One of the most visited state in the United States of America is Florida.
You will find lots of tourists at the beautiful beaches which surround this state.
There are quite a lot of things to do in Ocala as well as other big cities in Florida.
As a tourist, visiting the big cities of Florida has pros and cons, they can be fun, at same time busy and noisy.
If what you seek is a beautiful city in Florida filled with wonders and hidden gems, Ocala is just perfect.
Ocala is a very lively and fun city with less noise when compared to other big cities in Florida. Situated in the horse country, it is the perfect place to visit for equestrian related activity.
The name Ocala means “hammock” in the Timucua language. Though this city has developed and expanded beyond its original size, it still retains the coziness expected from a hammock town.
To help plan your trip, here are the best things to do in Ocala, FL.
Things to Do in Ocala
1. Sholom Park
One of the best places to visit in Ocala is Sholom Park, this park is a good spot for reflection and meditation, It is a place to go if what you seek is tranquillity.
Covering over 44-acre land space, you will find in this park, native plants, carefully chosen trees, shrubs, and perennials.
As you explore the park, you will observe that it is made up of eleven beautiful landscape areas alongside a labyrinth, a ginger garden, an azalea trail, and a formal garden.
If you wish to explore every area of this park, you can follow its connected paved walkways.
The park is opened daily to the public, admission is free, but you are free to make donations to help maintain the park if you wish.
Address: 7110 SW 80TH Ave Ocala, FL 34481
2. Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
One of the best things to do in Ocala is a visit to Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, it was built as a monument to Don Garlits.
Don Garlits also known as Big Daddy is said to be the father of drag racing. In his forty-year career in the race, he racked up 144 national event titles and seventeen world championship.
Cars Mr. Garlits raced with were designed and fabricated by him. Today, they can be seen at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing Ocala.
Other features of the Museum includes a collection of Mr. Garlits dragsters, racing memorabilia, classic cars as well as a gift shop.
You might get to see the Big Daddy while you explore the museum, he lives next door with his wife Pat.
Address: 13700 SW 16th Ave Ocala, FL 34473.
3. Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area
Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area is one of the four wilderness areas which can be found in Ocala National Forest.
Covering a 14,000-acre land space, this area is a fine example of an untouched sand pine scrub forest.
At Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area, you will find walking trails that give access to several habitats such as the hardwood swamp, the grass prairie, the pine Flatwoods, and marsh all located in the area.
There is also an on-sight interpretive center that offers more information about the various habitats you will find in the area.
Fun activities you can engage here include paddling of canoes across the wetlands. You can rent a canoe from Juniper Springs. Other fun activities allowed here include tent camping.
When camping, don’t forget to come along with enough food and water, as there are no eateries or restaurants in the area.
4. Ocala Civic Theatre
Ocala Civic Theatre is a central hub for theatre arts in Central Florida.
This theatre brings what to do in Ocala FL for some theater entertainment, it plays host to lots of concerts, musicals and plays.
They stage twelve productions every year, as well as engage in tours across the United States.
The Ocala Civic Theatre offers educational workshops and classes to children between 4 and 18 years, they also offer continuing education for adult students.
Topics covered cut across musical performance, improvisation, movement, and the technical aspects involved in staging a theatre production.
To witness any of their shows, you will have to purchase a ticket online or any of the theatre’s box office.
Address: 4337 E Silver Springs Blvd Ocala FL 34470.
5. Alexander Springs Recreational Area
Alexander Springs Recreational Area is one of Ocala FL attractions, it is located in Ocala National Forest.
This recreational area features a beautiful freshwater spring which can be easily accessed by tourists.
Fun activities you can engage inside this turquoise water include swimming, snorkeling, and scuba driving, you can also play water ball with friends.
Fun activities like fishing, canoeing, and off-road ATV-riding are also available in this area.
Alexander Springs Recreational Area also has walking trails and picnic areas, there is a campground with spaces for tents and RV’s for those who wish to spend the night.
Address: County Road 445 Altoona, FL 32702.
6. Appleton Museum of Art
Appleton Museum of Art, which is located on the campus of the College of Central Florida is one of the top destinations in Florida dedicated to fine art.
The museum features five galleries and an auditorium which is surrounded by a very neat landscaped courtyard.
You will find in its five galleries expansive collection of European art, designs, and artifacts, all of which are displayed in the Museum throughout the year.
You will also find temporary exhibits gotten from donors also displayed in the museum.
Among other activities in this museum, you can be part of special classes, art shows, lectures, and competition hosted within the year for the education and entertainment of the public.
Address: 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Ocala, FL 34470.
7. Blue Wagyu
Blue Wagyu is a restaurant in Ocala, Florida, they serve some of the best dishes in the area.
One of the best dishes in their menu is the tender Wagyu beef, it also has a rich flavor and creamy texture.
The Wagyu beef is a meal you will love to eat (if you are not vegetarian).
Other dishes in the restaurant’s menu you should try out include an authentic wagyu burger which comes with tasty, hand-cut French Fries.
The restaurant also serves homemade pizza, sandwiches and salads, all of which were made by locally-sourced ingredients.
Note that the menu in The Blue Wagyu changes with the season, the only constant dish on their menu regardless of the season is the Wagyu Beef.
Address: 6998 North U.S. Highway 27 Unit #1111 Ocala, FL 34482.
8. La Cuisine French Restaurant
Located in Ocala, Florida, La Cuisine French Restaurant makes some of the best traditional French cuisine in Florida.
Their menu includes escargot, duck a l’orange, ratatouille, French onion soup and lots more. They are all prepared in a traditional style using the freshest locally sourced ingredient available.
The name of the house chef and owner of the La Cuisine French Restaurant is Chef Patrice Parron, a native of Lyon, France.
Chef Parron was trained in some of the best restaurants in the country before opening La Cuisine French Restaurant in 2009.
This restaurant has won four Golden Spoon awards and also has been featured on The Travel.
It is truly a place which should not be left out of your checklist on things to do in Ocala.
Address: 48 SW 1st Ave Ocala, FL 34471.
9. Silver River Museum and Environmental Educational Center
A visit to Silver River Museum and Environmental Educational Center makes one of the fun things to do in Ocala, Florida.
Silver River Museum and Environmental Educational Center is an educational program maintained by the Marion County school system.
The mission of this museum is to create an avenue which enables the city teach children about the natural history and ecology of Florida as a state.
In this museum, you will find exhibits that showcase the plant and animal life of Florida. These exhibits show the various ecosystems, insects, reptiles, and the history as well as lifestyle of the Seminole Indians.
During the week, the museum is closed to the public to allow usage by various schools in the state. However, on weekends, the museum is open to the public.
Admission into the museum cost $2.00, while kids below 6 are allowed to enter without cost, this makes what to do in Ocala Florida with kids for a fun time.
Address: 1445 NE 58th Ave Ocala, FL 34470.
10. Silver Spring State Park
One of the fun things to do in Ocala is a visit to Silver Spring State Park.
Silver Spring State Park is an outdoor destination frequented by locals and tourists of Central Florida.
The park got its name from a natural spring with crystal clear water which flows into the Silver River.
Visiting this park, you get a chance to walk on its paved trails which runs through the park, passing the Silver Spring and the surrounding woods.
You may decide to take a glass-bottomed boat ride on the river which allows you see underwater life in their habitat.
You are free to come along with your canoe, kayaks or boat if you have one, If you don’t, you can hire one from the park.
Other fun places to visit include a museum, an educational center, a picnic area, and a campground that has both campsites and cabins available for rent.
11. Belleview-Santos Trail
You will find some of the best landscapes and ecosystems like the cypress swamps and scrub pine forest in Ocala, Florida.
As you hike along Belleview-Santos Trail, you will get to see some of these beautiful natural views and also get a great view of Florida’s wilderness up close.
Belleview-Santos Trail runs a four and a half miles. At the trailhead, you will get to see restrooms, picnic tables and a paved parking lot.
Allowed to use this hiking trail are hikers, horseback riders and cyclists.
Do you wish to stay the night after exploring the trails, you can take advantage of the Santos Campsite which is located close to the trail.
This makes what to do in Ocala for outdoor lovers as well as photographers, as there are many amazing sites to capture.
12. Gypsy Gold Horse Farm
During a trip to England in the year 1995, Dennis and Cindy Thompson were fascinated by the stunning black and white horses they saw in an English Farm.
When they got home, they got sixteen of those horses exported from England to Florida. Together, Dennis and Cindy worked to create a breed known as the Gypsy Vanner Breed.
Today, this officially recognized horse breed is sold in their Gypsy Gold Horse Farm.
If you wish to check out this equestrian farm, you are welcomed every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday morning at 10.am when Mr. Dennis leads a walking tour.
During this tour, you will be able to have an up-close and personal experience with this very unusual breed of horse.
The farm also gives private group tours, but they must be booked in advance.
Address: 12501 SW 8th Ave Ocala, FL 34473.
13. Ocala National Forest
A natural landmark, Ocala National Forest is one of the most popular Ocala FL attractions, it is a natural destination in the state of Florida.
At this National Forest, you will get the chance to engage in fun activities such as kayaking, camping, fishing, and wildlife photography. It is also an excellent place to engage in birdwatching.
The park is frequented all through the year by tourists, It is a suitable place for camping any time of the year.
Other features of the forest include water-fed springs like Salt Spring, Alexander Spring, and Silver Glen Spring, all of which are favorite swimming attraction spots, especially during the hot and humid summer months.
To engage in activities like fishing you will be required to show a license, you can purchase one before visiting.
14. Withlacoochee State Forest
Located in Florida, Withlacoochee State Forest is not as popular as the Ocala National Forest, but it is filled with nature’s beauty.
Withlacoochee State Forest is the third largest forest in the state, It was established to preserve wildlife’s in the area and the environment as well.
Other purposes include outdoor recreation and timber production.
At Withlacoochee State Forest, you will find trails of up to 50 miles, some of which are paved while others are in their natural form.
You can spend a day exploring these trails.
Before heading to the forest, get familiar with the land’s layout to be strategic in your exploration.
This can be done by checking out the Withlacoochee State Forest website or watching a documentary at the visitor’s center.
15. Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours
One of the fun things to do in Ocala is Ziplining.
Ziplining is one of the popular Ocala activities tourists engage in while in the city.
This activity involves dangling from a thin cable hundreds of feet in the air.
If you are not scared of height, you this makes a fun way to spend the day.
This gives you a birds-eye-view of the landscape which is just amazing.
If you are interested in participating in this fun activity, Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours will help provide a platform.
Before the ride begins, you will be given an orientation and worn a safety gear for your protection.
This makes what to do in Ocala FL for adventure seekers, do consider trying this out during your visit if you are one.
Take to explore downtown Orlando, filled with fun attractions and activities, you would would love every moment in part of Orlando, here are the best things to do in downtown Orlando to guide your trip.
16. Hoggetowne Medieval Faire
Hoggetowne Medieval Faire has been around for more than three decades, this fair takes place late in January and early February of every year.
It features a variety of costumed wenches, royalty, and knights.
In this Faire, you will find some of the old-world activities such as eating undercooked meats, jousting, and falconry.
You will also find knife throwers, jugglers, and dancers to thrill visitors.
Other attractions in the Faire include amusement park-style rides and games which are appropriate for visitors of different age range.
Admission into the faire dose not cost much, plan your visit to Ocala during this Faire for a fun time.
17. Union Street Downtown Farmer’s Market
Union Street Downtown Farmer’s Market is a market in Florida that holds every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
This market began more than twenty years ago, today, it has grown into an impressive group of farmers, entrepreneurs and artisans who offer the community unique products.
The venue for the market is the Bo Diddley Community Plaza in downtown Gainesville, which is close to Ocala.
If you can’t find an item in the Ocala market, you will most likely get it here.
Items you can purchase from this market include a fantastic selection of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, jewelry, arts, crafts, along with prepared food items and tasty homemade goods.
Based on your capacity, take to buying lots of items from this market to help these small businesses grow.
18. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
Thie is one of the unique natural Ocala FL attractions, Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park.
The most spectacular element of this park is a giant sinkhole that goes as deep as 100 feet into the earth. If you have the heart for it, you can walk on a boardwalk which is was built across the sinkhole.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is home to a mini rainforest which contains different types of animals and plants, you will find the park entrance just off the Millhopper Road.
Don’t forget to stop by the visitor’s center to get an overview of the park before heading out on your own.
If you don’t want to head out alone, the park organizes a ranger-led tour for visitors every Saturday.
19. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Florida is a place blessed with an abundance of rain, sun, and warm weather, hence, this part of the United State is filled with lots of botanical gardens.
One of these gardens is the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens which is quite popular in the Ocala and Gainesville area.
Some of the features of this garden include dozens of distinct cultivated gardens, miles of pathways that are fully shaded by the trees and gazebos which brings perfect spots to relax and enjoy a drink.
The garden is most beautiful in the spring and the early summer months, you can be a part of the Spring Garden Festival held every March in this place.
This is one of the best things to do for nature lovers, do consider checking this out if you are one.
20. Halle Homestead
The story of the Halle Homestead goes as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries.
During this era, cotton was the biggest product grown in Florida, it was one of the significant economic drivers of the state.
It’s quite sad that all these cotton were grown by black slaves, who were kept in a house called the Halle Homestead.
Halle Homestead is located a little bit outside of Ocala in Gainsville, it was built in the 1850s.
Visiting the Halle Homestead, you will get an interesting insight into the lives of the owners of the cotton farm and the slaves who worked here.
Other interesting features to look out for includes it’s Talking Walls, which contains writings detailing the lives of those who lived here.
Guided tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays.
21. The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
One of the best things to do in Ocala is a visit to The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention which is situated on South Main Street in Gainesville.
The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention is a museum which is dedicated to providing a creative spark for visitors with unique ideas.
It is known to be a place with unique and stimulating attractions.
Programs offered by this museum include the Early Entrepreneur Program which is quite popular in the region.
This program is aimed at giving children the skills they need to excel in the business world (something overlooked by most school curriculum).
No place in Florida foster learning and give ideas than the Cade Museum.
22. Lubee Bat Conservancy
Bat is one animal many find irritating, It is an animals associated with evil, some persons consider them vampires.
This is mostly because many lack the knowledge of bats being amazing animals as well as their role in keeping the ecosystem balanced.
Learning more about them will go a long way to help change the perspective which we all have for these adorable flying animals, this is the mission of Lubee Bat Conservancy.
You will find Lubee Bat Conservancy just outside Ocala.
They hold festivals to propagate the agenda of Lubee Bat Conservancy, this festival holds in October, you too can be part of it.
23. Downtown Ocala
The best, fun, and beautiful attractions of Ocala are mostly found in its historic downtown area.
You will find eateries, boutiques, galleries and bars in this area.
Downtown Ocala is quaint, it brings to remembrance what the Old America was like.
You can explore every spot in this area in one day, as attraction is within walking distance.
Some of the places in this area where you may wish to stop by as you explore includes the Corkscrew winery and the downtown market.
You can also stop by the Marion Theatre to watch a show or the Brick City Center for the Arts to appreciate local art.
There is the Downtown Billiards, do check it out if pool is your thing.
The First Friday Art Walk holds in this section of the city, every first Friday between September and May.
24. Silver River Activities
One of the best things to do in Ocala is a visit to this incredible crystalline river called Silver River.
The river got its name from its silvery and slinky appearance.
Silver River is located in a green woodland area, since the river is fed by the spring, its waters are always extremely clean.
Swimming is not permitted in the river, but you are allowed to explore the river on a kayak.
If you have a kayak, you are free to come along with it, however, if you don’t, you can join any of the kayaking tours organized by tour companies in the area.
Exploring the river is fun, due to the fact the water is clear, you can see marine life in the river as your explore.
25. Fort King National Historic Park
A walk into the Fort King National Historic Park is like traveling back in time to the 80s.
Known today as Fort King National Historic Park, this area which is near Ocala was formerly a United States military fort.
This fort was named after Colonel William King who commanded Florida’s Fourth Infantry, he was also the first governor of the region.
The fort was built in the year 1827 when the tension between Florida Seminoles and the United States were high.
When the issues were resolved in 1844, the fort was used as a courthouse for a while, only to be abandoned totally.
Today, this site is preserved as a National Historic Landmark after reconstruction in the year 2017.
Plan your visit to Fort King National Historic Park to get a taste of history.
The fort is open every day of the year from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
26. The Howard Johnson Inn
Located in Ocala, Howard Johnson is situated at about four miles to the center of the city and it is one of the best places to stay in Ocala.
This hotel contains a swimming pool, golf courses, cabanas and lots of other recreational facilities. Every room is equipped with cable TV and free Wi-Fi connection.
Howard Johnson is situated close to fun attraction spots such as the Silver River State Park which is 20 minutes drive away.
It is also close to the Thunderbird Care which is an on-site restaurant, they serves waffles, pastries, and fruits as dessert.
27. The Hilton
Hilton is a hotel in Ocala which is located off Interstate 75, this hotel features a cocktail lounge.
Here you will find Arthur’s Restaurant which serves some of the best dishes in town.
You can lounge by the restaurant’s pool, or play volleyball in the volley court owned by the hotel.
Fun places close to the hotel include the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and so many others.
28. HITS horse Show
The HITS is a showjumping circuit which operates in Ocala during the winter season, they are the host to the HITS horse Show.
The HITS draws thousands of show jumpers and hunters to Ocala.
During the show, anyone who can ride a horse, from kids to world-class competitors are allowed to bring their horses if they wish to compete, the prize for the winner is $1 Million.
You will get to see lots of gorgeous horses here.
HITS is a fitting festival for this ‘world’s horse capital’, it makes one of Ocala activities you should not miss.
29. The Seven Sisters Inn
One of the best places to stay in Ocala is the Seven Sisters Inn, this Inn is situated in Ocala’s Historic District and it is housed in a Gothic Victorian home which was built in 1890.
Though it is listed as a haunted place in Florida, it is every tourist choice.
Quite a beautiful Inn, you will be impressed by its historic touches.
Its rooms are identified using the names of places, hence, you can travel from Egypt to Beijing, Paris and Morocco by just changing rooms.
Every morning, the Inn serves a 3-course breakfast to visitors, you can spend the morning and afternoon lounging in the Inn for a fun time.
30. Rainbow River Kayaking
Rainbow River is a River fed by the Rainbow Spring, one of the best things to do here is a kayak or paddleboard ride.
If you have a kayak you can come along with it, you can also rent one from the park.
While Kayaking, you will notice how crystal clear the Rainbow River can be, looking down into the water from your Kayak, you will be able to see everything in the river bed, from the white sandstone to the emerald green seagrass.
You will also see several aquatic life in the river.
Swimming in this river is not allowed, do consider adding a visit here on your itinerary of things to do in Ocala FL.
31. Rainbow Spring State Park
An old Florida Highway attraction, Rainbow Spring State Park is one of the Florida State Parks.
This park once housed a zoo, you can still see its remains in the park.
Other features of the park include a waterfall and nature trails, an exploration of these trails leads to incredibly beautiful locations of the park.
There is also the Rainbow Spring in this park, the park got its name from this spring.
This parks also features lots of picnic areas, making it a cool place the family can hang out.
32. Stone Creek Golf Course
If you are a lover of Golf, then you won’t find any vacation without the chance to golf as fulfilling.
Stone Creek Golf Course is an 18-hole championship golf course which is situated on 187 acres of beautiful rolling countryside.
This golf course also has more than four acres of Champions Bermuda greens suitable for golfing.
If you wish to golf but don’t know how, the golf company offers classes on golfing to beginners during the weekends.
Address: 9676 SW 62nd Loop, Ocala, Florida 34481.
Plan Your Trip to Ocala
Ocala is a perfect illustration of the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”,
A casual look at the city, and the feel of calmness here, one might assume Ocala as a boring city, hence, missing all the fun it offers.
This list of things to do in Ocala which cut across its parks for picnics, festivals, horse riding, and other fun stuff, are all in place to give you a fun time in this city.