Homosassa

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?

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!

The Mermaids & Margaritas Festival

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Located just west of downtown Crystal River is the peaceful Fort Island Gulf State Park. But that beautiful beach is going to be anything but relaxing on Saturday, April 14 during the Mermaids and Margaritas Festival from 12 pm to 8 pm.

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This all-day festival was created by "The Mertailor" Eric Ducharme, who has been selling the best swimmable mermaid tails on the market since 2009. Along with a great selection of mermaid apparel, the festival will also feature three local bands, lots of amazing food, and enough margaritas to make Jimmy Buffett jealous. 

 

The Mermaid Contests

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When you attend a festival that is sponsored by a company that makes swimmable mermaid tails, you can certainly expect to find plenty of people dressed up as mermaids. Those people will be competing in a Mermaid Costume Contest sponsored by MezMerEyes starting at 2 pm.

There will also be a Ms. Mermaid and Mr. Merman contest held later in the day at 5 pm.

The Live Music

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This fun-filled festival will kick off with live music right at 12 pm when The TJ Brown Band takes the stage. He might not be a Florida native, but Thomas Junior (T.J.) Brown has been a Florida resident since he was nine years old, and his version of country music feels well-grounded in our local Florida culture.

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Following The TJ Brown Band, the parrot heads will be out for The Landsharks. This Jimmy Buffett tribute band has toured all over Florida while holding down a steady two-year gig playing at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville in Orlando. Add a Hawaiian shirt and a margarita to your mermaid tail and you will fit right in with this crowd!

After the Ms. Mermaid and Mr. Merman contest, Homosassa native Ashley Young will take the stage to perform for her hometown residents. After spending time in both Nashville and New York City, Ashley is on the move again and will be singing all over Florida for much of the summer. 

The Food

Spending the day at the beach can be a real blast, but you are going to get hungry at some point! Fortunately, there are plenty of Citrus County businesses that will be on hand to help you out.

When you are ready for a meal, you'll be able to choose between pizza from Light My Fire Mobile Pizza Co., tacos and rice bowls from Riviera Mexican Cantina, seafood from Dan's Clam Shack, and all kinds of bar and grill food from Dawg House Dogs & Grill, Inc.

If you're just looking for something to munch on in between meals, there will also be snacks available from Kona Ice of Citrus County, Lynn's Ice Cream, Calypso Concessions, Tropical Acai Bowls, and Pop Fusions Gourmet Ice Pops.

The Booze

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With all of the exciting festivities planned for the Mermaids & Margaritas Festival, it's easy to forget about the margaritas part of the event. But don't worry, because Riviera Cantina will make sure to remind you that they will be selling those margaritas all day.

There will also be beer and wine for sale. Visitors can choose from Budweiser, Bud Light, Landshark, Bud Light Straw-Ber-Ritas, Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas, and Bud Light Mong-o-Ritas, as well as a selection of merlot, cabernet, and white zinfandel.

Getting to the Party

One important thing that every mermaid and merman planning to attend the event needs to know is that there will be no parking available at Fort Island Gulf Beach. Everyone attending will need to park at the lot on the corner of US-19 and Fort Island Trail, across from the Winn Dixie Plaza and Clawdaddy's.

There will be a free shuttle taking people back and forth out to the beach from this free parking lot.

No matter how serious you are about your mermaid costume, just about everyone could benefit from just a little bit more glitter in their lives. So, grab your tail, and we'll see you at Fort Island Gulf Beach on April 14!

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!

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

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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

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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!