It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! In Ocala it’s still pretty warm, but we’re all faking it by decorating early and forcing joy on everyone we meet. One thing that’s right on schedule though, is planning our holiday photos.
As someone who has taken her fair share of Christmas card photos in Ocala, this year I started to feel like I’ve run out of new locations. We don’t get snow here, so we really have to get creative with where we muster holiday cheer. I put on my thinking cap and assembled a list of my favorite local locations for a festive Christmas card.
Ocala’s historic downtown is one of my favorite parts of the city. There’s gorgeous architecture with every turn, and now that the original brick has been restored it feels even more revived.
Your Local Park
Ocala is home to some beautiful local parks! This park is just off 11th Street in the downtown Ocala neighborhood, and there are so many more like it. Just to name a few: Tuscawilla Park, Baseline Road Trailhead and Sholom Park.
After you’ve chosen a location, then it’s time to select outfits! Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll break down outfits for every location. Where is your favorite local photo location?
Brick City Food Tours is an idea that was born out of a search on Airbnb on a weekday afternoon. I was feeling uninspired and dreaming of the day I found *the* thing that would light my fire.
I searched Airbnb Experiences, curious about what adventures or classes were offered in Ocala. It honestly surprised me when I saw there wasn’t much available. That’s when it hit me; my husband, Kendrick, and I went on a food tour in Chicago before we moved back to Ocala and absolutely loved it.
Why couldn’t there be one in Ocala? The economy is growing, families are moving here and there are new restaurants popping up all over downtown. Residents and guests are excited about seeing Ocala gain businesses similar to other Florida hubs like Orlando or Tampa. In short, there’s never been a better time to start.
I’ve lived in Ocala for half a decade and through my work with nonprofits and artists have come to appreciate the downtown food scene, as well as the history that surrounds it. I’m passionate about sharing the unique cuisines, crafted by talented local chefs, that make Ocala’s downtown eateries worth exploring.
What is Brick City Food Tours?
Uncover a vast spectrum of cooking styles in Ocala’s historic downtown. Your guided Brick City Food Tour visits 5 sit down tasting locations in the downtown neighborhood. Between samples, your informative guides (Kendrick and I) will share their experience of local customs, historic stories and specialty shops. This walking tour is ideal for Ocala residents and travelers eager to discover the culinary secrets and traditions that compose the horse capitol of the world. Whether you’re vacationing in Ocala for the first time or a long-time resident, you’re sure to walk away with a greater understanding of the geographic history and culinary techniques of the city.
Where You’ll Be
We’ll most likely visit Sayulita Taqueria (Mexican street food), Ivy on the Square (southern delicacies), Ocala’s Chocolate and Confections (the finest European chocolate), Pi on Broadway (gourmet pizzas and tapas), and Feta Mediterranean Cuisine (generational Greek tapas). However, we could do a slightly different version of this tour, depending on the weather and availability of the restaurant.
What Are People Saying?
“I cannot recommend this tour enough! It really showed off the diverse cuisine options all in walking distance in downtown Ocala. There really is something for everybody! Even as a local, I got to taste items off the menus I hadn’t had before that were so delicious I plan on going back and ordering again. I also enjoyed learning more about Ocala from the awesome tour guides. This was a great way to spend an afternoon, and my husband & I left full and happy!” – Brittany
“The Brick City Food Tour was a great experience. The food selections were great and the tour/learning about some of the history of downtown Ocala made the experience worthwhile. Enjoyed being able to connect and get to know the other members of the tour group. Thanks Brick City Food Tour for a great experience. Would highly recommend to others and will definitely make it a point to do it again!” – Justin
“I loved the day and enjoyed the experience! Was introduced to several places that I had not dined in before but will make a trip back to in the future.” – Michele
How Can You Support Us?
Book a tour here! With a maximum of 10 people per tour, it’s the perfect way to experience downtown Ocala and hopefully make a few friends along the way. The tours run from 2 PM – 5 PM, so it’s great for a fun afternoon adventure or a unique way to show out of town guests your city. We even do private tours for birthdays or corporate outings!
If you aren’t a foodie, you can still support us! Please share with your friends and family, spreading the word about our passion. Thank you in advance for supporting us, Ocala!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m not talking about December, when the traffic is life sucking and the weather makes you wonder why you ever leave the house.
The most wonderful time of the year is actually October. The Florida weather is starting to cool, just enough to begin layering fall fashion – the best fashion.
In Ocala, festivals start popping up around town and everyone is in the mood for a pumpkin spice latte. This year, there are some particularly interesting events and activities happening in Marion County. Here are some of my favorites:
This downtown event happens every month September – May, but October is particularly special. The theme for this month’s Art Walk is Day of the Dead and Coco is playing in Citizen’s Circle, so it’s the perfect start to spooky season. Enjoy live music, local art lining the streets and extended shopping hours.
Beer, brats, live music, axe throwing – what more could you want? Oktoberfest in Tuscawilla Park is presented by the Reilly Arts Center (love them), and this year they’ve rented a giant tent so rain won’t dampen the day.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Kait, what white nonsense is this? I love crafting and I don’t have kids, but I might borrow one so I can seem normal while I participate in broom making. Also, I’m envisioning the scene from Hocus Pocus where they jump on their brooms (or vacuum) and sing their hearts out, and I’m vibing with the idea of making my own.
I’ve never been to this event, let alone the fort, but this is one of the events I’m most looking forward to this month! I’m a sucker for spooky stories and supporting local events – it seems like the perfect way to get into the spooky spirit.
Maybe what I’m most excited about this month is After Dark in the Park showing Hocus Pocus. My mom is driving from Williston to attend this event with me, and you better believe I’ll be singing, “Come Little Children,” on my broom from the broom making class.
I should probably take Karen and Georgia’s advice and Stay Out of the Forest, but I’ll definitely be checking out this free haunted wooded trail. I’m no fan of Halloween Horror Nights or intense haunted houses, but the description says the earlier you attend the less spooky, so I’ll be there with all the 12-year-olds.
If you’re a creative like me, you’ll love the Ocala Arts Festival. This festival essentially shuts down downtown traffic and fills the streets with art ranging from abstract to sculpture for the weekend. The artists are with their pieces, so it’s really interesting to be able to ask them about their work.
I grew up attending this festival with my family, so it’s near to my heart. There are a ton of great vendors and I wait all year to stock up on my favorite goodies. This is where I find my favorite candied jalapenos that pair perfectly with cream cheese on a Ritz cracker. The food trucks are amazing and the antiques for sale are always top notch.
I’m not typically a fan of 5k/10k activities (don’t sign me up for cardio), but this one includes a Boo and Brew element! The race will have food trucks, live music and a costume contest. I may or may not have to convince my husband to dress up like the Flash.
Now let’s get out there, wrap ourselves in layers and embrace the most wonderful time the year!
The Ocala Downtown Market is the only reason I’ll wake up early on a weekend. With fresh coffee, peach muffins (complete with a crumble top) and pups at every turn, what’s not to love?
The Ocala Downtown Market is one of my favorite spots in Ocala. Every Saturday I make my way to the farmers market to choose fresh produce for my meal prep and support local businesses.
I’ve been craving zipper peas for months and I finally arrived early enough to snag a bag before the sold out – seriously, they are a hot commodity at the market! While there I also bought fresh alligator meat and fried it up for a true southern meal that made my husband glad he wifed me up.
The Ocala Downtown Market doesn’t just have ingredients though, vendors also sell home goods, live plants, pet treats and my favorite mango salsa that is to die for!
This local farmers market has opened me up to so many unique flavors. For example, when my husband’s friend was visiting we tried a raspberry vinegar paired with strawberries and WOW! Our friends poked fun of us for being bougie with this treat at game night but with flavors this amazing, we’re the real winners here.
If you haven’t visited the Ocala Downtown Market I highly suggest you check it out this weekend! It’s open every Saturday 9 AM – 2 PM rain or shine and if you come early it’s likely I’ll see you there.
Have you checked out our local farmers market? What unique finds did you discover?
You know what’s better than a chocolate covered banana? A truffle. You know what’s better than a truffle? Ice cream. You know what’s better than ice cream? FUDGE.
Good thing Ocala’s Chocolate and Confections has them all! I’m always so surprised when friends tell me they’ve lived in Ocala for years and have yet to visit Ocala’s Chocolate and Confections.
This neighborhood store looks like it’s come straight out of Stars Hollow (if you don’t get the Gilmore Girls reference, I’m sorry.) It’s perfectly situated in downtown Ocala near the movie theater and is the perfect place to enjoy sweets this summer. Could there be anything cuter than a movie date at the theater and an ice cream cone night cap? I think not.
Last weekend I stopped by with my friend Brittany as we caught up and explored downtown. I had the blueberry cheesecake ice cream in a waffle cone while she treated herself to a truffle. It was worth EVERY calorie!
Have you ever visited this downtown spot? If so, what’s your favorite treat there?
One of my favorite things about living in Ocala is how my calendar stays full with community events. When I first moved here I was at a networking event and commented on how hard it was to find things to do. The response I received was shock and awe – and rightfully so! It wasn’t that there weren’t things to do, I just didn’t know how to find them!
Now that I’ve learned how to find events I’m constantly asked, “How did you hear about that?” Here’s how I hunt out events and find adventure in my city:
Find Your Favorite Venue
There are so many great venues in Ocala that have a wide variety of shows and events! Between concerts, festivals, art exhibits and plays there’s no shortage of entertainment. I’d recommend following them on social media, checking their website, and joining their email newsletters so you always know about upcoming events.
By paying attention to what’s happening at The Reilly, I learned about Couch Sessions which has become one of my favorite ways to support local artists. These are a few of my favorite venues:
As a graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism, I love supporting local publications. They’re also some of the best ways to find events I never would have heard of, because they have great connections with local nonprofits. Nearly every newspaper, magazine and blog has an “Events” section that’s always filled with out-of-the-box events like the “After Dark In The Park Movie Series,” which I found in Family Times Magazine.
Luckily for Ocala residents, a lot of these publications also have a strong social media presence. It’s not uncommon for me to watch Instagram stories and see Ocala Style or Ocala Magazine to post about an event for the coming weekend.
Support Local Nonprofits
If I had to list all of our amazing nonprofits this would be a 6-part series. Ocala has a strong nonprofit presence that always supplies exciting community events, and Marion Cultural Alliance is where I find a lot of them.
My all time favorite is the Levitt Amp Ocala Music Series, a free concert series that supplies our community with live music. This is the second year Ocala has been awarded a grant to host the series, and I pray it continues to receive support. With food trucks, amazing touring musicians and a pet friendly atmosphere, what’s not to love?
Make Your Own Events
Sometimes you have to be the leader! The best times are spent with friends and it doesn’t always have to have large costs associated. Try a fitness class with friends, throw a potluck Taco Tuesday (or any day, tacos are never a bad idea), or a dog party!
I hope this helps you experience more of Ocala’s culture, meet new people and feel more connected to your community! What ways do you find events and what are some of your favorite places, publications or nonprofits that I missed?