Regional Exploration: Itineraries to Discovering North Central Florida
Even if you’re not staying in destination, there’s enough fun here to keep you busy all day. Check out our itineraries for cool day trips in Ocala/Marion County.
PEDAL or PADDLE – 4-Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Ocala/Marion County
Paddle: Clear Kayaking at Silver Springs State Park
Spend your morning paddling your way up the pristine Silver River. This experience will provide you with close encounters with some of our locals, including birds, fish, turtles and manatees. In addition to clear kayaking, there is paddle boarding, canoeing, and even a glass-bottom-boat rides available. Silver Springs State Park also achieved Hollywood fame as it was the filming spot for many films, including six of the Tarzan films. You may see a prop or two from the movies. You may see a prop or two from the golden age of Hollywood.
Address: 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd., Silver Springs, FL 34488
Hours: Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Pedal: Baseline Trailhead at the Cross Florida Greenway
Located right outside Downtown Ocala, Baseline Trail is the perfect place to spend a fun-filled morning. You can pedal across the paved 5-mile trail passing by farmland along the way. Or, you can bike on the unpaved 3-mile path, which cuts through Marshall Swamp.
Address: 4255 SE 58th Ave, Ocala, FL 34472
After spending an exciting day in the sun, you’ll be able to relax in Downtown Ocala. Grab a meal at one of the local restaurants in the area, listen to live music and visit the best photo spots. There are multiple bike-racks throughout the downtown, if you wish to take your bike, as well as a new multi-use trail from Downtown to Tuscawilla Park, Osceola Trak. There are plenty of great places for shopping, including a local bike shop and award-winning breweries.
Day 2 – Ocala/Marion County
Paddle: Rainbow River
Enjoy a paddling adventure exploring the Rainbow River and spot various wildlife along the banks, including birds, turtles, and otters. Rainbow Springs produces between 400 and 600 million gallons of water per day, which makes it the fourth-largest spring in the state of Florida. From April-September tubing down the river is available from both KP Hole Park and Rainbow Springs State Park.
Address: 19158 SW 81st Place Road, Dunnellon, Florida 34432
Hours: Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to sunset
Pedal: Bike Santos Trails (open every day)
Explore some of the best mountain biking in Florida, the southeastern U.S. and internationally at Santos Trailhead. The choices here are endless, with over 80 miles of single-track diverse bike trails, so there is a trail for every skill level ranging from beginners to expert riders.
Address: 3080 SE 80th St., Ocala, FL 34480
Hours: Open daily from 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Day 3 – Gainesville, Alachua County
Paddle: Santa Fe River
The 75-Mile Santa Fe River will take paddlers for a ride through many breathtaking springs along the way to the Suwanee River. If the water level is high, then you may be able to enjoy a current that will help guide you along on your journey. Here is the Sante Fe River Paddling Guide, which includes paddle trail maps, multiple river access points, outfitters for paddling adventures with shuttle service and more.
Address: Start of the Trail, US 41/441 Bridge
Pedal: San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park
There are 30 miles of single-track trails at San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park to thrill every bike enthusiast. Test your off-road skills on beginner trails like Cotton Tail Trail before adventuring to more advanced ones, including Tung Nut Loop and Hammock Hub.
Address: 11101 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653
Hours: Open daily from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Bike to Downtown Gainesville
Not only is Downtown Gainesville full of specialty shops, delicious restaurants and exciting nightlife options, it is only minutes away from the University of Florida campus and is very bike friendly. There are hotels nearby that make it easy to bike downtown, even offering free bike rentals to explore the area. If you are with a group, Florida Fun Bikes is a unique way to hit the town, together pedaling from moving barstools through downtown and midtown.
Day 4 – Gainesville, Alachua County
Paddle: The Potano Paddling Trail
This exciting water trail has a simple paddle around Newnan’s lake and a more advanced paddle into Prairie Creek at Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park. As you paddle down the river, you will surround yourself with massive live oaks and towering cypress trees.
Pedal: Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail
This 16-Mile state trail stretches from Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Water Works to Hawthorne. Even though Florida is known for its flat terrain, bikers on this trail will be able to experience curves and hills. A highlight of the journey may be passing through Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park, home to bison, horses and over 300 species of birds.
Address: Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, Hawthorne, FL 32640
ARTS/CULTURE – 4-Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Gainesville, Alachua County
One of the nation’s top five natural history museums, the Florida Museum of Natural History has eight permanent exhibits and several limited-time exhibits. There are also several outside exploration areas. While general admission is free, it costs money to enter the Butterfly Rainforest, which features over 50 species of butterflies.
Address: 3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611
Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Harn Museum of Art
One of the largest university-affiliated art museums in the nation, the Harn Museum of Art features 13,000 works of art. The permanent galleries focus on African, Asian, modern, and contemporary art and photography. Take your time viewing paintings, ceramics, textiles and more.
Address: 3259 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611
Hours: Tues-Sat 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The Hippodrome is Gainesville’s performing arts theater and has events over 340 days a year. Be sure to visit the Hippodrome website, TheHipp.org to see the live theater production, but there are throwback classics and independent films.
Address: 25 SE 2nd Place, Gainesville, Fl 32601
Hours: Tues-Sun 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Day 2 – Gainesville, Alachua County
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park – Cross Creek
Travel back to the 1930s and step inside the Majorie Kinnan Rawlings Farmhouse. You can sign up for a farmhouse tour and see various rooms, including the bedroom, kitchen, and living room. Or, you can be your guide and stay outside while exploring the orange grove, chickens, ducks and the garden.
Address: 18700 S, Co Rd 325, Cross Creek, FL 32640
Hours: Park is open daily, and interior guided tours of the farmhouse are available Thurs – Sun at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Micanopy Historical Society Museum
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Micanopy Historical Society Museum provides visitors with an overview of Micanopy’s deep history. Named after Chief Micanopy, visitors can view Native American artifacts dating back 500 to 5,000 years ago.
Address: 607 NE Cholokka Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667
Hours: Wed-Sun: 1-4 pm
Discover Historic Downtown Gainesville
Just minutes from the University of Florida campus, downtown Gainesville is a great place to close the day with culture. Whether you are stopping into one of the many local artisan shops in the area or enjoying the various public art including murals, sculptures and historical monuments.
Day 3 – Ocala/Marion County
Old Florida Heritage Highway
Take Old Florida Heritage Highway to Ocala/Marion County. The Old Florida Heritage Highway is a connection of roads around the town of Micanopy. For 48 miles, you will be able to relax and appreciate the minimal traffic. As you are driving down to Ocala, pay attention to the picturesque views that you won’t find anywhere else.
Glass Bottom Boat tour at Silver Springs
Experience Florida’s very first tourist attraction when taking a Glass-Bottom Boat tour. On these immersive tours, passengers will get an up-close look at the captivating underwater world. Keep your eye out for a variety of fish species and other marine life. There is a 30-minute tour and a 90-minute one.
Address: 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd., Silver Springs, FL 34488
Hours: Tours run daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The 90-Minute Tour is only available on the weekends.
Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center
Located in Silver Springs State Park, the Silver River Museum has two main galleries. The Main Museum has exhibits that focus on Florida geology, paleontology, and more. You will be able to see a variety of fossils, including a gigantic Columbian Mammoth. The History Wing will give you a history lesson on Marion County and the state of Florida.
Address: 1445 NE 58th Ave, Ocala, FL 34470
Hours: Sat-Sun 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Explore Historic Downtown Ocala
Keep the day of diving into the past of Ocala/Marion County going with an evening exploring historic downtown Ocala. The district not only features multiple self-guided historic tours with facts about buildings, some dating back to the 1800s, but is also decorated with murals throughout the area. Stop into the local art gallery, Brick City Center for the Arts, and grab a bite to eat at one of the many delicious restaurants inside the historic buildings for a taste of local culture and flavor. Visit on a first Friday of the month in September-May, and really see the artsy side of downtown at the First Friday Art Walk.
Day 4 - Ocala/Marion County
Appleton Museum of Art
The Appleton Museum of Art features over 24,000 works of art. Some of the permanent galleries focus on Florida Artists, Equine, Pre-Columbian and Maritime. There is also an abundance of events taking place here, including artist talks, art workshops and classes.
Address: 4333 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, FL 34470
Hours: Tues-Sun 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Closed Monday)
Designated as a National Historic Landmark, Fort King is the site of a previous United States military fort. Step into history while exploring the Fort, visit the library in the Visitor Center and walk around the Heritage Teaching Garden, which showcases native and foreign plant and trees species.
Address: 3925 E Fort King St, Ocala, FL 34470
Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset or 7:00 p.m. (whichever comes first). The Fort King Visitor Center and Archaeological Resource Center is open Fri-Sat 10:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Evening Performance at the Reilly Arts Center or the Ocala Civic Theater
The Reilly Arts Center is home to live entertainment. The auditorium holds up to 705 guests and hosts concerts, music series and the Ocala Symphony. Be sure to check out their website to see what is playing when you are in the area.
Address: 500 NE 9th St., Ocala, FL 34470
The Ocala Civic Theatre is a local theatre in the Appleton Museum of Art, known for fantastic live plays throughout the year and one of the largest community theatres in Florida. From musicals to ballets, the theatre always has a professional-quality production ready to enjoy. Check out their calendar to see what is currently showing.
Address: 4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, Florida 34470