Ocala

5 Fun Ways to Spend a Day in Ocala

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Located just an hour drive from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Ocala is one of the most unique destinations in all of Florida. There is a nearly endless number of things to do in and around this dynamic city, which makes it a perfect day trip destination for Citrus Hills residents.  

Whether you are interested in horseback riding and drag racing or shopping and art, there is something for everyone in Ocala. Let's take a quick look at five different ways to spend an exciting afternoon in "horse country." 

Horse Farm Tours 

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Because horse culture is such an integral part of Ocala, the first option for visitors is always going to be one of the many horse farm tours like the one you will find at Gypsy Gold Farm.  

No one ever has a bad thing to say about a visit to Gypsy Gold Farm, which typically includes a tour of the massive 40-acre property. The tour is filled with stories about both the property and the heritage of the horses that are raised there.  

If you are looking for even more horse-related fun, there is also Farm Tours of Ocala. This fun adventure takes visitors on a walking tour that covers three different farm properties.  

Drag Racing History 

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Visitors looking to experience something even faster than horse racing, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is a popular Ocala attraction that will get your motor running.  

This museum is full of historic drag racing cars, and there is an additional building filled with a fabulous collection of antique cars. You will not be disappointed.  

The Great Outdoors 

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Way back before things took off in Orlando, it was Silver Springs that was attracting people to visit sunny Florida. Silver Springs State Park is still an amazing place to visit any time of year, especially if you are interested in taking the glass bottom boat tour.  

For visitors who prefer flowers to boats, Sholom Park is a gorgeous 44-acre botanical garden that offers another option for enjoying the great outdoors in Ocala.  

Appreciation for the Arts 

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One of Ocala's hidden gems is the diverse collection of artworks on display at the Appleton Museum of Art. This small little museum contains art ranging from ancient Greece all the way up to today's modern art, and walking through the facility is always a relaxing experience.  

Shopping & Dining 

Sometimes, the best days in Ocala are the ones that start out without any plan at all, and that is exactly the type of fun you can find wandering around downtown Ocala.  

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Downtown Ocala features a fun combination of restaurants, boutique shops, and art exhibits that you won't find in other Florida towns. There are also a lot of historic buildings in this area, so make sure you take some time to let yourself wander around.  

With everything from horses to modern art available throughout the year, it's no wonder that Ocala is one of the most popular day-trip destinations for residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. The next time you are looking for a fun way to spend a day, head to Ocala and you are sure to find something amazing.

Around the World: 6 Local Restaurants with an International Flair

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It's no secret that the Villages of Citrus Hills is surrounded by excellent restaurants of all types, but we don't always show proper appreciation for just how diverse that selection actually is.  

In order to highlight that diversity, we are going to take you on a quick trip around the globe to experience six different cultures without ever leaving the state of Florida.  

Is your appetite ready to handle this adventure?

 Cuban - Havana House Cafe

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For the first stop on our world culinary tour, we are heading south to Cuba for a taste of the tropics at Havana House in Lecanto. The specialty here is the Traditional Cubano, which comes with Spanish ham, sliced or pulled pork, pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard.  

If you are looking to get even more authentic with your dining choices, you will want to try the Lechon Asado. Or you could also order one of the delicious starters like Tostones Rellenos, Cuban Empanadas, or Caribbean Wings.  

French - La Cuisine French Restaurant 

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When you are ready for a high-end meal, we're heading east across the Atlantic for some of the best French cuisine you've ever tasted. And it's right up the road in Ocala. La Cuisine French Restaurant is owned and operated by Patrice and Elodie Perron.


Patrice was raised in the heart of France, and he has always had a passion for the kitchen, which explains why everything served at his elegant restaurant tastes so phenomenal. Whether you opt for Duck A l'Orange, Bourguignon Beef, or Boneless Beef Short Ribs, you really can't make a wrong decision at La Cuisine.  

Italian - Mesa de Notte 

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The next stop on our world tour is also located in Ocala, but the food has moved to Italy. Mesa de Notte offers a fantastic selection of Italian dishes that include all of the tried and true classics along with some interesting new twists.  

For those looking for the familiar options, there is Fettuccini Alfredo, Angelo Osso Bucco, and Chicken Parmigiana.

But if you are thinking about getting adventurous, there are also choices like Mahi Piccata.  

Mediterranean - Taverna Manos 

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Our final stop for European flair on this world tour will be Taverna Manos in Crystal River. When you are in the mood for great Mediterranean food in Citrus County, this is always going to be one of the top places on the list.  

Like any great Mediterranean spot, the gyros are the star of the show at Taverna Manos, and they never disappoint. On top of serving world-class gyros, they also offer a wide range of other Mediterranean cuisine that will keep you coming back for more.  

Thai - Bangkok Thai 

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This wouldn't be a world tour without a quick stop in Asia for some delicious Thai food, and that is exactly what we are going to find at Bangkok Thai in Beverly Hills.  

If you are a fan of Thai food, then you already know what to order. If this is going to be your first experience, start with the Spring Rolls and then take your pick from one of the curries or the Pad Thai.  

World Fusion 

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This restaurant has been a great edition to the international theme in Citrus County.  World Fusion integrates fresh ingredients with Asian flavors for a unique and delicious fusion of cultures.  

In addition to sushi and sashimi, they also offer a variety of dishes from different Asian cultures, including traditional Japanese, Thai, and Chinese. The menu includes a variety of healthy choices, as well as many vegetarian friendly dishes. 

With all of the amazing ethic cuisine available here in Florida, residents at the Villages of Citrus Hills never have to go very far to find truly spectacular meals of all kinds. The only tricky part is choosing the right type of meal to fit your mood!

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!

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!

 

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.