise leaving from Boston, as well as their newest monster ship “Oasis of the Seas.”

Dr. Chris Reudink from Pa-C of Citrus Orthopedic & Joint Institute will be speaking at the Wellness Wednesday event on Wednesday, March 29 at 2 pm. The topic of this discussion will be Non-Surgical Patient Care for Spine Health.

Golf & Tennis

The golf month will kick off with the Four-Leaf Clover Open on Saturday, March 4 on The Oaks course. Then, the 2017 Skyview Ladies’ Club Championship will be held on March 8 and 9. And if you are looking to improve your game, Golf Pro Wayne Larsen will be hosting free clinics for beginners on March 6-8, and free clinics for intermediate golfers on March 14, 21, and 28.

The Free Beginner Tennis Clinic will be held on March 14 this month, which will be just in time to get you ready for the Men’s and Women’s Club Doubles Championship on March 10-12. There will also be a Tennis Burger Bash mixed doubles event on March 30.

Dinner Specials

St. Patrick’s Day is on Friday, March 17, and both Skyview Restaurant and The Grille have big specials planned for the occasion. Skyview Restaurant will be serving Corned Beef & Cabbage, Baked Scallop Pie, Bangers & Mash, and Stout Braised Lamb Shank, while The Grille is going to be cooking up Corned Beef & Cabbage, Braised Lamb Shank, Black & Tan Pork, Scallop Pie, and Irish Steak.

As if that wasn’t appetizing enough, Skyview Restaurant is also planning a Clambake special for March 9, a Brazilian Steakhouse Night on March 14, and a Napa Valley Wine Dinner on March 28. Then over at The Grille, there will be a Red-Carpet Night special on March 9 and a Taste of the Pacific Rim special on March 28.

In addition to all of these scheduled activities, you should also make some time this month to stop by BellaVita Spa, where they will be running Spring Forward Facial and Springtime Serenity specials all month long. As usual, if you have questions about any of the activities or events happening this month, be sure to contact the Activity Center Service Desk for more information!

For all the activities and events happening around the Villages of Citrus Hills click below into the link below for our Connections Club Newsletter for March 2017.

http://www.citrushillsgolfandcountryclub.com/userfiles/file/March%202017%20Connections_ONLINE.pdf

 

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.

 

 

 

The Manatees are Back for the Winter

There are dozens of reasons why Florida is a great place to live, but one of the top reasons has to be that the weather is nice and warm during the winter months.

Many of our friends and neighbors here in the Villages of Citrus Hills go north for the summer only to come running back at the first sign of winter.

Ironically, our local manatee population demonstrates the exact same behavior!

West Indian Manatees are extremely popular animals in Citrus County due to our year round population of them, which gets especially large during the winter months.

Despite their enormous size, these sea mammals have relatively little body fat and require warm water in order to survive. For that reason, they tend to migrate to the warm spring waters such as Crystal River and Homosassa Springs during the winter months. 

Another way that manatees are similar to our snowbird friends and neighbors is that once they find a place they like, they will return to the same spot year after year. It is not uncommon for a mother and her calf to go their separate ways out at sea for the entire summer and then be spotted hanging out together in their usual winter habitat the following year. 

As the manatees begin to migrate back towards our local springs for the winter, now is a great time to be planning your next manatee encounter. Whether you are looking to swim alongside the manatees, kayak near them, or observe them from dry land, there are great places to do all of those in Crystal River and Homosassa Springs!

Crystal River

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The best places to see manatees in the Crystal River area are Three Sisters Springs and the Kings Bay Manatee Sanctuary. Both of these places are best accessed by boat, but you can only get so close. In order to get up close and personal you will have to be in a kayak or canoe.

There are also a number of tour companies that operate out of the Crystal River area that specialize in manatee tours. These companies can take you right up to the popular manatee areas and many will instruct you on swimming right along with the manatees!

Homosassa Springs 

If you are looking to learn more about manatees, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the best place in the region. There is a daily educational program that gives visitors some background on manatees including their history and the rehabilitation efforts that are conducted at the park. 

The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park also has what they call the “Fish Bowl,” which is an underwater viewing area similar to what you would expect to find at an aquarium. This gives visitors the chance to get up close and personal with manatees without even getting wet!

Tampa Electric Company 

Because manatees are attracted to warm waters, they also tend to be attracted to power plants. One really interesting place to observe them is from the Tampa Electric Company near the mouth of the Hillsborough River. The warm water that the power plant discharges into the river is like a magnet for manatees, and the company has built a visitor center, overlook, and walkway for visitors to observe this phenomenon. 

Whether you prefer to break out your kayak and meet the manatees in their natural environment in Crystal River or stay on dry land and observe them from a distance at Homosassa Springs or the Tampa Electric Company power plant, make sure you take some time to get out and see these amazing sea mammals near the Villages of Citrus Hills this winter.

Stretch it Out: Yoga Studios Near the Villages of Citrus Hills

If you’ve never been to a yoga class before, it might seem like one of those hip exercise trends that come and go over the years. But once you experience your first vinyasa flow class and make it all the way through to the relaxing shavasana pose, you will no doubt be hooked.  

Yoga offers a powerful, low-impact workout that promotes personal growth along with physical development. It is great for treating chronic pains like lower back pain, arthritis, headaches, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. At the same time, yoga students are able to use movements and breathing to produce all kinds of emotional and spiritual developments too! 

Luckily, we are fortunate enough to be virtually surrounded by yoga studios!

 Yoga Classes at BellaVita Spa & Fitness Center 

The first place to find a great yoga class close to the Villages of Citrus Hills is right in our very own BellaVita Spa & Fitness Center. Here you will find basic yoga, power yoga, and restorative yoga on the class schedule each and every week.

The basic yoga classes are taught by Nancy and Sheila, and they focus on stretching and breathing as they work through the entire body. These classes are great for beginners, but the instructors are also able to offer more challenging positions for experienced students.

If you are looking for more of a meditative experience, Cindy’s restorative yoga class offers a yin yoga style that focuses more on deep stretches that are held for longer periods of time. These classes are known to have an amazing impact on your mental state.  

Citrus Yoga & Fitness 

If the class times at BellaVita don’t fit your schedule, an alternative for yoga near the Villages of Citrus Hills is Citrus Yoga & Fitness located on Meadowcrest Blvd. in Crystal River. 

There are a total of six different instructors here that offer classes for all levels of yoga throughout the week, and those classes can be paid for on a per class or per month basis.

The ladies at Citrus Yoga are a fantastic resource for anyone who has never tried yoga before. Even if you aren’t sure about taking one of their classes, they will still be happy to help you understand exactly what benefits you can expect from a regular yoga practice.

Pure Elements Yoga and Wellness Center 

Another great choice in Crystal River is Pure Elements Yoga and Wellness Center located right off of Highway 19. Their focus is on using yoga as a treatment to bridge the gap between conventional medicine and alternative therapies.

Classes here are scheduled every Monday and Wednesday evening, so if the morning classes at other studios don’t work for you this is a great alternative.  

Inverness Yoga & Wellness Center 

One of the best resources for all things yoga near the Villages of Citrus Hills is the Inverness Yoga & Wellness Center. Here you will find a very full schedule that offers multiple classes to choose from on just about every day of the week. You can pay for those classes one at a time, or take advantage of their monthly rate.

In addition to yoga classes, you will also learn about stress workshops, yoga retreats, and teacher training for when you are ready to take your yoga practice to the next level.  

No matter which studio you find most interesting, adding a regular yoga practice to your life will dramatically change you from the inside out. So, contact one of these great studios or just head over to a class at BellaVita and start working on your downward dog!

Sushi for Days: Nearby Sushi Restaurants

Over the past decade, sushi has been one of the fastest growing cuisines for people who like to eat out on a regular basis. Sushi is delicious, and is typically on the healthy side of the food spectrum, and if you know what you are doing it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either! 

Whether you prefer the flavors of raw salmon and tuna, crunchy tempura battered shrimp, or just a simple California Roll, there are multiple choices for getting sushi within a short drive of the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

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Sushi-O is a unique experience that takes the time to think of new ways to incorporate a number of different local ingredients in with their traditional Japanese flavors. You will find them in a little plaza off of West Norvell Bryant Highway in Lecanto.

Zesty Edamame Salad

Zesty Edamame Salad

An entire page of the menu is devoted to their impressive selection of specialty rolls, where you will find classics like the Kamikaze Roll and Rainbow Roll. They also have some creative twists on the classics like their Tempura Philly Roll. 

If you’re looking for sushi in the Crystal River area, Ginger Asian Bistro is the first place you are going to want to stop. They’re located on Highway 19 and offer a great mix of Chinese and Japanese cuisine.  

Part of the massive menu includes a long list of specialty rolls. Try their Crystal River Roll, which includes shrimp tempura with avocado. 

Ginger Asian Bistro also has excellent lunch specials. Take your pick of two or three classic rolls along with soup or salad.

Fuji Asian Bistro, Homosassa 

Located along Suncoast Blvd in Homosassa, Fuji Asian Bistro is the real deal when it comes to Asian-style seafood here in Citrus County. Their menu features a dynamic selection of Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine where you will find plenty of great sushi.

Szechuan Snapper

Szechuan Snapper

If you are looking to try something outside the box, their Gator Roll is one of the best sellers on the menu! And if you are heading out with someone who isn’t a sushi fan, the sweet and sour chicken here is excellent as well.  

Three More Options in Ocala

If you are on a serious quest to find the best sushi around, you will also want to plan a few trips out to Ocala. There you will find three fantastic options in Asian Pop, Edo Sushi & Japanese Steakhouse, and Grace Sushi.

Each of these restaurants offer a slightly different type of atmosphere, but at their core they are all built around serving up some of the most delicious sushi rolls you have ever tried.

With three great choices, right here in Citrus County, and three more in nearby Ocala, the sushi lovers of Citrus Hills are well-equipped to dine on their favorite combinations of raw and fried seafood pretty much every day of the week if they like.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

Bird's Underwater: A Highly Rated Local Tour Company

If you are looking for a tour company to take you and a group of friends out swimming with manatees or on a scalloping adventure, you are probably going to start your search using a website like Yelp or TripAdvisor.

Because those types of sites tend to attract people who are looking to complain more often than complement, we have all learned over the years that we have to take negative reviews with a grain of salt. But what if there was a company that had hardly any negative reviews? Wouldn’t that be the one you wanted to hire?

 Bird’s Underwater in Crystal River is that company!

At the time of this writing, they are rated 5 stars on both Yelp and TripAdvisor with virtually no negative reviews. In today’s eager-to-complain environment, that is really something special! 

About Bird’s Underwater Dive Center

Bird’s Underwater Dive Center is located right on Kings Bay in Crystal River. Bill “Bird” Oestreich and his wife Diane started it back in 1989. They have since grown the business to include a number of certified and insured “captains” that lead all kinds of tours, training classes, and other adventures.

In addition to being popular among local residents and regular vacationers, Bird’s Underwater has also been featured on TV shows like Small Planet, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Lonely Planet, and The 700 Club.

But being featured on those shows is nothing compared to the way that customers talk about Bird’s Underwater. Here is what Kayecee G. had to say about her recent scalloping trip on Yelp: 

I can't say enough good things about our trip."

Scalloping with Bird's Underwater was an amazing experience. On our drive home we had already decided we will be making a yearly trip from Daytona to Crystal River to go scalloping with Bird's Underwater.

Captain Cody was absolutely amazing! He even got in the water to help us since it was our first time. He went above and beyond by taking us out where the grassy beds drop off and we were able to see a huge variety of fish and coral that you don't find in the grassy area where you find scallops. As long as he is there we will always request to go out with him! He has made lifetime customers out of us!” 

Manatee Tours & Scalloping Trips

Swimming with manatees is probably the most sought after experience in the Crystal River area, and nobody delivers on that experience quite like Bird’s Underwater. They have tours leaving daily that seat anywhere from 6-11 passengers. You can also book private tours for parties of 6.

During scalloping season, another popular option is to head out on a Bird’s Underwater charter so that you can catch your fill of scallops without having to worry about getting a fishing license or bringing any equipment. Bird’s Underwater takes care of everything for you.  

Manatee tours can be booked right from their website, and scalloping tours can be booked over the phone during scalloping season.

The Dive Center

On top of delivering amazing tour experience, Bird’s Underwater is also your one-stop shop for all things diving in Crystal River.

Never been scuba diving before? That’s no problem, because Bill “Bird” Ostreich himself teaches regular dive classes right at the facility. With dive experience dating back to the early 1970s, Bird is a wealth of information and an excellent teacher.  

Devils Den

Devils Den

Bird’s Underwater also offers guided dives that will allow you to experience some of the best dive spots in Citrus County with a local expert guiding you through to all of the best underwater spots. If you are tired of hearing about places like Blue Grotto and Devil’s Den and are ready to see them for yourself, this is a great way to get there! 

As for any diving equipment needs, Bird’s is a Scubapro Platinum Dealer and an authorized Scubapro Service Center. So if you are already an experienced diver, they can fix you up with the best of the best equipment and make sure it is always in tip-top shape.  

Bird’s House Rentals 

If you are looking to really take your Bird’s Underwater experience to the next level, you might want to consider booking one of their two rental properties to stay at during one of their multiple day dive tours.  

One of the houses is located right on the Homosassa River, and the other is on the Halls River. Both of the Bird’s rental houses come with kayaks, TV and internet, and fully equipped kitchens.  

No matter what your level of experience, Bird’s Underwater has an amazing adventure that is perfect for you. So the next time you find yourself thinking about manatees, scallops, or scuba diving, stop thinking about it and book a tour with Bird’s. According to the hundreds of satisfied customers on Yelp and TripAdvisor, you will not be disappointed.