With more than 1,200 horse farms, Ocala is an equine industry capital heavily involved in the breeding and training of Thoroughbred horses. Meeting venues in Ocala also get put through their paces, as the area annually plays host to "Post Time Farm," one of the largest horse shows in the U.S.
Ocala is conveniently located about 70 miles from Orlando and 30 miles from Gainesville, home to the University of Florida. The nearest major airport is Orlando International Airport, which is approximately 85 miles from Ocala.
Some of the top hotel venues in Ocala include the 196-room Hilton Ocala, with 8,000 square feet of meeting space; the 152-room Hampton Inn Ocala, with 1,000 square feet of meeting space; and the 133-room Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Ocala Conference Center, with11,000 square feet of meeting space.
While there are no large convention venues in Ocala, the list of intriguing special event venues is highlighted by Silver Springs, a state park with river cruises, wildlife exhibits and botanical gardens that can handle group events for up to 5,000 people. Silver Springs' Cypress Room can accommodate groups up to 300 and the Twin Oaks Mansion Amphitheater is an outdoor venue with a stage and lawn seating for thousands. Other options include the Ocala Boat Club, a waterfront venue with a complete kitchen available for groups up to 200, and the Country Club of Ocala, where a 4,000-square-foot event room is ideal for small meetings and receptions.
After meetings, groups can immerse themselves in the world of horses in a variety of ways, including scenic horse-drawn country carriage rides, trail riding through the Ocala National Forest and the Florida Greenway, attending equestrian sports, international competitions, show jumping, polo and special events at the Florida Horse Park (an official U.S. Equestrian Federation training site). They may also take self-guided tours of Thoroughbred horse farms that have produced 45 national champions, six Kentucky Derby winners and 20 Breeders' Cup champions.
Ocala's dining scene comprises reliable national chain restaurants such as LongHorn Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill and local favorites like Mark's Prime Steakhouse-Ocala, Cuvee Wine & Bistro and Sky Asian Fusion on the top floor of the Holiday Inn Conference Center of Ocala. Photo by Flickr user: Kolin Toney
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user: NeilEvans