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This past weekend we took a family trip to Ocala, Florida. My Mom’s friend owns a cabin in Chiefland, FL (about an hour’s drive from Ocala) and that’s where we stayed. I’ve been to the area about 3 or 4 times now and if you love being outdoors and going on adventures, this area is for you. However, if you like nice restaurants and shopping, I’d recommend going someplace else. There is not a lot in Ocala but if you include the surrounding cities, there are some adventures you don’t want to miss. I would recommend renting a car if you are flying in because the good spots are around an hour or two’s proximity. So here are a few things I have done and some of my recommendations.
You have to go zip lining at The Canyons Zip Lining & Canopy Tours. SO MUCH FUN. If you have never been zip lining, you need to do it. And do it in Ocala. It’s strange to think of Florida having canyons and when you are zipping here, you’ll forget that you are in Florida. We did this on our most recent trip. It was about $100 for the full tour and I recommend doing the full tour and not the half tour because the half tour just isn’t enough zipping. You’ll want to wear athletic leggings or longer shorts because of the straps you have to wear the whole time. You can bring your phone with you to take pictures, I’d just have the person in front of behind you take them so you don’t lose your phone mid zip, it’s a far drop. They also have water stations every so often. We had a blast and would definitely do it again.
Fanning Springs (1 hour from Ocala)
This place is a pretty big natural spring. The water is freezing but you need to swim here because it’s too cool not to. Just jump in and you’ll be fine. There is no tiptoeing in or else you will never get in. Jump in, trust me. Also be sure to bring a mask or goggles because it is so magical to look under the water. In the deep end you can actually see the small spots where the water is coming up out of the ground from. There are also tons of fish and turtles, sometimes manatees, that will swim around you. And if you have a boat, you can drive it right up next to the springs and dock. There are cabins, camping spots, bathrooms, playgrounds, and a nature trail as well. *The pictures below are at Fanning Springs.
Ginnie Springs (1 hour from Ocala)
A great place for diving, river tubing, and swimming. At 72 degrees, like Fanning Springs, the water can be cold. Which makes for a refreshing way to cool off on a hot Florida day.
Other places to swim
- Ichetucknee Springs (1 hour from Ocala, about 20 min from Ginnie Springs)
- Rainbow Springs (about 30 min from Ocala)
- Alexander Springs (in Ocala)
There are so many garage sales on the weekends in Ocala and basically all the surrounding cities. We went to a garage sale right by the zip lining place and they had a ton of cool stuff like military equipment, boots, antique jars, comics, and I even got away with a $15 authentic Dooney & Bourke cross-body purse. Look around for garage sale signs and follow them, even if they lead you to a house on a dirt road way back in the trees. You can find some awesome stuff out in the middle of nowhere. Also be on the lookout for antique shops, I didn’t go to any but I’m sure they would have some cool stuff as well.
Wild Adventures Theme Park
Only 2 hours away and loaded with fun is Wild Adventures. It’s technically in Georgia but well worth the drive. Admission is about half the price of Disney and a lot cheaper than Universal Studios. If you want to ride some roller coasters, get wet, and interact with animals, this is the place. It’s a theme park, water park, and animal park all in one. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve been here but looking on their website, it still looks like a ton of fun.
Just get outdoors and explore. Go on a nature hike at one of the many state parks. Discover the Ocala National Forest or the Cross Florida Greenway. Spend the day, night, or camp out for weeks. Get out there and see nature up close and personal. You may have a blast, you may decide you hate hiking. You’ll never know unless you try.
Have you ever been to Ocala, FL or any surrounding areas? What did you do?