The Ocala area represents a unique combination of history, horses, and culture that is surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural environments you will find anywhere. Sprinkle in the collection of interesting shops and restaurants in Ocala’s downtown district and you will find Ocala to be the type of place where no one struggles to find something to do!
The early history of Ocala can be summed up in one word: rebuilding. The earliest inhabitants were the Timucua Indians, who abandoned their settlement after being attacked by explorer Hernando de Soto. The area would then be inhabited by Seminole Indians before the US Army built Fort King near Ocala.
As settlers began to build a new community around the base, many plantations were built in order to take advantage of the optimal citrus growing conditions. On Thanksgiving Day in 1883, the entire downtown district was leveled by a fire and Ocala residents were forced to rebuild the town once again.
The 1900s saw Ocala evolve into the “Horse Capital of the World” when Rosemere Farm and Bonnie Heath Farm both began producing some of the best thoroughbred horses in the world. To this day, Ocala remains one of the world’s leading producers of thoroughbred horses.
The headquarters of culture in Ocala is the Appleton Museum of Art. This fantastic marble structure was donated to the Ocala community by Arthur I. Appleton, who was a very successful horse breeder. The museum originally contained Appleton’s personal collection, but has grown by leaps and bounds over the years to become one of the foremost art museums in the state of Florida.
Another thing that the Ocala community is known for is leading an active lifestyle. Horses are still a huge business in the area, and there are a number of businesses that capitalize on this by offering horseback riding lessons and trail rides. In addition to horseback riding trails, the entire area is also surrounded by miles upon miles of hiking and paddling trails.
If you are looking for something a bit more exciting, you will definitely want to check out The Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours. Racing down this zip line is sure to get your blood flowing!
Shopping in Ocala
Downtown Ocala is best known for being an interesting collection of unique shops that sell everything from hand-made soaps to delicious baked goods. Some of the interesting shops here include Digger’s Antique Mall, American Pawn, My Designer’s Attic, and Soul Essentials. There is also a Farmer’s Market held in downtown Ocala every Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Dining in Ocala
One of the most impressive aspects of the Ocala lifestyle is the unbelievable collection of fantastic restaurants. There are probably more great restaurants per square foot in this community than anywhere else in Florida. That collection includes everything from Indian food at the Amrit Palace Indian Restaurant to Asian Fusion cuisine at Asian Pop!
If you are looking for a really classy atmosphere, Cuvee Wine & Bistro is an excellent choice for an upscale dinner. Another great option is La Cuisine, which specializes in French cuisine. There are also plenty of great casual options like the Royal Orchid for Thai food, Cafe Havana for Cuban food, and Taco N Madre for Mexican food.
Harry’s Seafood, Bar and Grille is also a local favorite.
One notable community being developed in Ocala is On Top of the World.
Leisure amenities at On Top of the World include 54 holes of golf on three courses, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a 14-acre R/C flying field, bocce, racquetball and basketball courts, fitness center, health club and spa, restaurants, cultural venues, and much more.
Residents can also participate in over 150 clubs, leagues, hobbies, and lifelong learning opportunities.
There are 23 floor plans available with prices ranging to suit every budget starting in the mid $100k’s.
Something for Everyone in Ocala
Whether you prefer the cultural aspect of the community, the active lifestyle opportunities, the one-of-a-kind shopping experience, or the great food, there is something for everyone in Ocala.
Ocala has long been known as “The Horse Capital of the World,” but as the community has grown and evolved, that name no longer does the city justice. Visit and you’ll soon discover Ocala area has far more to offer its residents and visitors.