There are so many amazing things to do in Ocala Florida that it’s hard to choose a few favorites! This guide will point out the best things to do for the entire family along with some tips and tricks for making the most of your visit!
There’s a little bit of something for everyone in Ocala from the Ocala National Forest to glass bottom boat rides and even world renowned horses that you can check out.
Ocala is often forgotten amongst all of the other amazing Florida cities, but it’s definitely worth planning a trip to visit if you’re ever in North Central Florida!
I did a solo trip a bit ago and loved getting to eat at all of the amazing Ocala Florida restaurants, checking out all of the outdoor activities, and more!
Plus, it’s the horse capital of the world (or at least close to), so I had to check out the horses for my horse loving mom. They were absolutely beautiful by the way.
Outdoor Activities in Ocala, Florida
With its beautiful weather (it is the sunshine state after all) and plethora of options for outdoor recreation, it’s no surprise that Ocala is full of fun outdoor activities to check out! These are just a few of my favorites.
Silver Springs State Park
There are various springs throughout Ocala with the Silver Spring State Park being the largest and the oldest natural spring. It’s been a historical landmark since 1870 and Florida’s first tourist attraction, long before anyone had ever heard of amusement parks like Disney World!
At Silver Springs you have the chance to enjoy nature in a variety of ways including everything from hiking to sailing over the clear waters of the lake in glass bottom boats. The natural beauty from this crystal clear springs is just astounding.
For the more adventurous, there are also kayaks and canoes to rent to row your way closer to the beautiful scenery. Just know that there is aquatic life in the springs so take note! Or take a guided tour for an up-close look at the diverse wildlife and plant life throughout the area.
Sholom Park is one of the most peaceful ones I’ve ever been in. It’s quiet, tranquil, and a great place to take a walk and just enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. With various lakes, picnic areas, plenty of paths, and a serene feeling throughout the park, I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for relaxation and peace.
Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours
One of my favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors is to zip across them. I’ve been zip lining throughout the world (even on a cruise ship!) and Zip the Canyons is still one of my favorite places to go. With the longest over water zip in Florida and gorgeous scenery, Zip the Canyons adventure park is a great way to zip across nature on a spring day.
They have a variety of options including the big cliff canyon tour that takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the entire adventure.
Or if zip lining isn’t your thing, they also offer horseback riding throughout the gorgeous park. Make sure to wave from your horse at the people zipping high above! The Canyons is right by plenty of Ocala/Marion County Lodging making it a great morning or afternoon activity with plenty of time for other activities during the day.
Other Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors in Ocala
There are tons of other places for nature lovers to enjoy the beautiful outdoors in Ocala! If you need more ideas, you should also check out:
- Rainbow River – another natural springs park where you can float the river in a tube, canoe, or kayak. Rainbow Spring state parks is about a 30 minute drive from Ocala but worth the trip!
- Spring Glen Springs – a crystal clear spring where you can actually swim and snorkel to see all the gorgeous sea life!
- Tuscawilla Park – this park is more than just a park! With amazing art sculptures lining a lake, a gorgeous painted bridge, and a really fun playground – you could definitely spend some time here! It’s the perfect place for a picnic or just a couple of cheap hours in nature.
Things to do in Ocala for Horse Lovers
I like horses well enough, I just don’t know much about them. My mom on the other hand did barrel racing in high school, has had horses of her own her entire life, and now works at and manages (amongst other responsibilities) a therapeutic riding center. Horses are almost as big of a part of her life as her family is.
So when I found out that Ocala is horse country, I naturally checked out as many of the horse activities as possible. There’s a lot, and I highly recommend picking at least one of these so you can enjoy some time with these magnificent animals.
You could also just check out the World Equestrian Center, the largest equestrian center in the United States, plenty of horses to be seen there!
Gypsy Gold Horse Farm
One of my favorite moments from my 48 hours in Ocala was the two hours I spent touring the Gypsy Gold Horse Farm. Even without being a horse aficionado myself, I knew that the Gypsy Vanner horses were something special.
And when I texted my mom two minutes into the presentation and asked her if she’d ever heard of this breed, she could tell me all about it. Gypsy Vanner horses are apparently kind of like royalty when it comes to horses, a rare breed that the owners of the current Gypsy Gold Horse Farm actually discovered on a visit to Europe years ago.
As soon as I heard the owner, Dennis, talking about his love for animals, I knew this place would be something special. I can’t tell the history of the Gypsy Vanner anywhere near as well as Dennis, so I won’t even try.
You can read the entire history here, all I’ll tell you is that these horses are beautiful. They’re majestic. And they’re a wonder to see for anyone who loves horses.
Even if you’ve never been on a horse before or haven’t been in years, going on a horse back ride throughout one of the beautiful Ocala forests would be a great adventure for everyone.
With everything from easy trail rides for beginners to more advanced options for true riders, you’ll love galloping through the beautiful scenery in a region designed for horse fanatics.
Horse Statues in Ocala
Even if you weren’t planning on seeing horses on your trip to Ocala, they’re almost unavoidable. Just like Cincinnati has pig statues all over the city, Ocala has painted ponies lining the corners of downtown Ocala and the surrounding area.
On my next trip, I want to find them all!
These ones are just statues though, they’re actually for an awesome community project called Horse Fever that started back in 2001 and has had subsequent events with additional horses in 2003 and 2011.
Local companies could sponsor a painted pony and have it placed in the location of their choosing. When the pony sells, half of the money is donated to the Marion Cultural Alliance and half goes to the sponsor’s choice of charity.
It’s an amazing way to showcase Marion County’s horse culture while also raising money for charity. Many of the horses are still sprinkled throughout Ocala and many are on display at the Marion Cultural Alliance office.
And the horses are beautiful works of art. These ones are just a few of my favorites.
Other Things to do in Ocala
If you’re not a horse or outdoors lover, then maybe check out one of these fun things to do instead! There are a lot of fun things for the entire family!
Ranch Fitness Center & Spa
Spend an hour or two working out, playing racquetball, or taking a class together at The Ranch Fitness Center & Spa then finish off your day with a spa treatment! I had one and it was amazing – totally worth going back when you visit Florida!
Market of Marion
Go on a treasure hunt at the Market of Marion, a flea and farmer’s market open every Saturday morning plus other hours (see the schedule here)! Find your own treasures among all of the fun things being sold. It’s a great morning activity that could easily be followed up with some outdoor or water activities in the afternoon!
Ocala Drive-In Movie Theater
Catch a double feature movie at the Ocala drive-in movie theater. Pick up some popcorn and dinner at the snack bar then cozy up under blankets in the back of your car for a fun night under the stars. This is a popular activity so it can get busy!
Ocala Florida FAQs
Ocala International Airport is the closest airport to Ocala, Florida. It’s a smaller airport though so you may need or want to fly into a larger airport nearby. Other airports nearby include Gainesville (42 miles), Orlando (88 miles), and Tampa (103 miles).
Ocala is known as the horse capital of the world with hundreds of thoroughbred horse farms. It also has beautiful outdoor adventures, lots of natural springs, and the longest zip line in Florida.
Ocala is just about 1 1/2 hours from Disney World. You could easily add it on as a long day trip or go stay in Ocala for a night or two for some more central Florida adventures.
More Florida Travel Guides
If you’re headed to Florida, these are some other great places to visit outside of the City of Ocala full of plenty of sunny days!
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