Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Village Vacation: Part 1 - Life with the Village People

The family vacation continues!  We are now at the Villages.  America's self-proclaimed friendliest hometown.

It's an over 55 retirement community in central Florida.  It has a population of approximately 86,000 residents and covers over 30 square miles in 3 counties.  It's still growing!  They sell 200 new homes every month!!  It's expected to be complete in or around 2017 at 55,000 homes and 110,000 residents.  It's a brilliantly and beautifully laid out gated community of sub-communities or villages.  My parents have lived here for about 10 years.  They love it.  They came down for a few days to check it out and drank the kool-aid.  Next thing I knew, I lost my babysitters and they moved here.  Who can blame them?  The place is pretty cool.

It is a golf car (yes car, not cart around here, and some are street legal!) community, although you can travel conventionally in an actual car, too.  Golf cars travel on lovely cart paths throughout the Village but one can also go to the supermarket, Target, the bank the doctor/hospital or a plethora of restaurants in and around the Village as well.  My son thinks it's wicked cool to go to Chili's in the golf car!  My oldest is old enough to drive the golf car this year, at 14.  AHHHHHHHH!   Oh, by the way, they hold the Guinness Record (or was it Ripley's Believe it or not?) for the longest golf car line/train here at the Village.  No one in my immediate vicinity seems to be able to remember how long it was, even though they were part of it.

There are a lot of 'senior moments' here, too.  :-)

One of the first things you notice is that most people really are friendly.  They wave to everyone.  They are quick to say hello or offer advice or a hand.  Some will talk your ear off if you get into a conversation with them!  Many have small dogs that they walk early in the morning and that ride around in the golf cars.  They make for friendly conversation, too.

The second thing you notice is that they golf.  A LOT!  It's one of the prime reasons many people choose to live here.  There are currently 11 championship courses of varying difficulty, some designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez (2 with 18 holes and 9 with 27 holes) and 32 executive courses (9 holes) and of course, 4 driving ranges.  They have a computerized system for tee times.  They have an ambassador who roams the courses to be sure everyone has paid and the only golf cars on the course are the ones who belong to the players.

The Village people love to socialize, eat, shop and dance!  There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of clubs including the paranormal society, the village idiots (my personal favorite), bridge and other card games, the happy stitchers, the Village twirlers, musical groups, sports clubs and dance clubs.  There are lessons for everything, even a lifelong learning college!  It's a pretty active community.  Every Village has a recreation center and pool.  Some have family pools for when the grandkids visit.  There are adult (over 30 yrs old) pools and there are sport pools.  It's not unusual for their to be a party at the pool, complete with DJ and games!

Guests are welcome but must have a Village ID and are limited to a certain extent as to when and where they can go in the village.  No one under 55 can purchase a home, and no one under 55 can stay more than 30 days unless they are over 30 (like an adult child moving in with a parent who lives here).  This is how they keep children and grandchildren from overstaying their welcome and preserving the retirement community lifestyle.  In the summer, there is 'Camp Villages', activities designed for grandparents and their grandchildren to participate in together.  My boys participated in a golf car scavenger hunt and my eldest in a teen table tennis clinic this year and had a blast.

There are numerous country clubs and restaurants and the food is excellent.  There are also 3 'town squares', Spanish Springs, Sumter Landing and Paddock Square.  All very specifically themed with a movie theater, restaurants and shops.  There is entertainment at these squares every single night.  Golf cars park among the regular cars.  People bring their chairs, their dogs, their dancing sneakers and enthusiastically participate in 2 for 1 happy hour at the drink shacks!  The entertainment is free and it's good!  There are live bands or DJ's and dancing on the square every single night.  These people love to dance!  Line dancing is all the rage, but more traditional dancing is also quite popular.  We participated in a version of the electric slide to "Mustang Sally" last night and the dance floor was packed!  Did you know the Villagers hold the Guinness Book of World Records record for the most people doing the electric slide at once?  Over 5000!  On the Polo field.  Oh, yeah. They have a polo field, too.

I enjoy the wildlife, of course.  There is an abundance of birds, turtles and the occasional alligator.  My mother's cat enjoys sitting out on the lanai and stalking the little geckos, birds and squirrels.  There is something for everyone here.

After the whirlwind of Disney, it was nice to come here to relax a bit.  We can be as busy or as relaxed as we want.  So far there has been a fair amount of pool time, lots of golf car rides and visits to the square, I've been on a few really hot and humid runs (I don't know how people run in this oppressive humidity all the time!), the boys took in a movie, we've sampled several restaurants, we've danced and enjoyed the entertainment, and we've sat around and relaxed, enjoying time with my family.  A rousing game of hand and foot ensued.  It's a rummy like card game and it's big down here.

Ah, the life of the Village they say, every day is a beautiful day at the Villages!


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