What's in a name? Ocala was named after the Timucua word for "Big Hammock", which sounds quite comfortable. It was nicknamed "Kingdom of the Sun", which sounds quite beautiful. It is also known as "Brick City" for its fire-resistant brick buildings, which sounds quite safe. "Horse Capital of the World" is another nickname, which sounds like there are quite a few horses. "God's Waiting Room" is a popular nickname among the youngun's (people under 55), which means that everyone must already have their ticket to heaven. So, in the names of Ocala, we have a city that is comfortable, beautiful, and safe, with a lot of horses and church-lovers with free passes to heaven. Sound good? Well then read on, my friend, because there's much more to this city than just nicknames.
The city center and surrounding neighborhoods are seeing an increase in the crime rate, however there is still an undeniable charm to this part of town. The historical district is popular among locals and tourists alike, with historical tours and ghost walks through the streets that gave rise to the nickname, "Brick City". Along Silver Springs Blvd. there are tons of pizza places, barbecue joints, and Irish pubs. For seniors, there are plenty of affordable communities and resources, as well as a nearby golf course and a huge forest just minutes away. Nightlife is limited to Irish Pubs and the Ocala Entertainment Complex, the city's main venue for live music. $ - $$$
The neighborhood for the young and party-centric, especially students of the College of Central Florida, this area is completely walkable, with the campus, the mall, the movie theater, the Ocala Hills Country Club, as well as the Ocala Entertainment Complex just a minute down the road. $$$
A safe, quiet neighborhood with few rentals and plenty of affluence. $$$$
Safe, quiet, and beautiful, with the city center just a couple miles to the west and the Silver Springs Park and the Silver River Park located on the eastern border. In a confusing bout of nomenclature, Silver Springs Park features the Wild Waters water park for the kids, while the Silver River Park is a vast forest with as much fun as you can dream up. Locals flock to these woods for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, 4-wheeling, dirt biking, hunting, fishing, camping, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, boating, waterskiing, and, like I said, anything else you can dream up. $$$ - $$$$
A residential neighborhood of well-off homeowners just south of the filthy-rich Jumbolair Aviation Estates, where John Travolta likes to park his jet. Good luck finding a rental here though, and if you do, good luck paying for it. $$$$$
A popular neighborhood for seniors, families, and teenagers bored to the brink of insanity. While the old folks play a round of golf, those of the more extreme breed get their kicks at Hardrock Cycle Park, where dirt bikes, ATV's, Jeeps, baja cars, and other off road vehicles take on miles of potentially painful trails, hills, and jumps. There's also a Pewee Track for the kiddies and faint of heart. $ - $$
A rowdy crowd, with monthly and yearly campground rentals, dirt cheap mobile homes, and drug issues. $ - $$$
A low crime rate and a few affordable, highly recommended lakeside apartments make this neighborhood great for families. The Circle Square Cultural Center is nearby, an auditorium featuring theater, music, dance, conventions, and more. $$$ - $$$$
Early Bird/Mount Olive
In a neighborhood of horses, ranch houses, and dead end streets, you won't be seeing many apartments any time soon. However, the lucky few who land in a house rental or mobile home will get to enjoy rural living along old, woodsy streets and dirt roads. $$$
Just southeast of the city center, the Santos neighborhood is safe and secluded, with old, snaking roads and loops that are very easy to get lost on. There are suburban houses, ranch houses, and mobile homes, as well as a few apartments. The Florida Trail meanders through this neighborhood, a great path to travel for horseback riders and hiking enthusiasts. To the south, you can find a handful of lakes that make for some great fishing. $$$
A tight-knit suburban neighborhood of single family houses, mobile homes, and affordable apartments, all within easy driving distance to the many lakes southeast of town, as well as a few small neighborhood lakes and ponds. $$$
At the southern tip, this neighborhood is full of mobile homes, ranch land, and miles of open space with hiking trails and horse riding trails. There are also a few streets with charming rowhouses and a strong sense of community. $$$
A safe, suburban neighborhood of retirement communities and rowhomes. There are lots of outdoor activities, including the Halpata Tastanski Preserve (say that three times fast), Rainbow Springs State Park, Goethe State Forest, and Lake Rousseau nearby. $$$ - $$$$
The southwestern tip of Ocala, this area is full of retirees and families, with the Halpata Tastanski Preserve on the western border. $$$$$
All the neighborhoods outside of the city center are best travelled by car. Transportation within the city center is best done by bike or car, as the public transportation system, SunTran, usually isn't convenient. Ocala has miles and miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. On the south side of town, you could spend months exploring the expansive Florida Trail. There are also tons of trails in the surrounding forests, such as the Silver River State Park, that are great for horseback riders, mountain bikers, and off road vehicles.
Uninterrupted sunshine is how the city got its nickname, but the sneaky fact of the matter is that this beautiful weather is limited to the dry season, which is October through May. The wet season, June through September, brings months of hot, humid, rainy, stormy weather that’s very uncomfortable, unless you are a Vinegar Fly. Swarms of Vinegar Flies rain down on traffic and invade homes during these hot, humid months, and getting rid of them is a daily effort. Leave nothing on the counters, thoroughly clean and bleach anything that comes into contact with food, as well as any humid areas such as under sinks and refrigerators. Another problem pest is giant, flying cockroaches. However, most apartments include pest control, which unlike those species unique to New York, actually works on this particular breed of roach.
There are two major electricity providers in Ocala, SECO and Ocala Electric. Beware of Ocala Electric. This is the only service available to most of the city, and the prices are outrageous. Utility costs run from $125 a month for a tiny apartment (with the thermostat set to 80 degrees), to over $500 a month for a normal single family house, not including all the other surcharges and fees. Ocala Electric also provides the water, with bills that run upward of $100 a month, plus charges for fire service, trash collection, and taxes. Why charge fire service to the water bill when citizens pay for it with their taxes? God only knows.
Ocala may be a city of many names and hats, but you can be sure that there’s something for everyone here, from rustic mobile home dwellers to jet-flying John Travoltas. The weather is great, the scenery amazing and the retirees just as prevalent as elsewhere in Florida. Whatever you want to call it, this city is a great place to settle down, so how about we all just call it "home"? Now get on the move, or yours will be gone!