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You won’t run out of things to do in Ocala, Florida, no matter how long you stay there—be it a day or a week.
Growing up in Ocala, I know the back roads and the most beautiful places to see from sprawling thoroughbred horse farms to turquoise crystal-clear springs. I’m going to share my longtime favorites, plus some recent additions to have the most fun!
Ocala’s appeal lies in the fact that it provides something of value to each traveler who comes through town. There are also plenty of hotels in Ocala for all types of travelers.
But, first I recommend you narrow down your top things to do so you can better choose where to stay in Ocala!
Without further delay, here are the best fun things to do in Ocala!
The World Equestrian Center
You must visit the World Equestrian Center if you are in Ocala. It is the most extensive equestrian facility in the United States. The approximately 300-acre property features 15 outdoor rings and five climate-controlled indoor arenas, providing adequate competition space and shelter from severe weather.
You can walk through the grounds, dine at one of seven restaurants, and see a competition or a show.
In addition to the numerous horse shows and races, they also host other events. You can watch volleyball, cheerleading, martial arts competitions, and many other sporting events.
The venue also holds numerous dog shows throughout the year. The World Equestrian Center is continually hosting exciting events, so be sure to check the schedule before you go. The events are free for spectators unless otherwise specified. In addition, parking is free at the facility.
For the ultimate luxury experience, stay at The Equestrian Hotel on the grounds.
Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours
Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours offer more than just a simple adrenaline rush. It’s a genuine opportunity to connect with nature in all her splendor.
Beyond the zip-lining tours over 155 ft canyons, Canyons Zip Line offers other adventures, including kayaking, horseback riding, and gem mining.
If you don’t think Florida has cliffs and canyons, this award-winning park will prove they do! With all that Canyons Zip Line offers, it’s definitely one of the top things to do in Ocala.
- Address: 8045 NW Gainesville Rd, Ocala, FL 34475
- Website: Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours
🐴 Pro Tip: To save time and travel, combine Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours with a scenic drive to see the Ocala Horse Farms.
Ocala Horse Farm Scenic Drive
Ocala is nationally recognized as the Horse Capital of the World. The region’s 1,200+ horse farms have won multiple national titles and produced Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup, and plenty more awards. This place is truly heaven on earth for equestrians.
There are numerous horse farms perched atop the gorgeous green hills and valleys. You can see expansive pastures, and mature live oak trees adorned with Spanish moss just northwest of Interstate 75 on U.S. Highway 27 and Highway 225a (NW 70th Avenue).
While in Ocala, don’t miss taking a scenic drive to this section of Highway 225a, also known as Millionaires Row. The nickname is a nod to the expansive horse farms and mansions of their owners, who breed some of the world’s finest horses.
Silver Springs State Park
It’s no surprise that Silver Springs State Park is one of the best things to do in Ocala. Since the 1870s, tourists have been fascinated by the underwater world in the Silver River from the comfort of a Glass Bottom Boat in Silver Springs.
There is something for everyone, making it a perfect destination for a group outing. You can take a glass-bottom boat tour of Silver Springs, a famous attraction in the park.
While swimming is not allowed, paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes are all available for rent. Keep an eye out for manatees if you decide to take a boat ride down the Ocklawaha River; they like to hang around there.
The trails at Silver Springs State Park offer some more exciting activities. Several paths wind through diverse environments, from cypress swamps to pine forests, all of which are beautiful and interesting in their own right.
- Address: 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488
- Hours: Open daily from 8 am – 8 pm
- Website: Silver Springs State Park
- Recommended Hotel Nearby: Holiday Inn Express Silver Springs
Silver River Museum
Located in the Silver Springs State Park, the Silver River Museum is full of educational exhibits and activities. It is one of the top things to do in Ocala with kids and it’s all in-inclusive with seeing Silver Springs State Park.
If you’re a lover of history and nature, there’s definitely something here for you at the Silver River Museum. From the nature trails, schoolhouse, and the old blacksmith shop – you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time.
The Silver River Knap-In and Prehistoric Arts Festival is the largest event of its kind in the southeast and takes place on the third weekend of each February at the Silver River Museum. It’s definitely a must-see if you’re in Marion County. There’s archery, pottery vendors, and much more to see and do.
The Silver River Museum also teaches educational classes about the natural beauty of Florida and the history of the land.
Farm Tours of Ocala
Some horse farms welcome visitors who want to learn about the industry up close and personal. The Farm Tours of Ocala will take you inside at least three different operating farms so you’ll get the chance for a close encounter with the horses.
The tour departs at 8:30 in the morning and lasts roughly 3.5 hours. You will leave your car behind, as you’ll be chauffeured in style as you hop from farm to farm.
- Tour Meeting Location: 481 SW 60th Ave, Ocala, FL 34474
- Pricing: $65 per person
- Website: Farm Tours of Ocala
The Appleton Museum of Art
The Appleton Museum of Art is a wonderful collection of rare treasures and contemporary art. Its permanent vast collection has grown to include over 24,000 remarkable works, representing virtually every artistic medium and nearly every culture worldwide including European Art.
In addition to year-round temporary exhibits and activities, Appleton Museum of Art has a sculpture walk and garden outside. The Appleton Museum of Art is affiliated with the College of Central Florida.
Appleton Museum of Art also appeals to aspiring artists who can take studio art classes and workshops, as well as come to live artist talks.
- Address: 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, Florida 34470
- Art Museum Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Tuesday – Saturday, Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
- Website: The Appleton Museum of Art
- Recommended Hotel Nearby: Holiday Inn Express
Stroll the Ocala Downtown Square
One of the best features of Downtown Ocala is that it is so convenient for strolling around. You will find a wide variety of entertainment options and places to dine and drink.
The town’s historic district square features a historic gazebo where you may catch a live performance and relax on a bench.
During the holidays the historic district is covered in twinkle lights as well as a list of events for all ages to enjoy.
Harry’s Seafood, Bar & Grille
Harry’s Restaurant is a trendy take on traditional Cajun fare at 24 SE 1st Avenue in the Ocala historic district. Harry’s offers seafood, chicken, steak, pasta, and more, including all your favorite dishes from Bourbon Street! Savor some authentic cuisine from the Big Easy.
You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, from the beignets and crab cakes to the jambalaya and the homemade sauces created new every day. The bar at Harry’s Seafood is stocked with all your favorite beverages and signature drinks.
🐴 Pro Tip: After dinner, catch a show at the historic Marion Theatre. It is just around the corner and has a unique history with multiple appearances by local celebrity, John Travolta.
Rainbow Springs State Park
One of the most spectacular natural places to visit is the crystalline waters of Rainbow Springs. Located in the quaint town of Dunnellon, Florida, Rainbow Park sits just southwest of the city of Ocala.
Get an authentic look at Old Florida by visiting Rainbow Springs State Park. Here you can make a splash into the sapphire-blue waters. You will be awed by the watercolor and granddaddy oak trees you will see throughout the park.
The river is 5.7 miles long, and it merges into the Withlacoochee River. Keep in mind the water stays at a chilly 72 degrees year-round. So it’s the perfect place to cool off in the summertime!
Rainbow Springs Swimming
The swimming area in Rainbow Springs State Park is located at the headsprings. It is an ideal location since the river can have a steep incline. Here they have a floating dock and a roped-off swimming area.
If you’re looking for a place to cool off, consider Rainbow Springs. Here you can unwind, rent an inner tube, and float down the natural river at a calm, leisurely pace. The tube rental includes a two-hour river float and a tram ride back.
Snorkeling is a popular activity in the Rainbow River, but it is prohibited outside the designated swimming area marked by buoys. One of the perks of Rainbow Springs State Park is that you can see the bottom of the river which is ideal for snorkeling.
There are also daily canoe and kayak rentals available within Rainbow Springs State Park. If you prefer not to get in the water, this is an ideal way to see the river and go at your own pace. You will be awed by the beauty of the fish and turtles and the ability to see them easily in the crystal waters.
Butterfly Garden & Waterfalls
When you’re ready to take a break from the water, go for a walk through the gardens and see the waterfalls and gardens. Enjoy the picnicking area, or there is a concession if you prefer to pack light.
- Address: 19158 SW 81st Pl Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432
- Hours: Open daily 8 am – 6 pm
- Pricing: $2 per person, FREE under 6 years old
- Website: Rainbow Springs State Park
Latinos y Mas Restaurant
Customers’ taste buds have been taken over by Latinos y Mas, located at 2030 S Pine Ave in Ocala. The family who owns this restaurant is very proud of the modern Latin Fusion dishes they offer, which feature a distinct Mediterranean flavor. It is one of my fun favorite things to do in Ocala.
My favorite dish is the Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice). The serving comes with a choice of beans, plantains, and a side salad. They offer generous portions at reasonable prices. This is the place to go if you want genuine Latin cuisine.
Fort King National Historic Park
The town of Ocala, Florida, is quaint and rich in history. The Fort King National Historic Landmark is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about this area.
Fort King National Historic Park was constructed during the second Seminole war, the longest of the US-Indian conflicts. Colonel William King, former leader of the Fourth Infantry, inspired the settlement’s name.
An essential part of the mission of Fort King National Historic Landmark is to share with visitors the park’s rich history and beautiful natural surroundings.
Fort reconstruction and annual reenactments have been ongoing for some time now. Whether you’re interested in festivals, classes, or even yoga, there’s likely to be something happening, so be sure to check the schedule.
- Address: 3925 E Fort King St, Ocala, FL 34470
- Hours: Sunrise to sunset or 7 pm
- Website: Fort King National Historic Park
Gypsy Gold Horse Farm Tour
Gypsy Golf Horse Farm is frequently ranked among the top things to do in Ocala. The farm is open to guests on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays for 2 hours.
On the Gypsy Gold Horse Farm tour, you will get an up-close experience with Gypsy Vanner horses and learn about the breed. Anyone that loves horses will love stopping at Gypsy Gold Horse Farm.
- Address: 12501 8th Ave, Ocala, FL 34473
- Pricing: Adults $45, Seniors/Military $40, and Kids & 7 are FREE
- Website: Gypsy Gold Horse Farm Tour
Ocala Petting Zoo
Most of us may envision a petting zoo as a place to see and pet goats, sheep, horses, and other animals. The Ocala petting zoo offers much more. In addition, they have raccoons, lemurs, monkeys, reptiles, and llamas among other animals.
On weekends, they provide animal encounters with iguanas, snakes, bearded dragons, and other exotic animals.
- Address: 11150 West Highway 40, Ocala, FL 34482
- Pricing: Adults $12, Veterans/Seniors $11, & Children $10
- Website: Ocala Petting Zoo
Sholom Park will always have a soft spot in my heart since I was married in this 44-acre botanical garden. This privately owned park is located just off State Road 200 in Marion County. It is easy to visit and takes less than an hour to see.
Sholom Park has over 250 species of trees and flowers plus miles of walking trails. This quiet, serene park is free for everyone to enjoy.
- Address: 7110 SW 80th Ave, Ocala, FL 34481
- Hours: Open daily from 9 am – 7 pm
- Website: Sholom Park
- Recommend Hotel Nearby Sholom Park: The Ocala Hilton
🥳 Pro Tip: If you are coming to Sholom Park for a wedding or special event, you’ll love staying at the Ocala Hilton. Select the Concierge Level for special perks and a private floor with amenities.
The Reilly Arts Center
Ocala’s Reilly Arts Center is located in the beautiful Tuscawilla Park and is the city’s cultural and entertainment hub. The 705-seat capacity theater has become a center for the arts in Ocala thanks to its cutting-edge acoustics and production equipment.
Reilly Arts Center accommodates various performances, meetings, and social gatherings. This live music venue is one of the best things to do in Ocala at night.
One of the most well-known performances is by the Ocala Symphony Orchestra.
The Center is affiliated with the historic Marion Theatre, where you can catch a classic film.
- Address: 500 NE 9th St, Ocala, FL 34470
- Website: The Reilly Arts Center
Ocala Golf Club
If you enjoy golf, you should try Ocala Golf Club. On the east side of Ocala, there is a municipal golf course available to the public.
The Ocala Golf Club is a good mix, with narrow and open fairways, doglegs, water hazards, sand traps, and sloping hills in a somewhat compact layout.
Initially constructed in the 1920s and renovated by Mike Beebe, the course plays to 6,552 yards from the back tees and has course/slope ratings of 71.2/125. Tee times can be booked online.
- Address: 3130 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, FL 34470
- Website: Ocala Golf Club
Boutique Downtown Ocala Shops
There are a few boutique shops in downtown Ocala that you won’t want to miss if you’re interested in doing some shopping.
In Ocala’s Ivy On The Square Boutique, you’ll find interesting items, accessories, and clothing that you won’t find elsewhere in the city.
The Serendipity Boutique has a large selection of exclusive gifts, both retail and beautiful handcrafted items. You’ll find something for everyone.
The Agapanthus will not disappoint if you are searching for something a touch more sophisticated. You’ll discover a wonderful assortment of amazing brands and unusual items in the gift, women’s accessories, and home accent categories. There are well-known brands in stock, including Pandora and Longchamp.
Ocala National Forest
Spanning approximately 387,000 acres, the Ocala National Forest is full of natural beauty and adventures. This remote location has over 600 lakes, rivers, swamps, and natural springs for visitors. We consider the Ocala National Forest one of the best cheap things to do in Ocala, FL.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast you’ll love that the Ocala National Forest also has 22 trails for walking, horseback riding, or hiking so you won’t run out of things to do. Hunting is also allowed with special permits.
You can also stay overnight in one of the cabin rentals or camp on-site in the Ocala National Forest. The roads and campground pads are paved for easy use. Campground sites have large picnic tables, charcoal grills, and fire pits.
Ocala National Forest truly has something for everyone. From its abundant natural springs to its fascinating history. It’s an ideal spot to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and connect with nature.
🏊♂️ Pro Tip: Juniper Springs Recreation Area is a personal favorite with its working water wheel and trails in the Ocala National Forest. It is an ideal place to swim in a picturesque setting.
See Charming Micanopy
Just a short drive from Ocala is the charming, historic town of Micanopy. This quaint little town is the perfect place to spend a day exploring antique shops, bookstores, and boutique shops. While it is currently known as the “antique capital” it is perhaps best known for being the oldest inland town in Florida.
You can also enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the several restaurants located in the town center. If you’re craving pizza, you must stop at one of my favorite places, Blue Highway Pizza.
Stroll through the gorgeous tree-lined streets and admire the natural beauty of the historic homes. Photographers love this town and the old train depot because it is picturesque.
Pro Tip: Extend your day by staying at the gorgeous Herlong Mansion Bed & Breakfast. It’s an ideal getaway for a romantic, serene setting.
Carney Island Recreation & Conservation Area
Carney Island Recreation and Conservation Area is located southeast of Ocala in Ocklawaha. Years ago this property was owned by the Coca-Cola company which purchased it from Minute Maid. Since the 1990s, the site is owned and operated by Marion County.
Carney Island includes over 750+ acres of beaches, sandhill islands, and wetlands for the public to enjoy. Some of the fun things to do here beyond the beach include:
- Boat Ramps
- Hiking or walking to see wildlife
- Picnic Pavilion & tables
Carney Island is a fun place for the whole family. It’s one of the best cheap things to do in Ocala, Florida at $7 per vehicle.
- Address: 13275 SE 115th Ave. Ocklawaha, FL 32179
- Pricing: Daily fee is $7 per vehicle
- Hours: April – October | 7 am -8 pm; November – March | 7 am – 5 pm
🦃 Pro Tip: Pack a picnic and enjoy the outdoors. Wild turkeys are often seen roaming on the trails.
The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
Any true car enthusiast should make the trip to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. Historic vehicles from the early days of drag racing, including artifacts and photographs from the sport’s history, are on display.
Don Garlits Museum also boasts one of the largest and fastest collections of drag racing vehicles in the world.
The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame is also located at Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. This portion of the museum honors those individuals who have contributed to the overall achievement of drag racing sports. The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame holds an award presentation annually in March recognizing new inductees. The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame ceremony is located in Gainesville on the Thursday before the NHRA Gatornationals (a national drag racing event).
If you’re not into drag racing they also have another building full of restored automobiles from the early 1900s to the present. Don Garlits Museum has all the trophies, magazine covers, helmets, and even an entire room with engines. You could stay all day and not see everything at Don Garlits Museum.
Pricing ranges for adults, college students, children, and seniors. Don Garlits Museum does offer group discounts.
- Address: 13700 SW 16th Ave, Ocala, FL 34473
- Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm, closed on Thanksgiving & Christmas
- Website: The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
Ocala Civic Theatre
For over seventy years, Ocala residents and visitors alike have been entertained by the Ocala Civic Theatre in Marion County. Shows at the Ocala Civic Theatre range from dramas to comedies to musicals, all performed by talented individuals.
Ocala Civic Theatre tends to be a hidden gem. Did you know it’s one of America’s top 20 community theaters in the United States? Located at the Appleton Cultural Center, the Ocala Civic Theatre is also one of the largest community theatres in Florida
If you are interested, check the Ocala Civic Theatre schedule online to see if any events are happening during your stay.
- Address: 4337 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, FL 34470
- Website: Ocala Civic Theatre
Infinite Ale Works
After a full day of exploring, one of the best things to do in Ocala at night is Infinite Ale Works. If you enjoy a good craft beer, then this is your place. Try their Witfinite beer, a Belgian-style white beer. It won the “Best Florida Beer Medal” twice. For tea fans, they even have an Earl Grey beer!
Beyond their long list of beers, they serve food, cider, and wine. All month they have a variety of events and also have specials Monday thru Thursday.
- Address: 304 S Magnolia Ave, Ocala, FL 34471
- Website: Infinite Ale Works
Read Next: 15 Best Hotels in Ocala to Stay at Right Now
Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Ocala
Ocala is a terrific location if you are interested in outdoor activities and attractions, shopping, or historic sites. I hope you enjoyed my list of current favorites! I would also love to hear about your Ocala travels. Please feel free to share in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Ocala worth visiting?
Ocala has some spectacular sights you won’t see anywhere else such as glass-bottom boat tours at Silver Springs State Park, and remarkable horse riding events at World Equestrian Center. Plus you’ll see some of the finest crystal clear waters at Juniper Springs. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, there are so many fun things to do in Ocala!
What is Ocala best known for?
Ocala is known for being the “Horse Capital of the World.” There are over 1,200 world-class horse farms that have some of the finest equestrians and trainers in Ocala. The land is among the best for raising horses with its rolling hills, live oak trees, and lush green pastures.
How much does it cost to get into Carney Island?
Carney Island Recreation & Conservation Area costs $7 per vehicle. The address is 13275 SE 115th Ave. Ocklawaha, FL 32179.
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