A visit to Florida doesn’t always have to mean Disney World and Key West; you don’t have to be partying it up in Panama City Beach or departing a cruise from Tampa to have a good time (even though all of those things can be fun at some point in your life). Instead, I would suggest a relaxing yet adventure filled vacation in Ocala, Florida. In Ocala you can enjoy the arts by catching a show at the local theater or learn about the rich ~natural history~ of the area through a glass bottom tour in Silver Springs. If you are more of an adrenaline seeker, you can pursue this rush by gliding over the canyons or racing through the meadows. Whatever you desire, the charming city of Ocala has it for you - but be sure to check out these things to do so you can have a trip with no regrets.
1. Catch a show at the Ocala Civic Theatre
The Ocala Civil Theater has graced this Floridian town with high quality shows and events for over 60 years. The theater typically shows performances featuring local members of the Ocala community but often hosts touring companies as well. The theater also offers year-round education programs for hundreds of students as well, and is run entirely on a volunteer basis (it’s actually a registered non profit organization, so you know it’s completely dedicated to the arts). This year, the Civic Theatre is putting on wonderful productions like Mamma Mia and The Foreigner, so be sure to check a show out!
Ocala Civic Theatre
Address: 4337 East Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala, Florida 34470
Website: Ocala Civic Theatre
2. Take a glass-bottom boat ride at Silver Springs
Now it’s time to take your adventure outdoors with a glass bottom boat ride at Silver Springs State Park. The Glass Bottom Boats are one of Ocala’s oldest attractions. You’ll have a chance to peer into the spring and catch a glimpse of the wildlife living beneath the surface.
Tours typically run twice an hour (on the hour and half hour) from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily (with the last boat leaving at 6:00 pm). You can make a reservation for the tour, but with so many tours available throughout the day, it’s really not necessary. Tickets start at 11 USD for adults and 10 USD for children between 6 and 12 (5 and under ride free).
Silver Springs Boat Tour
Address: 5656 Silver Springs Blvd. (SR 40), Silver Springs, FL 34488
Website: Silver Springs Boat Tour
3. Stop by Silver River Museum
Now that you’ve caught a glimpse of what lies under the river, stop by the Silver River Museum to learn about the history of the area. The museum has two exhibit areas split into the “science” of the region and the “history” of the region. The science part of the museum teaches visitors about the geology, paleontology, and even archaeology of Ocala while the other half of the museum has exhibits related to the written history of the area including information on the first European explorers of the area, the first pioneer settlement, and even the first tools.
The museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday (there are classes in session during the week.
Silver River Museum
Address: 512 SE 3rd Street, Ocala, FL 34471
Website: Silver River Museum
4. Bring out your artistic side with a visit to the Appleton Museum of Art
The Appleton Museum of Art is truly a piece of art in and of itself. The museum houses a number of galleries within the main building and around the peaceful courtyard. There are a plethora of exhibits ranging from contemporary pre-Columbian art to works of local Floridian artists that relate to their culture and Central Floridian communities.
The gallery is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Sundays from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Closed on Mondays).
Appleton Museum of Art
Address: 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, FL 34470
Website: Appleton Museum of Art
5. Admire the architecture in the Ocala Historic District
The Ocala Historic District became one of Ocala’s first residential neighborhoods around 1880, and since then has become one of the town’s most prominent neighborhoods. The district lies on Fort King Street, which used to be the town’s major transportation route until the Industrial Revolution and creation of the railroad. The residences on Fort King Street are primarily Queen Anne Revivals, all built before 1910. The streets are also lined with beautiful Life Oak trees and local flora providing a peaceful backdrop to the homeowners. Fort King Street is a wonderful place to walk down to transport yourself to historic Ocala.
Ocala Historic District
Address: 416 Fort King Street, Ocala, FL 34470
Website: Ocala Historic District
6. Zipline over the canyons
Time to get your adrenaline pumping with a zipline tour of the canyons. You will have the chance to soar above glittering lakes, old oak trees, and incredible canyons - and you can do this nine different times, with nine different views. The ziplines are definitely a new way to see the natural history of Ocala.
There are two types of zipline tours available - a full zipline/canopy tour and a canyon express tour. For more information on each of these tours, check out their website.
Zipline over the canyons
Address: 8045 NW Gainesville Rd. (CR 25A) Ocala, FL
Website: Zip the Canyons
7. Horseback ride through the cliffs
Now to bring you back to earth (while still racing along scenic views), or if ziplining isn’t your thing, you can take a tour of the canyons and cliffs of Ocala while on horseback. You will get to take an incredible scenic tour of the lakes, cliff walls, and more on the Canyons Horseback Trail Rides.
Address: 8045 NW Gainesville Rd. (CR 25A) Ocala, FL
Website: Horseback Riding
8. Wander around Sholom Park
Sholom Park is the perfect place to find a peaceful spot to relax and just admire your surroundings. The park was designed in a way that gracefully combines native plants with exotic flora in breathtaking landscapes. Admission to the park is free, so be sure to check it out.
Address: 7110 SW 80th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34481
Website: Sholom Park
9. Head over to Marion Country Museum of History & Archaeology for a historical encounter
And finally, be sure to learn about the history of Marion County (where you’ll find Ocala) at the Museum of History & Archaeology. The museum features a variety of exhibits and displays that detail the origins of civilizations in the region and how they have evolved to what we currently know as Ocala and Marion County.
Marion Country Museum of History & Archaeology
Address: 307 S.E. 26th Terrace, Ocala, Florida
Aren't you excited?
There is just so much to do in Ocala from learning about its enriching history to zooming over the natural beauty; I don’t blame you for wanting to jump into your car right now!
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