Ocala – Has It All!

Among best places to live in America, Ocala is home to over forty five thousand people of diverse ethnicity. One can spend any length of time here, a few days, weeks, months or a lifetime, as it offers all that one can desire in a mid-size city. Just an hour away from either coast or the attractions of Orlando, this historic town and county seat of Marion County is full of beauty with Spanish moss, rolling meadows and splendid architecture. Add to this, top-notch recreation and education, a warm and friendly atmosphere and there is something for everybody in Ocala.

Ocala’s name originates from the Timucuan Indian word for village, Ocali, or Big Hammock. Many of Ocala’s streets have historical Indian and Spanish names. The city started growing in 1850s when wealthy planters from South Carolina established plantations here. By 1858, Ocala was a leading social and business center in Florida but the Civil War brought devastation reducing the population to 200.

A fire on Thanksgiving Day in 1883 destroyed most of the city center, which was later rebuilt with brick, earning Ocala the nickname Brick City. Many of the early structures are part of the Ocala and Tuscawilla Park Historic Districts. These range from large Victorian mansions to small bungalows. One can appreciate Queen Anne and Tudor structures, along with Colonial Revival homes and Mediterranean edifices. Mature trees and lovely landscaping add to the beauty and Ocala has been declared a Tree City U.S.A.

Ocala is surrounded by beautiful horse farms and is well known as a horse-breeding and training center. Take an hour long leisurely horse-drawn carriage tour to some of the prominent farms where you can see various breeds graze and play in the rolling pastures.

The Ocala National Forest is a unique and fascinating forest with facilities for camping and trails for hikers and bikers. Canoeing, snorkeling, and swimming in its many lakes and springs are very popular. The forest is home to bears and alligators – so be alert!

Silver Springs is one of the largest freshwater springs in the area that feeds the Silver River. Take a ride in a glass-bottom boat and glimpse the marvels underwater. The park has arrangements for a jungle cruise and Jeep safari and is home to local wildlife, botanical gardens, petting zoo, and country music concerts. The nearby Wild Waters is the place for some frolic in the waters and a picnic under stately oak and palm trees.

Ocala has an excellent public education system. There are many centers of higher education including the Central Florida Community College, Webster college and the Marion County school of radiological technology. The medical needs of the residents are well cared for at the efficient Munroe Regional Medical Center and the Ocala Regional Medical Center.

Ocala is the first and only city in Florida to compete in America in Bloom, a national beautification program fostering civic pride, patriotism, and community. Ocala citizens proudly display their highlights and develop new and exciting sites. Ocala provides a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. Stroll or jog along walking trails at Jervey-Gantt, Martin Luther King Recreation Complex, or Lillian Bryant Park. Go fishing at Lake Tuscawilla. Friday evenings in the fall feature music on the downtown square. Discovery Science center at Brick City Park is an informative and interactive center for young people.