A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL

A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL

Ocala is officially known as the Horse Capital of the World ® (and it's also the location of our fourth Brand Shop). We’ve put together a local guide to help you plan your next visit to Central Florida.

In the heart of America’s horse country, the city of Ocala is an equestrian hotspot for competition, breeding and training in disciplines far and wide, so it’s only fitting that it’s the site of our fourth Ariat Brand Shop.

After spending time exploring the area, one thing about Ocala is certain — the exhilaration doesn’t have to end once you leave the arena or show grounds. We wanted some local insight on what not to miss in Ocala-Marion County, so we met up with the team from Ocala Style and Ocala Gazette to discover the top things to do in Ocala.

Together, we’ve outlined all the Brick City hotspots, from the ever-expanding World Equestrian Center to the vibrant downtown scene.

A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL

A Horse-Lover’s Shopping Paradise

Opened in 2021, World Equestrian Center(WEC) offers previously unimaginable options and opportunities for the equine community. The mega-complex is the largest equestrian center in the United States. A visit to WEC is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Ocala, as it draws visitors and exhibitors from all over the globe.

In addition to the 7,000-seat WEC Stadium, five climate-controlled indoor arenas and 18 outdoor rings (with more in the works), WEC venues can also accommodate concerts and other large events, equestrian and non-equestrian alike. With several hundred thousand square feet of retail space and over 25 luxury, performance and boutique retailers on-site, you can get your paces shopping for the greater part of an afternoon at WEC’s retailers and outlets.

A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL
The World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Fla.

World Equestrian Center, Ocala, FL

Start your shopping spree off at the female-owned Farm House, now with two locations on the WEC premises. Beyond the expected English apparel, tall riding boots and equestrian accoutrements, the Farm House is the only retailer in the area to carry a curated selection of our new English Countryside collection.

Don’t skip the chance to walk through The Equestrian Hotel, the property’s luxurious centerpiece. The exquisite lobby embodies sheer European elegance, from the self-playing grand piano to the Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Through hallways adorned with whimsical animal portraits and equestrian-inspired décor, visitors can spend time shopping for jewels, global gifts, larger-than-life animatronics, rare toys and replenish with a snack at the authentic French patisserie.

Not far from The Equestrian, you’ll find the Ariat Brand Shop located in WEC’s CaptiveOne Advisors Arena 1. Fixed in the very center of Ocala’s equestrian community, the shop is an homage to the legendary racehorse, Secretariat, and a tribute to his athleticism and non-stop competitive spirit. The Ariat location at WEC offers a wide range of performance footwear, from Western boots to English riding boots, as well as apparel, accessories for equestrians and casual wear for the entire family (including pets).

A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL
Ariat’s brand shop located in WEC

Ariat’s Brand Shop located in WEC

Head northeast a mile or two for a more old-school shopping experience. Also female-owned, The Tack Shack of Ocala can dress you in the latest English riding attire and equip you for barrel racing competitions, or just for riding the area’s many scenic trails. Owned by Marti Haught, Tack Shack has served the community and beyond for 30 years as one of the top tack stores in Ocala, employing expert craftsmen who have outfitted Secretariat and other notable Thoroughbreds through the years. Wall-to-wall saddles, the whir of sewing machines and the distinctive aroma of leather add to the authenticity of the experience. Racing, English and Western tack are available, as well as custom embroidery, tack repair, blanket wash and repair.

A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL
(Left to Right) The Tack Shack of Ocala exterior, a Tack Shack employee crafting a custom saddle, Ariat English apparel on display

(Left to Right) The Tack Shack of Ocala exterior, a Tack Shack employee crafting a custom saddle, Ariat English apparel on display.

A Celebration of All Things Equine

Things to do in Ocala aren’t limited to shopping. Enjoy historic equestrian art and more at The Appleton Museum of Art. The Appleton’s equine art collection spans more than 3,000 years of horse history. It originated from the private collection of the museum’s namesake, Arthur Appleton, and wife, Martha O’Driscoll. The couple established Bridlewood Farm in the 1970s and the works in their collection range from Eurasian Steppe Bronze Age equine bridles and bits to contemporary works.

The stately museum also wows visitors with compelling and cutting-edge touring exhibitions. The Appleton’s programming includes book clubs, artist talks and a robust education program. After taking in more than 24,000 objects and artifacts, let it all sink in while strolling the Appleton’s idyllic outdoor sculpture walk and garden. Admission is free on the first Saturday of the month.

A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL
The Appleton Museum of Art

The Appleton Museum of Art

For family fun when planning what to do in Ocala, round up your loved ones for the Grandview Clydesdales Farm Tours. The two-hour experience puts you up close with one of the world’s most majestic and distinctive breeds. During the tour, participants learn about distinctive Clydesdale features such as feathering (the hair around the hooves and ankles of the horse). The award-winning farm’s daily operations can be observed during the tour, which might include seeing ultrasounds on brood mares or observing insemination procedures. The most popular part of the tour, seeing the baby Clydesdales, promises a cuteness overload visitors of any age will appreciate.

Downtown Ocala: Things to Do in the Heart of Brick City

Downtown Ocala offers a perfect blend of historic charm and contemporary freshness. An old-fashioned town square serves as backdrop for First Friday Art Walks September through May, beer fests and other community events.

Plan a date night at the picturesque Ivy On The Square, a rustic-chic bistro that serves elevated Southern comfort food in a building built in 1890. It was among the first brick-and-iron structures built downtown after a fire ravaged the community in 1883. Follow dinner with cocktails in the adjacent speakeasy (password required!) or catch a movie at the vintage Marion Theater, built in 1940, situated right across the brick-paved road.

There’s no shortage of things to do in downtown Ocala; the area brims with eclectic dining, art, retail and entertainment options. With a retro, tiki-like vibe and kitschy decor, the Tipsy Skipper offers modern mixology and a buzzy atmosphere for a fun night out.

For a casual but refined lunch spot or as a destination for gourmet goods, Stella’s Modern Pantry is a slice of foodie heaven. The charming shop is a favorite destination for local oenophiles, offering bottles and glasses of wine in an array of vintages and varietals.

Explore the Outdoors

For one of the most exciting things to do in Ocala and a dose of old-fashioned splendor and the outdoors, head east on State Road 40 to one of Florida’s original theme parks, Silver Springs State Park. Originally built as a roadside attraction in 1878, the tranquil park offers nature trails, boardwalks and sidewalks that allow you to meander through the beautiful and crystal-clear freshwater springs.

A Local Guide: 13 Things to do in Ocala, FL
A Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs State Park

A Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs State Park

The park’s biggest claim to fame is its world-famous Glass-Bottom Boat Tour. While on your tour, you’ll learn about the movies and TV shows that were filmed there, why rhesus macaques roam the property and how archaeologists discovered mammoth bones, which are now on display in the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center, located south of the main entrance. For the adventurous, you can paddle down the water trail in a glass-bottom kayak for the chance to catch a close-up look at manatees (in the winter months) turtles, birds and the park’s other abundant wildlife.

Now that you’ve scoped out the things to do near Ocala, saddle up for a fun-filled trip and don’t forget to tag us in your adventures with #ariatEQ or #myAriat.