Deep in Central Florida near Sumter County, you'll find The Villages, a master-planned community that's billed as "Florida's Friendliest Hometown." The Villages lies about 45 miles northwest of Orlando and 20 miles south of Ocala. The adult community was founded over 30 years ago and was envisioned as a friendly hometown community for active retirees.
This community is consistently ranked as one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States. It's composed of 17 Community Development Districts, which are overseen by a board of supervisors. Over 123,000 people live in the area, accounting for about 49,000 households, and over 56 percent of the population is over age 65. The average home price in The Villages is $248,000, and most new residents downsize to a home in The Villages that measures between 1,000 and 1,200 square feet.
In fact, Sumter County's population has the highest median age in the country, averaging age 67. The county also boasts the largest veteran population outside of a military base. Bottom line: If you're looking for a place to settle down in retirement and make friends of a similar age, you'll certainly find that an active and fun senior community awaits you at The Villages.
In 2018, Forbes named The Village to its list of 25 Best Places to Retire. The community is also consistently ranked among the nation's most popular active adult communities.
At the Villages, you can review a lifestyle portfolio that offers the best of your favorite activities and pursuits, including golf, shopping, dining, performing arts, social clubs, exercise, swimming, and socializing, all organized around old-fashioned town squares. A move to The Villages offers the promise of a retirement that's full of fun, relaxation, and Florida sunshine.
Life in The Villages, FL
The Villages comprises homes and villas inhabited by a mix of full-time and seasonal residents. From low-maintenance one- to three-bedroom patio homes, courtyard villas, and cottage homes to palatial verandas, designer homes, and premier homes featuring three and four bedrooms, you'll find homes of all styles, sizes, and price points in The Villages.
Whether you want a full-time retirement residence with a pool that's ready to entertain guests and family often or a snug yet contemporary waterfront home to enjoy a seasonal getaway, you'll have no trouble finding the right property in The Villages that's designed to fit your ideal retirement lifestyle.
One of the first things you might notice once you move to The Villages is the neighborly and sociable feeling. People are walking their dogs, clipping flowers, sitting on the front porch, reading the paper, gardening, walking, jogging, biking, and stopping to chat with neighbors.
Neighbors are coming and going, on their way to book clubs and meetings for social organizations, cheerleading clubs, lunch clubs, singles clubs, gardening clubs, alumni clubs, and even the Red Hat Society.
You can join an arts and crafts session or the Men's Basketball Club, or play a game of stickball, bunco, or bingo. Enjoy a movie night or a billiards session, participate in a fitness or swim class, learn about lapidary arts or glass working, or find your voice in a gospel or country music choir. If you're crafty or enjoy DIY, you can spend some time in the woodworking shop. Whatever your interest or curiosity, you can indulge your passion or embrace a new hobby at The Villages.
People are also coming and going seasonally as snowbirds fly down for the winter and others move into the neighborhood, bringing new energy with each arrival. When you move to The Villages, you're already in the club.
Jobs, Industry, and Economy in The Villages, FL
The Sumter County economy is booming. As baby boomers age and move into the area, there are plenty of opportunities for small-business owners, entertainment service providers, and restaurateurs to make their mark, though this success can mean that commercial space is scarce. Over 97 percent of commercial space in The Villages is occupied.
Most residents of The Villages communities are retired or are semi-permanent residents. Given the vibrant social life and activity scene in the area, you may be interested in exploring the hospitality job opportunities near The Villages. Whether you're an artist, tennis coach, dance instructor, nature expert, fitness class instructor, or day-camp counselor, there are plenty of opportunities for you to find your teaching niche in The Villages.
If you aren't inclined to start your own business but still want to look for work in the area, you'll likely have plenty of options. The Villages boasts the ninth-fastest-growing GDP in the United States. In just eight short years, the metropolitan area created over 13,800 jobs. The most popular occupations in The Villages are in retail, construction, and health care.
Education in The Villages, FL
Since The Villages doesn't have full-time residents under age 19, there aren't many elementary schools, middle schools, or high schools in the area, although some families do live in The Villages' three family-unit neighborhoods, which is an exception to that rule.
The Villages area in Marion County is zoned to Lake Weir High School. In Sumter County, The Villages' family unit neighborhood of Bison Valley is zoned to Wildwood Middle High School of Sumter District Schools. In Lake County, two family-unit neighborhoods of The Villages, Spring Arbor and Oak Meadows, are zoned to Lake County School's Leesburg High School. The Villages Charter Schools, which offers kindergarten to 12th-grade education, primarily serves the children of parents who work for The Villages or its subcontractors or children of people who own businesses within the borders of The Villages.
For The Villages residents, The Villages offers a Lifelong Learning College. The Enrichment Academy of The Villages offers noncredit course on diverse topics, including foreign languages, philosophy, technology, culinary arts, scuba diving, crafts, photography, and more. The Academy isn't tied to just one location. Rather, courses are offered at recreation locations throughout The Villages.
Other noncredit courses can be taken through the Sumter County Adult Community Education Center. Lake and Sumter county residents can also check out the adult education offerings at Lake-Sumter State College. Campuses include the South Lake Campus, the Sumter Campus, and the Leesburg Campus. Marion County residents can take courses at the College of Central Florida's several campuses.
Weather in The Villages, FL
The Villages enjoys a temperate climate through all seasons, though the summers can have sweltering temperatures. The best season in The Villages spans from October to April, when the weather turns milder. The hottest months are June, July, and August. The heat peaks with average temperatures in the low 90s in August. Humidity can make the temperature feel even higher throughout the year. If you're hoping to spend a lot of time on the golf course, you'll likely enjoy lots of beautiful, rain-free days from October through December. August is usually the rainiest month, on average.
Given the fine weather, any time is a good time to move to The Villages, though if you move in the fall, spring, or winter, you'll miss the worst of the heat.
History and Development of The Villages, FL
Before The Villages came to be known as such, its founders, Harold Schwartz and Al Tarrson, were selling central Florida land tracts by mail order. This practice was outlawed in 1968, forcing Schwartz to take a different approach. The partners grouped some of the remaining land into a mobile home development known as Orange Blossom Gardens. Schwartz eventually bought out Tarrson and decided to further enhance the property with upgraded amenities.
With a vision to create one of the largest and most vibrant adult communities in the country, Schwartz and his son H. Gary Morse moved to invest in more surrounding land and rebranded the community as The Villages in 1992. By this time, the community already boasted three golf courses, several restaurants, nightly entertainment, and a supermarket. Schwartz and Morse's descendants still control many aspects of The Villages' development.
That development has continued to the present day, as the Holding Company of the Villages has invested in a further 8,000 acres near Southern Oaks and Fenney. The company also plans to acquire 2,600 acres surrounding County Road 470 for future development of an additional 4,500 homes and related amenities. In the past few years, The Villages has ranked as the United States' top-selling master planned community, recording sales of over 2,100 homes.
Villages Neighborhood Associations, Regulations, and Fees
Each neighborhood within The Villages operates under a Declaration of Restrictions, which outlines the types of landscaping, repairs, and other sorts of exterior design and maintenance considerations. The Villages' cohesive aesthetic is maintained and monitored by an Architectural Review Committee. Any alterations to properties and homes must be approved by the committee. Its members serve for three years and are selected by the sitting committee members.
At least 80 percent of the homes within The Villages are required to house residents of age 55 and older. This ensures that the development remains in compliance with the Housing for Older Persons Act. Because of this rule, family and friends under age 19 are not permitted to stay or visit for longer than 30 days unless the residents live in the three The Villages subdivisions that are designated as family units.
Residents of the Village Center Community Development District (VCCDD) in Marion, Lake, and Sumter counties receive water and sewer utility services. The VCCDD also offers protection to residents with security and paramedic services, funded via monthly resident fees. Sumter Landing, Brownwood, and North Sumter county districts provide similar services to residents.
Neighborhoods and Suburbs in The Villages, FL
The Villages is such a vast place that the communities are in several counties and encompass many different neighborhoods.
The Villages of Lake County include:
- Country Club.
- Valle Verde.
- La Reynalda.
- Mira Mesa.
- Orange Blossom.
- Silver Lake.
- Del Mar.
- La Zamore.
- El Cortez.
The Villages of Marion County include:
- Briar Meadow.
- Calumet Grove.
North of 466, The Villages of Sumter County include:
- De Allende.
- Rio Ranchero.
- Palo Alto.
- Rio Grande.
- De La Vista.
- Tierra Del Sol.
- Santo Domingo.
- Polo Ridge.
- Rio Ponderosa.
- Belle Aire.
South of 466, The Villages of Sumter County include:
- Bridgeport at Lake Miona.
- Mallory Square.
- Bridgeport at Lake Shore Cottages.
- Virginia Trace.
- Bridgeport at Creekside Landing.
- St. James.
- Bridgeport at Mission Hills.
- Liberty Park.
- Sunset Pointe.
- Bridgeport at Miona Shores.
- Sabal Chase.
- Tamarind Grove.
- Bridgeport at Lake Sumter.
- Tall Trees.
- St. Charles.
- Bridgeport at Laurel Valley.
Where you choose to live within The Villages depends on how you'd like to spend your time and whether you'd like to be close to certain amenities. Here are a few standout neighborhoods that will appeal to a variety of people:
- The Village of Pennecamp is close to Lake Miona and the shopping, dining, and nightly entertainment found at Lake Sumter Landing, not to mention many popular local golf courses.
- Green Briar Meadow in the Village of Briar Meadow is perfect for avid golfers, as it contains the executive-level Nancy Lopez Golf Course.
- The Village of Duval is equidistant from all three of The Villages' town squares of Spanish Spring, Paddock Square, and Lake Sumter Landing. Duval is also adjacent to three community pools and the Seabreeze Regional Recreation Center.
- Orange Blossom Gardens in Lady Lake puts you close to a pool, a country club, and the nearby Spanish Springs town square. The swimming pool is also The Villages' only pool with a fountain.
Navigating The Villages, FL
To the east of The Villages lie U.S. 27 and U.S. 441. U.S. 301 lies to the west. County Road 42 hems the community in to the north and County Road 468 runs far south near the new villages of Fenney and the Brownwood town center. The main east-west corridors are County Road 466 and County Road 466A. To navigate north-south, the locals use Morse Boulevard and Buena Vista Boulevard.
You can also get around using The Villages shuttle, operated by Sumter County Transit. This shuttle runs on a loop throughout The Villages on weekdays. A trolley-like tour bus also serves visitors and embarks from the sales and information center at The Market Square in Lake Sumter Landing. If you need to access Amtrak, you can connect via bus to Jacksonville and Lakeland.
In 2018, The Villages piloted a unique autonomous taxi program near Lake Sumter Landing using Ford Fusion Hybrid taxis, making it the first community in the country to offer such an autonomous taxi program.
Outdoor and Sport Activities in The Villages, FL
One of The Villages' most appealing aspects is its natural beauty. The Sharon Rose Weichens Preserve offers serenity along a boardwalk trail through some of the area's most beautiful flora, and the Hogeye Preserve Pathway, a 2.5-mile loop trail that frames the Hogeye Preserve, is a favorite spot for birders and those who enjoy the calming influence of natural beauty. Villagers can also spend the afternoon fishing the stocked lake. You don't even need to bring your rod and reel, because The Villages has fishing poles at the ready.
Cattail Recreation Area offers a resort-style family pool, cornhole boards, pickleball, bocce, and shuffleboard courts; and the opportunity to enjoy food truck fare in the summer below the tall live oak trees found throughout the recreation area. Villagers also get to enjoy complimentary golf play for life on several executive courses and free membership to Championship Country Clubs.
The Villages operates 50 golf courses. Out of these, 38 are nine-hole executive golf courses. The other 12 courses are country club championship courses. There are no greens fees to play the executive courses. The country club championship courses are either 18-hole or 27-hole layouts. Some are designed by premier course architects such as Nancy Lopez and Arnold Palmer. For these courses, some fees apply for course play at peak tee times.
The value of unlimited free golfing any time you wish is hard to overstate. Even if your golf game isn't perfect, with these perks, you have time to perfect your strokes, especially with some tips from The Villages' golf academy pros. You can get in lots of practice time at The Marsh View Pitch and Putt. This par-3 course, which is shorter than the typical championship course, lets golfers get in an 18-hole round in under 90 minutes.
The Villages, FL: Coming Attractions
The Villages has also welcomed an additional new attraction as of 2019. The Everglades Recreation Complex is designed to be a hub for the residents, offering ample space for diverse activities, from softball and soccer fields to the new radio-controlled car track and RC boat launch on the Everglades pond. Other recent additions include The Villages Polo Stadium.
If you'd like to visit The Villages, whether to pick out your new home or are expecting out of town guests to visit you in your new place, you can check into the new Brownwood Hotel and Spa, set to officially launch in spring 2020. These convenient accommodations are located near the Brownwood Paddock Square. The Brownwood Hotel and Spa will also serve locals with pampering massages or medi-spa treatment.
The Brownwood Hotel will also be home to a new Wolfgang Puck Restaurant, a California-inspired American bar and grill. The venue is a testament to The Villages' growth and vitality and ever-changing entertainments and amenities.
Health and Wellness in The Villages, FL
The Villages is a unique community that's very much oriented around health and wellness. In addition to the walking trails and fitness classes, there are also numerous health care facilities located throughout The Villages, including The Villages Healthcare Centers, a VA outpatient clinic, senior living facilities, The Villages Regional Hospital, pharmacies, and a long-term acute care hospital.
These facilities are so convenient that you can ride there in a golf cart — no car required. Visit the Regional Recreation Centers to stay trim and fit between checkups. You can get a good workout with the modern fitness equipment.
Shopping in The Villages, FL
If shopping is a sport, Villagers have perfected it. The streets and town centers of The Villages are lined with boutiques and clothing stores, from well-loved national chains to charming locally owned establishments.
Spend a day browsing at The Villages retail shops such as Chico's, Van Heusen, Joseph A. Bank, Maidenform, The Rug Gallery, SAS Comfort Shoes, Tommy Bahama, and more. There are financial services centers, nail and hair salons, bicycle shops, jewelers, and more. If you need refreshments along the way, you can enjoy a draft at the World of Beer, get a coffee at Dunkin Donuts, grab a sandwich at McAlister's Deli, or enjoy a burger at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
You'll also find that household necessities are nearby, including grocery and hardware stores. Beyond the town centers, there's also lots of great shopping to be had at the neighborhood retail plazas and nearby shopping centers.
The Villages area grocery stores include three Winn-Dixie outposts, seven Publix locations, The Fresh Market, and a Walmart Neighborhood Market. You can also pick up groceries and other sundries at Target or the Walmart Supercenter.
Dining in The Villages, FL
Abundant brunch, lunch, and fine dining options are in The Villages, located in and around three town squares. You can also enjoy an elegant and exclusive dining experience at one of 12 country clubs. In fact, over 200 restaurants are near The Villages. Cuisines range from exotic fare to American favorites and from casual dining to reservations-only establishments. Check out some of these popular area restaurants:
- Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille is a favorite neighborhood spot for seafood and sushi. Opt for the catch of the day if you're looking for something fresh and special. Portions are large at the Lighthouse. This popular restaurant also offers an unparalleled waterfront view.
- The Angler's Club also serves up tasty seafood with upscale American flair. This member's-only dining experience offers a seasonal menu and nightly specials, best enjoyed from the restaurant porch overlooking the lake.
- Check out the Bluefin Grill and Bar for fusion food such as wagyu beef, creme brulee, ahi tuna, and coconut haddock. Whatever you try, it's sure to be good. You can also drop in for cocktails at the outdoor bar.
- Asian food lovers must check out Bowlbar, which serves up Eastern-inspired favorites from ramen to poke bowls. You can sip on kombucha and dig into a hearty salad, too.
- Enjoy a big bowl of pho noodles at Pho SaiGon, the area's new Vietnamese spot. Summer rolls, shrimp rice vermicelli, and veggie fry noodles are also popular fresh and flavorful dishes.
- Some of the best Thai fare around can be found at Thai Ruby in Lady Lake, Florida. Enjoy staple curry dishes with a Thai tea, and be sure to finish your meal with banana coins for dessert.
- Florida is technically a Southern state, after all, so don't be surprised at the incredible Southern cuisine you'll discover at Miz Kathi's Cotillion Cafe and Sweetery. From the homemade coleslaw, fried green tomatoes, and cheese grits to the catfish and meatloaf, every dish on the menu is a winner, and the charming down-home parlor style interior just adds to the charm.
- Treat yourself or a date to oysters on the half shell at O'Shucks! Oyster Bar and Grill in Wildwood. This bar and restaurant is a local favorite, so you can expect a line, but the tasty oysters, shrimp cocktails, cocktails, and wings are worth the wait. If you're not an oyster lover, you'll still find lots of other great menu items, especially on Fish Fry Fridays.
- Barbecue lovers will find juicy pulled pork, pork ribs, and delicious beef brisket at Artman Country Smokehouse. Don't fill up completely on the juicy, slow-smoked meat, though, because you'll need room for the incredible side dishes, such as corn casserole, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread, to name just a few.
- If you're looking for a romantic dinner, look no further than The Rose Plantation. This upscale, plantation style restaurant establishment serves up outstanding dishes with a side of elegant ambiance, starting with the rose garden out front. Try the mushroom bisque, the salmon salad, or a fine steak. Be sure to look your best, as the restaurant's dress code for dinner calls for business casual to semi-formal.
- If you're in the mood for steak in a more casual environment, the Havana Country Club Restaurant will delight everyone in your party with classic entrees such as steak, lobster, pasta, fish, and salads. It also boasts a contemporary-style outdoor patio space that's ideal for sipping a glass of wine and enjoying a fine meal al fresco in the mild Florida night air.
Things to Do in and Around The Villages
You certainly won't be bored living in The Villages. Each night, you can head to one of The Villages town squares from 5 to 9 p.m. to catch free live entertainment, from comedians and musicians to theatrical performances. Other popular entertainment venues include the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, which seats 1,000 people, as well as the Savannah Center and Katie Belle's. For intimate acts in a 100-seat black box theater, visit the new Studio Tierra Del Sol.
Wander into one of the area country clubs, restaurants, or bars for Happy Hour, and you may be delighted by an impromptu performance. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes, because the dance bands of The Villages are renowned for their energetic entertainment.
Each town square also features multi-screen movie theaters, including The Rialto Theatre in Spanish Springs Town Square, the Barnstorm Theater in Brownwood Paddock Square, and the Old Mill Playhouse in Market Square at Lake Sumter Landing. Each offers delightful amenities including soft drinks, popcorn, and candy.
If you're wondering what's happening in The Villages at any given time, turn on the television and check out the latest news from The Villages News Network on the local Comcast cable channel. You can also subscribe to The Villages Daily Sun, which boasts a paid circulation of over 43,000. The Property Owners' Association bulletin is also delivered monthly. Tune your radio to the Fox News Radio affiliate WVLG AM 640 or visit Villages-News.com.
When you live in The Villages, you'll be surrounded by entertainment options at the neighboring restaurants, bars, recreation centers, and town squares. Residents can also take a short day trip to nearby sites such as Disney World or the beach. Each lies just an hour's drive away.
Annual Events in The Villages, FL
A multitude of things are happening day in and day out in The Villages as residents gather for concerts, performances, club activities, and much more. Above and beyond those ongoing activities, The Villages also plays host to many annual festivals and recurring events, including:
- Every year, The Villages residents and their families look forward to summer camp season and Camp Villages. This unique intergenerational camp format brings everyone together to make memories with activities geared for a variety of ages, from the youngest grandchildren to teens and grandparents. You can get your heart racing with a Zumba session, go kayaking, do crafts, cook, play games, and more.
- In late February, the Spanish Springs Town Square hosts its Art and Craft Festival. Residents and visitors look forward to shopping for a variety of artisanal paintings, leather goods, photos, glasswork, and more, all of which are handmade by artisans in the U.S. Admission is free.
- Spring polo matches take place on Fridays and Saturdays from March through May at The Villages Polo Club, where you can also have brunch.
- April sees the return of the Brownwood Paddock Square Art and Craft Festival.
- The Villages Balloon Festival will take place at The Villages Polo Club in May 2019 and is intended to become an annual event.
- The Villages Cruise-In in late May is another favorite attraction.
- July brings an Independence Day celebration.
- Golfers always look forward to the annual Villages Shrine Club Charity Golf Tournament in mid-May.
- Come late September, it's once again time for the annual Pinellas Plaza Craft Festival.
- The holiday season, of course, brings its own slate of festive events, from spooky Halloween functions to Thanksgiving gatherings, Hanukkah holiday celebrations, Christmas spectaculars, and New Year's Eve get-togethers.
Whether you're hoping for a peaceful retirement community in sunny Florida or an exciting and adventurous community of active adults, you'll find your niche in The Villages, the United States' most desirable 55+ adult community.