Chances are pretty good that you “know someone who knows someone” who vacations at The Villages in Florida, one of the largest 55-plus retirement communities in the world.
Boasting a population of about 157,000 people as of April 2016, The Villages ranks consistently as the fastest-growing city in the U.S., even though technically it’s a census-designated place (CDP) in Sumter County. It’s not far from everywhere you want to be — 45 miles northwest of Orlando and 75 miles northeast of Tampa.
It’s also huge geographically, spanning three counties, three zip codes and 42 square miles — making it even larger than the 40 square miles of the entire Disney World Resort.
The Villages is an entirely self-sustaining town, complete with retail establishments, restaurants, banks, post offices, health care centers and 100 miles of golf cart-legal streets and trails. There are 25 swimming pools, 36 golf courses, 17 recreation centers, two bowling alleys, a library, theater and more.
Plus, the community features three town squares that provide residents with numerous options for recreation and entertainment.
“There’s live music every night,” said Kim Beare of Fenton, who spends 10 to 12 days there every two months with her husband, Les. They bought a ranch-style home at The Villages two years ago.
They both admit that retirement is still years away, with Les, 63, still actively involved as owner of The UPS Store in Fenton and Kim, 56, continuing her work as firm administrator at Fenner, Melstrom & Dooling, PLC, in Birmingham.
“It’s just fun,” said Kim, who enjoys all the recreational and social amenities of The Villages. “We’ll retire there eventually.”
To keep “Villagers” busy, there are 2,000 clubs, ranging from pickleball to tennis, badminton, golfing, old cars, etc. Every week, a 50-page newsletter and activity guide highlights all of the various clubs, activities and events for the week.
“I’m on a waiting list to get into a quilt guild,” said Kim.
The Villages is also a golfer’s paradise with “free” golf for life (included in the community’s amenities fee) at any of the 36 executive courses, 12 country club courses and for a nominal fee, residents can play at any of the 10 championship courses.
“It’s a golf cart community,” said Kim. “We’ve got our own roads with roundabouts and even tunnels underneath.”
Savoring a taste of The Villages lifestyle are Fenton Township residents Mark and Kerrie Mustola, who have enjoyed renting a two-bedroom courtyard villa. “It comes with a golf cart,” said Kerrie. “In fact, we just returned from buying groceries on our golf cart.”
Kerrie says that she and Mark enjoy all the pools, golf and other activities. “You can drive to one coast or another in 90 minutes if you crave a walk on the beach,” she said. “We’d consider buying a place here when we retire, but haven’t explored enough other retirement areas in Florida or other states yet.”
For Les and Kim Beare, just thinking about their next trip to The Villages is enough to get them through Michigan’s next snowfall. “At least we don’t have to shovel snow,” she said.