Ocala Florida Tourist Attractions
Ocala, Florida is an ideal destination for travelers looking to explore and experience all that the Sunshine State has to offer. Located in Central Florida’s rolling hills, Ocala provides a diverse array of activities visitors can enjoy. From historical sites to nature trails, there are plenty of attractions for everyone to take part in.
No trip to Ocala is complete without visiting Silver Springs State Park. This iconic park offers visitors a chance to witness its crystal clear springs as well as experience its wildlife up close. Guests can also take a glass-bottom boat tour or horseback ride through the park’s lush trails. Another popular attraction located nearby is the Appleton Museum of Art, which houses more than 20 galleries featuring fine art from around the world.
Silver Springs – “Nature’s Theme Park”, the Ocala National Forest, rolling green fields of horse farms, historic districts, and city streets canopied by 100-year-old trees, outstanding golf courses, friendly communities, crystal-clear rivers, and fresh-water springs. This, coupled with the subtropical climate, is what makes Marion County and its county seat Ocala a vacation land year-round.
The county is a successful blend of past and present. Drive down Fort King Street in the Ocala historic district, and you will be impressed by the obvious care taken with the renovation and preservation of the area’s homes.
Ocala Historic District
The Ocala Historic District offers the opportunity to take a walking tour through stately neighborhoods of lovely Victorian homes. Fort King Street was named after the military post of Fort King, the site of which is within city limits. Fort King was built prior to the Second Seminole War of Florida (1835-1842). Your walking tour will travel from prehistoric finds to the modern day, within a few blocks. On Friday and Saturday evenings, horse-drawn carriage rides bring a touch of the past to visitors. Each spring dogwoods, azaleas, and other colorful flowers invite visitors to drive along the tree-shaded streets.
Marion County’s land and waters offer a wealth of recreational opportunities. Several outstanding attractions reflect millions of years of life. The most impressive is Silver Springs, the largest artesian spring system, by water flow, in the world. Here, evidence of prehistoric animals goes back more than a million years; traces of man a mere 10,000. For more than a century the springs have been a tourist attraction – Florida’s first – with early visitors arriving by stagecoach and steamboat.
Ocala National Forest
Nearly three-quarters of the Ocala National Forest is in Marion County. The Forest offers 383,573 acres of unique ecological sites, trails, and natural springs with designated trails for horseback riding. Specially marked walking/hiking trails are located throughout this wonderful resource. Lake Eaton Sinkhole and the Lake Eaton Loop are only two of the trails that allow the visitor to explore the area on easily traveled interpretive trails.
With its lush greenery and beautiful landscapes, it offers a wide array of outdoor activities for nature lovers. The forest provides a range of recreational opportunities from camping, hunting, fishing, and even horseback riding to visitors.
This national park is home to an abundance of wildlife including alligators, foxes, birds, and other native animals. There are over 600 natural lakes scattered throughout the forest which provide excellent fishing opportunities for those looking to spend some time outdoors. Visitors can also take advantage of nearby trails designed specifically for hiking as well as canoeing or kayaking along the many streams that flow through the area.
Appleton Museum of Art
The Appleton Museum of Art, located in Ocala, Florida is a premier art museum that houses an amazing collection of fine arts. Founded in 1987, the museum’s Paine Gallery consists of over 3,000 pieces from around the world and throughout history. With a mission to bring awareness and appreciation for art to all who visit, the Appleton Museum of Art offers guided tours emphasizing interesting facts about each featured piece. Visitors can explore paintings and sculptures by well-known artists such as Picasso, Monet, and Rembrandt.
The Appleton also features a large selection of contemporary art with local artists represented in both permanent collections and rotating exhibits. Additionally, the museum offers educational programs focused on visual expression through lectures, studio classes, and workshops for children and adults alike.
Fore Lake Recreation Area
Fore Lake Recreation Area is a day-use and camping area that is open year-round. A 250-foot sandy beach provides swimming and sunbathing opportunities. Fishing and boating in small, non-gasoline-powered craft are allowed, and a fishing pier is at the southeast corner of the lake.
One can’t be in Marion County without becoming aware immediately that this is officially the “Horse Capital of the World.” Horses are big businesses in Marion County. More than three-quarters of Florida’s 600 Thoroughbred breeding and training facilities are located in the Ocala area. The county is one of only four major Thoroughbred centers in the world and is equal to Lexington, Kentucky; Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France. Each spring, for five weeks, the “Horse Shows in the Sun” (HITS) stages one of the largest hunter/jumper shows in the United States. Several horse farms welcome visitors to tour. Visitors who bring their own horses can ride forest and greenway trails.
The Timucuan Indians were the first settlers in the area they named “Ocali,” a place with rich soil and crystal clear rivers. Today this area is known as Marion County, named after Francis Marion, a South Carolinian military leader who defended the South against the British in the Revolutionary War. Ocala has retained the charm of a traditional, rural Southern town and this historical setting complements the beautiful scenery.
Vacationers can relish the winding community pathways that are lined with oak trees and dangling trellises of Spanish moss, or they can explore miles of untainted nature. If the prospect of canoeing down a crystal clear stream amidst the largest sand pine forest in the world sounds appealing to you, Ocala is worth investigating. The region’s freshwater streams, rolling hills, and clean air remain unspoiled and are frequently used for idyllic scenes in Hollywood movies. Camping and natural attractions throughout Ocala offer visitors a chance to relax and unwind amidst these pristine surroundings. Opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, and watersports are plentiful as well.
Silver Springs State Park
Nearby is Silver Springs, a national landmark and nature theme park on 350 acres. Silver Springs is Florida’s “original attraction,” home of jeep safari adventures and the world-famous glass-bottomed boats that were invented there in 1878. While in Silver Springs, visitors can also enjoy a trip to Wild Waters, a fabulous nine-acre family water park featuring water slides, speed flumes, and a 450,000-gallon wave pool.
Featuring over 13 miles of trails, boardwalks, and natural beauty, Silver Springs State Park is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore its scenic trails or take a dip in its crystal clear springs.
Silver Springs State Park offers visitors plenty of activities for all ages and skill levels. From kayaking and canoeing to swimming, fishing, hiking, and biking, there’s something for everyone at Silver Springs State Park. For those interested in wildlife viewing, the park features an abundance of flora and fauna that can be observed from the various trails throughout the park. With no shortage of breathtaking views along each trail, visitors are sure to have unforgettable experiences while exploring this outdoor paradise!
Dunnellon, also close by, offers another relaxing escape with its small-town friendliness, picturesque historic district, and locally-owned hometown restaurants and shops. The scenic Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers beckon, as do the cool, clear spring-fed waters at Rainbow Springs State Park.
With a population of just over 1,700 people, it is known for its quiet and peaceful atmosphere. Founded in 1887 by Louis Blitch as Blitchton, the name was changed to Dunnellon after railroad tycoon Henry Shelton Sanford purchased the land and renamed it in 1889.
The town itself offers plenty of activities to do while you are visiting. The Rainbow River winds through Dunnellon and provides ample opportunity for fishing, tubing, and canoeing. In addition to these watersports, visitors can also explore historic sites such as the Fort King National Historic Landmark or take a hike along one of the area’s many nature trails.
Ocala Florida is an amazing place to visit with a variety of attractions to explore. Whether it be visiting the Silver Springs State Park, taking a tour through the beautiful horse farm ranches, or getting up close and personal with some of Florida’s wildlife at Wild Waters, Ocala is sure to have something for everyone! Additionally, if you’re looking for a little more relaxation and leisure, there are plenty of golf courses and spas available.