I have to start this piece by saying we had much different plans for our stop in Ocala, Florida. The plan was to drive from our home in Louisville, Kentucky and stop for the afternoon and explore Ocala for the remainder of the day. Sadly due to circumstances beyond my control that didn’t happen. I do however, have lots that I can share about all Ocala has to offer along with the little bit that we saw during our brief time.
The city of Ocala has natural freshwater springs located in the Ocala National Forest, which by the way is huge, with 673 square miles to explore. You are going to want to plan to spend the better part of a day (if not the whole) day in the forest. When you make your plans to visit the forest be sure to pack your sense of adventure…and your bathing suit. There are also opportunities to experience a trail ride or even go soaring through the forest while on a zip line.
There is an Endangered Animal Rescue (EARS) that you can visit, they do charge a nominal fee for the tours the money goes back to supporting the very worthwhile cause. With animals like bears, lions, tigers, cougars and primates there is sure to be something to please all of the members of your family!
My family and I were slated to take part in a glass bottom boat tour at the Silver Springs State Park, which was something that my kids were beyond excited to experience. They spent a large portion of our car ride chattering about what kinds of marine life they thought they would see on the boating adventure.
When we arrived in Ocala, our time there looked very different from our original plan. We arrived much later than what was planned, so I had some very disappointed (and stir crazy) boys on my hands.
We bunked for the night at the Residence Inn and it was exactly the type of layout that we needed. I am not sure if you are aware of the way that Residence Inns are set up but they have a living area, a full kitchen and a separate sleeping space.
We made a decision as a family that we were too tired to go out for dinner, especially since our original eating destination was already closed for the evening. We felt like a drive thru wasn’t going to even come close to the table-side s’mores that we were supposed to enjoy as a family. So we headed to the little store located in the lobby of the Residence Inn. Was the food healthy? No. Was it inexpensive? Nope. It was however, convenient which was our biggest criteria. We took our food back to the room where we had the space and utensils to cook our makeshift supper.
Our boys slept on the sleeper sofa, which even after all of the travel that we have done, they think it is the coolest thing ever! My husband and I settled into the plush king bed and crashed out for the night.
After a very restful night’s sleep we were up and ready for breakfast! The Residence Inn offers a complementary breakfast, and it was fantastic. With choices like eggs, bacon, waffles and oatmeal it was just what we needed to fuel up for a day at Disney.
You see, we had our sites set on Ocala because I knew it wouldn’t be smart to arrive in Orlando before our tickets to see the Mouse were active. I did some research and found that there were so many fun things to do in Ocala, that didn’t include theme parks.
After checking out from the hotel we had our car’s GPS set to take us to the nearest Walmart to get some of the supplies that we realized we didn’t bring with us on the trip. I tell you this because our GPS didn’t take us on the right road and we ended up on an absolutely beautiful back road that left my husband and I exclaiming over the sheer beauty. My husband said several times that the landscape was very appealing to him.
Just on our short drive, we realized that we have found a town that we can’t wait to get back to explore. Our plan is to head back, sooner rather than later. We can’t wait to share all that we find on our return trip!