5 Fall Activities That Will Make Your Visit to Ocala/Marion County a Delight
Ahhh, fall in Central Florida. You really have to experience it for yourself. The temperatures drop, usually topping out in the 70s, and turn into sweater weather when the sun goes down. Autumn in Ocala/Marion County calls for outdoor activities, al fresco dining and drinking, and rolling down car windows. The sun shines in abundance and the breezes refresh you. Here are five fall activities that make for a pleasant and invigorating stay.
1. Get Your Fall Fill of Beautiful Horse Country
Ocala/Marion County is widely celebrated as the Horse Capital of the World™ for its bounty of thoroughbred farms. Much of the activity at these huge facilities is breeding and training horses, but the casual visitor can experience horse country up close -- and fall is the perfect time for it. Farm Tours of Ocala provides a fascinating insider’s view of horse country, while some individual farms, like Gypsy Gold, offer tours of their facilities. Several operators lead guided trail rides in the Ocala National Forest.
Perhaps our most convenient equestrian experience is taking a tour aboard a quaint horse-drawn carriage, with a driver full of stories and information about the area’s equine heritage. Horse Country Carriage Co. runs its tours out of gorgeous, 56-acre Kimberden Farm, and you can book one that will take you through Historic Downtown Ocala.
2. Stroll, Eat and Drink Through Historic Downtown Ocala
What could be nicer than spending some unhurried time in a small, walkable, old-Florida city? Historic Downtown Ocala, which dates back to 1846, combines vintage charm with a modern culture. The town square — which includes a paved octagon, a cute gazebo and green space — is surrounded by an array of highly regarded, independently owned restaurants, including Mark’s Prime, Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille, The Lodge Brick City Craft Pub & Eatery and Brick City Southern Kitchen & Whiskey Bar.
Have a pint or two at Infinite Ale Works, Ocala’s award-winning craft brewery. While in the downtown area, walk the half mile to Tuscawilla Art Park, a vast expanse populated with larger-than-life sculptures. To plan a full tour of Ocala’s public art, use the Ocala Public Art Tour. It’s an absolutely splendid (and free) way to view some amazing art in lovely weather.
Want to do some shopping? Forget the big box stores and stop in at Agapanthus for imaginative gifts. If you’re looking for unique finds, check out a couple of quirky thrift shops: Tumbleweed of Ocala and The White Elephant.
3. You’ll Fall for Our Springs
Ocala/Marion County offers a plethora of federal and state parks with springs and spring-fed rivers that are among the best in Florida. Our parks include Silver Springs (famous for its Glass Bottom Boat rides), Juniper Springs, and Salt Springs (named for the slight salinity of its water) But if you can only do one, let us steer you to Rainbow Springs, situated in the southwest corner of Marion County.
Fall weather around here is still fine for kayaking. You can rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, and head out to enjoy a relaxing paddle. You’ll see the Rainbow River’s sandy bottom through crystal clear water that’s 72 degrees year-round. Take a refreshing dip if you like. Enjoy a stroll through the woods of Rainbow Springs State Park, where there are mossy hammocks and gentle hills. Hit the concession area for drinks and snacks.
4. Explore the Ocala National Forest
One of Florida’s true natural treasures, the Ocala National Forest, just east of downtown Ocala, is 600 square miles of delightful, varied wilderness. It’s simply one of the most beautiful outdoor wonderlands in the Sunshine State, and it’s particularly inviting during the fall months. The park’s terrain ranges from deep woods to planned recreation areas, and there are plenty of sand pine flatlands and cypress-filled wetlands to explore.
Juniper Springs and Salt Springs — mentioned above — are part of the Ocala National Forest. On both, you can paddle a relatively short “spring run.” The 4.5-mile Salt Springs Run is considered one of the best paddle trails in the state.
Horseback riding is welcome in the forest, which has more than a hundred miles of equestrian trails. If you’re not bringing your own horse, simply contact Makin’ Tracks Trail Rides about guided horseback tours.
5. A Glimpse at Fall Events and Festivals
What’s fall without pumpkin patches? Timberline Farms, 12 miles south of downtown Ocala in Belleview, holds its Farm Festival & Pumpkin Patch — with pony rides, face-painting, craft vendors and, yes, plenty of straw and pumpkins — on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 1. The Pickin’ Patch in Dunnellon, named The Best Pumpkin Patch in Florida by Better Homes and Gardens, offers family fun with a corn maze, a hay fort, a hay maze, plus live bluegrass music. Pick pumpkins, gourds and a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers. The fest runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 25.
Like to while away time in farmer’s markets? Our destination has several — each with its own character, but all of them sublime during the fall months. Here’s a sampler: Ocala Downtown Market, Crones’ Cradle Conserve, The Market of Marion, Circle Square Commons.
So there you have it — a whole bunch of reasons to plan a trip to Ocala/Marion County from October to December.
Click here for a more detailed overview of Ocala/Marion County’s can’t-miss fall events!