While kids across America eagerly await their long-anticipated summer vacation, these steamy summer months leave adults less than motivated. Don’t let the summer go by without trying something new, though. Ocala Style has put together some ideas to add to your summer must-do list. We’ve got everything from reading the classics to strapping on a jetpack. Read on for some great summer fun that will keep you busy all season long!
1: Get Crafty
Knick knacks and doodads are what add style to your home. Instead of heading out to the mall this summer, check out a craft festival! Buckler’s Craft Fair on July 7 and 8 brings artisans from all over the state to the Lakeland Center to sell their wares. Over the course of two days, you will see everything from folk art, Victorian-era designs, Southwestern-style furniture, Adirondack-inspired goods and more.
bucklercraftfair.com or (386) 860-0092.
2: Sit Center Stage
Who says you have to travel to take in some culture? This summer, commit to seeing a live show at either the Ocala Civic Theatre or Insomniac Theatre on the Square. Special effects and 3D images are all the rage, but sometimes it’s just nice to keep it simple and enjoy the art of a live performance. The beloved classic Fiddler On The Roof is playing at the Ocala Civic Theatre May 17-June 10, and the Insomniac Theatre offers special productions and well as improv nights.
For a complete list of performances at both venues, visit ocalacivictheatre.com or call (352) 236-2274 and insomniactheatre.com or call (352) 897-0477.
3: Turn Off The Tube (And Get In A Tube)
During the high heat of the summer, a tubing trip down the Rainbow River is just the ticket. The 5.9-mile waterway produces 400 to 600 million gallons of water each day. Enjoy the scenery and cooling waters of the river while you float the afternoon away. Tubers have the option of a 2- or 4-hour ride.
Find other places to experience tubing at floridastateparks.com or (850) 245-2157.
4: Rough It
There’s no time like summer to experience the great outdoors! This summer, plan a camping trip with the whole family. Pack the sleeping bags, and get ready for some marshmallows and hotdogs cooked over an open fire. Camping is an inexpensive, fun family experience. Visit any one of Florida’s state parks for information about campsites. If spending the night in the great outdoors causes you to break out in a cold sweat, pitch a tent in your backyard for a campout that allows you to return to indoor plumbing with just a few short steps.
floridastateparks.org or (850) 245-2157.
5: Go Coastin’
Florida’s theme parks have something for everyone, but they are especially known for some of their crazy coasters! Whether you like to loop de loop or go from zero to 60mph in a matter of seconds, there’s a coaster to satisfy your need for speed. This summer, make an effort to do some serious coastin’. Here’s a list of some of the top coasters in the state. Warning: These coasters are not for the weak of heart!
Space Mountain – Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Montu – Busch Gardens
Rip Ride Rocket – Universal Studios
Manta – SeaWorld
SheiKra – Busch Gardens
Incredible Hulk – Universal Studios’ Island of Adventure
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Kraken – SeaWorld
Kumba(shown) – Busch Gardens
Cheetah Hunt – Busch Gardens
6: Read A Classic
There’s a reason certain novels remain popular through the years. Classic stories of love and war, rich and poor and timeless coming-of-age experiences never grow old. This summer indulge in a classic work of literature. Become immersed in A Tale of Two Cities, fall in love with Romeo and Juliet or walk the moors with Jane Eyre.
Most classics are available as free downloads on e-readers and are available in bookstores everywhere.
7: Visit The (Very) Big Screen
If you haven’t visited the Ocala Drive-In yet, what are you waiting for! One of only a few left in the southeastern United States, the Ocala Drive-In plays a double feature every Friday and Saturday night for a fraction of what you would pay at a traditional theater. And the top-notch concession stand offers all your favorite tasty treats!
ocaladrivein.info or (352) 629-1325.
8: Venture Beyond The Beach
The traditional family summer vacation might consist of loading up the car and heading to the beach. But this year, instead of frying on the sand for days on end, check out a unique event. The Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix in Sarasota runs from June 23 to July 4 and draws over 100,000 spectators each year. While the main event, the Super Boat Grand Prix, takes place on July 1, there are plenty of activities going on over the course of this 12-day festival to keep everyone entertained. A fashion show, parade of boats, car show, poker tournament and fireworks extravaganza are just a few of the events taking place this year.
suncoastoffshore.org or (941) 371-8820.
9: Fish For Fun
Crazy coasters, live action movies and 3D graphics are all great, but sometimes, it’s just nice to experience some peace and quiet. This summer take the time to sit back and relax on the water with some good old fashioned fishing. Marion County has plenty of places to drop your lure.
For a complete guide to some of the best spots around, visit ocalamarion.com.
10: Climb 219 Steps
The St. Augustine Lighthouse, built in the early 1870s, is a historic site like no other. Experience what the very first lightkeepers felt as you climb to the top of this landmark in the nation’s oldest port. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the effort to preserve the lighthouse, so if you’ve never visited, this is the time to go! For the truly daring, inquire about the Dark of the Moon Tour, a ghost tour that lets you explore the lighthouse after hours.
staugustinelighthouse.com or (904) 829-0745.
For many Florida residents, the shows and theme parks that make our state famous are not all that new or exciting—except when they’re updated! At the end of February, the famous Blue Man Group unveiled an updated performance complete with new music and a new stage. 2012’s Blue Man performance at Universal Orlando Resort’s Sharp AQUOS Theatre will still be as entertaining and messy as ever, but comes complete with “Gi-Pads” and a brand-new heart-pounding finale that will get you up and dancing. But just like the original show, if you plan to sit up close remember your poncho!
12: Say Fore!
Every winter thousands of snowbirds migrate to sunny Florida to play the classic game of golf. But in the summer, when many of those visitors have fled the heat, golf rates drop dramatically, making it incredibly cheap to hit the greens. If you haven’t tried it yet, what are you waiting for? This summer, visit some of the courses around town for private lessons or to just hit the driving range. According to the National Golf Foundation, there are over 28 million golfers in the United States, so why not join the masses and take a swing at it? Just don’t forget the water bottle and sunscreen.
For a complete listing of golf courses in Ocala, visit worldgolf.com.
13: Hit The Street
The summer months are a perfect time to visit the First Friday Artwalk on the downtown square. When the sun goes down, the art comes out, and after sitting in the AC all day, a stroll through the square is a perfect way to close out the night. Upcoming art walks are on May 4, June 1, July 6 and August 3.
14: Rock Steady
Florida isn’t known for its mountain faces. But we do have plenty of rock climbing walls and gyms! This summer, try the vertical challenge for a complete full-body exercise that is anything but boring. One of the best around? Gainesville Rock Gym (gainesvillerock.com).
For a more rock climbing walls and gyms in the area, visit indoorclimbing.com.
15: Ride On
If you consider (or imagine) yourself to be a hard core cyclist or just a recreational rider, there is no reason not to sign up for a cycling event. A Ride To Remember on May 19 has starting locations in both Gainesville and Flemington with routes ranging from one to 32 miles on the trails or a 50-, 75- or 100-mile road ride. The course is lined with rest stops and support stations, and a breakfast and post-ride lunch are also served. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and get some exercise while raising money for charity.
Visit gainesvillecyclingclub.org, or for other upcoming cycling events, check out floridacycling.com.
16: Write Away
While spending time indoors this summer, set aside a few minutes to write down your thoughts. Journaling is a great way to express your feelings and document important events. If you’re not a writer, put together a scrapbook. While Facebook and online albums are great, piecing together the physical product can be a worthwhile experience.
17: Get A Bird’s Eye View
See Ocala from a different perspective by taking a helicopter tour. Whether you are scouting out potential new land purchases or just want to commemorate a special occasion, a helicopter tour of the area is a great way to see Ocala.
ocalahelicopters.com or (352) 239-2254.
18:Buy A Ticket
Regal Cinemas offers Summer Movie Express, which shows a children’s film twice a week for only $1. If you’re looking to keep the kids out of the intense summer sun, this is just the ticket!
For a list of films and show times, visit regmovies.com.
19: Creep and Crawl
Imagine a 10,000-square-foot room full of snakes, lizards and a whole bunch of other creepy, crawly reptiles. If your answer is “tell me more,” then we have the show for you! The Jacksonville Repticon Show will take place at the University of North Florida on June 2 and 3. For two days, the University Center will be home to all things reptile, featuring exotic pets, merchandise and products.
20: Take the Plunge
Are you a real daredevil? If you really want something to brag to your friends about, take the ultimate plunge and go skydiving! There are 13 locations in the state where you can make the jump.
Visit wheretojump.com for a complete list.
21: Dare to Eat Different
Florida’s hot summers often put a damper on people’s appetites. This summer, commit to trying something different each week! Try a new exotic fruit like the star fruit or the mangosteen. Not only is this a great way to vary your diet, but you may stumble upon you’re new favorite food.
22: Go Medieval
Forget your table manners and grab your turkey leg. Medieval Times in Kissimmee is one of only eight of its kind in North America. Travel back to the 11th century and watch knights battle it out on the jousting field as you partake in a four-course meal fit for a king. There’s no silverware or napkins here though, everything is served on metal plates!
medievaltimes.com or (866) 543-9637.
23: Get Up Close and Personal
Forget swimming in a pool, try swimming with the manatees! These gentle giants range from 800 to 1,200 pounds and average about 10 feet long. Crystal River is home to Sunshine River Tours, where you can take a three-hour swim and learn about this endangered species that spend up to eight hours a day eating. But don’t worry—their meal of choice consists of plants not people.
sunshinerivertours.com or (352) 682-3450
24: DIY ASAP
Have you spent the past few months moaning about a burnt out bulb or a loose floorboard? If so, make a list of all the home improvement projects you want to accomplish around your house and get cracking! Commit to one a week, and slowly but surely, your humble abode will become your grand estate.
For a list of projects and tips on how to DIY, visit diynetwork.com.
25: Kick the Habit
Let’s face it, no one’s perfect. Whether you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, can’t keep your hands out of the cookie jar or are even just a nail biter, maybe this summer is the time to quit. It won’t be easy at first, but you’ll be happy in the end! Need a little help? Visit habitchanger.com for a 42-day program to help you change your life.
26: Bet On It
Feeling lucky? Take a quick trip to Ocala Poker and Jai-Alai located halfway between Ocala and Gainesville. Even though jai-alai season draws to a close by May, there are still plenty of opportunities for action at Ocala Poker. With 28 tables and 18 big screen TVs, Ocala Poker is the area’s top spot to see live action poker tournaments, inter-track wagering and even tableside massages.
ocalapoker.com or (352) 591-2345.
27: Feel The Beat
Love live music, but can’t decide on a specific genre? This summer, instead of going to see a concert, opt for a music festival! Florida, along with the other 49 states, hosts a multitude of music festivals throughout the summer months. And many of them host a wide range of artists performing everything from jazz to blues to rock and roll.
Visit festivalfinder.com for a list of summer music festivals throughout the United States and Canada.
28: Roll With It
The scorching summer sun is no reason to stay off your bicycle. Avoid the hot pavement, and instead, go for a mountain bike ride. With trails that range from flat and manicured to those meant for only the toughest of the tough, there is a trail for everyone.
For a list of different trails and their locations, visit the Ocala Mountain Bike Association at omba.org.
29: Fly Away
Most people can safely say they’ve flown in an airplane before, and a fairly large amount can say they’ve experienced a helicopter ride. But how many can say they’ve actually experienced a hot air balloon ride? This summer, see Florida from above—way above—on a hot air balloon ride. Florida Balloon Rides offers their services in several locations across the state. Whether getting a group together for a fun outing or looking for a romantic, one-of-a-kind date, this will be a venture you won’t soon forget!
florida-hotairballoonrides.com or (800) 260-2028.
30: Shop Farm Fresh
Most summertime meals consist of juicy fresh fruits or crisp, cool veggies. This summer, visit a farmers market in your area. Along with plentiful produce, you’ll also find homemade soaps, lotions, baked goods and more.
Visit the Ocala Farm Market every Saturday on the downtown square from 8am-1pm, the North Magnolia Merchants Farmers Market on North Magnolia Avenue every Friday from 8am-1pm or the Farmers Market at Circle Square Commons every Thursday from 9am-1pm. Also, keep your eyes open for other markets and roadside stands!
31: Sweat It Off
Even the most avid athletes struggle in the Florida sun. If an outdoor run or group bike ride leaves you feeling like a wet noodle, try a new indoor workout class. Not only is it good to give your body a rest from the daily routine, but a new class will introduce you to new people, and the air-conditioned environment doesn’t hurt either. Try something different like CrossFit, Piloxing, Zumba or a weight training class.
Visit your closest fitness center or get some friends together for a workout session at home with a DVD.
32: Meet Your Neighbors
Nothing says summer like a nighttime BBQ. Block parties peaked in popularity during the 1970s. Breathe new life into this once-trendy get-together with a neighborhood BBQ block party. Not only will this give you a chance to connect with neighbors you hardly see, but you’ll also get to sample some great homemade side dishes, too!
33: Get Wet
With so many opportunities to enjoy the natural bodies of water in Marion County, why not do some boating this summer? Choose from kayaking, canoeing or even an airboat ride! There are a variety of options and locations available, so try a different venue each month!
For a list of boating opportunities, visit ocalamarion.com.
34: Go Back In Time
Whether you are from Florida or not, you can’t help but appreciate the history of this unique state. Home to the nation’s oldest ports, several battle sites, monuments and more, Florida has a rich history. Instead of the traditional family vacation to the theme parks and beaches, visit one of the state’s historic sites like Kingsley Plantation, Florida’s oldest plantation home, or historic Fort Barrancas in Pensacola.
For additional historic sites in Florida, visit exploresouthernhistory.com.
35:Visit Infinity and Beyond
If you’ve been to the theme parks a hundred times already but want to spend the day doing something fun (and educational), check out the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex near Titusville. With several exhibits, tours and interactive attractions, this is a great way to sneak in an educational experience without letting the kids know they’re learning.
kennedyspacecenter.org or (866) 737-5235.
36: Soar The Sky
Anyone fascinated with superheroes and their devices for high-flying action will definitely want to visit South Florida. Jetpack Adventures in Key West offers a flight experience like no other. Strap on the Jetlev R200, and within seconds, you can soar into the sky. The jetpack utilizes the ocean water to propel you up to 30 feet in the air! But don’t think you have to be an expert jetpack pilot to try out this latest trend in water sports, introductory classes and private instruction are offered before you blast off on your own. And skeptics can pay an observation fee to witness what it’s all about before they strap on their own pack.
jetpackadventures.com or (305) 294-2000.
37: Speak Up!
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise your brain. This summer why not try to learn a new language? With so many products on the market and websites online that promise to have you speaking fluent French or Spanish, there’s no reason not to pick up a few phrases. Or, impress your friends by learning to say “hello” in a multitude of languages. You never know when it may come in handy!
38: Indulge Your Inner Artist
Have a great idea for a play? Did you start a novel that’s sitting on a shelf? Buy the painting supplies but never got started? This summer, choose a craft that you’ve had a hankering to toy with for a while and get to it! Whether it’s composing a short narrative or writing an entire symphony, spend a few hours each week honing your craft. You might just create something great!
39: Go Backstage
If you think you’ve seen everything Disney has to offer, think again. Behind the scenes lie a whole host of secrets that only a select few ever learn about. Disney offers several backstage tours where you can learn some of the secrets that make Disney so magical. Of particular interest is the Backstage Magic tour. This six- to eight-hour tour takes you backstage at each park and gives you a glimpse of the legendary underground tunnel system.
For more information, call Disney World Tours at (407) 939-8687.
40:Zip Right Along
Think Central Florida is flat? Think again! If you haven’t visited Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours, now is the time. This 2 1/2- to 3-hour tour takes you high through some of the most beautiful and remote areas of Marion County. You’ll get a rare view as you take the zip line from one tree to another past cliff walls and over lakes. And for a limited time, Canyons will be offering night tours. This is the perfect opportunity to see a side of Marion County you’ve never seen before.
zipthecanyons.com or (352) 351-9477.