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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.

Day Trip: 24 Hours in Cedar Key

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Located just over an hour northwest of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Cedar Key is a quaint beachfront community that fully embraces the "Old Florida" lifestyle. You won't find many chain stores or restaurants here, but you will find a unique little town that is always a fun place to visit.  

If you have been looking for a different destination for your next day trip, Cedar Key offers the perfect combination of close proximity to our community, unique atmosphere to enjoy, and plenty of fun things to do.  

Let's take a walk through what a perfect day trip to Cedar Key might look like for a resident here at the Villages of Citrus Hills.  

Morning Activity: Cedar Key Fishing Pier 

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After enjoying a beautiful drive up the Gulf Coast, you will find yourself pulling into Cedar Key at just about the perfect time for a morning stroll down the Cedar Key Fishing Pier.  

This trip is all about embracing the relaxing charm of "Old Florida." And that is exactly what you are going to feel as you kick back and relax watching the fishermen in action on the pier.  

If you are an angler, you might feel compelled to cast a line yourself, but you don't have to fish here to enjoy the sights.  

Lunch: 83 West 

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From the Cedar Key Fishing Pier, it is just a short walk over to one of the best lunches in town at 83 West. This unique restaurant offers two different experiences under one roof, but for lunch, we are going to focus on the more casual version downstairs.  

With everything from shrimp tacos and crab bites to smoked mullet dip and bourbon marinated gator kabobs on the menu, there is plenty of authentic local food to choose from.  

Afternoon Activity: Cedar Key Historical Society Museum 

After lunch, we are heading over to the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum to see the most popular tourist attraction in town. This friendly little museum does a great job telling the story of Cedar Key to anyone who might be interested.  

There are lots of local artifacts on display throughout the museum's self-guided tour, and at only $3 it is also one of the best deals in town as well.  

Dinner: Duncan's on the Gulf 

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When dinner time rolls around, we are heading back to the Cedar Key Fishing Pier for reservations at Duncan's on the Gulf. This hidden gem is known for handling all things seafood-related, but they also have a fantastic selection of steaks and pasta dishes.  

If this is your first time dining at Duncan's, you can feel comfortable choosing any of the specials that might sound interesting. But if that doesn't do the trick for you, there are plenty of great entrees in the Island Dinner section of their menu.  

After enjoying two fabulous meals and a couple of fun destinations in Cedar Key, you are probably going to be ready to get home as quickly as possible. Fortunately for you, the Villages of Citrus Hills is only a little over an hour away, so you will be back home before you know it!

 

Weekend Getaway: New Smyrna Beach

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

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

Places to Stay in New Smyrna Beach

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

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

Things to Do in New Smyrna Beach 

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

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

 

Places to Eat in New Smyrna 

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

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

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

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

Massive Expansion at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa

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There is nothing in the world quite like the thrill of a gaming experience done right, and thanks to a brand new $100 million expansion to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills can now treat themselves to an extraordinary experience any time they feel like making the 90-minute drive down to Tampa.

The massive expansion project at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa took about two years to complete, and it has improved the facility to the point where it can legitimately claim to offer one of the biggest and most luxurious gaming experiences in the entire world. And in true Hard Rock fashion, the grand opening included a ceremonial guitar smashing!

Let's take a closer look at some of the impressive new amenities you can find there!

Smoke-Free Gaming Expansion

The most significant addition to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino is the massive new gaming floor that is completely smoke-free. While many casinos offer limited non-smoking sections with older machines, this enormous space features over 800 of the newest and most popular slot machines, like Michael Jackson Icon, as well as five live-action blackjack tables.

The new smoke-free gaming floor also features convenient entrances and exits that are right next to valet and ride-share drop-offs, so you won't have any trouble finding the place. You can also enjoy a cocktail at the Video Poker Bar or watch the biggest game of the day on one of the 20 flat screen televisions throughout the smoke-free space.

State-of-the-Art Smoke-Free Poker Room

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Poker enthusiasts will be blown away by the look and feel of the brand new, 46-table poker room that offers Wi-Fi throughout, a sports bar, and more than 40 flat screen televisions. If poker is your thing, the new poker room just became your favorite place in the world. 

Smoke-Free Dining

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With seven different smoke-free dining options to choose from, finding a great meal at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino is never a difficult task. Visitors can dine at the new Council Oak Steak & Seafood, or head over to The Rez Grill, Hard Rock Cafe, Fresh Harvest Buffet, Rise Kitchen & Bakery, Rock 'N Raw, or Jubao Palace Noodle Bar. 

Smoke-Free Shopping

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 As if the new spaces at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino were not already impressive enough, the expansion also included some upgrades to smoke-free shopping destinations like the Hard Rock Store, Rock Shop, Rainmaker, and the Rock Spa & Salon. So, if you are looking for great shopping, you don't even have to leave the facility!

Residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills have known for years that the Seminole Hard Rock Casino was a fantastic destination for a quick day trip or a weekend getaway, but with the new upgrades and expansions, it has evolved into a must-see destination for just about everyone in the state of Florida.

Where else could you find a luxury casino and hotel on the level of a Las Vegas property only 90 minutes from home?

 

Visiting Dunedin: Craft Beer and Open-Air Markets

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To the average person, the little towns that exist along the Gulf Coast might look to be interchangeable. But to those of us who make a habit of visiting these towns regularly, each one has its own personality that has developed over the years. In Dunedin, that personality is built around an impressive lineup of craft breweries and a fabulous open-air farmers' market.

Located just west of Tampa and north of St. Petersburg, Dunedin is about an hour and a half away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. That makes it a perfect destination for a quick day trip, but there is also enough excitement here to turn that day trip into a weekend getaway if you like!

Touring the Dunedin Breweries

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With eight different breweries operating in Dunedin, there is never a shortage of fantastic craft beers to sample. And having that many breweries in such a small area has created a unique opportunity to participate in walking tours that visit multiple options on the same trip.

One of the most iconic choices is Dunedin Brewery, which was the very first microbrewery in all of Florida. There’s a lot of history to enjoy here, but the brewing equipment and the beer it produces all utilize modern technology to create an amazing variety of products.

Two others that should be on your brewery tour list are 7th Sun Brewing Company and Woodwright Brewing Company. 7th Sun is known for making killer IPAs and sour beers, and Woodwright is attached to a woodworking shop that has created just about everything in their tasting room.

In addition to these three breweries, visitors to Dunedin should also check out Cueni Brewing Co., Soggy Bottom Brewing, and Caledonia Brewing. Each offers a slightly different twist on tastings, tours, and taprooms, so make sure you plan to visit as many as possible. 

Dunedin Downtown Market

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Another popular reason to visit Dunedin is the weekly open-air market that is filled with more than 60 vendors selling everything from basic produce to fully cooked meals and everything in between.

The Dunedin Downtown Market takes place every Friday and Saturday from November through the end of May, and then just on Saturday through the end of June. It is located in Pioneer Park right at the corner of Main Street an Douglas Avenue in downtown Dunedin.

The Islands off of Dunedin

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On top of all the action you will find in downtown Dunedin, there are also two fabulous islands located just off the coast that offer some of the most pristine beaches in all of Florida.

Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park both offer stunning white sand beaches in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere that will take your breath away. The parks also provide plenty of choices for hiking, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and observing a wide range of wildlife.

The Dunedin Restaurant Scene

With all that there is to see and do in Dunedin, you are probably going to work up quite the appetite during your visit. Fortunately, the community is also home to a thriving restaurant scene that offers something special for just about every craving.

Three suggestions for a quick lunch are Lucky Lobster, Dunedin Fish Market & Olde Bay Cafe, and Happy's Bayou Bites. All three specialize in creating delicious seafood dishes with their own unique twists.

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If upscale dining is what your palate seeks, a reservation at The Black Pearl should be on your list. With Maple Glazed Pork Belly, White Truffle Lobster Risotto, and Twice Cooked Maple Leaf Duckling, the French and New American style menu here is a foodie's dream come true.

Combining outstanding food with stunning beaches, the excitement of the market, and the range of flavors coming out of the breweries, Dunedin offers a truly unique Florida experience.

 

The only question left to ask is when are you planning to visit?