Things to do

19 Best Things To Do In Ocala, Florida

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Bursting with Sunshine State spirit, Ocala, Florida beckons you with tours of rolling hills, pristine wetlands, and rich history. Dive into the "horse capital of the world" on farm tours and equestrian events, or fly through cypress canyons on zip lines. Kayak, explore museums, and discover ancient relics in historic castles.

Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, a cultural break, or a luxury getaway, these 19 unforgettable experiences are a must-try. Come along and explore the best things to do in Ocala, Florida!

1. Visit The Silver Springs State Park

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Silver Springs State Park is one of the best state parks in Florida that boasts an array of outdoor activities such as glass-bottom boat tours, kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, and wildlife observation.

Additionally, visitors can also explore the Silver River Museum and Cracker Village, which showcase Florida's rich history. Despite ongoing construction, a visit to Silver Springs State Park is highly recommended.

2. Explore The Appleton Museum Of Art

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The Appleton Museum of Art houses over 24,000 objects, featuring art from various cultures worldwide, along with pieces reflecting Central Florida's history and cultural heritage. The museum prioritizes accessibility to its collections, buildings, programs, and services for all visitors.

To preserve the artwork, visitors are urged to keep a minimum distance of 12 inches and refrain from touching the pieces. Additionally, the museum provides art classes, workshops, and family activities, making it a top destination in Ocala Florida United States.

3. Explore Fort King National Historic Site

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Fort King National Historic Site, one of Ocala's attractions is a significant reminder of America's conflict with native tribes. Visitors can explore the Fort King Visitor Center and Archaeological Resource Center. The site offers a heritage garden, interpretive trail, and educational programs.

Managed by the Fort King Heritage Association, Inc., and operated by the City of Ocala, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2004. Admission is free, offering insight into the area's history and the Seminole Wars.

4. Visit Gypsy Gold Horse Farm

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Gypsy Gold Horse Farm offers farm tours where visitors can learn about the history and breeding of Gypsy Vanner Horses. The farm is owned by Dennis Thompson, a breeder of these horses. During the tour, visitors can take photos with the horses and gain insights into their history and breeding.

Moreover, reservations are recommended for tours which can be made online or by phone. Also, it is advised to wear closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothing to make the tour hassle-free and fun.

5. See A Show At The Ocala Civic Theatre

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The Ocala Civic Theatre, located in the Appleton Cultural Center, is one of the largest community theaters in Florida. It offers a diverse range of shows and performances, providing a vibrant and inclusive space for artists of all backgrounds to tell stories that resonate with the audience.

Also, the theater's schedule of shows and events can be found on its official website or by contacting the theater directly. It is a popular attraction in Ocala, entertaining both locals and visitors to the area.

6. Explore Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

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Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, near Ocala, covers 68 acres and showcases 24 major plant collections, including large displays of bamboo and herbs. Visitors can explore themed gardens along a 1 ½ mile-paved walkway leading to a lake.

Moreover, the gardens are open most days, with free admission for children under 6 and the highlights include unique bamboo and blooming trillium. The gardens also host events like the Spring Garden Festival with various exhibits and activities.

7. Visit Withlacoochee State Forest

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Withlacoochee State Forest, one of the best places to visit in Florida offers a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and canoeing across its vast area. With 31 eco-friendly trails and the popular 47-mile paved Withlacoochee State Trail, visitors have plenty of options.

Moreover, camping, canoeing, and seasonal hunting are also available. Additionally, the forest provides diverse flora and fauna for nature enthusiasts along with amenities like picnic spots and restrooms for outdoor fun.

8. Hike or Bike In The Ocala National Forest

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The Ocala National Forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking and biking opportunities. Popular trails like the Florida Trail cater to both backpackers and day-hikers and mountain bikers can enjoy the 22-mile Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail loop.

Additionally, visitors can immerse themselves in diverse natural environments, from sand pine scrub to sandhill, and observe abundant wildlife. The forest is open for activities from sunrise to sunset, with some areas featuring picnic spots and restrooms.

9. Visit Sholom Park

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Sholom Park is a private park open to everyone, offering a peaceful and beautiful environment. The park was designed as a space for reflection, meditation, and learning, featuring gardens, ponds, and walking paths.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy its unique beauty for strolls, nature watching, or quiet retreats. This park is one of the Ocala Florida attractions that welcomes people of all ages to enjoy its serene and enchanting atmosphere.

10. Kayak Along Alexander Springs

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Alexander Springs in Ocala offers clear kayak tours for exploring its pristine waters. Rent a kayak for a day of paddling along the scenic trail. Enjoy observing birds and fish in the cold, transparent water.

Additionally, picnic tables and the Timucuan Trail provide relaxing spots. However, kayak rental prices vary, and tandem kayaks or canoes are also available. Moreover, visitors are responsible for paddling back to the springs. 

11. Explore Silver River

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Silver River, one of Ocala FL attractions offers visitors the opportunity to explore its crystal clear waters. Renting a kayak allows for easy paddling, with plenty of birds and fish to observe. The five-mile Silver River is home to monkeys, otters, manatees, alligators, and turtles.

Additionally, the nearby Alexander Springs Recreation Area provides amenities like campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, and canoe rentals. Visitors can also explore the Silver River Museum and Cracker Village to learn about Florida's history.

12. Walk Through Historic Downtown Ocala

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Downtown Ocala features a historic district from the 1880s to 1930s, with diverse architecture. The Ocala Historic District is significant for its ties to notable figures and architectural trends of the time. With its well-preserved character, lush greenery, and community-focused atmosphere, Downtown Ocala offers a vibrant setting that blends history, arts, and entertainment.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy strolling around the charming Downtown Square, exploring eateries, shops, and cultural attractions, blending the past and present.

13. Have Fun At The Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park

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The Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park offers thrilling zip-lining experiences over two canyons and four lakes. With attractions like the Treetop Express, Sky High Tour, and Full Moon Zip Tour, it is a perfect place for outdoor activities in Ocala Florida.

In addition to zip lining, visitors can also enjoy horseback riding, gem mining, and kayaking. The Canyons provides a dynamic outdoor adventure that promises fun, excitement, and unforgettable memories for thrill-seekers.

14. Visit Ocala Petting Zoo

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The Ocala Petting Zoo offers close encounters with various farm and exotic animals, such as alpacas, llamas, camels, lemurs, and more. Pony and camel rides are offered on weekends, and amenities like a picnic area and play zone are included with admission.

The zoo operates year-round, weather permitting, and closed-toe shoes are advised. Additionally, visitors can also explore The Barnyard Bunch of Ocala, a mobile petting zoo, for a different experience.

15. Walk Along Santos - Belleview Trail

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The Santos - Belleview Trail in Florida Ocala is a popular outdoor destination for hiking and biking. It's part of the Cross Florida Greenway and Florida Trail, offering diverse paths and historical sights. The trail features the famous Vortex section for mountain biking.

Open year-round, it spans about 6.7 miles and showcases natural attractions like ancient trees and sinkholes. As part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, this trail is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lover.

16. Visit The Don Garlits Museum Of Drag Racing

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The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala FL United States is a renowned attraction showcasing an extensive collection of drag racing cars and memorabilia. Opened in 1976, the museum aims to preserve the sport's history.

Here, visitors can explore over 300 cars in two buildings, including the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. The museum is open daily, and discounts are also available for larger groups, making it a must-visit for enthusiasts and those interested in drag racing history.

17. Visit Juniper Prairie Wilderness

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The Juniper Prairie Wilderness, located in Ocala National Forest, Florida, covers over 14,000 acres of protected land. It boasts diverse habitats like prairies, scrub, marshes, and jungles. Juniper Springs, a major aquifer, originates here.

Visitors can hike the Florida Trail to see the area's beauty, including hills and wildlife like bears. Primitive camping is also available, making it a top destination for nature lovers exploring Florida's wilderness.

18. Visit World Equestrian Center

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The World Equestrian Center in Ocala Florida USA hosts a range of equestrian events, including hunter/jumper and barrel racing. With 15 outdoor rings and five indoor arenas, it accommodates competitions rain or shine. Families can enjoy on-site lodging, dining, and volunteer opportunities.

Additionally, spectators have covered seating options, and there are various accommodation choices like The Equestrian Hotel and RV Park. It's a top destination for equestrian fans and families, promising an unforgettable experience for all involved.

19. Catch A Performance At Reilly Arts Center

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Watching a performance at Reilly Arts Center is a fun stuff to do in Ocala FL as it is a hub for live performances like music, comedy, and films. It hosts a range of events, including the Ocala Symphony Orchestra's Young Artist Competition Honors Recital, Chamber Winds performance, and Percussion Ensemble celebration.

Supported by TD Bank, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and other organizations, it offers a diverse program, making this place a must-visit.