Gulf Coast

Exploring the Big Bend Shellfish Trail

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

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

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

About the Trail 

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

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

Types of Shellfish 

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

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

Big Bend Destinations 

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Getaway: New Smyrna Beach

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Residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills typically feel that the Gulf Coast offers the best version of the Florida retirement lifestyle, but that doesn't mean that a weekend trip to the Atlantic Coast isn't warranted every once in a while.  

With its crashing waves and laid-back atmosphere, New Smyrna Beach is the perfect destination for Gulf Coast beach bums looking to head east for a relaxing weekend getaway. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, this is our best advice for making the most out of your trip.  

Places to Stay in New Smyrna Beach

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TripAdvisor.com doesn't always get it right in their rankings of the best hotels in a particular area, but we think they are right on the money in having The Black Dolphin Inn ranked at the top of their list for New Smyrna Beach. This stunning bed and breakfast will cater to your every need and have you staying right near all of the action downtown.

If staying on the beach is more of a priority for you, then the Atlantic Plaza comes highly recommended in New Smyrna Beach. These oceanfront condos will have you sleeping within steps of those famous Atlantic Ocean waves.  

Things to Do in New Smyrna Beach 

The beach is one of the popular tourist attractions in New Smyrna Beach, and we highly recommend planning to spend the bulk of your weekend enjoying the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. You will find that surfing, boogie boarding, and body surfing are all popular here, but strolling through the sand looking for shells can be just as enjoyable if you don't want to get wet.

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In between beach sessions, you will also want to check out some of the many local art galleries that you will find around town. New Smyrna Beach is known as a "small art town," which means that there are lots of independent local artists that have come together to create a very unique cultural community.

 

Places to Eat in New Smyrna 

In keeping with the theme of everything else, you will find the restaurant scene offers a fantastic selection of casual restaurants serving up world-class food paired with some truly outstanding wine lists.  One of the popular restaurants is SoNapa Grille, which is known for their Lobster Bisque and their wine list, but won't disappoint you with anything in between those either.  

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Other popular restaurants include The Garlic, which has a special approach to all of your favorite garlic-forward dishes, and Norwood's Eatery & Treehouse Bar, which is definitely one of the coolest destinations in town.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the fantastic dining you will find in New Smyrna Beach, which makes this a perfect destination to revisit.  

With fantastic restaurants, first-class lodging, and one of the best beaches you will find along the Atlantic Coast, there is no reason not to make the two-hour drive for a weekend getaway as often as you can. When are you going to be taking your next trip?

Gulf vs. Atlantic: Which Florida Coast is the Best Retirement Location?

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The decision to enjoy your retirement years here in Florida is one of the best ones you will ever make, but it is actually only the first in a series of choices that become more and more essential to finding the ideal retirement destination for you.  

After choosing to pursue a Florida retirement, the next question that you are going to have to answer is which of the two coasts you would prefer to enjoy here in the Sunshine State. And while you really can't go wrong with either option, everyone seems to have their own preferences depending on how they rank different factors.  

To help you make that second decision with a little more confidence, we have collected some of the biggest advantages that each Florida coast has to offer and put them all in one place for you to process.

 Atlantic Coast Advantages 

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One of the most significant advantages that comes with choosing the Atlantic Coast side of Florida is that you are going to be able to enjoy the waves that crash on those beaches. If you are passionate about surfing, boogie boarding, or body surfing, this is a huge plus.  

In addition to having bigger waves, the Atlantic Coast is also home to several places with larger city-style amenities. With destinations like Jacksonville, Daytona, and Miami up and down the coast, there is no shortage of exciting things to see and do along the Atlantic Coast side of Florida.  

Gulf Coast Advantages

They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure, and we have found that for everyone who prefers the bigger waves of the Atlantic Coast, there is also someone who prefers the calmer waters over on the Gulf Coast. If a relaxing morning of standup paddle boarding is what gets you going, this is the place to make it happen.  

Another huge selling point for the Gulf Coast side is the fact that all of the beaches along the west side of Florida are absolutely stunning. You won't find white sand beaches anywhere in the world that are nicer than the ones right here along the Gulf Coast.  

Because there are fewer major cities and tourist attractions along the Gulf Coast, you will find that the communities on that side have less tourists and more reasonable housing, which makes the Gulf Coast a more appealing destination for many retirees.  

Based on the fact that the Villages of Citrus Hills is located on the Gulf Coast side of Florida, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that we feel it is the better retirement destination.  

But with all of the advantages of both sides right in front of you, we think you are probably going to do just fine making your own decision.  

And no matter where you might prefer to end up, there is no arguing that just about everyone who makes the decision to move to Florida ends up being happy with their decision.

Benefits of Living in Citrus County

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Florida is a big state with a wide range of different options that appeal to different people for different reasons.  

But if you are considering relocating to the Sunshine State, Citrus County, which just so happens to be the home of the Villages of Citrus Hills, presents one of the best options you could choose for a number of reasons.  

Residents of Citrus County are in a position to enjoy all of the best aspects of Florida at the same time. They get to experience the famous Florida climate. They are right next to the Gulf Coast, while still not too far from the Atlantic Coast. Great cities like Tampa, Orlando, Ocala and Gainesville are just a short drive away, and the entire region is filled with amazing state parks and forests.  

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant benefits of living in Citrus County.

Public and Protected Lands

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Many people who relocate here don’t realize that Citrus County covers approximately 700 square miles, of which more than 152,000 acres are set aside as public and protected land. Half of the county is a protected area that will never see any type of construction. This assures residents that Citrus County will never suffer from becoming overbuilt the way other parts of Florida have.

Ideal Climate

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One of the main reasons people move to Florida is the year-round sunshine.  In a state known for great weather, Citrus County has Florida’s best.   

Unlike humid South Florida, the region surrounding the Villages of Citrus Hills doesn’t have the Everglades water effect.  We instead sit on the Central Ridge.  At 260 feet above sea level, the Villages of Citrus Hills benefits from the breezes off the nearby Gulf of Mexico, keeping the climate temperate all year round. 

Citrus County’s year-round average is about 72 degrees with 65 percent humidity.  In fact, comfortable days are the norm.  We enjoy 274 days a year in the temperature “comfort zone”, which falls between 65 and 75 degrees.  It also means you won’t spend the whole summer hiding from the heat in your air-conditioned home.  Beautiful weather isn’t just a perk; it will improve your quality of life. 

An Enormous Amount of History

From the historic sites of the Second Seminole War to the shell mounds of ancient natives, Citrus County is packed with tons of great history and plenty of places to learn all about it. The county also has a long history of producing outstanding thoroughbred horses, including multiple Kentucky Derby champions.  

Low Cost of Living

Like all Florida residents, those living in Citrus County are not subjected to any state income tax. However, unlike some of the more urban parts of the state, Citrus County residents enjoy a relaxed atmosphere where they don’t have to worry about gouging prices that you might find in many popular tourist areas. The cost of living is very reasonable in Citrus County.  

Parks and Trails

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Whether you are looking for large state parks, great walking trails built from abandoned railroad lines, or small community parks that offer some of the best sunset views you will find anywhere, Citrus County has them all. There are a number of different parks and trails throughout the county that all offer their own unique version of nature in Citrus County.

 Day Trips to “Old Florida” Towns

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Another advantage that the geographic location of Citrus County offers is that residents are within a short drive of quite a few different “Old Florida” towns that all make for great day trips. Many of these small towns have great historic shopping districts, outstanding restaurants, and plenty of history and art museums.  

 

Gulf Coast Lifestyle

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Living in Citrus County places you right in the heart of the Gulf Coast Lifestyle. Fishing, boating, and sunbathing at the beach will all be only minutes away. You can also participate in popular local activities such as scalloping, catching stone crab, or swimming with the manatees.

 


Close to Tampa and Orlando

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While the communities of Citrus County are known for their small-town environments, the big-city lifestyle is never very far away with both Tampa and Orlando being only a short drive away. This gives Citrus County residents access to great shopping, cultural events, and professional sports teams that many people like to experience from time to time.

 

As you can see, Citrus County is one of the most optimal locations for an active adult lifestyle in Florida. Make sure to include a tour through Citrus County and the Villages of Citrus Hills on your next trip to Florida so that you can see the area for yourself.  Who knows you may decide to call us home!

The Top 5 Places to Take Visitors in Citrus County

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

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

5. Fort Island Gulf Beach

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

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

4. The Withlacoochee State Trail 

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

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


3. Rainbow River Tubing

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

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

 

2. Downtown Inverness 

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

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


1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 

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

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

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

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.

June Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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Summer has officially arrived here along the Gulf Coast of Florida, and the activities calendar here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is heating up right in step with the temperature.

This month, our activities and events include a number of old favorites with some exciting new ones mixed in to keep things interesting. 

Social Events

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The first social event of the month will be the "Broadway and Beyond" Dinner Show in the Hampton Room on Wednesday, June 6. Mary Jo Vitale will be taking center stage to perform a selection of Broadway hits, opera classics, and more, following a delicious meal of Sliced Sirloin topped with Mushroom Gravy and Bourbon Pecan Chicken.

Tasty Trivia Tuesday will return to the Hampton Room on Tuesday, June 19 with a menu that features Baked Ham with Pineapple Raisin Sauce and Turkey and Gravy. If you think you have what it takes to compete in this knowledge battle, the only way to prove it is to put together a team of your own or join an existing one at the event!

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On Thursday, June 21, the Hampton Room will once again be hosting the fun. This time, it will be a Classic Rock Party featuring The Cara James Gang playing all of your favorite classic rock hits from the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Doors for this event will open at 6:30 pm with the music following at 7 pm.

Sports & Recreation

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There are still plenty of golfers hanging around our courses this summer, and the best ones will be competing in the Men's Pinehurst Major Championship Event on June 11 and 12. They will also be playing in the US Open-style US Impossible Tournament on Saturday, June 16.

If your golf game isn't quite up to competition level, you might want to attend one of Golf Pro Wayne Larsen's free clinics this month. Wayne will be working with beginners on June 4, 5, and 6. Then he will be back to work with intermediate golfers on June 12, 19, and 26.

But if golf isn't your thing, there will also be a Pickleball Summer Bash on Saturday, June 16.

Dinner Specials

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The big holiday on the calendar this month is Father's Day on June 17, and between Skyview Restaurant and The Grille, there’s going to be plenty to choose from. Skyview will be hosting an over-the-top brunch buffet that every dad will love. But if you aren't able to make it to brunch, you can plan on having one of the four Father's Day Entrees that will be available that evening at The Grille.

The Grille is also planning a Burgers and Brews event for Thursday, June 28 that will feature Salmon Burgers, Jerked Turkey Burgers, Bacon Bourbon Burgers, Surf & Turf Burgers, and Veggie Burgers along with some delicious craft beers to choose from.

BellaVita Spa and Fitness

And, as always, keep a moment for yourself this month.  BellaVita Spa is offering Summer Berry Facials, Pomegranate Lime Ultimate Spa Pedicures, and Sweet Citrus Massages as their specials all month long.

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So, you really don't have any excuses at all not to get out and get active here at the Villages of Citrus Hills this month!

Weekend Getaway - Marco Island

Located approximately four hours south of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Marco Island is one of the most peaceful and romantic destinations in Florida.

This little island offers fabulous resorts as well as quiet little hideaways, beautiful beaches and exciting Gulf Coast fishing, and some of the most delicious restaurants you will find anywhere. It’s the perfect getaway location for anyone looking to spend a romantic weekend at the beach!

Places to Stay on Marco Island

When you are talking about places to stay on Marco Island, the conversation almost always has to start with the JW Marriot Marco Island Beach Resort. This vacation paradise offers the complete first class experience of Marco Island. They have their own private white sand beach, two private 18-hole golf courses, a fabulous spa, three swimming pools, 10 restaurants, and beautiful state-of-the-art guest rooms. Everything you need for a relaxing weekend getaway will be right at your fingertips here.

Another first-class choice is the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, which is a Mediterranean-themed resort that boasts a wide range of unique amenities like smoothies on the beach and the ringing of “the captain’s bell” at sunset. The hotel also offers an excellent concierge staff that will be happy to arrange dinner reservations at local restaurants or tee times at some of the best golf courses in all of Florida.

If something a little bit simpler is what you are looking for, the friendly people at The Boat House Motel are consistently ranked as one of the very best places to stay on Marco Island according to TripAdvisor. Staying at The Boat House Motel feels more like staying with old friends.

Things to do on Marco Island

Whether you plan to stay at one of the larger resorts or rent a quiet cottage, getting as close to the beach as possible is the name of the game at Marco Island, so spending time kicking back on those beautiful white sand beaches is definitely the most popular thing to do on the island. One of the best beaches around is South Marco Beach, which is a favorite for shelling and strolling along the waterfront.

Another popular way to spend your time in Marco Island is to head out on the open sea for some big- time fishing! There are dozens of local fishing charters that operate just about every day of the week, so ask your hotel staff to recommend their favorite, and you’ll be reeling in a monster in no time at all.

If you are more of a landlubber, the Marco Island Historical Museum is a great way to spend some time away from the water. This cool little museum is free to the public and offers all kinds of interesting insight into the history of the island.

Places to Eat on Marco Island

For a fairly small island, Marco Island is absolutely packed with amazing places to eat! Your first stop on at least one of the mornings you spend there should be Doreen’s Cup of Joe. This is one of the most unique and interesting coffee shops you will ever find. The breakfast menu is delicious, and the coffee is the best you will find north of Cuba.

You are also going to want to stop at The Italian Market and Deli for an afternoon treat. Both the pizza and the subs here are out of this world, and the personality is pretty outstanding too. Owners Jimmy and Susan Barney bring all of the Italian flair of a Brooklyn deli to the island, and they really don’t miss a beat!

 

 

Hidden in a little strip mall is where you will find one of the classiest restaurants on the island. Finn Bistro specializes in fresh fish that is cooked to perfection and plated in a way that makes you love the dish before you taste it. No matter what happens to be on the menu during your visit, you can be sure that it will taste terrific.

No matter what type of lodging, activities, or dining you are looking for, there really is something for everyone here on Marco Island. That’s why this is one of our top weekend getaways for anyone here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.

5 Weekend Getaways in Greater Florida

One of the best things about living here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is that all of the amazing tourist destinations throughout the state of Florida are just a stone’s throw away. That means that our residents have the luxury of being able to head out on a weekend getaway to all of those famous Florida destinations pretty much any time they like.  

Of course, there are so many fantastic destinations across the state that it can actually be hard to choose which one to visit first. For that reason, we put together this list of five weekend getaways that should definitely be on your list!

Key West 

If you chose the Gulf Coast because you prefer the calmer pace of life compared to the Atlantic Coast, then you will like the laid-back feel of beautiful Key West. This amazing little town is one of the fun spots in Florida, and you can get there by flying into their airport, taking a jet boat from the mainland, or driving down US Highway 1.  

Once you’re in Key West, everything revolves around Duval Street. This is where you will find plenty of shopping, dining, and more bars than you could possibly visit. There are also some really great local tours like the Hemingway Estate, as well as the beautiful Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and the ultimate photo op spot at the Southernmost Point!

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/key-west.html

Miami - South Beach 

If exciting nightlife is your cup of tea, then a weekend in South Beach is just what the doctor ordered! Pick any of the fabulous hotels along the famous A1A and you will be set to enjoy all that this vibrant town has to offer. 

While you are in Miami, make sure to visit the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab for some of the best stone crab claws you’ll find anywhere. You can dress up and eat in their restaurant, or go super casual and enjoy the same food over on their take-out side.

For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/miami-beach.html

Naples 

Keeping our focus in the southern part of the state, if relaxing on the water is more your speed, then Naples will appeal to you. This is the ultimate destination for visitors who enjoy a calm and upscale atmosphere that is also accompanied by some spectacular high-end shopping.

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/naples.html

Panama City Beach 

Moving up north into the panhandle area, Panama City Beach has a reputation as a spring break destination, but it is also a fabulous spot for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills who are looking to get away for a weekend.  

This little gem features 27 miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, along with world-class golf facilities, two excellent state parks, and enough delicious restaurants to ensure that you never run out of options.

 For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/panama-city-beach.html

Daytona Beach 

Another popular destination that certainly ranks at the top of the list of any NASCAR fan is the home of the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach. Here you will find the amazing Daytona International Motor Speedway and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. There are also many other great attractions that make a weekend in Daytona Beach fun for everyone even when it isn’t race week.

For more information on this location please click on the link below.

http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/daytona-beach.html

 

Whether you are looking for exciting nightlife or beachfront relaxation, there is something for everyone to be found on a weekend getaway somewhere in the state of Florida. So, next time you start feeling the urge to get away, take out your Florida map and book the next trip!

Great Day Trip from the Villages of Citrus Hills to Cedar Key

With all of its unique shops and restaurants, as well as plenty of great history and wildlife attractions, Cedar Key contains all of the amenities of a great tourist town without all of the tourists!

This once-small fishing village has gradually turned itself into one of the more popular day-trip locations for Florida residents who are looking for a location that is not so tourist-focused.

Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills can drive to Cedar Key in about an hour and fifteen minutes by taking US-41 north to Country Road 40 and then US-19 North, then turning left and taking FL-24 all the way to the coast.

The breathtaking views you will see driving from the mainland out to Cedar Key alone make the whole trip worthwhile!

Once you arrive in Cedar Key, you will definitely want to see some of the wonderful historic sites, museums, wildlife preserves and state parks.

There are also great locations for fishing and boating, as well as great small town shopping and restaurants to keep you busy for the day.

Cedar Key Historical Museum 

One of your first stops in Cedar Key should be the Cedar Key Historical Museum. Even if you aren’t curious about the interesting history of the island, you will still want to grab all of the visitor information located here to plan the rest of your day.

If you are interested in the history of Cedar Key, this great little museum will walk you through the entire history of the island including Civil War artifacts and brooms made from palmettos.

You will learn all about the town’s storied history with the railroad industry, cedar and palm products, and gulf coast seafood. 

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Preserve

Another popular attraction in Cedar Key is the nine-mile drive through the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Preserve.

As you drive through the preserve, you can expect to see alligators, turkeys, otters, and many different types of birds. You will also want to stop near the Shell Mound Campground to see the 28-foot high mound of ancient shells. 

Seahorse Key Lighthouse 

Just south of Cedar Key is Seahorse Key, which is home to the Seahorse Key Lighthouse.

This key is only accessible by boat, and the lighthouse is only open on certain days of the year, but there are a number of tour companies in Cedar Key that will either take you past Seahorse Key or allow you to get out and look around the island.

Like everything else in this area, the lighthouse has a storied history including the pivotal role it played in the Second Seminole War and the Civil War.  

Shopping in Cedar Key

If shopping is what you are looking for, Cedar Key is perfect for that as well!

Most of the shops are on either Dock Street or Second Street, so that is the best place to start your shopping spree. You will definitely want to check out Cedar Key Canvas, Dilly Dally Gally, The Island Trading Post, and The Salty Needle Quilt Shop.

Dining in Cedar Key 

Your long day of history, wildlife, boating, and shopping will probably cause you to work up quite an appetite. That won’t be a problem though, because Cedar Key has an excellent collection of local restaurants.

One of the most popular restaurants in Cedar Key is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, and they are known for their famous clam chowder. 

If you plan to visit Cedar Key more than once, you will also want to try eating at Kona Joe’s Island Cafe, Ken’s Cedar Keyside Diner, and the Big Deck Raw Bar. Each of these restaurants is known for putting out outstanding food accompanied by friendly service. 

As you can see, there really is something for everyone in Cedar Key.

And because it is only 75 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, this might be the type of place you find yourself going back to over and over again!

October Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

September came and went in the blink of an eye, and believe it or not we are already rolling into the month of October. That means that we are getting deep into another football season, all of our seasonal friends are coming back down south for the winter, and we better get moving on our Halloween costumes! 

As usual, there is something for just about everyone packed into this month’s activities calendar. Whether you are looking for a great day trip, a fun painting lesson, great dinner specials, or some of the most competitive golf anywhere along the Gulf Coast, you can always chase your passions here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest events happening throughout our community this month.

 

 Social Events

We will kick off this month’s social events on a competitive note with a Mah Jongg Tournament in the Activity Center Card Room on Wednesday, October 5 at 9 am. There will be a total of 13 tables playing simultaneously to decide who is the best Mah Jongg player in town.  

The Little Black Dress Club will be hosting a Hot Pink Luncheon Party on Thursday, October 6 at Skyview Restaurant. This month, the focus will be on breast cancer survivors.

On Sunday, October 9, our local car and truck enthusiasts will be getting together in the Activity Center Parking Lot. There will be food, music, and vendors, as well as tons of really cool classic cars! 

Speaking of the classics, there will be a group of members taking an “Old Florida” Antiques & Shopping Trip to Micanopy on Saturday, October 15. This day trip will offer some excellent shopping opportunities, as well as an optional historic tour.  

Our monthly Trivia Challenge Night will be on Tuesday, October 18, and it will have a Halloween twist this month with a special prize for the most creative costume!

The Shabbat Dinner Club will be meeting in the Garden Room at The Grille on Friday, October 21 for a fabulous dinner event that includes your choice of baked stuffed chicken or salmon with lemon dill sauce.

Arts & Education 

On Monday, October 10, The Vacationers Club will be meeting in the Activity Center at 10:30 am. This month’s speakers are Kathy Hildebrandt and Darla Fowler from Travel Authority, and they will be speaking about some of the upcoming trips for 2017.

Coffee & Canvas is also back this month, and local Artist Vanessa Fuller-Brown will be instructing the class on recreating Monet’s famous “Garden in Bloom.” As usual, everything you need is included in the $60 price for members.

Golf & Tennis

Golf season is already back in full swing, and there are three big tournaments scheduled for the month of October. That will start with the VIP Card Tournament at The Oaks Course on October 18.  

All the big dogs will be out at Skyview for the Men’s Match Play Championship on Monday, October 24 and Tuesday, October 25. This is one of the biggest members-only tournaments of the year.  

Couples who golf together stay together, and that will be on display at the 12th Annual Couples Championship teeing off on Sunday, October 30. This is a two-day, 36-hole tournament that will determine the best golfing couple in the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

If your game still needs some work, there will be Beginners Golf Clinics on October 3, 4, and 5. Those will be followed by Intermediate Golf Clinics on October 11, 18, and 25.  

Tennis players are not going to want to miss out on the Tennis Taco Fest on Sunday, October 16. This will be a round robin men’s and women’s doubles tournament that is followed by a build-your-own-tacos buffet.  

Those just starting to learn the game might want to attend the Free Beginner Tennis Clinic at Skyview on October 8 at 11 am.  

Dinner Specials 

Since it is the month of October, it makes sense that our friends over at Skyview Restaurant would be planning a few Oktoberfest specials. They will be serving up an Oktoberfest Dinner on October 11, as well as an Exploring the Tastes of Germany Dinner on October 25.  

Skyview Restaurant will also be hosting Sunday brunch on October 16 and October 30.

 

The Tiki Bar is also getting festive this month. They will be having a formal event called Alfresco on Thursday, October 13 with live jazz music and fancy, high-end food. Then, they will be cutting loose a bit on Monday, October 31 for their Halloween Costume Party.   

In case all of these great events still aren’t enough to fill up your calendar, you might also want to take advantage of the Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte Spa Pedicure that is on special throughout October at BellaVita.  

Looking ahead, there will be a trip to Tampa to watch the Buccaneers host the Seattle Seahawks in November. And you will definitely want to mark your calendars for the 12th Annual Holiday Boutique in the Hampton Room on November 3.  

For a complete list of activities and events please click below for our October club newsletter. 

http://www.citrushillsgolfandcountryclub.com/userfiles/file/October 2016 Connections_ONLINE.pdf

Day Trip To Tarpon Springs

The historic town of Tarpon Springs is located about an hour south of the Villages of Citrus Hills right on the Gulf Coast, just north of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater.  

The town represents an interesting combination of rich history and modern culture with a dash of Greek heritage. If you are passionate about history, shopping for antiques, or excellent Greek food, Tarpon Springs will make an excellent day trip for you and your family. 

History of Tarpon Springs 

Tarpon Springs received its name when some of the first visitors to the town observed a number of Tarpon jumping out of the water out in the Gulf of Mexico.

As you can probably guess, the Tarpon Fishing here is excellent. But that wasn’t originally the most popular sea item in Tarpon Springs. 

Tarpon Springs is also known as “The Sponge Capital of the World” because its 51-mile coast was once filled with sponges. In the early 1900s, many Greek sponge divers made their way to Tarpon Springs to harvest these sponges, which led to Tarpon Springs having the largest Greek population in all of Florida. 

In 1947, just about all of the sponge fields around Tarpon Springs were destroyed, so most of the sponge industry was then converted to fishing and shrimping. However, “The Sponge Capital of the World” lives on in spirit with attractions like the Sponge Docks and Spongeorama.  

The first stop for any history buffs visiting Tarpon Springs should be the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society’s Welcome Center and Museum. Other great historic sites include the Tarpon Springs Historic District, the Safford House, Old Tarpon Springs City Hall, and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  

Tarpon Springs Attractions 

One of the most popular attractions in Tarpon Springs is known as The Sponge Docks. This wharf area is filled with boats, but has also become populated with great shopping and restaurants.  

You can stroll the docks, tour sponge boats, visit dozens of small shops, and find great authentic Greek cuisine, all in one central location. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium is also located right next to The Sponge Docks. 

Another popular attraction in Tarpon Springs is the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. This former high school turned theater plays host to a wide variety of community theater and music events throughout the year. There is a lot of information about upcoming shows on their website, where you can find the perfect event to schedule your trip around. 

Wine drinkers will absolutely want to plan on stopping at the Tarpon Springs Castle Winery. This beautiful facility offers daily tours, information on how their handcrafted wines are produced, and plenty of tasting opportunities.

Dining in Tarpon Springs  

With its rich Greek heritage, Tarpon Springs is known for having some of the best Greek restaurants in Florida. If you are a fan of Greek cuisine, you will have more than your fair share of options in Tarpon Springs.

The most popular Greek restaurant is probably Hellas Restaurant and Bakery, but you will also find outstanding Greek food at Mykonos, Mr. Souvlaki, and The Original Mama Maria’s Greek Cuisine.  

While Greek food is obviously a staple in Tarpon Springs, there are plenty of other options as well. Rusty Bellies at the end of The Sponge Docks is known for serving great seafood, and the Tarpon Tavern has some outstanding pub-style cuisine. You might also want to try the Caribbean food at the Jerk Center and the pizza at Plum Tomato. 

The ideal day trip to Tarpon Springs would contain a little bit of history in the morning, followed by pizza or pub food for lunch. After that, you could plan an afternoon of shopping at The Sponge Docks, followed by a Greek dinner and a show at the Tarpon Spring Cultural Center.  

Even if you can’t find a show that sparks your interest, there is still plenty to do here, which is what makes Tarpon Springs a great place to spend the day!