Tampa

12 Hours In St. Petersburg

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While many people think of St. Petersburg as an extension of Tampa, local residents will tell you that this fun-filled city has a personality that is all its own. It also has plenty of things to do, which makes it an excellent day trip option for residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

If you are looking for a perfect day trip destination and don't want to be bothered with all of the research that goes into

planning an exciting getaway, we have taken care of all the details for you and put together a choose-your-own-adventure style trip to St. Pete.

Let's dive in and check out some of the options!

 

Morning Activity - Art & History 

Depending on what time you leave, the hour and forty-minute drive will probably have you arriving in St. Petersburg with a few hours to kill before lunch. We recommend starting off your day with a little bit of culture at one of the many art galleries and museums that the city has to offer.

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Three of the most popular options for this part of the trip are the Duncan McClellan Gallery, the Ted Williams Museum, and the Salvador Dali Museum. Each offers a slightly different type of cultural experience, but all three are highly recommended attractions in St. Pete.  

Lunch - Bodega

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For lunch, we are heading over to the EDGE District to check out a little place called Bodega. St. Pete residents can't get enough of the Cuban-style food you will find here, so make sure you try one of their soon-to-be-world-famous sandwiches.  

Bodega is also known for having outstanding Cuban coffee and some of the best fresh juices in the city.

 

 

 Early Afternoon - Close to Nature 

After lunch, it's time to get outside at places like Fort De Soto Park and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

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If the beach is your happy place, then Fort De Soto Park could be your own personal paradise in St. Petersburg. This stunning county park includes five islands to explore by canoe, kayak, or bicycle. There is also a historic fort and museum that appeals to all of those history buffs out there.  

For anyone who is more interested in wildlife, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve offers a lake, marsh, swamp, and woods that are filled with a wide range of animals from the land, air, and sea. There is also a Pioneer Settlement living history museum for visitors to explore.  

 Late Afternoon - Out on the Water 

After having some fun getting close to nature, it's time to ratchet that excitement level up a notch and get out on the water.  

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One of the most popular boat tours in the area is St. Petersburg Speedboat Adventure, which offers a 2-hour self-drive speedboat tour for two passengers in the same boat. You will have an absolute blast cruising up and down Tampa Bay in these little boats.  

For day trippers who are looking for something a little more upscale out on the water, you could skip the speedboats and charter a private yacht from Tampa Bay Yacht Charter that will have you cruising Tampa Bay in style before dinner.  

Dinner - Brick & Mortar

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Dinner at Brick & Mortar is the perfect way to wrap up a fun day exploring the sights and sounds of St. Petersburg. This fun and innovative restaurant will astound you with a wide range of small and large plates that are perfect for sharing.  

We recommend getting a few things that are inside your comfort zone and then getting wild with a few dishes that might be pushing your boundaries a bit…and don't forget to order the truffle fries!

 

There is a good chance that you are going to be completely exhausted after all of this fun in St. Pete. But we are just scratching the surface with everything that there is to do here in the Sunshine City, so it won't be long before you are planning another trip with a brand-new itinerary!

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!

Tampa Concert Calendar: 8 Summer Shows You Won't Want to Miss

There are hundreds of things to love about life here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, but one of the perks that often goes overlooked is the fact that just about every major concert tour makes a stop right down the road in Tampa.

The big national acts will pack the house at large venues like Raymond James Stadium, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, and the Amalie Arena. But there are also plenty of smaller venues like the Tampa Theatre and the Capitol Theatre for more intimate shows.

If you are looking to catch a great concert this summer, we have pulled together a list of eight shows that you definitely won't want to miss.

Luke Bryan - June 23 - Raymond James Stadium

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 Serious country music fans pretty much plan their summers around the annual Luke Bryan concert at this point, and Tampa is going to have an outstanding date this year. Luke will be out promoting and performing songs from his most recent album, "What Makes You Country," which debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and the Billboard Top Country Albums.

 

 Rascal Flatts - July 20 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

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 You might not realize it, but Rascal Flatts has been around for almost 20 years now, and they have sold an astounding 22.5 million albums and have 15 number one hits under their belts. They're heading out on the road again this summer with Dan and Shay & Carly Pearce.

 

Chicago / REO Speedwagon - July 21 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

Another can't-miss show heading to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater this summer will be the combo of Chicago and REO Speedwagon hitting the stage on July 21. Fans of either group will be excited about the show, and most people who are fans of one group are also thrilled to see the other.

 

Dave Matthews Band - July 25 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

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 The Dave Matthews Band has become a modern-day version of The Grateful Dead with a similarly passionate fan base that simply doesn't miss shows. After taking the summer of 2017 off, the band is back this summer and we can expect those fans to be as excited as ever. Expect to hear all of your favorite DMB classics, as well as some new songs from the album that should be out soon.

 

Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town - August 3 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

Just as joint concerts are popular with classic rock bands, they are also something we see more and more of from the country genre. On August 3, we will have the opportunity to catch country stars Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town at the same show here in Tampa. Miranda is amazing.

Taylor Swift - August 14 - Raymond James Stadium

Speaking of amazing ladies, the iconic Taylor Swift will be in town on August 14 as a part of her Reputation Stadium Tour. Whether you love her or hate her, you'll know every song she sings, and you're sure to have a blast at this one.

 

Jeff Beck & Paul Rodgers with Ann Wilson - August 26 - MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater

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Anytime you have the chance to see one of Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time," you'd be crazy to miss out on the opportunity. And that is exactly what you will have when this former Yardbird shows up in Tampa on August 26. Jeff will be joined by Paul Rodgers, as well as Ann Wilson from Heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Simon - September 7 - Amalie Arena

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 Jeff Beck might be the best guitarist passing through Tampa this summer, but Paul Simon could be the most admired songwriter we will have the chance to see this year. This farewell tour could be your last opportunity to see the legend headlining, and it will happen in one of the most intimate arenas in the city.

Where to Catch the Best Spring Training Games Near the Villages of Citrus Hills

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It might feel like just yesterday that the Houston Astros clinched their first World Series title, but the 2018 Major League Baseball season is coming up quickly on our calendars.  Spring training has begun, and there will be competitive games happening across the state of Florida for much of the next two months.

Six different teams make their winter homes near the Villages of Citrus Hills, and we have put together a few reasons that each are worth visiting during the next few weeks. So, whether you are a passionate baseball fan or just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, we will have you up to speed when it comes to the spring training games happening nearby.

New York Yankees, Tampa

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It's no secret that our hometown Rays suddenly become second-class citizens in Tampa while the Yankees are in town for spring training. And there will be plenty of excitement at George Steinbrenner Field this winter after the Bronx Bombers came up just short of another World Series appearance in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

To build on the talented young core that the Yankees put together last season, they went out and traded for power-hitting outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who will now team with sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez to create one of the most intimidating offenses that baseball has seen in years.

Philadelphia Phillies, Clearwater

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After the Philadelphia Eagles shocked the world by winning the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback last month, anything seems possible in the City of Brotherly Love this year. However, a deep playoff run still seems a bit ambitious for a Phillies team that was one of the worst in all of baseball last season.

One bright spot that will be worth watching this spring will be outfielder Rhys Hoskins, who came out of nowhere in the middle of last summer to smash 18 home runs in only 50 games. If Hoskins can continue to develop his skills while other key players like Maikel Franco also improve, the Phillies could be one of the most pleasant early surprises of the year.

Toronto Blue Jays, Dunedin

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The Toronto Blue Jays are another local spring training destination where you won't find many honest World Series believers. But with that said, there is still going to be plenty of excitement wherever the Blue Jays go with power hitters like John Donaldson and Justin Smoak in the lineup.

Donaldson proved that he is still one of the best hitters in baseball last season while Smoak had a stunning breakout campaign. Those two have taken over the power hitting from aging slugger Jose Bautista, who will find himself in a position battle with Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk this spring.

 

 Detroit Tigers, Lakeland

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With long-time veterans like Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton all finding new homes over the course of the 2017 season, the Tigers that reported to Lakeland this winter have a completely different look from the ones we are used to seeing.

What the Tigers are counting on is continued production from aging veterans like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. They are also

looking for guys like James McCann and Nick Castellanos to step into leadership roles in the clubhouse.

If those things happen, and some of the young players received in trades last season blossom into major league prospects, the Tigers could actually be one of the most fun teams to watch this spring.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Bradenton

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The Pirates shocked the baseball world this winter when they dumped ace pitcher Gerrit Cole and former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen for pennies on the dollar in trades with the Astros and the Giants. Those sudden moves created some friction in the clubhouse that will be the biggest story of spring training in Bradenton this year.

Players like Josh Harrison have made it clear that they are not happy with the front office, but we have seen manager Clint Hurdle work miracles with the Buccos before. The big question will be whether any of the players that general manager Neil Huntington received as compensation for Cole and McCutchen can contribute in a meaningful way. If so, those contributions need to start right away.

Baltimore Orioles, Sarasota

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Orioles fans can understand what the Pirates fans are going through as they have watched their front office attempt to shop stud third baseman Manny Machado for the better part of the past year now.

Fortunately for them, Machado is still around, and he is planning to move back to shortstop for the upcoming season. How he adjusts to his old position will be interesting to watch this spring.

We will also be keeping a close eye on the performances of center fielder Adam Jones and closer Zach Britton. Along with Machado, both are slated to be unrestricted free agents following the season, so all three will be playing hard for new contracts and will become potential trade targets in July.

No matter how good or bad they might look on paper, every major league team has plenty of interesting things to watch for during spring training. And with these six teams all making their winter homes within a short drive of the Villages of Citrus Hills, we recommend scheduling a visit with each of them over the next few weeks.

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!

August Activities and Events at the Villages of Citrus Hills

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The hot and sticky month of August has arrived, but the activities and events calendar here at the Villages of Citrus Hills is packed with plenty of cool things to do throughout the month.

Whether you are looking for exciting social events, fun opportunities to learn, clinics for improving your golf or tennis game, or just a great meal with friends, we have got you covered with everything happening around the community this month. Let's take a closer look at some of the exciting activities and events coming your way in the month of August!

Social Events

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The August social events will kick off with the Citrus Hills Cruise-In on Friday, August 11 in the Tiki Bar parking lot. Sponsored by the Citrus MOPARS, this event is completely free to attend, and will feature all of the very best muscle and sports cars from around the community.

The next edition of our monthly Trivia Challenge will be held on Tuesday, August 15 in the Hampton Room. This month, the dinner menu will include Baked Haddock, Chicken Parmesan, Penne Pasta with Garlic, and lots of veggie and dessert options. Dinner starts at 5:45 pm and the trivia fun will follow around 6:30 pm.

It wouldn't be summer in the Villages of Citrus Hills without a Flicks & Floats party at the Activity Center Pool. This month's movie night is set for Friday, August 18, and the movie will be The Accountant starring Ben Affleck as a brilliant but lethal numbers wizard.

There will be plenty of buttery popcorn available, but you can also get 10% off of a meal at Skyview Restaurant or The Grille by showing your tickets for this event!

The biggest party of the summer will definitely be the 10th Annual Copacabana Night on Friday, August 25 in the Hampton Room. This year, the event will feature a menu of Cuban Pulled Pork, Chicken and Red Peppers in Garlic Wine Sauce, and some delicious sides.

There will also be salsa lessons and a live orchestra, so this is one summer party that you don't want to miss out on.

Arts & Education

The new Coffee Shop will be holding an Interactive Reading event on Tuesday, August 8 from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. Local author Ronnie Allen will be present for a group reading of her first novel, Gemini: The Sign Behind the Crime. There will also be a Q&A and book signing after the reading.

On Saturday, August 12, the Citrus Hills Vacationers Club will be taking a group trip down to Tampa to see Motown The Musical at the Straz Performing Arts Center. Tickets to this event are $125 and include orchestra seating and round-trip transportation to the event.

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is also planning a trip to St. Petersburg to see The Chihuly Glass Collection by artist Dale Chihuly at The Morean Arts Center. In addition to exploring the glassblowing exhibit, there will be plenty of time to venture out and see other popular St. Petersburg attractions.

There will be a Lunch & Learn event in the Garden Room on Thursday, August 31 at 12:30 pm with guest speaker Lisa Dider discussing American Madams (1870-1910). Lunch for this talk will include a Caprese Chicken Sandwich and Pasta Salad, followed by a slice of Strawberry Cloud Cake.

Golf & Tennis

The big golf event of August will be the Southern-Sky Two Person Championship that will start at Skyview at Terra Vista on Saturday, August 26 and conclude at Southern Hills Plantation Club on Sunday, August 27. If you would like to participate in this unique pairs tournament that covers two different courses, you must register with the Skyview Pro Shop by August 14.

If you are looking to improve your golf game during the month, you should definitely make a point to attend Golf Pro Wayne Larsen's Free Golf Clinics. This month, Wayne will be working with beginners on August 7, 8, and 9. Then he will be back to work with intermediate golfers on August 15, 22, and 29.

Anyone looking to learn the basics of tennis is welcome to attend the Free Beginner Tennis Clinic on Tuesday, August 8 at 11 am. As always, the only thing required to attend this clinic is a pair of tennis shoes. The Skyview Tennis Center will be happy to loan you a racket for the clinic.

Dinner Specials

 Skyview Restaurant has some exciting Tuesday night dinner specials planned for the month of August. You won't want to miss their Greek Night on August 12 or the Asian Feast on August 29.

 

Both dinners are scheduled to start at 5 pm and run through 8 pm.

It's all about mixers over at the Tiki Bar, and they will be mixing it up this month with block parties for Cambridge Greens on August 3, Canterbury Lakes on August 17, and Celina Hills on August 31. They will also be hosting a Singles Social Happy Hour on Tuesday, August 29 from 4 pm to 6 pm.

If those mixers and the warm weather aren't enough to get you to the Tiki Bar this month, you might want to visit for their Beers Around the World special on Thursday, August 24 or the Fantasy of Flights Wine Night on Tuesday, August 29.

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If you are interested in pampering yourself, you might want to try a Citrus Surprise Spa Pedicure at the BellaVita Spa.

 

With all of the exciting things happening around our community during the month of August, there is absolutely no reason not to get out of the house and have some fun!

Visiting Dinosaur World in Tampa

Many benefits come with living just north of a city like Tampa, and one such benefit is that residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills never have to worry about finding fun and exciting activities to keep visiting children occupied. Whether we are talking about kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or just good friends, one of the coolest places to take any visiting children is Dinosaur World.

This awe-inspiring 20-acre facility is located just east of Tampa in Plant City, which is also known for hosting the Florida Strawberry Festival each and every March. Here you will find more than 200 life-sized dinosaur models, as well as an overwhelming amount of educational information on all things prehistoric.

Getting to Dinosaur World

The fastest way to get to Dinosaur world is to take US-41 south towards Tampa and then use US-98 to connect to I-75 and continue heading south. As I-75 makes its way down towards the city, you will exit onto I-4 heading east towards Plant City. 

Dinosaur World is located just off of exit 17, shortly before Plant City.

The Dinosaur World Experience

Children absolutely love Dinosaur World, and a big reason for that is that the facility offers an astounding number of activities to keep them occupied throughout their time at the park.

But before heading to those activities, you might want to take them through the Prehistoric Museum. Here they can see things like dinosaur eggs and raptor claws, as well as a number of other unique artifacts. The Prehistoric Museum also includes the Animatronics Exhibit, where visitors can see life-sized dinosaurs that come to life with sounds and movements.

The Exploration Cave is another educational adventure where children get to interact with a real-life paleontologist who will act as their tour guide as they move through a massive cave, dig site, and workstation. Then, when the kids are ready to get their hands dirty, they can participate in activities like the Fossil Dig, Dino Gem Excavation, and the Bone Yard!

With ticket prices of $16.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors, and $11.95 for kids, it's actually hard not to get your money's worth with all of the great things to see and do at Dinosaur World.

 

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Dining Near Dinosaur World - Fred's Southern Kitchen

Dinosaur World encourages visitors to bring coolers packed with their own preferences for food and snacks, but if you are looking for a great restaurant located nearby, just about everyone will enjoy a meal from Fred's Southern Kitchen. Actually, a trip to Fred's for some "Slow Food, Fast" might be worth the drive even if you aren't heading to Dinosaur World!

The buffet-style menu here always contains Jack Black Oak Smoked Pork Ribs, Golden Fried Chicken, Crispy Catfish, Grilled Tilapia, Fresh Vegetables & Casseroles, and Skillet Cornbread. On top of that, there is a rotating list of Daily Entree Specials, as well as a Salad Table and a Dessert Table. And don't forget that all kids 10 and under eat for free on Mondays and Tuesdays!

Since Dinosaur World is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, you could plan your trip on any Monday or Tuesday and include a free meal for the kids at Fred's Southern Kitchen. But even if those days don't work with your schedule, both places are always going to deliver a fantastic experience that is perfect for the whole family!

The Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa

Located just a bit west of Downtown Tampa, The Henry B. Plant Museum is one of the most beautiful museums you will ever see.

Originally constructed as one of the most elegant hotels in all of Florida, this mind-blowing property is sometimes referred to as "Florida's Original Magic Kingdom," and there is definitely good reason for that.

Henry B. Plant

In order to better appreciate the specific details of the museum, we first have to understand the man himself. Henry B. Plant was born in 1819 in Branford, Connecticut. Following the Civil War, he saw tremendous potential in connecting the south via railroad, and set out to build an empire doing just that.

As he continued to grow his southern railroad empire, Plant expanded further and further into Florida. When his railroad finally made its way to Tampa, the city exploded with growth and has never looked back.

The Tampa Bay Hotel

After connecting the city of Tampa to the rest of the world with his railroads, Plant's next major project would be the construction of the fabulous Tampa Bay Hotel.

Because his vision for the hotel was so far beyond what anyone considered reasonable, he could not find any investors to partner with on the project and ended up footing the entire $2.5 million bill himself. He then kicked in another $500,000 to furnish the property after it was constructed.

After Plant's death, the city of Tampa continued operating the hotel for about 30 years before turning it into a museum and giving a significant portion of the grounds to the University of Tampa in 1933.

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With all of the history that went into creating the Tampa Bay Hotel, the building itself is worth the trip. However, the large portion of the first floor that acts as the Henry B. Plant Museum offers even more insight into what life might have been like at the hotel during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In addition to all of the artifacts that are part of the museum's permanent collection, there are also a number of temporary exhibits that make their way through the museum.

This year, visitors have the pleasure of viewing an exhibit dedicated to the dining experiences of the museum during its peak years. There are detailed explanations of the type of meals served, the required dress for those meals, and some of the unique dining customs of the time.

Dining Near the Museum

Spending a day at the Henry B. Plant Museum learning about what it was like to attend a fancy dinner in the early 1900s is a good way to work up an appetite. Luckily, there are quite a few excellent restaurants located right by the museum.

If the idea of learning about high-end dining gets you excited to experience your own fancy dinner, you will want to make a reservation at Mise En Place for the perfect conclusion to your trip to Tampa. This is one of the best restaurants in the city, and it just happens to be located near the museum. Just be sure to keep in mind they are closed Sunday and Monday.

For those looking for more casual dining, TamPiz has delicious pizza in a relaxed setting and is located nearby.

 

A 2minute walk from the museum is another historic building originally built in 1891 as the stable for the Tampa Bay Hotel.  It has gone through many transformations over the years and is now the home to the Oxford Exchange. 

 

 

 

It is a European-inspired space featuring a restaurant, bookstore, coffeehouse & shop with decor & gifts. 

 

Whether you are passionate about the history of Tampa or just looking for something different to do on a rainy day, the Henry B. Plant Museum is only 90 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills and offers over 100 years worth of local history, not to mention the fact that the building itself is stunning. Visiting the museum and having a great meal afterwards is just one more way to enjoy the fact that we are located so close to the city of Tampa.

Day Trip: Ybor City

Ybor City is a historic neighborhood located just northeast of downtown Tampa. Cigar manufacturers founded this amazing little community in the 1880s, and it has a rich history that combines Cuban, Spanish, and Italian influences into a culture that is truly unique. The neighborhood has maintained its sense of history over the years, and that is what makes just walking through this fabulous place so enjoyable.

Spending the day in Ybor City can take you in a number of different directions, but we highly recommend that each of those paths start out with a cafe con leche from one of the local Cuban coffee shops. After that, the choice is yours, but of course we have some suggestions.

The Ybor City Experience

Anyone interested in learning more about the rich history of Ybor City should make it a point to start their day at the Ybor City Museum. Located inside the historic Ferlita Bakery Building, this is where you will find an excellent base of knowledge about Ybor City.

Another must-see destination for history buffs is the Cigar Industry Walking Tour, which will start at the Ybor City Museum and take you through the neighborhood with a tour guide pointing out all of the historic buildings and explaining the role they played when cigar making was at the height of its popularity.

 

Anyone who is a fan of fine art will love spending time at the Hoffman Porges Gallery. The Ybor City Museum Society also runs regular tours that highlight some of the amazing architecture you will find throughout the community. 

The Ybor City Restaurant Scene

With the combination of culture that you will find in Ybor City, it is no surprise that this neighborhood is also known for having some of the best restaurants in all of Tampa.

The local icon here is the Columbia Restaurant, which is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Florida. Started in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant, this restaurant has been serving delicious Spanish and Cuban cuisine for more than 110 years!

 

 

Another favorite Ybor restaurant is La Terrazzo Restaurante Italiano, which focuses on serving Northern Italian classics. If you are craving a perfect Caprese Salad or Scaloppine al Marsala, this is the place you’’ll want to head to.

If you prefer something a little more casual, you might check out Al's Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que, the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, or The Bricks of Ybor. All are known for having excellent food and exceptional service.

The Ybor City Nightlife

Not only is Ybor City known for its history and dining, but the neighborhood is also famous for having an exciting nightlife scene where you can find all kinds of entertainment on just about any night of the week.

On any given night, there will be multiple venues offering a wide range of live music. There are also more formal shows like the Flamenco Show at the Columbia Restaurant, and if you are feeling adventurous you could also look into Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary's!

 

 

 

There are also plenty of restaurants that keep serving late into the night, so you are always going to be able to find something to eat in Ybor City!

No matter what type of adventure you are looking for, there is something for everyone in Ybor City. And since it is located just 85 minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills, it is the perfect distance for a day trip or an overnight excursion that can be planned on a whim any time you like!

Weekend Getaway: Port Charlotte

Located about halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Port Charlotte is the perfect Gulf Coast destination for residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills who are looking to venture a little further south than Tampa for their next getaway.

Traveling by car takes about three hours, which makes it just far enough away to feel like a vacation, but still close enough that you don't spend your whole weekend traveling.

Let's check out some of the best places to stay, things to do, and places to eat that you will find in Port Charlotte!

Places to Stay in Port Charlotte

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One of the biggest appeals about a weekend in Port Charlotte is that visitors have some amazing bed and breakfast accommodations to choose from. The Banana Bay Waterfront Motel is a local favorite that offers an Old Florida feel situated right on the bay. If renting kayaks and strolling along the docks is your idea of a relaxing weekend, this is a great location.

Another popular B&B is the Tropical Paradise Bed & Breakfast, where hosts Cliff and Joanne go out of their way to make sure that every detail is taken care of. Their home is located on a beautiful lot that features a covered pool and access to the canal.

If your preference is to stay at one of the chain hotels, there are also quite a few of those to pick from in Port Charlotte. One of the highest rated hotels in town is the Sleep Inn & Suites Port Charlotte, where you will find a gorgeous outdoor pool and all of the other amenities you would expect from a big brand hotel.

Things to Do in Port Charlotte

Once you iron out the details of where you are going to stay in Port Charlotte, the next step is to figure out exactly what you are going to be doing during your weekend getaway. For many people, that choice is as simple as enjoying the water…and there are a few different ways to do that in Port Charlotte. Depending on where you stay, you will likely have access to a number of water sports, fishing piers, and even some boating experiences.

Another relaxing way to enjoy the water in Port Charlotte is to spend a day at Port Charlotte Beach Park. Here you can stroll on the boardwalk, collect a wide range of shells, or jump right into the water! The park is also a perfect place to have an evening picnic while watching the sunset.

Since Port Charlotte is the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, many residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills plan their visits during the early spring months. However, Port Charlotte is also home to the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs, which is a minor-league affiliate of the Rays. That means that you can catch a game here throughout the summer, and minor league baseball games are always fun to see in person!

Places to Eat in Port Charlotte

Assuming that you are going to be staying at one of the local bed and breakfasts, you probably won't have to worry about finding a good spot for coffee and breakfast in the morning. But when the time for lunch rolls around, The Philadelphian should be the first local restaurant on your list. Here you will find authentic Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks that will absolutely blow your mind.

If you are thinking about heading over to Port Charlotte Beach Park for a sunset picnic but don't feel like packing dinner, grabbing a delicious pie from Pioneers Pizza is always a solid option. We recommend going with either the Formaggio or the Meat Lovers specials!

Every weekend getaway needs at least one fancy dinner, and the place for that in Port Charlotte is JD's Jazz Club & Fine Dining. Here you will find a first-class fine dining menu that is accompanied perfectly by live music and delicious cocktails. The only question here is whether you will get more enjoyment from the food or the music!

If you are looking for a great place to spend a relaxing weekend, Port Charlotte along the bay, is filled with waterfront activities and delicious dining.

 

Spring Training 2017 - 6 Teams to Watch Nearby

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

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

New York Yankees - Tampa

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

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

Toronto Blue Jays - Dunedin

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

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

Philadelphia Phillies - Clearwater

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

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

Detroit Tigers - Lakeland

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

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

Pittsburgh Pirates - Bradenton

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

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

Baltimore Orioles - Sarasota

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

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

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

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

5 Vacationers Club Trips You Won't Want to Miss

There is nothing like a good vacation to help you recharge your batteries and relax your mind. And whether you are looking for a short day trip or a long cruise, the Citrus Hills Vacationer’s Club is always working on something exciting that will fit your needs. They are currently planning five amazing trips for this spring that you definitely won’t want to miss! 

Valentine’s Cruise 

Looking for a special trip to take with your significant other this Valentine’s Day season? Well, the Vacationers Club has got you covered with a five-night cruise through the Western Caribbean. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas will depart from Tampa on Saturday, February 11 and then head for stops in Key West and Cozumel.

This amazing adventure will give you the opportunity to get away for the most romantic week of the year, and what could be more romantic than spending a day in Key West followed by a day in Mexico! 

Ringling Museum Day Trip 

Also, taking place on Saturday, February 11 will be the Vacationer’s Club day trip to Sarasota to visit The Ringling Circus Museum. This is the ultimate experience for anyone who grew up as a fan of the amazing Ringling Brothers circus.

If you have never been to the museum before, it is one of the most amazing tributes to the circus that you will find anywhere. The large estate houses an art museum, circus museum, the famous Ringling Mansion, and the historic Asolo Theater.  

Wicked Day Trip 

Another day trip this February is the trip to the Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa on Saturday, February 25 for a performance of Wicked. As one of the most popular and captivating musicals in recent years, Wicked is an amazing experience that you simply don’t want to miss.

Tickets for this trip are $155 per person, which includes a ticket to the show and round-trip transportation. There will also be a brief stop for lunch before the 2 pm show.

Three Days in Savannah 

As much as we love heading south and cruising around the Caribbean, it’s hard to ignore the amazing places like Savannah, Georgia that are just north of us. The Vacationer’s Club is planning a three day, two-night excursion to this beautiful and historic city from March 21 to March 23.

Tickets for this trip are $689 per person, and that includes two nights at the Staybridge Inn and Suites. Also included are two dinners, three breakfast meals, a trolley tour of Savannah’s Historic District, an evening show at the Savannah Theater, a tour of Tybee Island, a tour of the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum, and an optional tour of Bonaventure Cemetery.  

All-Inclusive Cruise to Cuba 

If a visit to Cuba has long been on your bucket list, March 24 is the date that you want to mark on your calendar. That is the date that the Vacationer’s Club will be embarking on a seven-night cruise to Cuba that leaves from Montego Bay, Jamaica. The ship will then be making stops in Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Punta Frances, and Cienfuegos.

There are inside and outside cabins available for this trip, with inside cabins priced at $2125 per person and outside cabins priced at $2285 per person. There are also balcony and suite cabins available upon request.  

Whether you are looking for a simple day trip to see a show in Tampa or you want to get on a cruise ship and sail the high seas, the Citrus Hills Vacationer’s Club has something interesting planned for you. Make sure you book your tickets soon so that you don’t miss out on these great opportunities. 

Stand Up Paddleboarding at Night

It’s no secret that stand up paddleboarding is quickly becoming one of the most popular water activities in the state of Florida and across the country. “SUPing”, as the early adopters who have fallen in love with the sport call it, offers the perfect combination of a low-stress workout and a sense of adventure and exploration in a relaxing environment.  

We’ve published a few pieces focused on the benefits that stand up paddleboarding can offer and some of the best local places to give it a shot. But this young sport is still evolving and there are new opportunities making use of these paddleboards every single day.  

Next Level Stand Up Paddleboarding 

If you have already experienced the calm feeling of floating through one of our local waterways on a paddleboard, you will probably see the natural connection to yoga and mediation. But many local tour companies have taken that connection a step further by offering yoga classes right out on those stand up paddleboards.

And since stand up paddleboard yoga wasn’t innovative enough for some people, there have also been a handful of companies that are attaching waterproof LED lights to the bottom of their boards at night, which has opened up a whole new paddleboard experience.  

The After Dark Experience

Taking your board out in the water during the day usually tends to be more about a great way to exercise than it is about having fun. But when you take that same board out at night, the fun level kicks up a notch and things start to get very interesting.  

First of all, when your paddleboard is throwing out a beam of light into the water surrounding it, you can’t help but notice that it closely resembles something that might have come from outer space. And when you get a group of these UFO-looking boards together, the effect is extremely beautiful.  

As you might expect, local fish think those LED lights are pretty interesting too. That means that your evening cruise is likely to be completely surrounded by all types of underwater friends. It’s not unusual to encounter small fish attracted to the lights, big fish attracted to the small fish, an octopus getting up close and personal with your board, and even more intimidating creatures like sharks and sting rays.  

Nearby Night Tours 

If you are the type of person who has already invested in your own stand up paddleboard, you can order your own set of LED lights to attach to the bottom of it and start exploring all of your favorite local spots at night.  

But if you prefer to try out stand up paddleboarding at night as a part of a group, John Sharrrk’s Paddle Adventures in Tampa is currently one of the closest options. Captain John takes out groups of paddleboarders for a 90-minute lighted tour that starts right at sundown.

You can get more information about pricing and book your trip right from his website.

www.sharrrkspaddle.com

Heading further south, another lighted stand up paddleboarding option is Hooked on SUP in Englewood, FL. They offer all kinds of unique SUP experiences, and their lighted tour is absolutely fantastic.

You can get more information about pricing and book your trip right from his website.

www.hookedonsup.com

This lighted SUP experience is also extremely popular throughout the Keys, so you can find plenty more options down that way if you are looking for an excuse to book a weekend getaway.  

Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills have already been quick to jump on the stand up paddleboard bandwagon. During the day, this experience offers a fantastic workout and a relaxing experience. But when you add in the lighted boards in an after dark experience, the fun level skyrockets and you will find the next level of enjoyment when it comes to stand up paddleboarding.