Ocala, Florida is the “Horse Capital of the World,” but there is so much more to do than just ride a horse. We had the opportunity to check out Ocala and the surrounding areas a few weeks ago, and we were really impressed with all there is to do. Keep reading this article to find out all the fun things to do in Ocala with Kids.
This post is sponsored by Visit Florida.
Family Fun in Ocala, Florida
First of all, where is Ocala? If you’re like many families visiting central Florida, you might bypass Ocala on the way to see everyone’s favorite Mouse. Located in Marion County, Ocala has a lot to offer families, especially in these odd times we are living in. It’s easy to practice social distancing and enjoy all the fun things to do in Ocala.
Tour Horse County with a Knowledgeable Guide
No visit to Ocala would be complete without a trip into “horse country.” I had heard in passing that Ocala was the place to go in Florida if you were into horses, but I didn’t realize what an understatement that was. Horse breeding, raising, and training is a big business in Ocala!
Our tour with Horse Country Carriage Company was excellent. Kimie was our guide, and I could tell right from the start how passionate she was about horses. Not only did she give us a history lesson, she shared current information as well.
One of the fascinating facts I learned was how many wealthy business owners and celebrities invest in horse farms as a way to disperse their wealth! Another fact I enjoyed learning was that many horses in the most famous races are only about three years old. They usually retire shortly after competing in the racing circuit.
Enjoy Nature at the State Parks
Another benefit to visiting Ocala instead of a bustling, popular city is the ability to spread out. There are several popular state parks to choose from.
Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park is a stunning park to visit. The crystal clear water is incredible to see. Several famous movies were shot in the park including the original “Tarzan” movies and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The real draw is the famous glass bottom boat tour that allows you to see the springs in a way you couldn’t on land.
While there is no swimming in the springs, you can kayak or canoe with your own equipment or by renting one. On a hot summer day, it would be worth the extra effort to get a little wet on your visit!
KP Hole State Park
Additionally, we visited KP Hole State Park near the Rainbow Springs State Park. They’re both connected by the Rainbow River. Swimming is allowed on Rainbow River, and KP Hole has a great area for swimming.
If you want to tube, kayak, or canoe, equipment can be rented at the park. They also have large restroom facilities for changing, which we took full advantage of since we had a bit of a car ride back to our lodging.
Sarah’s Tip: Disposable containers are not permitted on Rainbow River. If you want to eat or drink while floating down river, make sure you have reusable containers!
Stay at a Bed & Breakfast
Speaking of lodging, if you’ve ever wanted to stay in a bed & breakfast, Ocala is the place to do it. There are plenty of hotels available in the area, but we would highly recommend Shamrock Thistle & Crown Bed & Breakfast.
Completed in 1887, the beautiful Victorian style home once boasted farmland full of orange trees. Though the groves are no longer the main source of income, the current owners of the property are welcoming people who saw to our every need while visiting (even cutting up fruit for Henry at breakfast, which was so thoughtful).
The home has been updated and includes modern amenities such as cable and WiFi, but that does not diminish the experience of a cozy, home-away-from-home feeling. Breakfast is included in your stay, and I am always a fan of not having to make my own food, so that’s a win in my book!
Explore Downtown Ocala
Finally, if you need a little break from all the time outdoors, there are some indoor activities kids and parents will both love.
My budding artists were thrilled at the opportunity to create their own. Picasso’s Palette specialize in ceramic painting, canvas painting, glass, and more! My girls were able to pick out two ceramics to paint as they saw fit. Afterwards, they would be fired and set in the kiln before coming home to us.
My little guy even got to help us with a project of his own! I know I will treasure these pieces as a moment in time when everyone was together.
While you’re downtown, might as well stop for a bit to eat. Everyone in the family enjoyed Sayulita Taqueria for its modern take on street tacos. We especially loved sharing the guac and queso together while we waited on our meals.
The outdoor courtyard is the perfect place to eat while practicing social distancing.
Take out is also an option if your family would rather get it to go.
History & Art
Our time was limited, so we did not get to explore all that Ocala had to offer. On our next visit, we’d like to see a few more museums and historic sites including:
- Silver River Museum
- Ocala Fire Museum
- Appleton Museum of Art
- Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology
Obviously, when traveling with kids, it’s important to know what activities will meet everyone’s needs. Some museums and historic sites are family friendly, while others are a little more restrictive. It just takes a little extra research to determine which places are best for the ages and stages of everyone in your group.