7 Reasons to Move to Ocala, Florida

Posted: May 5, 2022 | Categories: Communities | Communities>Summercrest
By Highland Homes

Updated May 16, 2024

Downtown Ocala, FL
Downtown Ocala

Known as the Horse Capital of the World, Ocala, Florida is home to hundreds of thoroughbred farms and training centers. But horses are far from the only thing that makes this city so special! With things to do in Ocala ranging from diverse cultural attractions to natural wonders unlike anything else in the Sunshine State, it’s no wonder Ocala was recently named the No. 11 Best Place to Live in Florida by U.S. News & World Report, ranking highly for desirability and quality of life. In addition, this small Florida city was recognized as the No. 26 Best Place to Retire in the U.S. and the No. 10 Safest Place to Live in the U.S.!

If you are looking for a new home in a charming Florida city, here are 7 fantastic reasons you’ll want to make Ocala your new home.

1. Small-Town Feel and Southern Charm

Ocala's Downtown Square
Ocala's Downtown Square - Courtesy of ocalamarion.com

Ocala, Florida is a city of about 65,000 people that boasts both a small-town feel and true Southern charm. Imagine being surrounded by large oak trees draped with elegant Spanish moss, an abundance of wide-open green spaces, and charming horse estates – this is exactly what you’ll experience when you make Ocala your new home!

As you explore the downtown area, check out the Ocala Historic District with many beautifully preserved historic homes, eclectic eateries and pubs, and boutique shopping, all nested around a historic town square and in a highly-walkable area shaded by a Live Oak tree canopy.

2. The Ocala National Forest

Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest
Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest

One of the most unique things to do in Ocala is explore the Ocala National Forest, the southernmost forest in the continental U.S. and the world’s largest scrub forest. Escape the every day with more than 430,000 acres of botanical diversity, all sorts of wildlife, and greater than 600 lakes and rivers.

Natural springs are one of the most unique features of the Ocala National Forest. Formed by water flowing through limestone in an underground aquifer, these beautiful oases are a consistent 72 degrees year-round and are a wonder to behold with crystal-clear waters a natural window to aquatic plants, unique rock formations, and colorful fish and wildlife. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and canoeing or kayaking are all activities you can enjoy at various springs in the Forest such as Alexander Springs, Salt Springs, and Juniper Springs.

And that is far from all! An extensive trail system provides hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and includes idyllic bridges and boardwalks from which to observe wildlife. If motorized sports are more your speed, motorized boats can be used on various lakes and rivers, and miles of OHV trails let you experience the Forest on motorcycles, ATVs, and UTVs. For an overnight stay, there are several campgrounds and cabins for rent.

3. Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park

Florida’s springs aren’t limited to the Forest. A national landmark and nature park with one of the world’s largest freshwater springs, Silver Springs State Park is located just east of Ocala. The park is perhaps best known for its glass-bottom boats that provide you with a unique look at the spring. You can also kayak, paddleboard, canoe, hike, camp, and even shop and dine within the park!

4. Parks, Recreation, and Equestrian Activities

World Equestrian Center in Ocala
Photo courtesy of the World Equestrian Center

Outdoor activities are plentiful in Ocala thanks to the city’s wealth of green space and Florida’s beautiful year-round weather. In addition to the above-mentioned destinations, some of Ocala’s best outdoor activities include:

  • Sholom Park, complete with picturesque labyrinths and botanic gardens designed to provide a peaceful escape from everyday life;
  • Carney Island Recreation and Conservation Area on the shores of Lake Weir, which includes over 750 acres of trails, playgrounds, and beaches, with concession stands during the summer months;
  • World-class horse competitions and shows including events at the 300-acre World Equestrian Center, hosting indoor and outdoor arenas, stables, five expo centers, luxury hotel accommodations, curated shopping and dining, and more.

5. Arts and Culture in Ocala

It’s not all outdoor activities – Ocala also has a strong arts scene, including a cultural gem, the Tuscawilla Art Park. This unique city park hosts outdoor sculptures and public art, the Reilly Arts Center, and a stage, plazas, and wandering pathways set amongst lush landscaping and botanical plants. 

Another outdoor art experience is the First Friday Art Walk through Ocala’s historic downtown. Stroll the streets around the downtown square while taking in live performances, street musicians, galleries, and free art activities - you may even find the perfect piece of art to display in your new home in Ocala!

This small city is also home to a permanent collection of more than 24,000 pieces of art, the Appleton Museum of Art, located on the College of Central Florida campus. From classical to contemporary, the museum also hosts an outdoor sculpture garden, idyllic courtyard and fountain, and a variety of events and special exhibitions.

Also within the Appleton Cultural Center, the Ocala Civic Theater has entertained the Ocala community for more than 70 years and the current season is underway with an impressive list of productions.

6. An Affordable Cost of Living

Ocala boasts a strong economy with an affordable cost of living when compared with other Florida cities. For example, according to BestPlaces.net, Orlando is 23% more expensive and Tampa is 23.5% more expensive to call home than Ocala, and Ocala’s cost of living is 13% less than the U.S. average and 15.6% cheaper than the average for Florida!

Ocala’s healthcare and manufacturing industries are growing at a rapid pace, with several companies in those industries currently hiring. In addition, Ocala is home to several major employers including Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Chewy, and Ocala Health.

While Ocala is considered a small city, many find living here is just right thanks to the affordability, job availability, and access to daily necessities (not to mention all the great things to do in Ocala).

7. New Homes for Sale in Ocala, Florida

Summercrest in Ocala FL
Homes at Summercrest, adjacent to Baseline Golf Course in Ocala

With so many great reasons to move to Ocala, we have one more item to add to the list – Our beautiful Ocala new home communities!

Situated in beautiful locales with access to highways, recreation, and all the great activities we talked about in this article, our new homes for sale in Ocala are priced from the high $200's, with multiple neighborhoods to suit your lifestyle and needs!

Now that you’ve discovered all of the great things to do in Ocala and reasons to live in this charming small city, allow our Ocala New Home Specialists to help you find your dream home! Call or email us today and start planning your move to Ocala.

Tags: Ocala single-family homes Ocala National Forest Florida's Springs Juniper Springs Silver Springs