Once upon a time, people came to Ocala simply to see and enjoy the gorgeous natural springs. Now, they certainly still appreciate the occasional dip in crystal-clear waters, but the area’s big draws are the mild winters, cost of living well below the national average and wide-ranging entertainment options. The city gets its name from the Ocale Native American tribe, which originally populated the area. Tragically, they and others that followed were killed, displaced and/or enslaved. Eventually, the area battled its way back to prominence thanks to arrival of the railroad, which helped visitors re-discover Ocala. Today, it’s a hotbed of opportunity for people in all industries, but particularly those who work in defense, aerospace and agriculture. In fact, it’s the crown jewel in Florida’s booming thoroughbred horse community, and is known as the “Horse Capital of the World.” This industry alone is credited with at least 44,000 jobs! Ocala homes for sale are currently listed at a median price of $179,900. Homes for sale in Ocala can be found in neighborhoods to suit all price ranges, like Deer Path Estates, Bellevue, Laurel Run and Ocala Historic District.
Ocala is probably best known for its natural landscape because it’s just so very unique. Silver Springs was an early draw to visitors like Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Ulysses S. Grant, and remains so today. The stunning waters of these artesian springs, one of the largest ever found, are popular with locals and visitors alike. Many choose to kayak, canoe or take glass-bottom boat tours to truly experience the beauty of the springs. Some dive right in to truly enjoy the waters by swimming or snorkeling. Silver Springs is often referred to as the gateway to Ocala National Forest, itself a state treasure. It’s the second largest national forest in Florida, the southernmost in the U.S. and a unique sand pine scrub forest with more than 600 springs, rivers and lakes to its credit.
Ocala is also home to a huge golfing community, and many locals enjoy the area’s hiking and cycling-friendly amenities. The city also fosters a significant motocross community, with plenty of engine-revving opportunities for those who enjoy the pastime. Ocala also features a performing arts slate surprisingly large for a city its size, including the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, Ocala Dance Theatre and a number of dramatic production companies. Visual arts enthusiasts should definitely make a habit of checking out the world-class collections at Appleton Museum of Art, which include pre-Columbian, European and American art as well as other pieces. Downtown Ocala’s Brick City Center for the Arts offers local artists an opportunity to showcase their works, with exhibits changing month to month.