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.
Getting to Ocala
For driver's, Ocala is easy to get to because it is right off of I-75. If you plan to fly, don't be deceived by the fact that Ocala has an “International Airport”. Ocala International Airport is just a general aviation facility and serves only private and recreational aircraft. Passenger airlines have not flown there since the 1980's.
If flying in to Ocala, most people use Orlando International Airport (MCO) which is about 65 miles away. Gainesville Regional is a bit closer at about 35 miles away, but they only have a handful of flights from Atlanta (Delta) and Charlotte (American) each day.
With more than 400 beds, the biggest hospital in Ocala is AdventHealth Ocala. Other local options include HCA Florida Ocala Hospital, a 288-bed facility pretty much in the heart of Ocala, and HCA Florida West Marion Hospital, a 186-bed extension of that on the west side of Ocala. Consistently one of the highest rated hospitals in Florida, UF Health Shands in Gainesville, is about 37 miles away.
Here’s a look at the average low and high temperatures in Ocala throughout the year:
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Ocala Cost of Living
Ocala is typically regarded as being one of the least expensive places to live on Florida. Last I checked, the cost of living index for Ocala came in at 83.8, with the average cost of living in the United States being expressed as a baseline of 100.
Florida as a whole comes in with a cost of living index of 102.8, so as you can see, Ocala looks pretty darn good in the cost of living department.
Things to Do in Ocala
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.
The World Equestrian Center is a must-see, and a number of companies offer 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
Most shopping in Ocala probably takes place at the Paddock Mall. But Downtown Ocala is known for being an interesting collection of unique shops that sell everything from hand-made soaps to delicious baked goods. There is also a Farmer’s Market held in downtown Ocala every Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Ocala Real Estate
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 $200k’s.
Here's a list of some other 55+ communities in Ocala too.
If you need or want to rent in Ocala, here are some available options. Keep in mind you'll have to read through some of those rental listings to find ones that fit your desired length of stay. If you are looking for long term rentals, you'll find those pretty easily, but some communities have restrictions on short term rentals, so those are sometimes harder to find.
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.