The best of the season, from people in the know.
Find the Fun
AH, SUMMER IN CENTRAL FLORIDA. LET’S FACE IT, IT CAN BE CHALLENGING—HOT, HUMID AND, AT TIMES, DOWNRIGHT STORMY. BUT THERE ARE ALSO STILL PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOME SERIOUSLY GOOD TIMES. HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS FROM A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE LOCALS TO HELP YOU CHILL OUT AND MAKE THE MOST OF THIS TIME—WHETHER YOU’RE PLANNING A GETAWAY, ENTERTAINING FRIENDS OR LOOKING FOR SOME COOL HAPPENINGS, GET OUT THERE AND HAVE SOME FUN.
“For the 4th of July, we take our boat out to King’s Bay to watch the fireworks. We spend as many weekends as we can in Crystal River. they actually call it ‘mini Ocala’ because on the weekend, 90% of the people out there are from Ocala.“
“My favorite day or weekend trip is going to North Beach in St. Augustine. The beach is much quieter and less crowded. I also love horseback riding at the canyons in Ocala.”
From snorkeling or scuba diving at an ancient and enchanting underground spring and cave system to splashing with the kids at a quaint local watering hole, now is the perfect time to take advantage of one of our area’s natural wonders and we say, Go deep!
Juniper Springs Recreation Area, Silver Springs, adventureocala.com/recreation-areas
This popular site hosts a number of springs, hiking trails, a campground, picnic area and a circular swimming area surrounded by a rock retaining wall. The springs form the head of Juniper Creek, a 7-mile run that is a favorite for experienced canoers, but the narrow run is perfect for first-timers.
Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area, Salt Springs, ocalamarion.com
Silver Glen is a first-magnitude spring that discharges around 65 million gallons of water a day from two vents. A swimming area with a sandy bottom makes it popular for snorkelers. It hosts a large school of striped bass. Amenities include trails with a boardwalk, changing area, concession stand and canoe/kayak launch. Parking reservations must be made in advance on weekends and holidays; go to reserveocala.com
Lake Weir, Carney Island Park, Ocklawaha, marionfl.org
Lake Weir and Carney Island Park offer several swimming areas, a sandy beach, hiking, boat ramps, a playground, restrooms and picnic tables. Open 7am-8pm April-October, 7am-5pm November-March. The daily user fee is $7 per vehicle. No pets.
Bronson Blue Springs Park, levycounty.org
This jewel of a spring offers a large swimming area with shallow and deep access as well as a platform for jumping, picnic pavilions, playground and concessions. Open daily, 10am-7pm, through August 25th. $2 per person; free ages 5 and younger.
Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon, floridastateparks.org
Nearly six miles of cool, clear water make this a great spot for swimming, boating, diving and tubing. Amenities include hiking trails, pavilions and swimming area. Park hours are 8am to sunset, 365 days a year. Park entry is $2; free ages 6 and younger. Additional fees apply for tube rental and campground. The park closes when it reaches capacity, sometimes as early as 10am.
Devil’s Den, Williston, devilsden.com
This underground spring and cave system features an opening at the top, through which you can watch scuba divers and snorkelers in the crystal-clear waters below. The water temperature is a constant 72 degrees. The surface diameter is 120 feet and the maximum depth is 54 feet. All divers must be accompanied by a dive buddy and snorkelers must be good swimmers. There is a reservation system for snorkeling and a 90-minute time limit. Certified scuba divers do not need a reservation for day access.
Mill Dam Recreation Area, Silver Springs, ocalamarion.com
Swimming, boating/boat ramp and picnicking (March 16-September 30); 10am to 6pm. Swim area and restrooms are wheelchair accessible. $5 per vehicle per day.
Salt Springs Recreation Area, Fort McCoy, recreation.gov
A serene and shallow spring with great snorkeling and submerged algae-coated boulders reminiscent of ancient ruins. Some say the minerals in the waters preserve youth and vitality. Amenities include picnic tables, boat ramp, canoe rentals, camping by reservation, bathhouse and restrooms. Daily use fees apply.
KP Hole Park, Dunnellon, marionfl.org
This park on the Rainbow River hosts swimmers, canoeists, kayakers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Amenities include swimming, picnicking, a boat ramp, concessions and rentals of canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and inner tubes. There is a daily fee of $7 for swimming and picnicking; free for ages 5 and younger. Additional fees of $20 per diver and $20 per motorized vessel. Tube rental of $30 per person includes entry and return shuttle service from the take-out downriver. No dogs, no alcohol, no personal tubes. Open 8am to 8pm through September.
“As a Florida native and A mermaid, I love cool, clear spring water. My favorite swimming hole is Bronson Blue Springs, just west of Marion County. It’s the perfect oasis on a steamy summer day.”
“My family loves canoeing at Silver Springs State Park.”
Always look forward to getting out on the water with family and friends in Crystal River for some scalloping. Season opens in July and thousands of boaters go out daily on the hunt. After a long day on the water there is nothing better than some fresh scallops.
Scalloping season in Citrus County runs from July 1st through September 24th. You can bring a boat of your own and purchase a saltwater fishing license or hire an experienced captain to guide you to the perfect spots. Bag limits: 2 gallons per person, 10 gallons per vessel (in-shell). Many local restaurants will cook your catch for you. For full details and participting restaurants, visit discovercrystalriverfl.com.
“From the cavernous beauty at Scott Springs to the breathtaking wildlife encounters at the Wetland Recharge Park and Silver Springs State Park, the Ocala area never ceases to amaze. When the heat becomes too much, I head to the beach. Whether it’s a quick trip to Ormond or St. Petersburg, these coastal getaways truly make living in Florida worthwhile.”
DOGGONE GREAT DESTINATION
Not all beaches allow pets, but quaint Flagler Beach, just 35 miles south of historic St. Augustine and 20 miles north of Daytona Beach, welcomes our doggos with dog-friendly beaches, oceanfront dining, lodging, parks and trails. You can take your pups virtually everywhere you go—Luckily for us, it’s just a scenic 90-minute drive from downtown Ocala to Flagler.
For more info on dog friendly Florida, log on to visitflorida.com/things-to-do/pet-friendly/dog-friendly-places
Take a Culture Trip
EDITOR PICKS: WITH SO MUCH TALENT IN ONE COMMUNITY, COOL HAPPENINGS ABOUND.
The Unscene South: Charles Eady Revisits History, The Appleton Museum of Art
July 1–January 28, 2024
Celebrated local artist, author and educator Charles Eady uses words and images to take a deeper look into a little-known population of Blacks who lived free in the United States, long before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in this exhibition. He will be hosting gallery tours on August 5th at 11am and 2pm where visitors can learn more about the work directly from the artist. Tours will meet in the second-floor Modern & Contemporary galleries and are free as part of Free First Saturday. appletonmuseum.org/exhibitions/the-unscene-south
CHECK OUT SEASON SIX OF COUCH SESSIONS OCALA
July 7th, 6-8pm, musician Shelby Lauren and artist Amanda Lyon collaborate at the Courtyard on Broadway.
August 4th, 6-8pm, musician Glizzy Gillespie and artist Aug Element pair up at Juniper General Store.