Internationally renowned among equestrians, cyclists, geologists, and even the world of classic cinematography, Ocala/Marion County still feels like a hidden gem to those who aren’t already insiders. And yet, when you’re here, you’re never an outsider. The relaxed, genuine friendliness of the county’s communities makes you feel welcome wherever you go.
Known as The Horse Capital of the World®, Ocala/Marion County is one of only four major thoroughbred centers in the world and is home to more than 600 thoroughbred horse farms that have produced 45 national champions, six Kentucky Derby winners, 20 Breeders’ Cup champions, and six Horses of the Year.
The World Equestrian Center, known by locals as WEC, is the largest equestrian facility in the US. It offers a day full of fun for everyone, with a 248-room luxury hotel, multiple restaurants, a pub, a sweet shop, shopping, horse and dog shows, and more. In June 2024, WEC is planning to open an extended-stay hotel with 400 suite-like rooms and an adjacent restaurant.
Ocala/Marion County provides many ways for visitors to go behind the gates and explore the Horse Capital of the World® up close with personal experiences such as horseback riding and tours of farms.
Ocala/Marion County is also well known for its scenic outdoor environment, including crystal-clear springs and endless hiking and biking trails.
There are more than 600 springs, lakes, and rivers in Ocala/Marion County, including Rainbow Springs, Silver Springs, Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs, and Paradise Springs. The springs are 72°F/22°C year-round and open throughout the year.
There are also plenty of trails surrounding the springs that offer another way to escape our famous Florida sunshine.
Santos Trailhead is one of six trails in the US that is internationally recognized for its mountain-biking trails—there are more than 80 miles of paved and unpaved trails for bikers of all skill levels. The rolling hills that make up our terrain lead to more interesting walks, especially when you’re traversing the vast terrain of the Ocala National Forest.
The Canyons Zip Line & Adventure Park is home to the fastest, longest, and highest zip line in the state of Florida. Soar across the sky through shaded canopies and lime rock canyons. Other activities available here are horseback riding through the forest, kayaking over a breathtaking lake, and mining for authentic gems, crystals, and fossils.
With many boutiques and gift shops, free live music on the weekends, and the constantly expanding food and beverage scene, the thriving Ocala downtown is a hallmark of the visitor experience in Marion County.
- by Erin Byers Murray