18 Free Things to Do in Ocala, FL

Ocala, FL
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Welcome to the heart of Florida, the delightful city of Ocala, Florida.!

Nestled perfectly between the energetic hub of Orlando and the stunning coastlines of the Sunshine State, Ocala possesses a unique charm.

The city, over the years, continues to impress with its rich array of activities and explorations that require not a single dime.

With a rich history and stunning natural beauty, Ocala offers a plethora of favorite free activities to visitors.

So, prepare to dive into an adventure that awaits in this captivating city!

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Mayra Albright, Tamika Gilreath, Jermaine Lincoln, Ricardo Murphy, Jennifer Kinsey, Marcus Brown and Philip Gates.

Explore the Trails of Ocala National Forest

Boardwalk at Ocala National Forest
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There's something wild and enchanting about Ocala National Forest.

When I first set foot on its grounds, I was taken aback by its sprawling beauty and seemingly endless expanse.

Nestled deep in the heart of Florida, this 600-mile forest is a haven for adventure, boasting natural pools, canoe runs, and hiking trails that keep me coming back for more.

It's easy to lose oneself amidst the echoes of the 19th-century homestead remains that dot the landscape, a solemn reminder of the area's rich history.

The Forest is a veritable playground for those with a sense of adventure.

I remember spotting a bear on one of my excursions around the Tread Lightly Trail, a thrilling encounter that amazed me and humbled me by nature's might.

The waters of Ocala National Forest
Miosotis_Jade / Shutterstock.com

It's one of the many encounters that make every visit a unique experience.

Each time I tread these trails, there's always something new to discover - the terrain is as diverse as it is vast.

Ocala National Forest remains a cherished spot for my family and me.

It's where we've forged countless memories over the years, spring-hopping and exploring the various recreational areas at an affordable price.

Plus, it's a testament to the saying, "Nature doesn't break your wallet. It only feeds your soul."

We continue to find ways to keep returning, always eager for the next adventures in this forest paradise.

Canoeing at Ocala National Forest
Eric Poulin / Shutterstock.com

Visit the Tranquil Oasis of Tuscawilla Art Park

Walking through the quiet, leafy lanes of the Tuscawilla Art Park has become one of my favorite pastimes.

It feels like home, offering a peaceful retreat from the bustling city.

The park is brimming with life - ducks paddle leisurely in the ponds, turtles bask in the sun, and if you're lucky, you might catch sight of some other local wildlife.

One of my favorite things about the park is its unique collection of sculptures.

Art is woven into the very fabric of the park, with incredible art pieces scattered throughout the park.

As I stroll around, my eyes always wander to the quote stones, each one inscribed with thoughtful, inspiring quotes.

I often find myself intrigued by the artworks, pausing to admire their crafting and the messages they convey.

A morning or afternoon at the park is never complete without a picnic.

Whether a full breakfast spread with a hot cup of coffee or a simple lunch, the park offers several serene spots to sit back and enjoy a meal.

The dual fountains, enchanting with their color-changing lights, provide a captivating backdrop.

Not to forget, the tennis courts and the playground are always buzzing with activity.

I love watching the kids having a gala time at the playground while the adults enjoy a good game of tennis.

The cherry on top is the depot next door, which public bus transportation utilizes.

It's perfect for a quick stop if you are in the area.

Living close by, I feel lucky to have this tranquil oasis within walking distance.

It's the perfect blend of peace, nature, and art.

Enjoy Exhilarating Fun at Ocala Skatepark

Have you ever had one of those days when you needed to feel the wind in your hair and the adrenaline pumping through your veins?

Well, with my trusty skateboard in hand, those are the days I make my way to Ocala Skatepark.

It's a community of passionate skaters, both young and old, honing their skills and pushing their limits.

I remember the last time we were there.

Watching the pros perform incredible tricks on their bikes and skateboards, he was awestruck.

Moments like these make this place more than just a skatepark.

A sense of camaraderie here is hard to come by elsewhere.  

Regardless, the park itself is well-kept and clean.

They even have a porta-potty that's always in pristine condition, which is a huge relief when you're spending the day here.

The Ocala Skatepark is an excellent addition to our community.

I wish it were a bit larger to accommodate the growing number of passionate skaters.

It's here, and we're glad for it.

So, next time you're looking for a place to skate, join us at our local haven. You won't be disappointed.

Visit the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' & Owners' Association

Every time I drive down the quiet lanes of Ocala, I'm drawn to the heart of the Horse Capital of the World, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' & Owners' Association.

This place is a celebration of the Florida Thoroughbred, a symbol of our identity.

The walls adorned with art are a feast for the eyes.

My children were particularly fascinated by the vivid paintings and sculptures, each telling a unique story about the Thoroughbreds.

It's like walking through a museum dedicated to these magnificent creatures.

But what truly makes this place unique is the people.

They are an incredible group of generous souls actively involved in the community.

Moreover, they're guardians of our heritage, taking immense pride in their work, fostering the Thoroughbred industry, and promoting our town as the world's Horse Capital.

With every visit, one thing becomes clearer - the association is about preserving a legacy, nurturing a community, and fostering a sense of belonging.

Visit Ocala Wetland Recharge Park

Occasionally, I find myself drawn to the peaceful serenity of the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park, a hidden gem in my town.

Nestled gracefully within the heart of Ocala, the park is a freshwater wonderland that has become my go-to spot for nature walks and bird-watching expeditions.

A visit there is like stepping into a thriving wildlife sanctuary.

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to spot various creatures on my walks, including the elusive Great Blue Heron, the perky Red Wing Black Birds, and even the unique Sherman Black Face Squirrels.

The paths are always clean and well-maintained, surrounded by lush greenery and a sense of tranquility that seems almost magical.

Moreover, the park is also home to helpful information thoughtfully posted along the walkways - a pleasant surprise for a curious nature enthusiast like me.

I would highly recommend visiting the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park for anyone looking to explore the city's wild side.

You won't be disappointed if you're an avid bird watcher, a wildlife photographer, or simply someone seeking a peaceful retreat.

Remember to respect the park’s rules to ensure it remains a haven for its wildlife inhabitants and visitors.

Spend the Day at Serene Sholom Park

Pavilion at Sholom Park
Sunshower Shots / Shutterstock.com

It's hard to resist the pull of the tranquil oasis that is Sholom Park.

The captivating greenery, scenic pond, and stately pavilion transport me to a world away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

It's my go-to place for solace and rejuvenation.

Every stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens is a new experience.

The diversity of flora and fauna sprinkled across the park adds a splash of color to the lush green surroundings.

With paved paths winding their way around the park, every corner invites you to pause and appreciate the beauty of nature.

One of my favorite pastimes here is feeding the fish in the pond.

The fish's excitement as they zip through the water to fetch their meal is a sight.

Whenever the stress of life gets to me, the peaceful ambiance of Sholom Park soothes my soul.

Trees at Sholom Park
Sunshower Shots / Shutterstock.com

There's a sense of thoughtfulness in the park's design, from the strategically placed benches offering a restful spot, the well-maintained bathrooms, and the water refill stations ensuring you stay hydrated during your visit.

The park is a paradise for kids as well.

For instance, the no-bike and no-pet rule ensures a serene experience for all, making it the perfect spot for a quiet family picnic.

It's always a delight to see the curious faces of my nieces and nephews as they explore the park, absorbing the peace and tranquility it offers.

But perhaps what I admire most about Sholom Park is its commitment to preserving the quiet.

Despite being a public space, it's a perfect sanctuary for those who love reading in peace or couples seeking a romantic stroll amidst nature.

Every visit to Sholom Park is a reminder to slow down and savor the beauty of life.

It's my retreat, sanctuary, and haven of serenity.

Discover The Hidden Treasures of Ocala

Each day, as I lace up my sneakers and set out for a morning jog, I'm greeted by the sprawling greens and serene atmosphere of the Heritage Nature Conservancy. Set right here in Ocala, it's a space like no other.

The park is brilliant in its organization and always has a soothing sense of quiet, especially during those early morning hours.

I've been a regular visitor for a while now, and I must say, it's usually clean and peaceful.

It's not just a park for joggers like me. It's also an educational hub.

There are loads of informative posts scattered around, which are great for anyone wanting to learn something about nature.

The workout equipment and gazebos are a bonus. They have thought of everything.

So, after a good run, I often enjoy a stroll on the walking trail.

Surrounded by greenery, it's a refreshing experience.

And if I decide to stay till the evening, I see the bats emerge from the bat house, a spectacle that never gets old.

Kids have a great time here, too.

There are plenty of playsets to keep them occupied while you can enjoy the somewhat scenic area they have set up.

But do remember to bring your bug spray! Lots of shade and mesquite means there's a fair amount of mosquitoes.

Visiting the Heritage Nature Conservancy is an adventure that offers something for everyone in our backyard. I can't recommend it enough.

Enjoy the Day at Ocala Citizens' Circle

Now and then, I find myself drawn to the bustling activity of the Ocala Citizens' Circle.

You know, that little hub of activity nestled in the heart of our city?

This place has a certain charm that keeps pulling me back.

Just thinking about the live music performances that often grace the area makes me smile.

Picture this: you're sitting back and unwinding on a summer day.

Kids are playing in the light-up fountain gleefully while beautiful melodies fill the air.

It's a scene straight out of a picture book.

The place doesn’t lack practical necessities either. The public restrooms are always within reach and well-maintained.

But the real magic happens in winter.

The icicle lights that adorn the Circle are a sight to behold!

One night under their glow, you'll be hunting online to buy some for your home, trust me.

Occasionally, the Circle hosts some brilliant food and drink events—rows upon rows of vendors offering the most delicious samples.

Beers, wines, local cuisines - you name it. Plus, you have the chance to meet great people and discover new breweries.

Ocala Citizens' Circle is a place that's always buzzing with something fun and exciting to do.

Whether it's lazing around on a summer day or sampling gourmet delights, many experiences are waiting to be had.

Spend the Day at Jervey Gantt Park

There's nothing quite like a Saturday spent at Jervey Gantt Park.

You might think it's just another green space, but it’s so much more than that.

With its 2-mile exercise path, it's the perfect place to kick-start your day with a refreshing morning jog.

After a good run, I usually head to the sports courts for a game or two.

From tennis to basketball, it's a great venue to challenge your friends for a friendly competition.

And if you're a fan of picnics, this park doesn't disappoint.

The park has several shelters, perfect for a laid-back lunch with the family.

One of the best features of this park has to be the playgrounds.

They're always a hit with the kids.

Watching them run, jump, and play is pure joy. And on hot summer days, the water park is a lifesaver.

Last time, I dipped in the pool, which was incredibly refreshing.

They do have specific intervals for pool usage, but trust me, it's worth the wait.

Jervey Gantt Park remains my go-to spot for recreation.

Whether you're a fitness enthusiast, a sports lover, or simply looking for a place to unwind, this park caters to all.

Remember to be aware of your surroundings and enjoy everything this fantastic park offers.

Spend the Day in Historic Downtown Ocala

A gazebo at Ocala Historic Downtown Square
H.J. Herrera / Shutterstock.com

Wandering through the cobblestone streets of Historic Downtown Ocala is like stepping back in time.

The charming, old-world architecture and the beautiful oak trees that line the streets are a constant reminder of the city's rich history.

Every day, I wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee from the local cafes in the square.

The lively chatter of locals enjoying their morning cup of joe is something I look forward to each day.

Breakfast at Ivy on the Square is a must for me; their pancakes remind me of my grandmother's recipe, and I start my day with the cheeriest people you can meet in a diner.

After breakfast, I typically stroll around the square to admire the beautiful artwork at the Brick City Center for the Arts.

The rotating exhibits showcase local talent; there's always something new and intriguing.

A trail at Ocala Historic Downtown Square
Luv24jmg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lunchtime is always a treat; with so many restaurants, it's hard to make a wrong choice.

My personal favorite is Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille.

Their New Orleans-inspired menu is delicious, and their courtyard seating area is perfect for dining on a sunny day.

In the afternoons, I often find myself in the local bookshop or browsing through the shelves of the historical society.

The Marion Theatre, a local landmark, usually has performances in the evening – and their classic movie nights are events not to be missed.

There's never a dull moment in this city filled with Southern charm and hidden treasures.

Whether you're a local or a visitor, Historic Downtown Ocala makes you feel at home.

Buildings at Ocala Historic Downtown Square
Luv24jmg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Stroll through Scott Springs Park

I can't believe this hidden gem is tucked away in my backyard.

Scott Springs Park is a marvelous retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.

When you enter the park, you're greeted by a canopy of trees, providing a refreshing shade, perfect for my regular walks.

The park is an abode for fun and learning, too.

Imagine strolling through a paved path with cute info panels at regular intervals, illuminating your mind with various facts.

It's a pleasant way to exercise both your body and mind.

The playground in Scott Springs Park is a child’s dream with its contemporary design - perfect for the little ones to frolic around and spend their endless energy.

Besides, there's also a bike course, which is not just for kids.

I've tried my hand at it several times, and it was exhilarating!

And if you're a fan of picnics, the park provides ample picnic tables fitted with BBQ grills.

The restrooms are clean and well-maintained - a testament to the meticulous care taken to preserve the park's beauty and hygiene.

The park also boasts an exciting spring area, which may not be as impressive as Silver Springs but is worth a look.

However, be warned the water may not always be as clean as you'd expect a spring to be.

But I've noticed that it does not deter the beauty and peaceful atmosphere the park provides.

Scott Springs Park is a lovely little place where you can breathe, relax, and enjoy life at your own pace.

Whether you're a fitness enthusiast, a nature lover, or a parent to energetic kids, this park has something to offer for everyone.

Visit Silver Springs Shores Comm Center

Do you know that feeling of finding a hidden gem in your community?

That's exactly how I feel about the Silver Springs Shores Comm Center.

Nothing stands out like spending your day at a serene lake, playing golf, swimming, and working out, all in one place.

And guess what? It's all there at the Silver Springs Shores Comm Center.

My first impression of the center was during our community's Easter festivities.

I was surprisingly taken aback by the cleanliness and organization of the center, given the hundreds of people in attendance.

The main building was very inviting, and the restrooms were kept spotless throughout the event, reflecting the dedication and efficiency of the management.

However, the real discovery was what lay behind the locked doors.

Peeking through the windows, I saw a plethora of recreational opportunities.

Can you believe that they offer country dance classes?

My experience with the Silver Springs Shores Comm Center has been remarkable.

It's become one of my favorite spots in the area, and I'm sure it will be yours, too, once you experience it.

Enjoy a Peaceful Retreat at Tuscawilla Park

Imagine a place where tranquillity and nature coexist in harmony, just a short stroll away from the bustling city life.

That's what I find every time I visit Tuscawilla Park.

This little urban gem with a serene lake is my go-to place for some downtime.

I'm a bit of a bird-watching enthusiast, so strolling around, camera in hand, capturing the playful avian population feels like a privilege.

There's something so therapeutic about it. And it's not just the birds.

The park is immaculately maintained with utmost care.

It feels like an oasis, a sweet respite from the rest of the city.

But the charm of Tuscawilla doesn't end with nature.

The park is dotted with creative artwork that inspires and intrigues.

Moreover, the sculptures across the park add another dimension, making it feel like an open-air art gallery.

It's not just for adults, either.

The kid's play area is a paradise for the little ones, and it's satisfying to watch them run freely, their laughter resonating through the park.

And if you're an angling fan, the park also has that covered.

And then there are the events, like free movie screenings right in the heart of the park - it's an experience that words fall short to describe.

These community events bring everyone together for a fun night out, adding to the park's appeal.

Moreover, the park's proximity to downtown Ocala is a major plus, as it's within walking distance of many other fun events and activities.

It's a great place to spend a day with family or even for special occasions - we chose this picturesque location for our wedding photographs.

So, whether it's for a stroll, a bird-watching session, a little art appreciation, or a fun-filled family day out, Tuscawilla Park has something for everyone.

I love it here and visit often, each time discovering a new facet of this beautiful park.

Explore History at Fort King National Historic Landmark

Exterior of Fort King
Sunshower Shots / Shutterstock.com

When it comes to stepping back in time and fully immersing myself in our region's rich history, there's no better place than the Fort King National Historic Landmark.

This 19th-century army post-turned-national treasure offers everything this history buff enjoys.

Upon arriving at the site, the first thing that catches the eye is the meticulously constructed replica of the fort.

It’s an arresting sight that instantly transports you to the past.

Walking around it, you understand how life must have been back in the early days.

But what truly sets Fort King apart is its dedication to community engagement.

There are always activities and events on the calendar, from informative lectures to ax-throwing competitions.

Yes, you heard right - ax throwing!

Blockhouse at Fort King
Sunshower Shots / Shutterstock.com

The site has even created a space for a local club to hone their skills.

It's about fostering a sense of camaraderie and connection.

While the visitor center and Archaeological Resource Center are only open on Fridays and Saturdays, the grounds are open daily, meaning you can take your time exploring.

Bring a picnic, take a leisurely walk on the trails, or sit and enjoy the scenery.

And don't forget to bring your faithful four-legged companions, as leashed pets are welcome here.

Despite its small size, Fort King offers a generous slice of history and many activities.

Whether you're a history enthusiast, an eager learner, or just someone looking to kill time, this landmark is worth visiting.

If only the fort walls could talk, the stories they would tell!

History marker of Fort King
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore Ocala Nature Park

"Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees..." John Muir said.

Ocala Nature Park is a small, serene gem in the heart of the city and is my go-to place whenever I crave a relaxing environment filled with life's simple pleasures.

This soothing haven offers many activities for myself and the kids.

There is a playground with swings, slides, and merry-go-rounds that my children love.

They lose themselves in the joy of climbing and sliding, their laughter echoing through the park.

While they play, I often find my corner of tranquility on the open deck, watching ducks gracefully float on the pond surface, fish darting beneath, and turtles basking in the sun.

The park is also an angler's delight.

I usually bring my fishing rod and unwind while trying to catch a few Bluegills.

Watching my line disappear beneath the calm water, signaling a catch, is always a joy.

I must be mindful, though - softshell turtles are often accidentally caught.

They seem to love the bait as much as the fish do!

Ocala Nature Park is where you want to disconnect from the city's hustle and bustle.

Every time I step into this park, I feel like I've stepped into an oasis of calm and beauty.

It’s a sanctuary where I can breathe, relax, and be in the moment.

Enjoy a Quiet Escape at Legacy Park

Legacy Park is perfect for a quiet morning walk or a peaceful moment of reflection.

I often go there early in the morning. It's my start-the-day-right ritual.

A concrete path encircles the park itself.

As I stroll around the park, I often stop at one of the exercise stations.

These stations are the perfect way to sneak a little workout during my morning walk.

One of my favorite spots in the park is the small duck pond on the north side.

It's always a sight to behold.

Ducks and wading birds happily frolicking in the water, creating a serene, almost therapeutic scene.

I often find myself losing track of time just watching them.

There are benches placed strategically around the path, some overlooking the water.

I like to take a moment, sit down, and enjoy the tranquil view.

It gives me a sense of calm and relaxation that no other place in the city provides.

Legacy Park, for me, is a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of life—a place where I can recharge my mind and uplift my spirit.

And best of all, it's right here, in our backyard.

So, if you're seeking tranquility, I can't recommend Legacy Park enough.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Check Out Crones' Cradle Conserve

From the moment I stepped foot on the lush, vibrant grounds of Crones' Cradle Conserve, I knew I was in for a treat.

A haven of tranquility nestled in the heart of our town, this place is like a slice of paradise on Earth.

Every sensory detail reminds us of nature's bounty, whether it's the tantalizing smell of fresh herbs wafting in the air or the sight of ripe fruits hanging low on trees.

I even got to take home a variety of herbs and plants that he assured me would thrive in my kitchen garden.

The farm also has various animals, including cool cats, a sweet old dog, chickens, and guineas.

But, what truly made my visit memorable was the Fall Gala.

An array of organic dishes, each more delicious than the last, was spread out for us to sample.

However, the highlight of the day was the tour of the organic gardens and the greenhouse.

The variety of herbs and plants, all grown with the utmost care and love, was wonderful.

Whether you're a plant enthusiast or seeking a peaceful retreat, Crones' Cradle Conserve promises an experience like no other.

I can hardly wait for my next visit!

Unwind at the Forest Community Center

The Forest Community Center is where I find solace and entertainment.

This is where I head whenever I need to escape the hustle and bustle of life.

The center, nestled in the heart of Marion County, is a hidden gem that offers many activities for various age groups.

Spending time at the center is never dull.

I have attended countless company meetings here, finding that their conference rooms are clean and well-maintained, peaceful and quiet.

The calm atmosphere here fuels productivity and creativity, making it an ideal choice for business meetings and brainstorming sessions.

But the community center is not just about work.

It's also a hub of entertainment and social activities.

For billiard enthusiasts like me, the center is a haven, providing ample opportunities to challenge friends to a game of pool.

There’s always something happening here - special events, monthly spaghetti dinners for the cops, or the much-awaited jam sessions every Thursday night.

If you love music, you'll be thrilled with these sessions.

You can sit back and enjoy the tunes, or bring your instrument and join the fun!

Moreover, what sets the Forest Community Center apart is its beautiful surroundings.

It is connected to a library via a picturesque bridge, under which runs a serene nature trail.

The kids' playground nearby teems with laughter and joy.

I've had numerous memorable moments here, enjoying the calming influence of nature or watching children play.

Living so close to the Forest Community Center is indeed a privilege.

It seamlessly blends work, play, and relaxation, making it a building and a thriving community space.

Final Thoughts

There's no denying the charm and appeal of Ocala, Florida.

Take the time to explore and immerse yourself in Ocala's vibrant culture and raw, natural beauty.

I feel truly blessed to call this place my home.

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