In the heart of Central Florida about 70 miles northwest from Orlando exists what is probably the biggest retirement community in the world, called The Villages. If you are looking for a place to live your retirement dreams, in this book you will find all the information you need to know about this wonderful opportunity. If you are currently a resident of The Villages this is the perfect information guide for you. Written by a 10 year resident, you’ll find it very enjoyable, upbeat, informative, and fun to read. Here you will find a detailed description of the day in the life of a Villager along with the history of The Villages, its layout, amenities, governing bodies media, town squares, recreation centers , parks, weather, employment opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and more. There are also chapters devoted to golf and other sports available and a look at the 2000 plus active clubs in this community. In addition you will find a plethora of information on entertainment and eating, health resources, lifelong learning opportunities, animal and plant life, and interesting day trips in Central Florida. This is truly a complete guide to one of the most interesting retirement communities in the world!
Below is a sample of this book:
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 -Introduction -A day in the life
Chapter 2 – Golf/Golf/More Golf and Other Sports
Chapter 3 – Clubs in the Villages
Chapter 4 – Eating and other Forms of Entertainment
Chapter 5- Florida’s Healthiest Hometown
Chapter 6 – Animal and Plant Life
Chapter 7- Day Trips/Rural Florida
Chapter 8- Closing Thoughts
In the heart of Central Florida about 70 miles northwest from Orlando exists what is probably the biggest retirement community in the world called The Villages. My wife Jean and I bought a home here in the fall of 2005. Although we still go back to family in Rochester, New York for a good part of the summer, we are permanent residents of Florida and consider this our own little “paradise,” It is a truly unique place unlike anything we’ve ever seen. When we decided we wanted to move to a warm climate we explored a few areas of Florida (mainly the Naples/Bonita Springs area), and on a trip back decided to drive up through Central Florida. We ended up stopping for lunch in Spanish Springs which was at that time the only downtown area of The Villages. I remember Jean looking at all the people happily driving around in their golf carts and saying, “These people are all so happy – they must be on something.”
A few months later we came back on one of the visitation packages for a week and decided that this was where we wanted to make our home. And, voila, here we are. They call this Florida’s Friendliest Home Town and it definitely lives up to its name. I’m writing this in part because it seems there is a lot of information lately that would have you believe that The Villages is a place full of sex-crazed old people popping Viagra pills and chasing each other around; and it is just not like that at all. It’s funny how fast a little saucy information travels. In reality The Villages is chocked full of some of the nicest people you could ever meet. Hardy a week goes by without news of several 50 or 60 year wedding anniversaries and Villagers continually go out of their way to help each other out. It is an incredibly caring community! The voter turnout here is at 80% – the average Villager cares deeply about their community and their country. And, the range of talent among the folks here is just incredible! Also, The Villages has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
The prevailing attitude is that of people who are here living out their retirement dreams. We sometimes refer to it as God’s Waiting Room. There are snowbirds (just come down for the winter months), snowflakes (just go back for the northern summers), heatbirds (can’t stand the heat and want to get out of the kitchen), and frogs (we are here till we croak). Some of the common sayings include, “It’s just nice to be above ground.” and, “It is what it is.”
My purpose here is to create a sort of operating manual for those who live in The Villages and also to give those who are currently contemplating retirement an idea of what this community offers. In the EBook version there are a generous number of website links so that you can bounce between reading the text and expanded information on the appropriate websites.
I sincerely hope you enjoy it and would love to hear from you anytime with any comments, additions, additional words of wisdom, etc. You can reach me at email@example.com.
The Village of Tall Trees
A Day in the Life of The Villages
History of The Villages
Let’s begin with a short history of The Villages which begin back in the 1970’s. Wikopedia has an excellent and complete history if you would like to get into more detail. In the early 70’s Harold Schwartz began development of a mobile home park called Orange Blossom Gardens in the northwest corner of Lake County. His stated goal from the beginning was to offer a millionaire’s lifestyle on a retirement budget. Free golf was a part of the early vision. By the early 80’s they had sold only about 400 units, and Mr. Schwartz decided to buy out his partner’s share and bring his son, H. Gary Morse, on board in 1983.
Building on what some successful retirement communities like Del Webb’s Sun City were doing by providing certain amenities to their residents as well as having diverse and nearby commercial development, Mr. Morse began to significantly upgrade the development. As sales improved through the 80’s, Schwartz began to buy large tracts of land in Marian and Sumter Counties. In 1992 it was officially named The Villages.
It has grown at a healthy and growing rate; and in the last few years, the growth has been phenomenal. The Villages now is one of the fastest growing communities in the United States (and probably the world). It spreads through 3 counties (Lake, Marion, and Sumter). Sumter county was once one the least developed and poorest counties in Florida and is now one of the most successful. At this point the property of the Villages covers over 32 square miles and some 23,000 acres. A recent purchase of land in the adjacent town of Fruitland Park has added to this. Baby boomers have contributed a great deal to the recent growth.
H. Gary Morse passed away in 2014, and his family have vowed to continue his legacy. The Morse family lives on 2,754 acres – 4.3 square miles off CR 466 in the heart of The Villages.
Layout of The Villages
Florida for the most part is as flat as a pancake. The Villages is about an hour northwest from Orlando’s airport and about 30 miles south of Ocala. Much of it is in what I would call ‘rolling hills country’ and much more scenic than other parts of the state. Its location in Central Florida allows access to either the ocean front or the gulf in a little over an hour. The nearest cities are Leesburg and Ocala which offer all the amenities that are usually found in small cities. But one could easily survive and thrive for the most part without ever leaving The Villages. And most everything you need is within golf car range. There are over 100 miles of golf trails and access to pretty much all the commercial amenities you’ll ever need.
The Villages covers 26,000 acres or 32 square miles in three counties, Lake, Marion, and Sumter. It is about 8.5 miles east to west and 15 miles north to south. Projected population in 2016 is 105,000. Here’s how the population has grown in the past few years:
· 1992 was 11,000
· 2000 was 21,000
· 2006 was 60,000
· 2010 was 80,000
· 2014 is about 100,000
· Annual growth is about 4,500
Need to go to the supermarket (Publix, Winn Dixie, Wal-Mart, Fresh Market are the main ones here)? Just jump in your golf cart with your grocery bag attachment and go for it. If you need to go to Target, Staples, CVS, Walgreens, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Beal’s or dozens of other stores, it’s same thing. And whatever your culinary desire might be there are dozens of restaurants within a short golf cart drive.
I’m sure there is no place in the world that has anywhere near the concentration of golf carts. Golf carts are the vehicle of choice for many residents. There are over 50,000 golf carts here, many of which are customized to owners’ specs. Yamaha, EZGo, ClubCar, ParCar, and Star are the common brands. There is almost no place you can’t get to in your cart as a resident. A series of golf cart trails include a number of tunnels to get you to all the shopping you will ever need. All the medical facilities you need are also golf cart accessible.
And I am sure there is no other place in the world with the number and variety of customized golf carts. There are ’57 Chevys, Mustangs, Escalades, Porsches, roadsters and lots of Yesteryear designs. There are some set up as fire trucks, UPS delivery trucks, police cars and more. There are even a couple of custom semis that are quite amazing, complete with twin stacks and dual tandem wheels. And in 2005 the Guinness Book of Records was set for the longest golf cart parade with 3391 carts!
The Villages has 3 downtown areas, Spanish Springs, Lake Sumter Landing, and the newest, Brownwood. Each of these squares has a variety of shops and restaurants and an entertainment area where there is music and dancing every night of the year from 5 – 9pm. And, of course, each has several libation centers which offer a happy hour at various times. Speaking of happy hour, most restaurants in the area offer happy hours, some which last all day. Villagers love their happy hours. Cheers!
Spanish Springs is the oldest downtown area. It is done in a Spanish motif which is quite attractive. Until recently one of the focal points was The Church on the Square. It functioned as a non-denominational church as well as a forum for some wonderful entertainment and was the most attractive structure there. Unfortunately someone had the idea to turn this into a performing arts center and build a monstrosity of a building that, in my opinion, has completely destroyed any appeal that Spanish Springs ever had.
Lake Sumter Landing was completed around 2005 and has somewhat of a Key West and New England appeal. It is a very busy area with some of the best shops and restaurants in the area. It is located adjacent to man-made Lake Sumter and affords great views and sunsets. Close to it is a place called Sunset Landing with a small golf cart park that is situated to give the best view of sunset. People gather there evenings to watch the sun set. We were there one night with an old Navy guy, and at sunset he went down to the water and played Taps. It was a tear jerking experience.
Brownwood is the latest which was just opened in 2013. It is designed as an old time Florida cattle town and is quite something to behold. The process of building Brownwood was truly amazing. New structures such as the three water towers were built, and then artists painted them to look like they were 100 years old.
Each of the squares has an entertainment pavilion as well as a multi-screen theater which is state of the art and very comfortable. There is entertainment every night of the year from 5-9 p.m. Special events such as St Patrick’s Day, October fest, Italian fest and others are celebrated seasonally. Each has a large and beautifully lit Christmas Tree during the holidays and a special tree lighting ceremony. Each Christmas there is also a special parade as well at the Polo Grounds.
One of the most interesting features of the squares is the cameras which are active 24 hours a day that can be accessed by anyone using the website, Villages Live Cameras. You can check to see how busy it is before you go there or perhaps invite your friends up north to check out your new pair of shorts as they huddle by their fireplaces.