The Best Time To Visit The Villages

A reader writes in with a great question recently:

My wife and me are considering visiting the Villages for a Lifestyle Preview Plan. She wants to schedule sometime in the summer months. I feel we should schedule during the peak winter months since that is the time when all the snowbirds are there and we can get a better feel of all the activities and also see how crowded it is. What is your opinion? Thank You.

This reader is correct in that doing a Lifestyle Preview during the peak winter months will give them the best idea of how crowded The Villages can be. Keep in mind, that “crowded” is a relative term. What’s crowded to me or you may not be crowded to someone from a big city.

Another reader wrote in recently about his experience on the Lifestyle Preview during the winter months. It turns out it was “eye-opening” and “off-putting” experience.

Here’s his email:

Thanks for the very timely link to “50 Questions Future Villagers Should Ask.” A lot of the points made by the author were evident to my wife and I during our lifestyle preview stay at The Villages last week. Our preview stay was our first-ever exposure to The Villages. We deliberately scheduled our visit for the busy winter season so that we would experience TV at its peak capacity.

Needless to say we were both overwhelmed, both positively and negatively! On the plus side TV certainly lives up to its reputation for endless activities, recreation, entertainment, golf, and opportunities for socializing. Everything we saw was beautifully presented and well-maintained, more so than we expected (not quite up to Disney World standards, but close!). We knew TV would be expansive and very spread out, an expectation that was more than met shortly after we “landed” at the Lake Sumter area sales office. Since our visit I’ve learned TV encompasses 40+ square miles, which is about the size of three average communities here in Massachusetts!

On the negative side we were very disappointed in the amount of congestion: vehicular traffic, golf cart traffic, and people crowds, especially in the two squares. The density of housing was a huge turn-off. At one point my wife looked down a street near some model homes we were touring and remarked how the “cookie cutter” similarity of the homes looked like “army barracks.” (Having spent four years in the army I sadly had to agree.) Unless one pays big bucks for a so-called “premium” lot, you don’t have a chance to escape fellow Villagers by retreating to your house. We saw house after house after house that backed up to one or more other houses with neighbors staring at each other from their respective lanais. Even the larger lots didn’t completely eliminate this problem…

From our pre-trip research we knew The Villages would be at peak “busy-ness” this time of the year, but we still weren’t quite prepared for what we encountered. Most disappointing was the consistently high volume of golf cart traffic, especially near the town squares. Our lifestyle preview included a golf cart that was governed to not exceed 12MPH. What a joke! Golf carts were tailgating us and passing us left and right the entire week. It seems that many Villagers have not lost their terribly rude and aggressive northern driving habits. Typically, the drivers and passengers in the golf carts who passed us looked straight ahead with stern expressions on their faces. Guess they forgot they were once new to The Villages, too, and likely had the unfortunate experience of driving a woefully underpowered golf cart!

The notion of new Villagers getting rid of one or all vehicles and relying solely on golf carts for transportation struck us as completely ludicrous. We quickly learned that any journey of more than 3-4 miles each way, especially for shopping, is best done by auto — using a golf cart for longer trips is much too time consuming, harrowing, and very inconvenient with all of the switch backs through tunnels and the endless loops around village gate houses to avoid the many roundabouts. Further, the congestion will continue to worsen as TV approaches its planned max population of 105,000 (currently 81,000) sometime in 2017. That increase translates into 30% more golf carts, autos, and people in a footprint not much larger than today’s! Upon checking out on our last day the sales center host mentioned his daily commute from the northern edge of TV is 7+ miles each way and takes him 25+ minutes (each way) in his golf cart. As we say up north, holy #$%!

On a more positive note the roundabouts (we call them “rotaries” in Mass) were well-designed and actually contributed to a rather smooth flow of the consistently heavy auto traffic we encountered. Good thing, because traffic tie-ups with traffic lights in place of the roundabouts would cause daily gridlock throughout The Villages.

Bottom line, The Villages is not for us — it’s a great place to visit and re-visit, but not a place we would want for our year-round home. We enjoy Disney World, too, in spite of its crowds, but certainly wouldn’t want to live there! We have enough neighborhood congestion and vehicular stress on the roadways of Massachusetts — we certainly don’t want to replicate all of that in retirement. It seems to us The Villages is very appealing to golfers, pickle ball players, and anyone who enjoys and needs continuous access to an endless stream of organized clubs and activities. Clearly, activities and socializing are the primary focal points of TV, while personal homes and yards are very much secondary or even less important. For the golf/social “junkies” who don’t mind living in an egg create or sardine can, that’s fine. For us, not so much.

So our search continues, both in Florida and up into the Carolinas. Keep the informative newsletters and interviews coming – we’ll continue to enjoy them even though TV is officially off our list of potential full-time retirement destinations.

p.s. We saw a cute sign in a vendor’s tent at Lake Sumter Landing during happy hour one evening: “The Villages is a drinking community with a golf cart problem.” You’ve probably heard this expression before; it neatly summed up a lot of what we experienced in one (semi) tongue-in-cheek sentence. :)

So there is one person’s take on visiting The Villages during the winter months. As I mentioned above everybody has different tastes and likes/dislikes. Try to take everything you read or hear about The Villages with a grain of salt before you experience it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. With 80,000+ (mostly) happy residents, The Villages is paradise to a lot of people. Maybe even you.

He did write back and say that they intend to be future renters, but not full-time and not during the peak winter season.

I believe that the best time to visit The Villages will depend on your goal. If your objective is to see it at its peak, then schedule a visit during the winter. But if your visit is just as much for relaxation as it is exploration, then avoid the winter season.

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Comments

  1. Dick & Sandra Gibson says:

    There is much truth contained in the above comment, “The Villages is very appealing to golfers, pickle ball players, and anyone who enjoys and needs continuous access to an endless stream of organized clubs and activities.”

    When we visited during the third week of February, it appeared that people *had* to be doing *something*– almost to the point of being obsessive about it. Since I write, and neither of us is into golf and the like, it struck us as being a tad over the top. It may be that living abroad since 1988 has altered our view of how our senior years should be structured. We tend to be private people, are happy with that, and it’s unlikely we’ll change much in the years ahead. That said, we’ll return in July to continue our fact-finding, and to form a second opinion . . . if one is to be had.

  2. Beverly Marz says:

    Was sorry to read the comments from the man from Mass. As you have stated, The Villages are very busy during the winter months, but it is no different then what we put up with on the great lakes. South Haven MI for example in the summer months. The noise, roads, and shopping centers are packed with people who want to enjoy the sun and fun of Michigan big lakes. This all happens within a three to four month period. The rest of the time it is a wonderful place to reside.

    I for one love The Villages as I can drive my golf cart anywhere I want and not have to deal with the traffic on the roads. All those tunnels make for an easy way to access shopping, eating, even going to the hospital for rehab, and where else can you park your golf cart right in front of the theatres. Yes it may be more difficult to get tee times in the winter, but for 8 months out of the year the place belongs to The Villagers.

    Yes, I agree, people used to be more friendly. You couldn’t pass a golf cart without a wave from the other people, and you can still see the older residence who have done that for years, but you won’t find a better crowd of people that live in The Villages. If you lose something, not to fear, someone will hunt you down and return if they possibly can, I know from experience.

    All my friends who visit me, I’m a renter for three months, cannot believe how much fun you can have and then escape to you home and it be so quiet. Yes, The Villagers are not for everyone, but you will look long and far to find a community that offers so many choices to an aging group of people. By the way, I see more older people holding hands walking around the squares, dancing like there is no tomorrow. I look at a group of individuals who are acting younger and not having anyone judge them for it!! I’m not a babyboomer, but I am 71 years old and love everything The Villages offers even if I can’t or don’t take part in it.

    My nephew ask his mother “why don’t they have a place like The Villages for us younger people”, he is 27.

  3. oldnassau says:

    Kudos to both
    (a) the letter-writer for his detailed, well-argued, and balanced evaluation of TV
    (b) the VFB for publishing an article that shows TV, warts, beauty spots, and all – not the usual and expected airbrushed and gushing presentation of a retirement community.

  4. I have rented a house for next January, right in the thick of things. How hard is it to book tee times and how long in advance can you book them. Thanks Tim F.

  5. We have been coming to The Villages for 10 years, mostly during Dec. because we
    were not retired. We absolutely love TV. We have tried almost every activity available
    and when you rent someone’s home it usually comes with a high speed cart. The Lifestylers visitors get slow carts because they usually just hang around town.

    I would much rather be part of all the social and sports events than to be “married” to a house. Sorry the people from Mass. need “stuff” more than people. The homes in TV are designed for the least amount of maintenance and the most privacy as far as window placement and access.

    During the summer everything is slower and more intimate with the real people who live there. They can look all they want but if they are looking for the Mass. lifestyle, then stay in Mass. Laid back and taking naps and digging in the flower beds are not the Villages lifestyle. It’s more about getting with people for cards, crafts, learning, games, golfing, dancing, pickleball, concerts, events, activities, etc., that you don’t have to plan for: just show up! Love it. Looking forward to next winter. I am a wanna-be Villager.

  6. carousel says:

    How come nothing is ever said about the sexually transmitted diseases that run rampet at the villages? We live in another part of Florida and have visited the Villages. I feel so blessed that we never purchased there. They change bedroom partners like most people change underwear. It’s all over the news down here in Florida about the behavior of the seniors at the Villages.

  7. tony fiore says:

    Maybe it’s because I grew up in a big ciy,but the reader’s comments regarding the constant activity and the closeness of the homes made TV seem that much more desireable to me. As it was stated somewhere, TV may not be for everyone, but it certainly sounds more and more to be something to my liking.

  8. Katherine Officer says:

    Ok, here’s another view, from someone who is NOT from Massachusetts. In fact, I have lived in Florida for 27 years, and the Villages is an awesome place. I was just up there this weekend, for a bowling tournament, and at the same time, in the same area, was an Easter Weekend very large craft fair, all at Spanish Springs marketplace. We were actually pleased at how well the crowds were moving, with everyone laughing and having a good time. We knew of the craft air, so we got to the bowling alley about 45 minutes early, and that was plenty of time to get parked and settled. Getting lunch was a little slow, but not terrible. I think this visitor will find, and would have found had he ventured out, that all the 55+ age restricted communities are done by master community builders, and tend to have cookie cutter housing so that EVERYONE who wants to live there, can find something in their price range. I thank him, as we expect to join in, in the next couple of years, as we can’t find ANYTHING else to compare with what we experience in this wonderful community. They apparently didn’t experience, or try to experience, the feeling you get, and the friendliness offered by those who live there.

  9. thevillagesfloridabook says:
  10. Brenda wolford says:

    People who are rude and negative should never even visit the Villages.

  11. Pat Slayton says:

    We first visited TV in February for just a long weekend while my sister and brother-in-law were in a rental.. Being from Texas, we wanted to then visit during the “hottest” time for comparison purposes. We did our Lifestyle Visit the first week of July 2012. We then rented for the month of July this year, and can’t wait to make TV our full time home. We live on an acre on a lake in Texas. The small yards are attractive to us, however, we are drawn to the courtyard villas for privacy. It takes us 25 minutes in a car to get to a decent grocery store, so having so much to do and the convenience has been critical in our decision. And, for those of us who lived during the early days of “sexual liberation”, what is the problem with changing partners like changing your underwear. Age shouldn’t change that. It should be your decision and not based upon someone else’s judgmental attitude. BTW, I am married and monogamous for several decades, but I wasn’t once upon a time. I bet you weren’t either.

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