Ocala, the county seat of Marion County, is surrounded by the cities of Belleview, Dunnellon, McIntosh, and Reddick. Visitors and residents enjoy a subtropical climate. Known as “the horse country of the world”, 40-50 different breeds of horses are raised here by three-fourths of Florida’s thoroughbred breeding and training facilities. In addition to horses, Ocala is noted for fishing, boating, swimming and other water sports, canoeing and kayaking with hundreds of fresh-water springs, lakes and the Silver, Rainbow, Ocklawaha, and Withlacoochee Rivers.
Accommodations include hotels such as Best Western Ocala Park Centre, Comfort Inn & Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Ocala, Ritz Historic Inn, Ocala Ramada Inn & Conference Center, and Red Roof Inn & Suites. A charming bed and breakfast inn is The Seven Sisters. Victorian homes line the historic district on Fort King Street, and on Friday and Saturday evenings, horse drawn carriage rides around town are available.
Captain Tom’s Custom Charter Systems offers freshwater pontoon boat sightseeing and fishing trips. Recreational parks and campgrounds include KP Hole Park, Rainbow Springs State Park, Silver River State Park, Silver Springs--“nature’s theme park”, and Ocala National Forest. There’s also Brick City Park & Discovery Science Center
and four-acre Ocala/Marion County Veterans Memorial Park
A major event is the five-week "Horse Shows in the Sun", one of the largest hunter/jumper shows in the United States. Ocala Scottish games & Iris Feis, Ocali-Fest, Light-Up Ocala, Brick City Days, Southeastern Youth Fair, Florida Equestrian Classic, the Shriners’ Rodeo, and the Professional Pro Rodeo are other popular events held annually.
For golf enthusiasts, there are 15 public, private and semi-private Marion County golf courses. Ocala Municipal Golf Course and Pine Oaks Golf Course are in the city of Ocala. The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and International Drag Racing Hall of Fame houses more than 75 cars and drag racing memorabilia.
Written by: Natasha Lawrence