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The Villages/Cape San Blas "Trip Report"
Old 09-25-2012, 03:11 PM   #1
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The Villages/Cape San Blas "Trip Report"

DH and I spent four nights at The Villages on their Lifestyle Preview Plan. For the last year or so, I had been interested in the whole idea and halfway expected to like it enough to seriously consider settling there. I had read Leisureville by Blechman. The author doesn't care much for the retirement community concept, but his experiences convinced me even more that DH and I might really like the place. I also lurked on Talk of the Villages forum.

...and there is a lot to like. The entire stay, I saw one piece of trash. The landscaping is beautiful (They change out the flowers four times a year in the round-abouts, etc.) The people we met were very friendly and all we spoke with love living there...11 years, 7 years, 2 months. The restaurant food is reasonably priced and the beer is cheap. On the Lifestyle visit, you stay within a 10 minute walk of Sumter Square. The restaurants near there all had inside and outside bars.

Most of the folks appeared to be in their 60's or 70's, but there are many in the 50's. As I had read, you will see a lot of active, healthy looking folks and a lot who aren't so much.

The Lifestyle visit meant $100 nite in a "cabana" - three bedrooms, two baths, washer and dryer, everything you need, including laundry detergent.
The salesperson assigned to us met with us two times. The first day he drove us all over the place, including the oldest Village. CR 466 divides the old part from the newer part (and CR 466A divides the newer part from the newest part). Along 466 there appeared to be any store you might need - Rite-Aid, CVS, Walgreen, Walmart, chain restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, you name it. All this is part of The Villages. The place is huge. The third day he showed us 6 or 7 model homes. No pressure, ever. He told us that The Villages have a very strict formula which works just fine and he would be immediately fired if a visitor claimed they had been pressured. We spent about 3 hours with him (1.5 hour each time) total.

Golf-carts everywhere. When you visit, they provide you with a cart that won't go over 15 mph. We drove to breakfast in it at one of the country clubs. Everybody else whizzed by us. There are golf cart tunnels you take under the busier roads.

On the squares there is music 365 nites a year from 5-9PM. We attended every night. The first two nights, the bands were pretty good, the second two, not so much. Guess what. They play all oldies. Happy Hour is 5-6 on the square. One of the photos i am posting shows one of the Happy Hour bars. There are four on each square. We attended karaoke in one of the restaurants Friday night. Not the karaoke we have in our town. I was singing Frank Sinatra songs for days.

What turned us off: The Morse family owns the radio station, newspaper, etc. The newspaper is totally slanted for one party, including letters to the editor. You obviously don't have to subscribe to the paper (one is provided each day during the Lifestyle Visit), but it bothered us. Some of the homes are big and gorgeous (no fences allowed) with nice-sized yards, breathtaking landscaping - think huge palms. The housing we would most likely go for would be the villas under $200,000. I wish i had taken a photo of a street of those. They are built lengthwise to the street and they are crammed in. They sell an average of 200 homes (new and pre-owned) a month through the Villages Sales Office.

View of movie theater and City Fire (outside bar) at Sumter Square

A happy hour station on Sumter Square. DH is feeling for his money, lol


Yankees and Red Sox carts. DH is huge Red Sox fan.

This has gone on way too long (and i am leaving out plenty of fascinating info, haha), but on return trip home we spent two nights at Cape San Blas. What a great place! The ocean side has great shelling. We kayaked on the bayside and saw hundreds of mullets jumping out of the water. At the end of the bay is Saint Joseph Peninsula State Park..truly beautiful. A couple at the breakfast table had been there the day before and saw dolphins. We hiked a few miles of walking trail before sitting on the beach on the ocean side. Very nice.

From back deck of bed and breakfast. This is cape side where we kayaked.

Glad we checked out The Villages. You almost have to see how these folks live to believe it, but it's not for us. Now, Cape San Blas, on the other hand....
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Old 09-25-2012, 03:45 PM   #2
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Interesting report. I guess I just get the feeling that it is too...I don't know, too "planned" for it to be the kind of place we'd want to settle. I like random people, of all ages, and perhaps some sketchy people too much to be able to handle homogenized settings.

I do wonder what those places are like, though, so I'm glad to read your report. And no thanks on the music! Ugh! I don't think my beloved Americana bands are going to be asked to play there anytime soon.
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Old 09-25-2012, 04:22 PM   #3
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There have been a few threads concerning the Villages. I have read a couple and may (for fun) visit one day in the distant future.

I wasn't even aware of The Villages until I was enlightened on this forum.

Update on our retirement in the villages FL

The Villages in Florida?

My visit to The Villages in Florida

The Villages?
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Old 09-25-2012, 04:31 PM   #4
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Thanks for the report! Very interesting.

Sometimes a very nice retirement location just doesn't "feel right" for some reason. Sounds like that was the case for you, with respect to the Villages. You were smart to go and stay there for a while, to find out first hand whether or not it is the place for you.
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Old 09-25-2012, 04:41 PM   #5
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It sounds like living at a Club Med, sans the French influence.
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Old 09-25-2012, 05:43 PM   #6
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The Villages are very dangerous.

Suddenly Senior -RAMPANT HERPES EXPOSES UPTIGHT SENIOR COMMUNITY “THE VILLAGES”
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Old 09-25-2012, 07:40 PM   #7
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Ohyes...You did a great job of describing the Villages.
We live about 15 miles south, in Leesburg. We've watched the villages grow, from Orange Blossom Gardens, the original 1000 mobile homes that spawned Morse's Villages...
Pretty hard to cover growth from a thousand homes in 1990, when we first looked to today's megalopolis... sheesh... three Walmarts and hundreds of stores. A far cry from the 7 or 8 small shops in the early years.
We go for the entertainment, art shows, polo matches and to watch things like model yacht racing...They even have professional bowling events... outside, in the village square.
We have many friends who have bought there. We've looked and found homes that are reasonably priced (about 25% more on average than most of the similar (much smaller) retirement complexes.
Last count, I think, there were 28 nine hole (executive) courses and 10 - 18 hole championship courses.
Back in 1990, they were still building the original town square "Spanish Springs" (Old Mexico) ... by 2000, they had added Sumter Landing (New England theme), and are in the process of building the third, "Brownwood"... (Old West). The complex covers 3 counties.
Big is a huge understatement.
It's hard to find current demographics on the Villages... Wikipedia is strangely very much out of date, and different websites give different numbers on overall size in acres, number of houses, number of citizens... (NO NON SENIORS) there are grammar schools and high schools.. but for the workers' children.
.................................................. ..........
Our reason for not living there? We're more comfortable with working class retirees... Our entertainment is in our own clubhouse... We don't like to dress up, and feel more comfortable with people we have come to know as neighbors... Fishing, Horseshoes, Shuffleboard, and many informal parties. (We know all 350 families in our own community) Shopping is not high on our list of things to do, and lunches and dinners out are once a week events, except for the many cookouts and pot lucks in our own park. We feel it's a little bit more up-class than we like, although the people are nice. It's the kind of place where your golf cart is a status symbol... a scaled down Mercedes or Model T @ $20+K... (up to over $50K) Yikes. The nice thing is the cost of food and entertainment...reasonable... but the boutique(y) fashion stores not so much.

My guess? For many members, The Villages will be a good place to be. Active mentally and physically. Never a moment of boredom, or a reason to go far beyond the borders. 1000+ groups and activities.

A MOST unusual form of government (explained in the "Liesureville" book). It's a bit like a separate country... laws, financing, voting etc. The Morse extended family runs the entire operation as if it were a private fiefdom, though most residents don't seem to mind. We don't retire to fight the government.

At 76, The Villages is more than we need today. If we had been a bit more certain about our retirement finances back in 1989 when we left the working world, we might well have chosen The Villages as it is today. Back then, it would have been a bit chancy.

So we'll continue to go some polo matches, or line dancing in one of the town squares, and take our up-north visitors for tours... ( a full day project).

I'll look at the previous cited links to other forums, (Post #3 MasterBlaster) but thought to give some top of the head thoughts, first.
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Old 09-25-2012, 07:50 PM   #8
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Nowadays, the Villages has more like 1800+ interest groups/clubs. I think i counted 9 Zumba groups alone in the directory. The salesguy told us there are 250 softball teams. He seemed anxious to show DH the softball fields. They are very impressive, but as we were driving up we saw an ambulance loading a guy. That was a downer.

After we returned home, i put in one of the Villages' zip codes (there are three zips) in the national sex offender registry. oh. my. There are plenty, though that may be true with any zip code.

Those folks are living a fun lifestyle for them. There are many positives.

I hope Crispus chimes in. A resident knows way more than our 4 day visit uncovered. As many have said about choosing a new retirement location, you need to try it out for several months.....and, i say, you gotta see this place to believe it!
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:52 PM   #9
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One of my friends lives in the Villages. I found it interesting but not my cup of tea . It was like living permanently in "The Truman Show ".
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:41 PM   #10
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Thanks for your insight. I would like to at least visit there someday. I am not sure if we would fit in or not.
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:49 AM   #11
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The Villages seems to get all the attention in Florida but you can get the same perks in most of the golf communities in Florida . The one thing I have found living in Florida is unless you live in a community with younger people mixed with the old it gets depressing.
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Old 09-26-2012, 11:01 AM   #12
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The one thing I have found living in Florida is unless you live in a community with younger people mixed with the old it gets depressing.
Yeah, there is nobody to yell at to get off your porch.
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Old 09-26-2012, 06:56 PM   #13
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Good report, My 95 year old dad has been living in PurgatoryCentral Florida for what seems to him like almost a century! I find it all rather depressing and was especially unhappy to hear that "mullets" are still in fashion there.
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:38 AM   #14
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I could never live anywhere with line dancing...
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:51 AM   #15
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I could never live anywhere with line dancing...
I'm with you, I don't know what's worse, the music or the dancing.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:29 AM   #16
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I could never live anywhere with line dancing...
Ah yes, the Electric Slide <shudder>...the demarcation between a reasonable wedding reception and pure redneck trash in my world.
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:06 PM   #17
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Thanks for the report. I would like to take the visit in about 10 years when I am in my late 50s. I would like to live in a place like that except on a smaller scale. I don't think the central Florida humidity would agree with me. The conservative slant wouldn't bother me as I am getting older and crankier. Now , the music... You figure in ten years the Sinatra fans would die out and it would be replaced with the "newer" old music of McCartney, Styx, Journey, etc.
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Solivita option
Old 09-28-2012, 04:01 AM   #18
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Solivita option

Thanks for your good report on The Villages. We are residents of Solivita...a somewhat similar community on a much smaller scale, much less congested, not the "total" domination by the family as you describe. We have friends who are very happy at The Villages. We much prefer the quiet of the electric golf carts vs. gas carts at the Villages. We "only" have 2 eighteen hole championship course, 14 pools, 2 rec centers, 3 food service establishments, etc. Again, a different feel and style....give it a look if you are serious about a comparison to The Villages.
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Old 09-28-2012, 09:39 AM   #19
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A question for Ohyes (op):
I just recently became aware of the existence of Cape San Blas, but have yet to visit.
Would like your advice on lodging and other items of interest you picked up on during your stay..We would probably be more inclined to hang out on the beach side. Thanks.
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Old 09-28-2012, 12:46 PM   #20
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The Villages seems to get all the attention in Florida but you can get the same perks in most of the golf communities in Florida . The one thing I have found living in Florida is unless you live in a community with younger people mixed with the old it gets depressing.

It is interesting how different people are. My DH and I live in an adult golf community in Davenport Fl, just outside of Orlando. We don't find it depressing at all. We are very grateful to not have young families as neighbors.
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