When you’re elbows-deep in data and your to-do list seems longer than the time in each day, it’s a comfort to know that places like Ocala exist. In this Central Florida destination, majestic horses run free through pastures of long grass, historic houses line up along moss-draped lanes, and the mist of nearby mineral springs warms the balmy air. Ocala leapt into the horsing world in the 1940s as a place to raise Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winners. Known as the ""Horse Capital of the World,"" it is home to the largest horse show in the country.
While the racetracks are filled with the bated breath of anticipation, the surrounding region is like a long, deep exhale. Set your planner down and book Ocala hotels among enchanting downtown landmarks…or hide away in the wilds near Ocala National Forest.
Breathe in and breathe out: It’s time for the adventure to begin. Start exploring the region from the bottom up, with a glass-bottomed boat ride in Silver Springs. Peer through stunningly clear natural springs at aquatic life below. With seven natural springs in Ocala State Park to explore, you can fish, swim, or hike among the junipers. Juniper Prairie Wilderness is ideal for rowing a canoe through crystal-clear water, and Alexander Springs is a picture-perfect swimming hole on the southeast side of the park, a place unspoiled by modern spa resorts.
There are over 70,000 acres of horse farms to tour and miles of trails for you to channel your inner equestrian. For a bit of culture and history, visit the Silver River Museum in Silver River Park to see pioneer settlements and one of the few remaining schoolhouses used during segregation—a reminder of the beauty and opportunity learning brings to everyone tall or small.
Still wondering where to stay in Ocala? The Scott Spring neighborhood is home to many restaurants off Freeway 200, which makes it a smashing place to dip into Southern comfort foods. If a day in the great outdoors makes you crave Asian fusion or sushi, you’re in the right spot. Head over to West Silver Spring Boulevard for Mediterranean and Brazilian-style seafood. Fried alligator is a common menu item, so try it—locals will tell you it ""tastes just like chicken.""
Winding down for the evening? Order a hurricane at a pub in West Ocala and sway to the sounds of local music. Let the banjo, fiddle, and steel guitar soothe and inspire your spirit while the bright mix of passionfruit and citrus refreshes any day. Many of the local hotels have on-site lounges or room service…for those post-hike moments when staying in is the most decadent thing you can think of.
When you’re booking cheap hotels in Ocala with Travelocity, remember that you can save up to $537 when you a lot of money when you book a hotel and flight at the same time. Book quickly, wise wanderer: The idyllic artesian springs and horse country are waiting for you!