Ocala, Florida, also known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” offers a diverse range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From exploring natural wonders to immersing in art and culture, and indulging in outdoor adventures to experiencing history, Ocala has something for everyone. Here are some top recommendations for things to do in Ocala:
Visit the Ocala National Forest: Immerse yourself in nature by exploring the picturesque trails, freshwater springs, and diverse wildlife of this national forest.
Explore the Silver Springs State Park: Discover the beauty of crystal-clear springs, take a glass-bottom boat tour, or go kayaking in this scenic state park.
Tour the Appleton Museum of Art: Marvel at the vast collection of American, European, and Contemporary art, and immerse yourself in the cultural offerings of this renowned museum.
Discover the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing: Witness the history and evolution of drag racing through an impressive collection of vehicles and memorabilia at this fascinating museum.
Go Horseback Riding in the Horse Capital of the World: Experience the equestrian culture of Ocala by embarking on a horseback riding adventure through its scenic trails.
Take a Scenic Drive along the Florida Greenway: Enjoy the beauty of Ocala’s countryside as you traverse the scenic roads of this preserved greenway.
Enjoy Outdoor Activities at the Santos Trailhead: Whether it’s mountain biking, hiking, or birdwatching, the Santos Trailhead offers a multitude of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts.
Visit the Fort King National Historic Landmark: Step back in time and explore the rich history of Ocala at this historic landmark, which played a significant role in the Second Seminole War.
Shop and Dine at the Historic Downtown Square: Explore the charming boutiques, antique shops, and local eateries in the heart of Ocala’s historic downtown.
Attend Events and Festivals in Ocala: Experience the vibrant culture of Ocala by attending one of its many events and festivals, celebrating art, music, food, and more.
The best times to visit Ocala are during the cooler months of fall and spring when the weather is pleasant for outdoor activities. To reach Ocala, you can utilize various transportation options such as flying into the nearby Gainesville Regional Airport or driving via major highways. There are also a variety of accommodation options, including hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals, that cater to different preferences and budgets. Lastly, if you’re looking to explore beyond Ocala, nearby attractions include the picturesque Rainbow Springs State Park and the historic city of St. Augustine.
With its diverse offerings and natural beauty, Ocala, Florida, promises a memorable and enriching experience for all visitors.
Visit the Ocala National Forest
Visit the Ocala National Forest and discover an array of outdoor activities for visitors. Immerse yourself in over 600 square miles of lush forests, springs, and lakes. Embark on a picturesque hike along the renowned Florida Trail, stretching for an impressive 67 miles across the forest. Indulge in the joy of fishing in the crystal-clear waters of the Ocala National Forest’s abundant lakes, such as Lake George or Lake Kerr. Experience the breathtaking beauty of nature by camping at one of the available campgrounds in the area. While exploring, be sure to keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that thrives in this forest, including black bears, alligators, and various bird species.
As the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River, established in 1908, the Ocala National Forest showcases a unique ecosystem that provides a habitat for numerous endangered species, including the Florida scrub-jay and the red-cockaded woodpecker. When you visit the Ocala National Forest, it is essential to respect and preserve the natural environment to ensure future generations can also revel in its wonders.
Explore the Silver Springs State Park
When you visit Ocala, Florida, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the natural beauty and diverse wildlife of the Silver Springs State Park. This stunning park boasts crystal clear springs that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. As you leisurely stroll along the nature trails, you’ll have the chance to discover the unique plants and animals that make this park their home. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the picturesque views of the springs and the surrounding lush greenery.
To make the most of your visit, consider planning it during the weekdays. This way, you can avoid large crowds and enjoy a more peaceful and relaxing experience at the Silver Springs State Park.
Tour the Appleton Museum of Art
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If you are visiting Ocala, Florida, don’t forget to take a tour of the renowned Appleton Museum of Art. This highly acclaimed attraction allows visitors to explore a wide range of art from various cultures and eras. As you wander through the museum, you will have the chance to appreciate breathtaking paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. For a more enriching experience, the museum offers guided tours led by knowledgeable staff who can provide valuable insights into the displayed artwork. Additionally, take a moment to admire the museum’s beautiful architecture. Make sure to seize the opportunity to delve into the fascinating world of art by embarking on a journey through the Appleton Museum of Art during your time in Ocala.
Discover the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
If you’re looking for a unique experience in Ocala, Florida, make sure to discover the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. This museum is dedicated to the history and excitement of drag racing, showcasing a vast collection of race cars, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits. You can immerse yourself in the thrilling world of drag racing and learn about this high-speed sport’s evolution over the years. The museum’s collection includes iconic vehicles, such as the Swamp Rat, driven by drag racing legend Don Garlits himself.
While exploring the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, you can get up close to these incredible machines, marvel at their power and design, and even hear stories from the racing drivers themselves. Whether you’re a motorsport enthusiast or simply curious about this fascinating sport, visiting this museum is a must.
When planning your visit, keep in mind that the museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission fees apply, with discounts available for seniors and children. Don’t forget to check their website for any special exhibits or events happening during your visit. Immerse yourself in the world of drag racing and explore the history and excitement at the Don Garlits Museum.
Go Horseback Riding in the Horse Capital of the World
If you’re looking for an exciting and unique activity in Ocala, Florida, go horseback riding in the Horse Capital of the World. Ocala is known for its rich equestrian culture and breathtaking landscapes, making it the perfect destination for horse enthusiasts.
By embarking on a horseback riding adventure, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the area and experience the thrill of riding through picturesque trails. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, there are options available for every skill level.
Choose from a variety of guided tours that will take you through scenic forests, rolling hills, and alongside crystal-clear rivers. You’ll have the opportunity to see stunning wildlife and appreciate the natural wonders of Ocala.
Not only is horseback riding an exhilarating activity, but it also offers numerous health benefits. It can improve balance, coordination, and overall fitness. Additionally, spending time with horses has been shown to reduce stress and promote a sense of calmness and well-being.
So, if you’re seeking an unforgettable adventure in Ocala, don’t miss the opportunity to go horseback riding in the Horse Capital of the World. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the surroundings, enhance your riding skills, and cultivate a deeper connection with nature.
Take a Scenic Drive along the Florida Greenway
If you’re in Ocala, Florida, take a scenic drive along the Florida Greenway. The Florida Greenway offers breathtaking views and a chance to explore the natural beauty of the area. You’ll be able to enjoy the lush greenery and see diverse wildlife along the way. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning landscapes and unique flora and fauna. The Florida Greenway is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and those looking for a peaceful and relaxing drive. Embrace the serenity of the surroundings as you take a scenic drive along the Florida Greenway along this picturesque route.
Enjoy Outdoor Activities at the Santos Trailhead
The Santos trailhead in Ocala, Florida offers a multitude of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you prefer biking, hiking, or horseback riding, this well-maintained trail system provides scenic landscapes to explore. Birdwatching is also popular here, with over 100 species of birds to observe in their natural habitat. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the Santos Pump Track offers an exhilarating ride for mountain bikers of all skill levels. No matter the season, the trailhead is open year-round, allowing visitors to indulge in outdoor activities whenever they please.
The Santos trailhead has a fascinating history dating back to the early 1920s, when it served as an experimental farm. This farm was a testing ground for different crops and farming techniques in the unique Florida climate. Eventually, the land was transformed into a recreational area and trailhead, successfully preserving the region’s natural beauty while providing a space for visitors to partake in outdoor activities. Over the years, the trail system has expanded, generously offering more opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and appreciate the diverse flora and fauna of Ocala, Florida. So, when planning your visit to Ocala, be sure to include the Santos trailhead for a memorable outdoor adventure.
Visit the Fort King National Historic Landmark
Visit the Fort King National Historic Landmark to immerse yourself in the rich history of Ocala, Florida. This landmark played a significant role in the Second Seminole War and offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s past. Explore the preserved artifacts, learn about the historical events that took place here, and take in the scenic beauty of the surrounding area.
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera to capture the picturesque views and historical sites at the Fort King National Historic Landmark.
Shop and Dine at the Historic Downtown Square
The historic downtown square in Ocala, Florida offers a vibrant and diverse shopping and dining experience.
Shop and Dine at the Historic Downtown Square
You can explore a variety of local boutiques, art galleries, and specialty shops that offer unique and one-of-a-kind items.
Indulge in delicious cuisine at the numerous restaurants and cafes, serving both local and international flavors.
The lively atmosphere and charming architecture of the square add to the overall appeal.
Whether you are looking for trendy fashion, handmade crafts, or exquisite jewelry, the historic downtown square has something for everyone.
Take a leisurely stroll and immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of the area while enjoying the diverse shopping and dining options available.
Don’t forget to support local businesses and embrace the sense of community as you shop and dine at the historic downtown square in Ocala, Florida.
Attend Events and Festivals in Ocala
If you’re looking for things to do in Ocala, Florida, attending events and festivals is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture. Ocala offers a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, catering to different interests and preferences. Attend the Ocala Arts Festival, where you can explore and appreciate the works of talented local artists. Join the Ocala Horse Parade, a unique event that showcases magnificent horse breeds and equestrian skills. Experience the excitement of the Ocala Culinary Festival, where you can indulge in delicious food and drinks prepared by renowned chefs. Participate in the Ocala Music Festival, featuring live performances from local bands and musicians from different genres. Celebrate Ocala’s rich heritage at the Sunshine State Rodeo, where you can witness thrilling rodeo competitions and traditional cowboy activities. Attending events and festivals in Ocala allows you to connect with the community, learn about the local arts, cuisine, and traditions, and create lasting memories. So, make sure to mark your calendar and join the vibrant events and festivals that Ocala has to offer!
What Are the Best Times to Visit Ocala?
When planning a trip to Ocala, Florida, it’s important to consider the best times to visit. The months of November to April present the most desirable weather conditions. With average temperatures ranging from the 60s to the low 80s Fahrenheit, this period offers a mild and pleasant climate. It’s the perfect time to engage in outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, and exploring the natural beauty of the area.
Another advantage of visiting Ocala during the winter months is the opportunity to avoid the peak tourist season and the scorching temperatures of summer. You can fully immerse yourself in the attractions and natural wonders Ocala has to offer with fewer crowds and more comfortable weather.
If you have an interest in Ocala’s history, there is a notable event that occurred in the city. In 1961, the movie “Follow That Dream” starring Elvis Presley was filmed in Ocala. This film showcased the picturesque landscapes and charming essence of the city, making it a captivating part of its history. Discovering this intriguing aspect adds to the allure of visiting Ocala.
How Can You Get to Ocala?
To get to Ocala, there are several transportation options available. How can you get to Ocala? Firstly, you can fly to Ocala International Airport, which is located just outside of the city. The airport offers domestic flights from various cities, making it a convenient choice for travelers. Alternatively, you can also fly into Gainesville Regional Airport, which is approximately 35 miles away from Ocala. From there, you can rent a car or take a taxi to reach your destination.
If you prefer driving, Ocala is easily accessible by car. It is located near major highways, including Interstate 75. Depending on your starting location, you can take the most convenient route to reach Ocala. The city is also well-connected to neighboring cities and towns, making it a convenient hub for exploring the region.
For those who prefer public transportation, there are bus services available to Ocala. Greyhound offers bus routes that connect various cities, including Ocala. This option is ideal for travelers who want to enjoy the scenery and relax during their journey.
Where Can You Stay in Ocala?
When visiting Ocala, you have several options for accommodations to suit your preferences and budget.
- Hotels: There are various hotels in Ocala that offer comfortable rooms and convenient amenities. These include well-known chain hotels such as Hilton Ocala and Courtyard by Marriott Ocala.
- Resorts: If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, there are resorts in Ocala that provide top-notch facilities and services. The Golden Palms Resort and Spa is a popular choice for those seeking a relaxing getaway.
- Bed and Breakfasts: For a cozy and charming stay, consider booking a room at one of Ocala’s bed and breakfast establishments. The Victorian House Bed & Breakfast and Seven Sisters Inn are highly recommended options.
- Vacation Rentals: If you prefer a more private and home-like atmosphere, you can opt for vacation rentals in Ocala. These can range from cabins in the woods to spacious houses near the attractions.
- Campgrounds: Nature enthusiasts can enjoy the beauty of Ocala while camping at one of the campgrounds. Sites like Juniper Springs Campground and Silver Springs Campground offer stunning natural surroundings.
Whether you’re seeking luxury, comfort, or a more rustic experience, Ocala has accommodations to suit every preference. Make sure to book your stay in advance to secure the best option for your visit to this charming Florida destination.
Ocala, known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. The city was established in 1846 and was named after the Timucua Native American word for “Big Hammock.” Ocala gained prominence as a center for thoroughbred horse breeding and training, with the famous Ocala Stud Farm attracting equestrian enthusiasts and professionals from around the world. Today, Ocala continues to honor its equestrian heritage with numerous horse farms, events, and attractions. Visitors can immerse themselves in the city’s history by exploring the Historic Downtown Square, which features beautifully preserved buildings from the Victorian era. Additionally, Ocala offers various cultural and recreational activities, making it an ideal destination for travelers seeking both history and leisure.
What Are Other Attractions Near Ocala?
What Are Other Attractions Near Ocala? Ocala also offers additional attractions such as ZipLine Canopy Tours, Gypsy Gold Horse Farm, the Brick City Adventure Park, and the Silver River Museum. These attractions provide unique experiences and opportunities to explore the natural beauty and rich history of the area.
- Visit the Ocala National Forest: Explore the 607 square miles of preserved forest, perfect for hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting.
- Explore the Silver Springs State Park: Take a glass-bottom boat tour and witness the crystal clear springs that have been attracting visitors since the 19th century.
- Tour the Appleton Museum of Art: Immerse yourself in the world of art with exhibits featuring European, American, and Contemporary art.
- Discover the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing: Get your adrenaline pumping with a visit to the largest collection of race cars in the world.
- Go Horseback Riding in the Horse Capital of the World: Experience the equestrian culture of Ocala by exploring the scenic trails on horseback.
- Take a Scenic Drive along the Florida Greenway: Enjoy the picturesque landscapes and diverse wildlife as you drive through the scenic byways of Ocala.
- Enjoy Outdoor Activities at the Santos Trailhead: Engage in mountain biking, hiking, or horseback riding along the extensive trail system.
- Visit the Fort King National Historic Landmark: Learn about the history of Ocala at this site that played a significant role in the Second Seminole War.
- Shop and Dine at the Historic Downtown Square: Experience the charm of downtown Ocala with its boutique shops, antique stores, and local restaurants.
- Attend Events and Festivals in Ocala: Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Ocala by participating in its numerous events and festivals throughout the year.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some natural escapes near Ocala, Florida?
Some natural escapes near Ocala, Florida include the Florida National Scenic Trail, which offers multi-day hikes, and great off-road biking opportunities.
What is the Florida Horse Park in Ocala known for?
The Florida Horse Park in Ocala is a 500-acre park that is considered a jewel in Marion County. It is known for its equestrian culture and industry.
What are the top things to do in Ocala?
Some of the top things to do in Ocala include visiting Silver Springs State Park, exploring the Appleton Museum of Art, and experiencing the thrill of drag racing at the Don Garlits Museum.
Are there any attractions for horse lovers in Ocala?
Yes, Ocala is known as the “Horse Capital of the World” and offers plenty of options for horse lovers. Visitors can tour horse farms, go on guided horseback tours, and experience the Live Oak International Horse Trials and Country Fair.
What outdoor activities can I enjoy in Ocala?
In Ocala, you can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and even tube along Rainbow River at Silver Springs. The Ocala National Forest offers a diverse range of scenic nature trails.
Where can I find a list of events happening in Ocala/Marion County?
You can check the Ocala/Marion County Events Calendar for a list of events happening in the area.
Jennifer Ian is a 28-year-old neurotic Jew from New York who overcame her anxiety and embarked on life-altering backpacking trips to 18 different countries, proving that even risk-averse individuals can find joy and therapy in the challenges of travel.