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ideal towns >> Ocala, FL

Ocala — Florida’s Horse Country Heaven

by Scott Kauffman

With more than 70,000 acres of thoroughbred breeding and training farms, the Ocala area has long been known as the horse capital of the world. Indeed, whether you love the thrill of competition or just enjoy a leisurely ride via horseback, this central Florida region is a true equestrian escape and a place world champions have called home for decades.

This revitalized region is no longer horsing around, however, when it comes to attracting all walks of life. In the last three years, thousands of retirees and new families have moved into this metropolitan area, driven by a number of factors, including affordability, convenience and the unique combination of peaceful country-like living packaged with a sophisticated and vibrant medium-sized city just minutes away.

This combination of affordability and quality of life is why a growing number of national outlets such as ideal-LIVING, Money magazine, Where to Retire magazine and
have highlighted Ocala as one of the top places to live and retire.

Ocala is sandwiched between two thriving cities, Gainesville and Orlando, giving residents a country-like setting with metropolitan proximity. Meanwhile, the median sales price for a single-family home remains less than $120,000 per home.

This winning combination is why U.S. Census Bureau data shows Marion County was one of the fastest-growing areas in the country from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013, increasing
1.8 percent to 337,362 residents.

Savory Eateries

  • Amrit Palace features authentic Northern Indian cuisine with ample seating and a stylish setting.
  • Arthur’s Bistro, located inside the Hilton Hotel, is a local institution noted for wonderful Sunday brunches.
  • Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill draws people from out of town for its classy New Orleans-style setting and inventive Cajun-Creole fare.
  • Stella’s Modern Pantry is a fun place for lunch while shopping in downtown Ocala. The food is delicious with a nice collection of cheeses, breads and wines to take home.

Top Things To Do

  • Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing See dozens of dragsters made famous by American race car driver and pioneering automotive engineer “Big Daddy” Garlits.
  • Farm Tours of Ocala Hosted in the Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Owners’ Association Building, tours offer behind-the-scenes access to equine athletes and professionals.
  • Ocala National Forest Whether you’re looking for hiking or a leisurely picnic outing with the family, spend the day at this massive forest for a relaxing escape from the city.
  • Silver Springs One of Florida’s original “theme parks” made famous in movies, it has since been turned into a one-of-a-kind state park.
  • Silver Springs River Cool off on an inner-tube ride down the river as you meander through old Florida in refreshingly chilling water that stays cooled in the low 70s.

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