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Since spring was basically cancelled this year, we’re sure that, like us, you’re ready to get out and have some fun! Here’s our guide to help you enjoy Marion County and make the most of this long-awaited summer.
Events & Happenings
The Rodeo Returns
The heart-stopping, hoof-pounding excitement of the Southeastern Pro Rodeo storms into the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion July 24th-25th with racing, riding, roping and wrestling—and the most dangerous eight seconds in sports: bull riding. Advance discount tickets can be purchased online at www.ocalarodeo.com
Equine Elegance in Action
The Ocala Paso Fino Horse Association brings the smoothest riding horses in the world to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion for their Comeback Show July 11th-12th. Enjoy these graceful beauties performing in an open, covered arena. www.pasofinoocala.com
Fireworks on the Lake
Yes—there will be Fourth of July fireworks over Lake Weir this year! Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill is hosting an Independence Day celebration, with live music by Conrad Marcum starting at 4pm. Table seating is limited and you are welcome to bring chairs to sit on the beach per current CDC social distancing guidelines.
Kickball For Grownups
Run around, experience some social exercise and meet other adults who still love this playground favorite. The City of Ocala’s Coed Kickball league begins July 14th and continues Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-10pm at the Ocala Regional Sportsplex. Visit https://apm.activecommunities.com/ocalamarioncounty for information and registration.
Wild Caving Adventures
Underneath Brick City Adventure Park, an unimproved wild cave offers unparalleled underground fun inside the city of Ocala. Marion County Parks and Recreation offers tours for adults and children ages 8 and up. This strenuous physical activity combines climbing and crawling in tight spaces and rocky places and caving gear is provided. To register for upcoming 9am tours on July 11th or August 22nd, call (352) 671-8560.
Out & About
Fresh From the Farm
Seasonal produce is abundant this time of year, and farmer’s markets showcase vibrant displays of farm-fresh selections.
Longtime local favorite Ocala Downtown Market brings together farmers, artisans, food trucks and shoppers every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9am-2pm under the pavilion at SE 3rd Street and SE 3rd Avenue. A variety of vendors offer local fruits and vegetables, meats and seafood, fresh pasta, honey, arts and crafts. www.ocaladowntownmarket.com
Over at the McPherson Government Complex on SE 25th Avenue, the Marion County Friday Market brings together a collection of produce, seafood, baked goods, olive oils, freeze dried candies, fruit snacks and jerky. The market is located at 601 SE 25th Avenue and it’s open on Fridays from 9am-2pm.
The new Brick City Farmer’s Market opened on June 4th. Every Thursday from 4-8pm under the tents at Beautiful Moments on SW 60th Avenue, local farmers and artisan vendors offer fresh produce, herbs, pasta, eggs and baked goods as well as locally crafted soaps and jewelry. Organizers say the “healthy, fresh environment” makes the market an ideal summer outing for families. www.brickcityfarmersmarket.com
At On Top of the World, the Circle Square Farmer’s Market opened back up last month with new safety measures including physical distancing and crowd size limitations, and they are asking shoppers to wear a face mask and bring their own hand sanitizer. The open-air market is open to the public on Thursdays from 9am-1pm. www.circlesquarecommonsfarmersmarket.com
And, if you want to experience not just the farm market but the farm itself, Crones’ Cradle Conserve Foundation in Citra invites the public to their 80-acre
natural farm and country store, open from 9am-3pm every day, to shop artfully displayed, chemical-free fresh produce, herbs, farm-baked bread, local honey, jams and jellies and handcrafted artisan items. www.cronescradleconserve.org
Just in time to beat the summer heat, splash pads and aquatic fun centers are open for families to enjoy.
Splash pads at Citizens’ Circle and Lillian Bryant Park in Ocala, and the Wilma Loar Splash Pad in Belleview, offer free sprays, squeals and smiles for little ones daily from sunrise to sunset.
The City of Ocala’s two aquatic fun centers at Jervey Gantt and Hampton are open for morning and afternoon swim sessions Monday through Saturday. New safety measures are in place, including temperature checks, reduced capacity, social distancing and additional sanitization. Visit www.ocalafl.org/recpark and www.belleviewfl.org/facilities for more information.
Skaters and Shredding
Ocala Skate Park, at 517 NE Ninth Street, is open Monday through Saturday with new session times for social distancing/limited capacity requirements. Two-hour sessions, from 10am-8pm, are open first come, first served; limited to 10 skaters and social distancing is required.
City of Ocala pickleball, racquetball and tennis courts are open with no restrictions on type of play. Basketball courts are open but are limited to no more than three players per half court.
Ready to soak up some sun on the water? Marion County parks and recreation areas are open, although visitors to fishing platforms, swim beaches and boat ramps must adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines.
Our in-town nature hideaway, Silver Springs State Park, is open for strolling the shady walking trails and family picnics. For a close-up glimpse of the first magnitude head spring and wildlife including fish, turtles, alligators, and sometimes even manatees, take a glass bottom boat tour or rent a clear-bottom kayak to explore the five-mile Silver River on your own.
In Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs State Park is open with plenty of naturally beautiful, wide open space for socially distanced outdoor fun. Bring the family and a picnic to enjoy a day of swimming in the crystal-clear head spring. It’s the perfect time of year to kick back and enjoy a refreshing, leisurely four-hour float down the Rainbow River, and tubing is available from both Rainbow Springs and KP Hole parks with limited capacity. Feeling a little more adventurous? Rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard to explore and see the wildlife of the river, including fish, turtles, river otters and wading birds.
Picnic pavilions at City of Ocala parks are open and available by reservation but may have requirements for group size and social distancing. Call (352) 368-5517 for the latest information and reservations.
Eats & Drinks
Downtown Cuisine and Culture
Adjacent from the downtown square, Brick City Southern Kitchen & Whisky Bar is known for smoky barbecued meats, Southern specialties and the most extensive list of whisky in town. www.mojobbq.com
Across the square, Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille has sidewalk seating with a Big Easy vibe for enjoying Cajun, Creole and Southern flavors with a modern twist, alongside signature low country cocktails. www.hookedonharrys.com
Just down the street, Pi on Broadway features its perpetually popular rooftop patio, perfect for dinner and drinks, enjoying live music and Sunday brunch. www.pionbroadway.com
Just down the hill is Courtyard on Broadway, which offers indoor and outdoor seating, with live music on Wednesdays and weekends. A popular offering is “pop-up dinners,” in which guest chefs prepare a delicious repast that is paired with just-right beverages. The most current details are on Courtyard’s Facebook page.
Big Hammock Brewery & Bites, on the corner of First Avenue and East Fort King Street, is a brewpub that also offers an eclectic menu, such as ramen bowls, bao buns and hot pretzels with beer cheese. Indoor dining, with a few seats outside. Find them on Facebook.
Thirty-four taps of craft brews, made by an award-winning team, are on tap at Infinite Ale Works, housed in a historic venue on South Magnolia, just off the downtown square. The weekly schedule includes happy hours, live entertainment and food trucks. www.infinitealeworks.com
Other Intriguing Eateries
Hiatus Brewing Company, west of Ocala on the State Road 200 corridor, offers on-site crafted beers and a menu to complement the brews. Guests can enjoy their suds and meal indoors, as well as outdoors on Fridays and Saturdays when there is live music. Test out your trivia skills on Thursdays. www.hiatusbrewing.com
If you’re heading west out of Ocala on US 27, check out the new outdoor seating at Big Rascal BBQ & Grille. Chef Charlie is always cooking up something new, in addition to his longtime “low and slow” favorites. www.bigrascalbbq.com
South of Ocala, right on the main drag (US 441) in Belleview, Pasta Faire continues its long tradition of authentic Italian excellence, with new additions of BOGO and family packs for takeout. www.pastafaire.com
Dining Al Fresco
The long, sun-drenched days of summer, with afternoon breezes and starry nights, are perfect for open-air dining. We’ve made a list of some of our favorites for lingering over cocktails enjoying live local music, savoring farm-fresh favorites with a view, dinner and drinks in the heart of downtown or the ultimate in casual family feasts.
For a special evening, you can’t go wrong with The Keep Downtown. In their romantically lit courtyard, you and your sweetheart can sip on curated mead, wine and craft beer selections and nibble from artfully prepared grazing boards, cheese plates, gourmet pizzas and decadent desserts, and enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. www.thekeepdowntown.com
Drinks With Friends
Pre-pandemic, Bank Street Patio Bar was already established as the buzziest place to relax with a cocktail in comfortable courtyard seating. These days, it feels even more spacious with the same upscale vibe spread among socially distanced seating arrangements. Light bites, salads and entrées feature fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Happy hours at Latinos y Mas, just south of downtown, feature their special sangria. Don’t be in a hurry to leave—the enticing aromas of Latin American fusion flavors invite you to linger in the tranquil courtyard over dinner followed by café con leche and a decadent dessert.
Food With a View
On the shores of Lake Weir, just a half hour from downtown Ocala, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill is as close to the coast as Marion County gets. “Florisiana” low country cuisine, including their popular shrimp and grits, is served with sunset views. The downstairs Sandbar heats up on weekends with live music and tropical drinks. Dine on the covered deck and stay to play in the sand and on the lake. Jet skis, pontoon boats, paddleboards and kayaks are available to rent and boaters are welcome. www.facebook.com/eatonsbeach
Fun Family Dining
All three Mojo’s restaurants in Marion County offer social distancing patio dining aimed at getting “your taste buds singing.”
“Mojo’s is known for food, music and soul; we are still trying to do that,” says Catering Director Jamie Green, adding that the eateries, known for wings, Cajun and Cuban flavors, are focusing on providing good food in a safe environment. www.ilovemojos.com
For many southern families, nothing says summer like smoky barbecue enjoyed around a picnic table—the kind served up by local Food TV star Rashad Jones at his Big Lee’s—Serious About Barbecue. Take out is what they do, offering diner favorites including ribs, brisket, burnt ends and barbecue chicken, as well as homemade desserts such as peach cobbler and banana pudding. www.mybigleesbbq.com
Tacos and Margaritas
Sayulita Taqueria, a new restaurant in a historic building on First Street, also is a bar and social destination. There’s a spacious outdoor patio, indoor seating and live entertainment on Saturdays. Find them on Facebook.
Sweets & Treats
When you need a break from soaring temperatures, the whole family can enjoy uniquely indulgent frozen treats at shops throughout Marion County.
The sweetest little gem hidden just a block off the downtown square is Ocala’s Chocolate & Confections. The air is fragranced with the aroma of European-style chocolates, but they also offer more than 30 flavors of ice cream. You can enjoy a cone while strolling the sidewalks or take home a pint or quart for your freezer. Grown-up tastes may be drawn to specialties like Mackinac Turtle Fudge and Mexican Hot Chocolate, but kids say their Garbage Can flavor is much yummier than it sounds, with several types of candy bars, cookie crumbles and brownie bites blended into a milkshake. www.ocalaschocolate.com
On East Silver Springs Boulevard, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream is a family favorite. Savor ice cream made the old-fashioned way, offered with great specials like free baby cones for little ones under 40 inches tall—and even a free doggie sundae for your furry friend. Banana Thursday invites you to BYOB—bring your own banana—for half-off banana splits. www.brusters.com
In Southeast Ocala, a new option is Old School Ice Cream on Baseline Road. They serve high quality Blue Bell ice cream in their waffle cones, hand-spun milkshakes, malts and sundaes, and offer two flavors of Disney fan favorite Dole Whip. The ice cream parlor has a vintage schoolhouse theme with desks, school bells, lunch pails, and books, all purchased in Marion County. Find them on Facebook.
In Southern Marion County, Ms. Steve’s is a bright pink Belleview landmark. This family-owned ice cream shop serves cones, shakes and sundaes, at drive-through and walk-up windows, making it a sweet addition to a family outing. They rotate seasonal and specialty flavors like bright blue fan favorite Cookie Monster and spectacular purple and white Magical Unicorn, with its sweet-sour fruity rainbows and star-shaped lemon candy flakes. Check them out on Facebook.
Two iconic, giant cone-shaped Twistee Treat locations on Southwest College Road and State Road 200 serve soft-serve ice cream cones, sundaes and shakes with extra touches like dips and sprinkles. Ask about a dog cup for your pup to enjoy at a family- and furry-friendly outdoor table. www.twisteetreat.com
Art & Entertainment
Spring is for Cleaning; Summer is for Art
Did you spend your spring organizing your closets and rearranging the furniture? Find some art pieces you’d like to rehome? Did you figure out you need some new art?
Marion Cultural Alliance’s Art in the Attic is their annual artsy yard sale fundraiser. Donate your pre-loved art to MCA, then shop the tag sale to find new paintings, prints, drawings and photographs—at yard sale prices.
If you want first pick of the art treasures, purchase a ticket to the VIP Sip and Shop reception on Friday, July 24th. The Art in the Attic sale will be open Saturday, July 25th through Saturday, August 1st at the Brick City Center for the Arts. Visit www.mcaocala.org for more information or call (352) 369-1500.
The Ocala Symphony Brass Ensemble presents Red, White and OSO Blue: A Salute to Independence on July 4th at 3pm at the Reilly Arts Center. This stunning salute to the USA, led by guest conductor Chip Birkner, will include patriotic favorites and a special tribute to our armed forces. Limited
in-person seating is available according to social distancing guidelines, and patrons are encouraged to wear masks. Also streaming online for free. www.reillyartscenter.com
Fab Four Tribute
Let It Be is an extraordinary recreation of a live show with the lads from Liverpool. This Beatles tribute at 7:30pm on July 11th at the Reilly Arts Center will feature authentically costumed musicians playing Beatles hits on instruments actually played by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Limited in-person seating is available according to social distancing guidelines, and patrons are encouraged to wear masks. www.reillyartscenter.com
Symphony for Students
Music students and their families are invited to join professional Ocala Symphony Orchestra musicians on July 15th at 10am at the Reilly Arts Center for this free event. Learn how an orchestra operates and be inspired by symphonic music. www.reillyartscenter.com
Live and Local
Many local musicians adapted to stay-at-home measures by taking their performances online, but now, live, local music is back!
Guitar rocker/singer Jeff Jarrett:
July 2nd, 6-8pm, Ocala Downtown Square
July 5th, 7:30-10:30am, War Horse Harley-Davidson
July 9th, 6-10pm, Charlie Horse
July 11th, 5-9pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill
July 18th, 9pm-12am, The Lodge
July 19th, 1-4pm, Swampy’s Bar & Grille, Dunnellon
July 23rd, 7:30-10:30pm, Pi on Broadway
July 30th, 6-10pm, Bank Street Patio Bar
Follow Jeff on Facebook @jeff.jarrett.94
Vintage songstress Miranda Madison:
July 3rd, 7-10pm, The Corkscrew, Ocala
Follow Miranda on Facebook @MirandaMADisonMusic
Conrad Marcum playing modern rock favorites:
July 4th, 4-10pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill
July 5th, 3-7pm, Gator Joe’s Beach Bar & Grill
July 12th, 2-6pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill
July 19th, 3-7pm, Gator Joe’s Beach Bar & Grill
July 25th, 2-6pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill
Follow Conrad on Facebook @conrad.marcum
The velvety voice of Becky Sinn:
July 24th, 6-8pm, Ocala Downtown Square
July 25th, 10:30am-1:30pm, Ocala Downtown Market
Follow Becky on Facebook @BeckySinn
The bluesy, soulful sound of the Delta Rose Band:
July 11th, 6-9pm, grand opening celebration at The Wardrobe Exchange, 500 SW 10th Street
July 18th, 7-10pm, Circle Square Commons, On Top of the World
Follow the band on Facebook at @DeltaRoseBand