11 Best Things to Do in Ocala, Florida

by Jane Sophia
Best Things to Do in Ocala

Florida needs no introduction to any passionate travellers who seek a different annual holiday place every year. For the majority of us, Florida is a distant dream not because of its distance from our city, but because it is an expensive venture.

There are more than 100 places to see in the entire Florida State, U.S. If we want to explore different cities, and small towns in Florida, and at least some of its ‘keys’, (cays), we need to plan a meticulous 3 weeks trip.

Ocala is a city to see in North Florida. You might have heard of the extremely beautiful Jacksonville, which is part of North Florida.

St. Augustine is another important city there. Both Jacksonville and St. Augustine are on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

We will look into these two cities in North Florida later. Right now, we will look into Ocala city and how it attracts the tourists.

Overview of Ocala:

The citizens of the U.S. know this Floridian city is the ‘horse capital of the World.’. Yes, I believe Ocala has more ranches, and farms than Texas.

This implies, the sunny Florida’s countryside is best seen in Ocala.

Places to see include the World Equestrian Center, forests, Silver Springs State Park, and Rainbow Springs State Park, Ocala National Forest, Sand Pines plus many more beautiful places.

How to reach Ocala?

You can fly to Ocala from the following places in Florida.

  • Gainesville
  • Orlando
  • Jacksonville

All these cities are less than 160 km from Ocala. The nearest one is Gainesville airport, which is about 60 km from Ocala.

Do you know?

Do you know that Tallahassee is the capital city of Florida State and not Orlando?

11 Best Things to Do in Ocala, Florida

  1. Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park

The park got its name after the Silver River that flows through Ocala. Not many people are aware of the fact that this is the earliest tourist attraction.

The Silver River is fed by a few Silver Springs

Silver River. It is quite scenic-eh?

This Ocala attraction pulls wildlife enthusiasts who are keen to spot the Nine-banded Armadillo.

Other wildlife you can watch in Silver Springs State Park includes:

  • White-tailed Deer
  • Wild Turkey
  • American Alligator
  • Bobcats
  • Coyotes
  • Wild Boar
  • Black Bear
  • Rhesus Macaque

The picturesque settings, fewer crowds, make the place an attractive location for filmmakers. Numerous have been shot at the Silver Springs State Park.

Apart from wildlife watching, you can enjoy a boat ride that is fitted with a glass bottom to facilitate marine creatures viewing.

If you are proud of your arms, rent a kayak or a canoe and go oaring in the river.

Trails invite bikers, and hikers. The 24 km trail is set amidst good flora and fauna.

Being a full-fledged camp ground, you can opt to stay in cabins with luxury amenities.

  1. Ocala National Forest

With over 400 farms and ranches, surely, the horses must be fed with their natural fodder. I think the Ocala NF is capable of that.

Ocala National Forest

The most awesome sight in Ocala National Forest is the prairie. It means a large tract of flat plains covered with grass.

Is it why the city is home to thousands of horses that can feast on the grassland?

The Ocala NF is vast, comprising over 1500 sq. km!

Below is a view of Juniper Springs in the NF.

I would say this itself is a vital feature for eco-tourism.

The forest’s flora surprisingly attracts millions of visitors. It implies the geography is unique and rare in such a sunny state in America.

The area, being vast, is home to numerous rivers and lakes which itself act as a habitat for birds, and reptiles.

The wildlife range is diverse, and you can spot all the wildlife mentioned in the Silver Springs State Park.

Apart from them, you can spot quite a few species of snakes that many of us abhor. For their food, the lakes, and rivers nurture several species of frogs.

Since the forest is open, right through the year, hikers throng this popular attraction in Ocala. Mountain bikers too are seen enjoying their adventure.

There are exclusive trails for horse-back riding.

The Lakefronts (18 lakes) offer good camp grounds.

I guess, you need two full days to see 25% of the Ocala National Forest.

  1. Rainbow Springs State Park

Best Things to Do in Ocala

Once again, this state park in Ocala is known for its beautiful range of flora that includes numerous wildflowers that are attractive anytime.

Due to so many shades of hues, the park is called the Rainbow Park.

Oak, Cypress, and pine trees are seen in abundance. Even the beautiful Red Maple is a feature of the forest.

I think these two state parks and the national forest contribute much to Ocala tourism.

  1. Annual Horse Show

Ocala is the natural choice for hosting this annual horse show because it is the horse capital of the world.

I was awestruck when I read that more 100 different horse breeds tale part.

Paso Fino

Paso Fino, one of the taller breeds of horse.

The white beauty is a really stunning horse breed known as “American Quanter Horse.

American Quanter Horse

  1. Visit the local farmers’ market

Ocala is a big agricultural city. The local market is open daily.

See the wide range of fruits, and vegetables. In addition, taste the cheese and other dairy products.

Buy a bottle of marmalade, and a loaf of freshly baked white bread. Enjoy your purchase in your hotel room or on your way back to your home town in your car.

  1. Museum of Art

I am sure there will be a museum of some sort in every American city. Sometimes, you can hear about a museum in a small town based on its history or celebrity.

The Appleton Museum of Art is a local attraction in Ocala. If you are familiar with the names of famous American artists, you cannot resist the pull of this museum that displays a wide range of ancient and contemporary art.

  1. Visit a horse farm or two.

When you are touring Ocala, Florida, it is assumed that one of your main interests is seeing different horse breeds.

Horse farms are strategically functioning from elevated grasslands and verdant hills.

A guided horse tour in Ocala is an opportunity you should not ignore. You can witness different trainings the horses undergo without any protests.

Of course, you will get a chance to mount true stallions with a guide by your side. Tip the trainer when he takes memorable photos of you sitting on a high bred horse as if you are a veteran soldier.

  1. Thrilling adventure on metal ropes

I guess the ziplining adventure that if offered in Ocala is the lengthiest one in all the U.S.

The guided adventure tour in the surrounding hills, and gorges include 1100 feet long zipping game.

If you dare, give it a try, mate. You will be hanging from the rope at over 150 feet from the ground.

You can glide on the zipline either in the upright position or in a horizontal lying position.

I think the second option is better because of better views of the forest and the gorge below.

If you don’t dare this adventure, you can go for a harnessed canopy walk on a hanging wooden bridge that will sway with every step of yours.

You can afford to miss the ziplining adventure, but not the canopy walk. It is truly dramatic; the bird’s eye view of the trees in the forest is absolutely mesmerizing.

  1. Ocala Zoo

You don’t find neither the big cats nor the African elephants in the local zoo in Ocala, Florida.

In their place, you find rabbits, and ducks; chickens, and goats; cattle, and pigs.

I always wanted to hold the ducklings, and chicks. They are so cute and look vulnerable in human hands.

The petting zoo is a fun attraction in Ocala.

You can do these adorable petting with the animals and birds in Ocala zoo.

A zoo of this kind is always a hit and is so much so in Ocala.

  1. Sholom Park

It is a scenic green-space, that is let naturally as it is. I mean, it is not a landscaped park.

I don’t like landscaping or pruning the trees into various shapes. Furthermore, I like the freedom of the plants and trees, and plants. That should not be curtailed for the whims and fancies of humans.

Sholom Park means much to nature lovers. Birds are in abundance, and they too don’t nest on pruned trees.

You can take a leisurely stroll through the park, appreciating the prairies, and rose plants.

  1. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

This is a big natural attraction in Ocala. Prairies are a sort of shrubs or overgrown thick grass. They are fodder to some wildlife. It also acts as a habitat for birds, reptiles, and even rabbits, and mongoose.

This particular state park is fairly large , comprising 85 sq. km.

You can watch alligators, wood storks, egrets, and herons for whom the prey is abundant in the prairies.

Ocala, with so many paces to see and adventurous things to do, seems to be an under-visited destination in Florida.

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