Getaway: The Equestrian Hotel

By: Emily Havener

A 2021 Gold Key Awards finalist for Best Luxury Hotel, The Equestrian Hotel in Ocala, Florida, was designed with a particular goal in mind: “to expose the equestrian sport to a broader audience,” according to hotel operations manager Justin Garner.

Visionary owners Ralph “Larry” and Mary Roberts determined that the 380-acre showgrounds be designed with equine occupants top of mind—but they added every possible human comfort to the property’s luxury hotel. The 248 rooms and suites, opulent decor and custom furniture designed by Ric Owens and the Roberts Design team. The Equestrian Hotel is a destination in and of itself, with grounds maintained by former Augusta National horticulturalists Alexis Anthony, top-notch dining, and the site of the World Equestrian Center.

Jockey showing a horse at the World Equestrian Center at The Equestrian Hotel
Image by Andrew Ryback

The Neighborhood Around The Equestrian Hotel

Pedestrian-friendly downtown Ocala is a 20-minute drive from the hotel and boasts a marquee-front movie theater with $5 flicks, First Friday art walks from September through May, and Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop. In cooler months, sign up for daytime or moonlight horseback and zip line tours with Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours, or beat the heat with their kayak tour through Big Cliff Canyon on Lost Spring Lake.

Alternatively, enjoy a staycation on the WEC property, order room service, and watch Olympic and world-class equestrian athletes compete from the comfort of your
room overlooking the Grand Outdoor Arena—or splurge for VIP seating while dining on the Stirrups Restaurant patio.

Hotel room at the Equestrian Hotel overlooking the showgrounds
Image by Ethan Tweedie

The Digs

The black, white, and gold lobby greets guests with 20-foot ceilings, marbled floors, and Swarovski crystal chandeliers. The rooms are no less luxurious, from spacious one-bedrooms with picture windows overlooking the showgrounds to the apartment-sized presidential and vice presidential suites outfitted with luxuries like a full kitchen and a claw-foot soaking tub. Pamper yourself with a visit to the Calluna Spa or a swim in the outdoor pool, shop luxury retail at Lugano Diamonds or marvel at the hand-carved rocking horses and larger-than-life stuffed giraffes at Mr. Pickles & Sailor Bear toy store.

Whiskey sour served at the Equestrian Hotel
Image by MAVEN Photo + Film

The Food Scene at The Equestrian Hotel

You don’t have to leave the hotel grounds to enjoy exceptional fine dining and a 25-page wine list by master sommelier Roland Micu at Stirrups Restaurant. You can also saddle up (literally, on their saddle-seat bar stools) at the Yellow Pony for over-the-top nachos, or treat yourself to handmade French pastries at Emma’s Patisserie. Downtown Ocala is home to more than a dozen eclectic food-and-beverage options, from the Tipsy Skipper rum bar and tiki lounge to fresh European fare at Stella’s Modern Pantry to an award-winning wine program and local-focused menu at Morevino

For reservations and more information, visit The Equestrian Hotel

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