restaurants

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!

Fresh Air: Great Patio Seating in Citrus County

The summer months are right around the corner, but we don't have to wait for summer to enjoy a meal out on the patio here in Citrus County. Residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills enjoy great weather throughout the entire year, and we are always looking for great local restaurants with patio seating.

If you are looking for a new idea for a dinner that involves open-air dining, here are some of our favorite options in Citrus County.

Skyview Restaurant and The Tiki Bar 

No surprise here! Some of the best patio seating options can be found right here inside the Villages of Citrus Hills.

The lanai at Skyview Restaurant overlooking the 18th green of the Skyview course is a wonderful spot to relax with your favorite beverage, friends, and take in a breathtaking sunset.

 

And then there’s the Tiki Bar at The Grille, a resident favorite with live music, a great menu, and handcrafted drinks to satisfy any thirst. It's 4,500 square feet of fun with spectacular sunsets thrown in at no charge!

 

 

Peck's Old Port Cove

Any list featuring local restaurants with excellent outdoor seating in Citrus County has to include Peck's Old Port Cove. This popular spot has been serving up delicious seafood at the end of North Ozello Trail for years, and the stunning view from their patio never gets old.  In addition to the perks of dining on their patio, guests at Peck's also get to see some beautiful scenery as they make their way out to the restaurant. This makes the trip out feel like a vacation, even though it's not very far from home.

 

Stumpknockers Restaurant

Another local seafood restaurant that is also known for their waterfront view and outdoor seating is Stumpknockers Restaurant, located right on the banks of the Withlacoochee River.

This is a popular destination for tourists who are heading out on boat tours, but locals know that they also boast one of the most inviting outdoor seating areas in all of Citrus County. We recommend pulling up a chair next to one of their fire pits and enjoying your fried seafood next to the fire.

Vintage on 5th

When it's time to celebrate a special occasion, Vintage on 5th is one of the classiest options in all of Citrus County. But many people make the mistake of dining inside, rather than out on their porch.  The food is going to blow your mind no matter where you sit, but adding the excitement of eating outside takes the Vintage on 5th experience to an even higher level.

 

 

 

McLeod House Bistro

Another fine dining favorite in Citrus County is McLeod House Bistro, where you will find entrees like Boursin Raspberry Stuffed Chicken and Pan Seared Duck Breast with a Port Wine and Berry Sauce.  In addition to their fantastic food, McLeod House Bistro offers a romantic outdoor dining experience on their deck sitting under the stars.

 

 

Margarita Breeze

The place to be for a great sunset is this riverfront spot offering views of Kings Bay.  Keep your eyes open for a glimpse of the dolphins and manatees that play in the bay.  The casual outside seating includes a tiki bar and a large covered patio with a menu featuring fresh seafood, pasta and steaks.

Whether you are looking for the best views in Citrus County, some fantastic high-end dining options, or a quick bite to eat at a local picnic table, there are all kinds of restaurants with outdoor seating to choose from in Citrus County. The best way to decide which one is your favorite is to make sure to visit all of them!

Weekend Getaway - Marco Island

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

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

Places to Stay on Marco Island

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

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

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

Things to do on Marco Island

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

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

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

Places to Eat on Marco Island

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

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

 

 

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

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

5 Places to Take Your Holiday Guests in Citrus County

One of our favorite things about living in Citrus County is that there is an endless amount 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 

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 

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 

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 and with the beautiful forecast for the next week it will be the kind of experience that your visitors will be sure to tell everyone back home about! Kayaking or canoeing is another way to see the beautiful Rainbow River if the tubing is not of interest. 

2. Downtown Inverness 

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 

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?

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.  

sushi o logo.jpg

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

Zesty Edamame Salad

Zesty Edamame Salad

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

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

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

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

Fuji Asian Bistro, Homosassa 

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

Szechuan Snapper

Szechuan Snapper

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

Three More Options in Ocala

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

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

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

 

 

Enjoy!