When Southerners close their eyes and picture paradise, it frequently resembles a Florida beach a little (well, probably more than frequently).
Florida is picture-perfect with its sugar-white sand, clear blue waters, and plenty of palm trees. Our fascination with Florida beaches have several drawbacks, including the potential for blinding us to inland locations that are equally deserving of a visit as their coastal counterparts.
Take Ocala, Florida, as an example.
This medium-sized town in central Florida, halfway between Gainesville and Orlando, is surrounded by breathtaking views at every turn.
Ocala, Florida, is a site of rolling green pastureland and picturesque views. It has been dubbed the Horse Capitol of the World due to its numerous active horse farms and major participation in the horse industry. Furthermore, just because it isn’t on the ocean doesn’t mean you can’t find water.
Several impressive natural springs can be found in Ocala, which helped to establish the town as a popular tourist destination decades ago.
Here is a list of some of the top places that you will want to check out when you visit Ocala, Florida.
Without water, a trip to Florida is meaningless according to conventual wisdom.
Ocala’s numerous natural springs are simply crystal-clear freshwater pools.
The Juniper Springs Recreation Area is a vast complex of natural swimming pools and springs of all sizes, from the little and bubbling to the enormous and gushing. Bring your suit and be ready to swim here in the cool, refreshing water.
The year round 72° water is surrounded by a lush forest of palm and oak trees.
Paradise Springs is a privately owned cavern where SCUBA certified divers can have a different kind of adventure. There, divers can examine prehistoric fossils on old limestone walls while submerged.
Some other springs you will want to check out include: Rainbow Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Salt Springs, and Silver Springs.
Ocala National Forest
The Ocala National Forest, Florida’s second-largest national forest with 387,000 acres, is located on the outskirts of the city.
More than 600 marshes, lakes, rivers, and streams are connected by pathways that allow visitors to explore the extensive coniferous and sand pine scrub forestland. Additional activities available inside the forest include swimming, snorkeling, diving, and diving.
The Appleton Museum of Art
You will definitely want to visit the 81,000 square foot Appleton Museum of Art, a classic and modern art museum that is a part of the Appleton Cultural Center complex at the College of Central Florida.
24,000 artifacts are housed in the museum’s collection, which is on exhibit in galleries that feature everything from Florida artists and equestrian art to Pre-Columbian relics and maritime collections. And don’t forget to check out the garden and outdoor sculpture walk before you leave.
Equestrian World Center
Without spending some time with the dominant animal in Ocala, you can’t truly call the Horse Capital of the World home. The World Equestrian Center, the biggest equestrian complex in the nation, is the ideal location to achieve this.
World-class indoor and outdoor arenas, a luxurious hotel, cutting-edge amenities, shops, restaurants, and more can all be found at the sizable complex.
You just need to look up an event on the web calendar that interests you as most of the center’s equestrian activities are free.
When you’re ready to participate, reserve a riding excursion with Canyons Zip Line & Adventure Park or Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides.
You can ride a beautiful, well-maintained horse around the Cross Florida Greenway State Park on a 1- to 2-hour guided tour with Cactus Jack’s.
You’ll pass through oak hammocks, pine forest while seeing plenty of wildlife along the way.
Ocala’s Historic Downtown
When you’ve had your fill of outdoor adventures, come to Downtown Ocala for farm-to-table cuisine, craft brews, and boutique shopping in one accessible, simple-to-explore historic district.
Town Square, a paved octagon surrounded by trees and grass with a historic gazebo, is the center of a swarm of neighborhood establishments, restaurants, and shops that extend for a few square blocks.
The Lodge Brick City Craft Pub & Restaurant serves traditional pub fare, and Ivy on the Square serves cuisine with a Southern flair.
Have a pint at the microbrewery Infinite Ale Works to wash it down, then make a trip to the Marley Mae Market & Paperie or Tumbleweed of Ocala.
Silver Springs State Park
Visit Silver Springs State Park to explore Ocala’s original tourist destination. The gorgeous natural springs were previously surrounded by a waterpark, but today a kayak or glass-bottom boat tour is the best way to experience the natural beauty.
Both, along with standup paddle boards and canoes, are available for rental through Silver Springs State Park. Prices are as low as $12.
Canyons Zip Line & Adventure Park
Have a different kind of escapade at Canyons Zip Line & Adventure Park. Choose from five unique zip line excursions to soar above two imposing limestone canyons and four sparkling lakes.
Little known fact: This is the longest, highest, and fastest water-based zipline in the United States!
Ocala Florida is a hidden gem in the Sunshine State. Make plans to visit as soon as possible.