Our family travels by car more often than not. We make some of our best memories laughing along the way. Another reason that we love to travel by car is because we love finding our next vacation destination. Our last road trip was no exception – we discovered and fell in love with Ocala, Florida!

A hidden gem - Ocala, Florida

Photo Courtesy: Explore Ocala Marion County

Did you know that Ocala, Florida is considered the horse capital of the world? Or that they have natural springs in the Ocala National Forest where you can go swimming? Yeah, I didn’t either!

Ocala is located about 75 minutes outside of Orlando, but it might as well be another world. If your family is full of adventure seekers, then you need to make sure this town tops your travel bucket list.

You can hop on a zipline that goes on for over a mile. The tour lasts for 2.5 to 3 hours, which seems like a really long tour, but there is so much to see! Just a note: these tours are meant for older children, as the minimum weight is 70 lbs.

If you have the time to pick up the supplies for a picnic lunch before your ziplining adventure, I highly recommend doing so. I suggest the picnic because the springs in the area provide the perfect backdrop, and after you finish your lunch, why not take a dip in the springs? The water stays a constant 72 degrees and is crystal clear, not to mention beautiful!

A hidden gem - Ocala, Florida

Photo Courtesy: Explore Ocala Marion County

And remember – you’re in the horse capital of the world! If you are like me and feel the most comfortable on the back of a horse, then indulging in one of Ocala’s biggest claim to fame will be sure to please. There are farm tours to take, and trails to explore while on horseback! If you have your horse with you, there are self guided tours that are open to the public, as well as the option for guided tours. In fact, trail riding in Ocala is such a huge draw, the Ocala National Forest has a 100 mile horse trail.

On the other hand, a very different attraction appeals to my husband. You see, my husband and his father have spent a large amount of time bonding over classic cars and drag racing. It just so happens that the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is located in this charming town as well. Don Garlits is such an icon in my family that my son had his picture taken with the man himself and had it published in Hot Rod Magazine.

So, while your car loving family members are in heaven checking out the museum, may I offer some alternative suggestions?

Head to Silver Springs State Park and book a glass bottom boat tour. These tours run for 30 minutes and start at 9 a.m. Just be aware that they do not book in advance for the tours, so make sure you plan accordingly! On the tour you will see thousands of fish, turtles and maybe even an alligator! The best part is that it is from the comfort of a boat!

If you are lucky enough to visit and have the chance to sneak away from the kids for a bit, head to the
Corkscrew Winery. You can make your own wine with the help of the winemakers! The best part of creating your own blend is going to require a return trip. You will be able to mix flavors of raw grape juice to your liking and then the good folks at the Corkscrew Winery will babysit your wine for you while it ferments. Once it is finished you can book your return trip and pick up your creation!

Have an art lover in your group? Head to the Appleton Museum of Art! It is a very unique art museum. Explore Ocala, Flordia! (2) The museum hosts other events like family night where you can participate in flashlight scavenger hunts, and hands on art activities, to name just a few.

Ocala is a fantastic destination for families looking for something other than the theme park type vacation. It would also make great couples getaway! Have you visited before?