The city of Ocala was established in 1849, but has roots going back centuries of Native American culture. Ocale, or Ocali was a Timucua village and means “Big Hammock” later inhabited by Seminole Native Americans. The downtown area of Ocala was destroyed by a fire on Thanksgiving Day, 1883. The city encouraged rebuilding with brick, granite and steel and became known statewide as “The Brick City.”
Ocala has much more to offer in addition to beautiful horse farms. Often referred to as a “big small town” the myriad of activities, quality of healthcare and education speak for themselves;
Healthcare. There is no shortage of quality healthcare and resources in Ocala and Marion County. The caliber of physicians and medical support staff is exceptional. Ocala has three premier hospitals; Florida Hospital, formerly known as Munroe Regional Medical Center, Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Community Hospital all have received nationally recognized awards. Our proximity to University of Florida Health, a teaching hospital has giving our community a wealth of expert healthcare providers.
The Arts. Ocala offers an exciting variety of entertainment and arts from the Ocala Symphony Orchestra to theater productions at the Ocala Civic Theatre and local museums such as the Appleton Museum of Art.
The Ocala Film Foundation hosts the annual Silver Springs Film Festival. Enjoy local artists featuring their work on the First Friday night of the month. Fine Arts for Ocala (FAFO) hosts “Symphony Under the Stars” on Mother’s Day and the Ocala Arts Festival in October in downtown Ocala.
Ocala’s Downtown has something for almost everyone. There are more than a dozen fine dining establishments, many locally owned. Local artists feature their work at the First Friday Art Walk hosted from September through May, festivities include over 40 artist displays, acoustic entertainment, free family art activities and extended shopping hours.
Citizen’s Circle, walking distance from the downtown square hosts family friendly outdoor concert series, Downtown LIVE. Enjoy a movie at the historic Marion Theatre or take a walk through Tuscawilla park to enjoy the new sculpture exhibit featuring ten outdoor sculptures throughout the park.
Outdoor Activities are abundant whether you are seeking adventure or more leisurely activities. Some of our favorites include;
If you’re looking for adventure, Canyon Zip Line Tours may be the activity for you. The zip line course is built over an abandoned limestone quarry. Florida is largely flat, so the cliffs and canyons are quite impressive. The scenery is incredible and you won’t see this kind of scene anywhere else in Florida!
The Marjorie Harris Car Cross Florida Greenway trail offers more than 100 miles of shared-use trails for horseback riders, bikers and hikers to explore. The Greenway’s trails are accessible through the Florida Horse Park featuring a unique land bridge and the opportunity to cross I-75 on horseback.
The Santos Bike Trails offer over 60 miles of mountain bike trails from beginners to intermediate to advanced trails with three major trailheads. Santos is known nationally in biking circles and hosts several events throughout the year. The Ocala National Forest also offers more than 100 miles of riding and hiking trails. Other popular hikes include Payne’s Prairie, where you are likely to see alligators and if you’re lucky, a wild bison.
Golf is another popular activity enjoyed year round in Central Florida. Ocala is home to nearly 20 courses. Public courses and Private courses include; Golden Ocala which boasts of eight masterfully recreated tributes from some of the world’s finest courses. The Country Club at Silver Springs Shores is known for having some of the fastest and most severe greens in the area. Ocala Golf Club and Baseline Golf courses are beautifully landscaped and offer a wonderful golfing experience as well.
You simply can’t come to Ocala and not spend time on the water. The opportunities to enjoy boating, fishing, swimming and kayaking abound. Silver Springs in Ocala is the largest artesian spring system in the world (by water flow), kayak down the Silver River keeping an eye out for alligators and wild monkeys who live in the area as a result of Tarzan films made in the 1950s.
Swim in the springs at Juniper or kayak Juniper Run, the beauty is breathtaking. If you long for something relaxing, float down the Rainbow River and enjoy the clear spring water and beautiful scenery at a more relaxed pace.
Do you want more options? Ocala is centrally located, less than two hours from either the Gulf or Atlantic coast; major tourist destinations such as Disney World, in Orlando and Busch Gardens in Tampa; historic St. Augustine and so much more. It’s all at your fingertips here.