Paradise Lakes Clothing Optional Resort, Lutz, Florida
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To say that I have mixed feelings about Paradise Lakes Clothing Optional Resort would be an understatement at best! We first visited the place maybe twenty years ago when we began our long search for a naturist place Stateside that offered anything even close to the amenities and atmosphere we had experienced in France. I still have vivid memories of that first walk around the resort; including the 70-ish woman loading her car with the seat cut out of her jeans, the “super-friendly’ people in the conversation pool, and the night we wandered into the nightclub to witness our very first lingerie dance party. (We wandered right back out. Yikes!) A lot has happened at Paradise since then, and at this writing, it seems they’re, once again, in a time of transition as membership has dropped and rumor has it that the resort is up for sale. So why did I stay there, you might ask? Well, I found an AirBNB listing for one of the condos with the right amenities at the right price – and in fact, it was lovely. I was literally next door to Lake Como, my actual intended destination, but the room was nicer for about half the cost. The residential community is huge, which provided for long morning walks au naturel, and I even found out that Paradise Lakes actually has… a lake! Who knows what the place will become, but my stay there was pleasant and just what I needed for my brief stay in this nudist mecca of America.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? There are a cluster of naturist/clothing-optional resorts all within a few miles of each other in Lutz, Florida. Today, it’s surrounded by suburban sprawl – miles and miles of strip malls (no pun intended) and big-box stores. A friend tells me that thirty years ago, when most of these places were being developed, you were isolated out in the vast grasslands of central Florida, but I suspect all of these resorts are on regular bus routes today. The closest airport is Tampa International, about 30 minutes away. Again, my game plan was to stay in a condo at Paradise and make my way next door to Lake Como, which I did. It would be nice if there were simply a gate between the two, but alas, you need to get in your car and drive for ten minutes to go out of one resort, drive around the perimeter, and check into the other. I’ll write more about that when I get to the report on Lake Como.
WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? Well… NOPE! Given the high propensity of older folks who live in a community like this, I always wonder how that all goes when the grandkids come to visit. Amidst those hundreds of condos, there is only one pool complex that’s open to the public, and that requires a day-use fee for access. And if they don’t actually have an over 18 years of age policy, I suspect that’s implied. This is not a family-oriented resort. Interestingly, during my stay, things were amazingly quiet. I did not pay the tariff to visit the pool complex in the official resort, (More about that later.) nor did there appear to be hardly anyone else there that week. The locals tell me that’s all in transition at the moment, but I very much doubt they will be transitioning to a family-friendly resort environment any time soon.
HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? It was totally by chance that I happened upon the AirBNB listing by Ken in a clothing-optional community. Ken’s place is in one of the last phases of construction, and the condo was well maintained with excellent amenities. While the entire resort and adjoining residential area is looking a bit dated, I was delighted to see that the grounds were well manicured and at least by outward appearances, maintenance is up to par. (Surprisingly rare at naked places in the US!) This particular condo is a studio unit with a small fridge, microwave, toaster oven, and a sink – just enough to make self-catering viable is that’s your style. There’s also a small veranda that’s screened in, which was perfect for working at the computer during the warm evenings. Ken is a consummate and attentive host, having laid in loads of little extras like pool towels, bottled water, and soda in the fridge. He even called me upon arrival to talk me through a step-by-step orientation to the apartment. I suspect there must be others amidst all those condos who sublet their apartments, but if Ken’s place is available next time I’m in the region, there’s no need to look any farther!
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? Nude recreation in the United States has long been plagued with confusion and controversy as to exactly what social nudity is about, and in my humble opinion, Florida is largely to blame for that! Paradise Lakes has a particularly interesting place in that saga as it was originally started by a guy named Fred Bischoff who had previously owned a place at the sprawling Lake Como Nudist Resort next door, but decided to open Paradise Lakes as a “clothing-optional” community, replete with condominiums, an RV park, and even a neighborhood of upscale single family homes. (Think intro to The Golden Girls!) In time, he built a hotel, restaurant, and night club, which in turn drew a crowd that pulled away from the “holistic values of ethical naturism.” When they began running ads with sexually explicit content, AANR dropped Paradise from their rolls. Fred sold the resort in the early 2000s (reportedly to enter the ministry – Huh!!) and it has changed hands several times over since then. In the meantime, a new, upscale club called Caliente opened just down the road, and it seems that much of the friends with benefits crowd started gravitating there.
The dichotomy of the whole thing is all the people who live at Paradise Lakes, year round. It seems most residents are of retirement age, (or well beyond,) and even if they were once part of the Lifestyler scene, that seems incongruent with the 30 and 40-somethings who show up for that kind of fun today. And here’s a thing! According to the current rate schedule, if I want to visit the pool resort area at Paradise Lakes during the week, it costs $15 for the day if I show up as part of a couple, $15 if I visit as a single woman (which I am not), or $55 if I visit as a single male! (That policy is even more outrageous at Caliente.)
For those of us who continue to advocate for places and opportunities to participate in non-sexual social nudity, this whole conundrum feeds right into the frenzy of the typical American attitudes about what social nudity is, or is not. Frankly, I don’t much care what people are doing in the clothing-optional nightclub at a Florida resort as I can easily avoid that while enjoying the amenities I do enjoy. But anything that’s even remotely sexual is big business in America, and Paradise Lakes is not the only resort in the country that walks the fine line between holistic and hedonist. To that end, at least Paradise and Caliente are more forthright about what’s on offer, which to me, is better than posing as a family-friendly place only to let everything cut loose on a Saturday night. Complicated.
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