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Though incorporated as a city in 1885, Ocala is actually much older (as is its county, Marion). Native peoples have inhabited the general area since around 6500 BC. In a more recent era, the Timucua built a village there called Ocali (hence the modern name). The famed Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto (1500-1542) encountered their settlement and mentioned it in his writings. A few centuries later the Yamasee conquered the Timucua’s territory. The area briefly became British territory and, then, Spanish. In 1821, Florida became a part of the United States. Marion’s population consisted primarily of Natives and Africans until 1823. That’s when Americans of European descent began moving in, thanks to a treaty that restricted Native American territory. Though there were still a great many slaves. In fact, more than half of Marion’s citizens in 1860 were believed to be African Americans. By 1869 the little collection of houses had been incorporated as a town. In the 1870s, African American-piloted Steamboats ruled the nearby Ocklawaha River. The early 1880s brought railroads and industry, which is how Ocala became a better-known city. Even now, the Historic District includes a variety of well-preserved historical homes.
In the city’s earliest days many Queen Anne Revival Style houses were built. That is, baroque-esque buildings with wrap-around porches and spindly details. On a similar note, a great many Tudor Revival and Car can be forwound in Ocala. They’re both astoundingly elegant. Mediterranean Revival homes are also common there. These resemble the older Spanish structures and Ancient Roman villas. Many examples can be found near Fifth Street. If you prefer something simpler, there’s always the Classic Revival look (as epitomized by the simple, stately Marshall House, built in 1903). And we mustn’t forget the equally basic Colonial Revivals, Carpenter Gothics, and American Bungalows. Ocala’s breathtaking properties vary from rudimentary to complex, though they’re all exquisite.
Ocala’s primary business happens to be its Thoroughbred Industry. The first horse farm appeared in the 1940s. This marvelous, historical town soon became one of the Horse Capitals of the world. Marion-bred and -raised racehorse Affirmed won all three Triple Crown races in 1978. That’s a really big deal. The equestrian industry attracts professionals and tourists. Speaking of tourism… that’s another important part of Ocala’s economy. People flock to see the rich parks and lively equestrian farms (see the following paragraph for more details). Other major industries include Healthcare, Education, Government, Manufacturing, Construction and Finance. The area’s top employers are Munroe Regional Medical Center, Walmart, Publix Supermarkets, Ocala Regional Medical Center, and AT&T. It’s a busy, well-off place.
Geographically speaking, Ocala is absolutely sublime. This area lacks the thick, swampy terrain found in the rest of Florida. Sandy soil makes the thriving thoroughbred industry possible (horses prefer dry land to muddy). Plus, it’s home to one of the state’s most-visited parks. A wide variety of animals inhabit the rich, jungle-like forests. From black bears to wood peckers, sly foxes to rare spiders. The plants, too, happen to be extremely interesting and diverse. Ancient cypresses and sand pines tower overhead. Delicate, unusual-looking flowers pepper the ground. Because of the perpetually pleasant weather, one can hike or trail ride through these fine forests all year round. For the more adventurous types they’re also hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and zip lining. You can even go camping or picnicking at the (wheelchair accessible) Juniper Springs Recreation Area.
As for the less nature-centric entertainment? Well, there’s always the Ocala Symphony Orchestra. They’ve been around since the 1970s. There are also a great many golf and country clubs in the area. If you prefer a more lively experience, visit the bustling Downtown. It’s full of shops and restaurants. The city schedules a variety of fascinating events. They’ve got charity walks, historical re-enactments, community art shows, outdoor movie nights, and the annual Pride Parade. Plus, Feel Downtown LIVE presents five spectacular concerts each year. Plus, every year, Ocala hosts a music festival known as Harvest Fest. And that’s if you aren’t at all interested in the previously mentioned horse industry, or the parks. You’ll never be bored here.