Not as mainstream as Miami but richer in scenery and history, is the Ocala forest and Silver Springs. Tucked in central Florida, this area was one of the Sunshine state’s original attractions (going back as far as 1870). This area was responsible for a large wave of tourism that brought a lot of development to the South. Driving in from the city, you can feel time slow down as the landscape starts transitioning into extensive green pastures, dark colored wood fences and old oaks covered in Spanish moss.
Here are my 4 favorite must see/visit places:
- National Historic Landmark: Fort King, Military headquarters of the Seminole wars.
In 1830, congress passed president Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. This act proposed to move all the Seminole indians to land west of the Mississippi River. A warrior named Osceola, (the child of an indian woman and a white man) led the Seminole in a surprise attack against the americans. Fort King was an important base for the U.S. army during the removal of the Seminole tribes.
2. Silver Springs State Park: One of the largest artesian springs ever discovered.
Before Disney World, The silver springs were the main tourist stop in Florida. The springs are quite the sight; Crystal clear waters with undertones of turquoise blue surrounded by vegetation typical only in the Everglades.
From glass bottom boat tours, to kayak, canoe and bike rentals, the park has a variety of outdoor activities to meet your adventure needs.
3. Blue Berry picking
Florida’s Blueberry season starts in December and ends in April. U-pick farms are usually open the entire season (depending on the weather). These pictures were taken the first week of May. This was my first time tasting fresh, never before refrigerated blueberries. What a treat!
We made a delicious blueberry cobbler: Click here for recipe!
4. Downtown Square Ocala Farmer’s market
The Ocala farmer’s market in Downtown Square is held every Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. There is something about Downtown Square, its streets are welcoming and people are friendly. The small buildings surrounding it are reminiscent of Ocala’s rich history and make it a must-visit when in town.
Vendors either grow the products or manufacture them themselves; which means you are supporting local entrepreneurs! Stands offer seasonal fruits and vegetables, preserves, garden and house plants, handmade crafts, baked goods and meats amongst other local products. Below is a picture of The Peacock Cottage stand. Want to learn how to make your own fairy garden? The Peacock Cottage offers classes almost every Wednesday and Friday. Click here for their schedule: The Dandy Pot Class Schedule