Ocala, Florida


Best Places to Retire in Florida

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Ocala (population 47,000) is located in north central Florida, 40 miles south of Gainesville.  The Ocala area (Marion County) is called the  ìHorse Capital of The World.î Horses are big business in Marion County. There are almost 50 breeds of horses represented in the area. The Thoroughbreds business alone employs about 29,000 local residents. The county ranked first among all US counties in total number of horses and ponies, and third nationally (behind two counties in Kentucky) in total value of horses sold. http://www.ocalafl.org/

In addition to its rolling hills and beautiful horse farms, the area features 15 golf courses, dozens of crystal-clear rivers and fresh-water lakes with outstanding bass fishing.  Ocala itself features an historic district with carefully preserved and restored Victorian homes and city streets with canopies of 100-year old Oaks.  The city is partially built on the site of Fort King, which was a military post constructed prior to the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). There are lovely neighborhoods throughout the city and in the revitalized downtown area contains City Auditorium, the municipal and county government buildings, Veterans Memorial Park, commercial buildings and a variety of large and small restaurants. On Friday and Saturday evenings, horse drawn carriages offer tours.

Ocala is rich in both cultural and natural resources.  It enjoys a mild year-round climate that allows residents to pursue the many and varied outdoor activities available to them.  And if they wish to travel to the coast, either the Gulf or the Atlantic Ocean beaches are within 60 miles.  The healthcare system is recognized as among the best in the country with a number of renowned physicians on staff.  Ocala offers a wide selection of restaurants with more than 20 choices and there are a great many cultural and entertainment activities throughout the county, including dozens and dozens of celebrations and events.

Arts & Culture

Marion County is the site of a great many festivals.  Major annual events include:  ìGod and Country Dayî; the Chamberís Christmas Parade; Ocali-Fest; Light-Up Ocala; Brick City Days; the McIntosh 1890 Festival; Boomtown Days in Dunnellon; Belleview Founderís Day and other smaller festivals and events. There is also the Southeastern Youth Fair, Florida Equestrian Classic, the Shrinersí Rodeo, the Professional Pro Rodeo and many horse shows.

Central Florida Community College Summer Music Theatre Institute produces performances in the Fine Arts Auditorium on the college campus. http://www.cf.edu/visitors/arts.htm

Central Florida Community College produces a number of concerts for public audiences at their Fine Arts Auditorium and at the Webber Center. http://www.cf.edu/visitors/arts.htm

The Appleton Museum of Art, jointly owned by Florida State University Foundation and Central Florida Community College Foundation, is housed in an elegant neo-classical-style building.  The museum is a regional landmark and regarded as one of the southeastís finest cultural assets.  http://www.appletonmuseum.org/

Brick City Center for the Arts opened in 1995 in a renovated former department store in historic downtown Ocala.  The center offers art exhibits, special events, workshops and demonstrations. http://www.mcaocala.com/?page_id=10

Fine Arts For Ocala (FAFO), founded in 1967, promotes the visual and performing arts.  The groupís annual autumn art show on the grounds of Ocala City Hall attracts more than 50,000 visitors in its two days of viewing.

Central Florida Symphony Orchestra, which has performed since 1978, is a 60-member, fully professional orchestra.  It performs a regular concert schedule, offers free concerts in cooperation with the schools, sponsor a Young Artist Competition and performs at many special events. http://www.cfsymphony.com/

Ocala Civic Theatre has had its own theater since 1950.  It offers live, professional-quality musical and dramatic productions.  The theatre has a youth program, a program for seniors, and shows by professional touring companies.  http://www.ocalacivictheatre.com/

Marion Civic Chorale – http://MarionCivicChorale.tripod.com/

Dance Ocala was formed in 1995 and offers performances in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop and lyrical. http://www.danceocala.com/

Recreation

Ocala Recreation and Parks Department manages 35 parks and parcels encompassing over 460 acres.  Included are ball fields, racquetball courts,  playgrounds,  football fields, sand volleyball courts, a six lane track, soccer field, basketball and tennis courts, horseshoe pits, park pavilions, and two municipal golf courses. http://www.ocalafl.org

Marion County has 21 parks with a wide range of facilities and recreational opportunities.  Activities include canoeing, biking and hiking, boat launch sites, fishing, horse trails, picnic areas, swimming, tennis, camping, cabins, playgrounds, and athletic fields.  http://www.ocalamarion.com/

ìHorse Shows in the Sunî (HITS) stages one of the largest hunter/jumper shows in the country in Marion County each spring.  This five-week event, held northwest of Ocala, draws competitors from the US, Mexico, Canada, and Europe.  As many as 2,000 horses take part in this annual event. http://www.hitsshows.com/

Silver Springs Nature Theme Park is a 350-acre park that features the largest artesian springs system (by water flow) in the world.  The park operates the famous glass bottom boats that offer a glimpse of the underwater life. http://www.silversprings.com/

Golfers can play 15 public, private or semi-private courses in Marion County.  There is both wooded and open terrain, and there are flat areas and rolling hills.  The City Of Ocala operates 2 excellent 18-hole courses. http://www.ocalamarion.com/

Wild Waters family water park has water slides, a wave pool, and play areas for children. http://www.wildwaterspark.com/

Ocala National Forest consists of 383,573 acres.  It offers ecological sites, walking/hiking trails, and natural springs.  There are hundreds of camping sites, and designated trails for horseback riding.  Fore Lake Recreation Area has a sandy beach and offers swimming and sunbathing.  Fishing and boating in small, non-gas powered craft are allowed. http://www.stateparks.com/ocala.html

Rainbow Springs State Park is a 600-acre park and another 400 acres of campgrounds.  There is swimming and snorkeling in the clear water, picnicking, or paddling on the spring fed Rainbow River http://www.floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings/

Education

Central Florida Community College in Ocala has an enrollment of about 5,500 students. http://www.cfcc.cc.fl.us/about/

The University of Florida in Gainesville has an enrollment of 45,000 students in 16 colleges.  More than 100 undergraduate majors are offered, and most classes are limited to no more than 25 students. http://www.ufl.edu/

Senior Programs

Ocala Regional Medical Center chapter of ìGolden Friends,î offers broad range of activities including Tia Chi, water aerobics, mall walking, line dancing, ballroom dancing, health & information lectures, periodic free screenings, seminars, luncheon or early bird dinners at local restaurants, day trips, and a singles program.  http://www.ocalaregional.com/SeniorFriends.asp

The Senior Companion Program uses volunteers to provide transportation to medical appointments, shopping assistance, meal preparation, companionship, and advocacy, as well as other related services. (Marion Country Services – (352) 629-8661).   http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/english/sencomprog.php

Central Florida Community College operates a Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in which it invites adults 55 and older to use their skills and experience in solving community problems. http://www.cfcc.cc.fl.us/about/rsvp/index.htm

Hospital

Munroe Regional Medical Center is a 421-bed acute-care hospital serving north central Florida.  It has a staff of 370 physicians and over 2,500 employees. http://www.munroeregional.com/

Airports

Ocala International Airport ñ Jim Taylor Field has a 6,907 runway and a 3,010 runway.  http://www.ocalaairport.com/

Gainesville Regional Airport (about 40 miles) is served by five commercial airlines.  http://www.gra-gnv.com/

Orlando International Airport (about 80 miles) – http://www.orlandoairports.net/

Weather

Average daily temperatures in January are a high of 70 degrees and low of 45 degrees.  In July the average high is 92 and the low is 72 degrees.  http://www.wunderground.com/US/FL/Ocala.html

Newspaper

Star Banner – http://www.starbanner.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

Property Taxes

http://www.pa.marion.fl.us/

State Taxes

http://www.myflorida.com/dor/

Chamber of Commerce

http://www.ocalacc.com/

State Aging Agency

http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/english/aaa.php

Distances

Gainesville – 40 miles
Orlando – 80 miles
Daytona – 78 miles
Tampa – 96 miles
Sarasota – 148 miles

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