If you want to have unforgettable experiences, you must visit Ocala, Florida. It is the perfect place for a romantic gateway or vacation destination with family or friends. So, what things can you do as you enjoy your stay in Ocala? You can visit the historical museums, Alexander Springs, Silver Springs, and Bellview Santos. You can go swimming, fishing, camping, kayaking, or do wildlife photography. Therefore you can be sure when you visit Ocala; that you will have the best time of your life. Here are the 20 best things to do in Ocala, Florida.
20. Learning about Ecology of Florida and Natural History at the Silver River Museum
This museum has an educational program where you learn about the history of the natives of Florida. The school system in Marion County sponsors the educational program. The museum also teaches visitors about the ecology of Florida and its natural history. The museum showcases exhibits of various animal and plant life in Florida. You will see reptiles and insects and learn about the lifestyle and history of Seminole Indians. On weekdays the museum is closed for school group tours, and on weekends it is open to the public. The museum charges $2 as an entrance fee.
19. Hiking, Biking, Strolling, and Picnicking at the Sholom Park
Sholom Park covers 44 acres of land. It is a quiet retreat site where you can reflect on your life. The park is designed with a mixture of native plants. It also has carefully selected perennials, shrubs, and trees to make the park a natural environment. As you visit this, you will enjoy the 11 landscaped areas where you can enjoy picnics with family or friends. You can go biking or hiking on the simple azalea trail as you enjoy the view of the park. Also, the park has walkways to help you navigate around the surroundings.
18. Camping, Hiking, and Biking at the Belleview-Santos Trail
The Belleview Santos Trail is the best place for you to enjoy the landscape and ecosystem of Ocala. It includes cypress swamps, pine forests, and scrubs deep in this trail's wilderness. According to Florida State Park, the Santos Trail is over 80 miles track trail for bikers with beginner to expert levels. The trail has paved parking, picnic tables, and restrooms at the trailhead. Horse riders, cyclists, and hikers can enjoy using this trail and exploring nature. If you want to spend the night, there is ample space for camping.
17. Enjoying Escargot, French Onion Soup, and Ratatouille at La Cuisine Restaurant
La Cuisine is a French restaurant and is run by Patrice Perron. He is a Frenchman from Lyon that established this restaurant in 2009. This restaurant has been featured on various restaurant and food channels, including the Travel Channel. Plus, the restaurant has won 4 Golden Spoon awards. In this restaurant, you will enjoy traditional French cuisines such as duck a l'orange, ratatouille, and escargot. You can order the delicious French onion soup and Bouillabaisse. Do not forget to try their special Cassoulet, Boeuf bourguignon, and Croque Monsieur.
16. Enjoying Live Music, Concerts, Musicals, and Plays at the Ocala Civic Theatre
You must visit the Ocala Civic Theatre if you like watching live music, concerts, musicals, and plays. It is the heart of theatre arts in Florida and is a cultural center for various events. Additionally, it has twelve productions each year and hosts other touring exhibitions. The theatre has workshops and educational classes for children and adult students. The topics that are covered include musical performance, improvisation, and movement. You will also learn how to stage a theatre production. Tickets for shows are sold online or at the box office.
15. Camping, Canoeing, and Nature Viewing at the Juniper Prairie Wilderness
The Juniper Prairie Wilderness cover over 14,000 acres of land. It is among the four wilderness of Ocala National Forest. It is an excellent example of an undisturbed sand pine forest with no motor vehicle access or roads. According to FS.USDA.GOV, it is an ideal place for nature viewing, camping, and canoeing. Walking across the wilderness, you will see several habitats such as pine flat woods and grass prairie. You will also see hardwood swamps and marsh. The interpretive center will have more information about the different habitats in the wilderness. If you are planning to camp, you must carry drinking water.
14. Touring and Horse Riding at the Gypsy Horse Farm in Ocala, Florida
Cindy and Dennis Thompson were fascinated by the white and black horses during their trip to England. They decided to export 16 horses from England to Ocala and eventually opened the Gypsy Horse Farm. Today, they sell and breed beautiful horses on their Ocala farm. You can enjoy touring the farm and horse riding every Saturday, Friday, and Wednesday from 10:00 am. You will get an opportunity to have an up-close experience with these rear breeds. For that reason, if you plan to visit the farm, you must make a reservation.
13. Touring the Don Garlits Museum to View the Classic Cars and Dragsters
Don Garlits is also known as "Big Daddy" he is the king of drag racing. You cannot separate drag racing from his name. During his career of forty years, he won 144 national titles and 17 world championships. Garlits fabricated and designed the cars he used, which are available in the museum. The museum has various collections of Don Garlits cars. You will see classic cars, dragsters, and racing memorabilia. The collection of vehicles occupies two houses, and there is a gift shop to buy souvenirs to take back home. Don Garlits and his wife live next door, and you may catch sight of them.
12. Viewing Artifacts and European Art or attending Art Shows at the Appleton Museum
The Appleton Museum is found on the college campus of central Florida. It is the best destination to view fine art in Florida. The museum has an auditorium and five galleries surrounded by a beautiful landscape. According to The Crazy Tourist, the museum has special lectures, classes, and workshops throughout the year. You can enjoy viewing artifacts and European art or attending art shows in the museum. The museum is known to host art competitions to create awareness of art and entertain the public.
11. Swimming, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, and Picnicking at the Alexander Springs
Central Florida boasts of Ocala National Forest. It is covered with sand scrub pines and has natural hot springs. For example, Alexander Springs provide a perfect recreational area with fresh water and is easily accessible. You can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming in these turquoise waters. However, they have a constant temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The springs have a beautiful picnic area and shaded walking trails. There are also campground spaces for RVs and tents.
10. Camping, Hiking, and Wildlife Viewing at the Glen Springs
You must visit this forest if you like camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing. It covers 1.1 million acres of land filled with beautiful natural areas. The forest has wildlife such as deer and antelopes for you to view and photograph. The forest has over 50 miles of trail where you can hike or bike as you explore the beautiful landscape. However, it would be best to familiarize yourself at the tourist center with the forest layout before heading out. If you like camping, the forest has designated camping areas where you can set up your tent or RV.
9. Enjoying Louisiana Fondeaux, Boudin Balls, and Shrimp at Harry's Seafood Bar
This restaurant has been serving seafood since 1987. It has built a reputation in Ocala for serving delicious seafood prepared from fresh and high-quality ingredients. According to Hooked on Harrys, the bar section serves various drinks such as cocktails, wines, and beers. Harry's restaurant is known for serving delectable Cajun and Creole cuisine. You can try out their Grits and Shrimp, which have an innovative twist in their preparation. Do not leave this restaurant without trying their sweet Louisiana Fondeaux and Boudin Balls. Apart from seafood, you can enjoy meat and chicken dishes.
8. Enjoying Solving Riddles and Puzzles to Make Your Escape at the Ocala Escape
If you like challenges and solving puzzles, the Ocala escape is the right place for you. You can visit here with family and friends to see if you can solve the various Escape challenges. You will need to select a scenario and reserve your chosen room. The Ocala Escape has different themes and levels according to age and number of players. You can play the Wolf Creek escape if you are two to four. If you are a large group, you can play Enchanted Emporium. You will have to solve puzzles and riddles to escape in under one hour.
7. Enjoying Music Concerts and Orchestra at the Reilly Arts Center
The Reilly Arts Center opened in 1940. It has a capacity of 700 seats and the most recent equipment and acoustics. If you like concerts, live music and orchestra you must pass by this arts center in Ocala. The center is home to Ocala Symphony Orchestra. Several big bands such as the Deff Leopard, Pink Floyd, and Eagles like performing at this center. You can be sure you will get value for your money if you plan to attend any event at this center.
6. Viewing Squirrel Monkey, Bongo, Wallaby, and Ilamas at the Petting Zoo
If you like viewing animals, you can tour the Petting Zoo to watch different animals. The zoo is ideal for children and adults. This zoo has a variety of exotic pets that have been rescued and some farm animals. According to Peettingzooocala, the entrance fee at the zoo for adults is $12, and for children is $10. For veterans or senior citizens, their fee is $11. As you visit this zoo, you will see mammals such as squirrel monkeys, Bongo, and ring-tailed lemur. The zoo has some domestic animals such as wallabies, Ilamas, camels, pigs, sheep, and goats. You can enjoy watching the several birds and reptiles in the zoo.
5. Enjoying Jammin Jambalaya, Rondo, Fajitas, Tacos, and Cajun at the Mojo Grill
Rondo Fernandez runs the Mojo Grill. This chef believes in combining good music and great vibes with delicious food. This Grill believes music feeds your soul. Therefore as you enjoy your meal, you also enjoy some blues music. This Grill is known for serving delectable Cuban and Cajun cuisines. The food in this Grill is mouth-watering; you might be tempted to try every food. You can enjoy their specials such as Jammin Jambalaya, tacos, fajitas and quesadillas. You try out the Cuban pork dinner, popularly known as "Rondo."
4. Enjoying Zip Lining, Kayaking, Gem Mining at the Adventure Park and Canyons Zip Line
The Adventure Park and Canyons Zip Line have a wide range of fun activities and beautiful views of Ocala. You will have the best zip line adventure at this place. As you enjoy the zip line, you will see two separate canyons and four lakes from your aerial view. Depending on your preference, you can choose three different tours. You can also enjoy other activities such as kayaking, horseback tours, and gem mining through the canyon. You can engage in hiking or fossil hunting at the canyons.
3. Viewing the Critter Collection, Science Exhibitions at the Discovery Center
The Ocala discovery center is where your children can have fun as they learn about science. It opened in 1997, and the main goal was to create awareness about science in Ocala. According to Ocalafi, you can subscribe to an annual membership. The advantage of the yearly subscription is that your children can visit the center as often as they want. They will also get discounts on campus, plus programs and classes. As you visit this place, your children will view the Critter collection and learning laboratories. They will join in the pop-up activities and view the different science exhibitions.
2. Learning the History of the Fort King Historic Landmark and Exploring Heritage Garden
If you like history, you can visit the Fort King Landmark to learn about its history. This fort is among the many frontier forts built during the Seminole Wars. This landmark occupies 40 acres of land and is a replica of the original Fort King. You will watch several introductory video clips at the visitor's center when you visit this fort. You will also view some artifacts preserved in this fort. You will be allowed to explore the Heritage Garden in the fort, where you can have a picnic.
1. Canoeing, Kayaking, and Camping at the Silver Springs Park
This park has been a destination for both Ocala locals and tourists. The park has a clear natural spring that flows into Silver Springs. If you like water sports or clear water bodies, this must be your number one stop before visiting any other place in Ocala. You will walk on the paved trails around the spring as you watch the marine life. Or you can take a boat ride and watch wildlife from the comfort of your seat. You are allowed to bring your kayaks and canoes to explore the river. The park has picnic areas and campsites areas for visitors.
Written by Liz Flynn
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