23 Fun Things to Do in Ocala Florida + Top Must Know Picks

By Erin
Updated:

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

World Equestrian Center is truly one of the top things to do in Ocala with a state of the art exhibitions, luxury hotel, restaurants and shopping.  Photo is of the horse arena with english rider competing with judges watching in their seats.
World Equestrian Center Ocala (WEC)

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.

Read Next: The World Equestrian Center Ocala Guide + 5 Best Things to Do

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Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours

Zipline photo with a couple on two separate lines headed down the line.

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, they offer 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 they offer, it’s definitely one of the top things to do in Ocala.

🐴 Pro Tip: To save time and travel, combine Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours with a scenic drive to see the Ocala Horse Farms.

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Ocala Horse Farm Scenic Drive

Sunset photo of an Ocala Horse Farm
A scenic drive is one of the best cheap things to do in Ocala, FL

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.

Read Next: A Drive Through the Charming Ocala Equestrian Scene

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Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs Ocala, FL
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.

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Farm Tours of Ocala

Farm Tours of Ocala, you'll see horses out to pasture like this galloping horse with a blaze and four white socks.

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
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The Appleton Museum of Art

The Appleton Museum is a wonderful collection of rare treasures waiting to be discovered. Throughout its history, its permanent collection has grown to include over 24,000 remarkable works, representing virtually every artistic medium and nearly every culture worldwide.

In addition to year-round temporary exhibits and activities, there is a sculpture walk and garden outside. The Appleton Museum also appeals to aspiring artists who can take studio art workshops and classes, as well as come to live artist talks.

  • Address: 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, Florida 34470
  • 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
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Stroll the Ocala Downtown Square

Photo of the downtown Ocala Square often is where there is events
Ocala Downtown Square Events are held near the gazebo.

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 square features a historic gazebo where you may catch a live performance and relax on a bench. During the holidays it’s covered in twinkle lights as well as a list of events for all ages to enjoy.

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Harry’s Seafood, Bar & Grille

Harry’s is a trendy take on traditional Cajun fare at 24 SE 1st Avenue. 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 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.

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Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs State Park photo of an old tree hanging over the blue-green water.
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

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

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.

Kayak Rental

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
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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.

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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.

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Gypsy Gold Horse Farm Tour

Close up of blue eyed black and white gypsy banner horse

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 this tour, you will get an up-close experience with Gypsy Vanner horses and learn about the breed.

  • Address: 12501 8th Ave, Ocala, FL 34473
  • Pricing: Adults $45, Seniors/Military $40, and Kids & 7 are FREE
  • Website: Gypsy Gold Horse Farm Tour
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Ocala Petting Zoo

Cute raccoon headshot, see animals at the 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
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Sholom Park

Sholom Park Wedding Photo

Sholom Park will always have a soft spot in my heart since I was married in this 44-acre botanical garden. Located just off State Road 200, it is easy to visit and takes less than an hour to see.

The 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: 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.

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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.

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Ocala Golf Club

Golfing in Ocala, showing rolling hills and green with golfer in the distance hitting their golf ball.

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
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Boutique Downtown Ocala Shops

Downtown Ocala photo of the bronze statue painted horse in the square.

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.

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Ocala National Forest

kayaking and spending time outdoors is truly the most fun things to do in Ocala. Photo is taken on the river with two kayaks in 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 it one of the best cheap things to do in Ocala, FL.

Hiking

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast you’ll love that it 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.

Camping

You can also stay overnight in one of the cabin rentals or camp on-site. 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. It is an ideal place to swim in a picturesque setting.

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See Charming Micanopy

Downtown Micanopy with live oak trees covered in Spanish moss.  Old garage and small town charm with rustic overhangs outside the general store.

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 beautiful old 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.

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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
  • Horseshoes
  • Picnic Pavilion & tables
  • Playground
  • Volleyball

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.

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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.

The museum also boasts one of the largest and fastest collections of drag racing vehicles in the world.

Pricing ranges for adults, college students, children, and seniors. Don Garlits Museum does offer group discounts.

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Ocala Civic Theatre

For over seventy years, Ocala residents and visitors alike have been entertained by the Civic Theatre. Shows range from dramas to comedies to musicals, all performed by talented individuals.

If you are interested, check their schedule online to see if any events are happening during your stay.

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Infinite Ale Works

beer taps

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.

Read Next: 15 Best Hotels in Ocala to Stay at Right Now

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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 Silver Springs State Park, World Equestrian Center, and Juniper Springs. If you love the outdoors, 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.

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.

Did You Find This Post Helpful? Share It!

If so, I would love to hear about your favorite things to do in Ocala. You can follow me on Instagram, and tag your images to @erinstraveltips and hashtag #erinstraveltips. I look forward to seeing you there!

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Authored By: Erin
Welcome to Erin’s Travel Tips, a Florida Travel Website. I specialize in unique family travel destinations, outdoor getaways in Florida and beyond! I’m a proud Floridian who loves a good cup of coffee, boating, and of course, traveling with my family to some of the most interesting places in the world.

9 thoughts on “23 Fun Things to Do in Ocala Florida + Top Must Know Picks”

  1. I love nature so Rainbow Falls, Ocala National Forest, and Silver Springs State Park all look like such beautiful destinations. I had no idea how much there was to do in that region – very cool!

    Reply
  2. What a neat getaway! I would love to explore the boutique shops in Downtown Ocala and go hiking in the Ocala National Forest! Thanks for putting this spot on my radar.

    Reply
  3. I would not have guessed that the “horse capital of the world” is in Florida! Such an appealing destination point! I mean who doesn’t love horses? I’ve never heard of Ocala but I’d come just for the state parks, national forest and Micanopy! I’m looking it up on the map and adding it to my “list!”

    Reply
  4. I couldn’t imagine there were so many cool activities to do in Ocala! You could go adventurous or just relax! The place looks awesome! I would try the seafood at Harry, try the zip line and meet the horses!

    Reply

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