My passion for Ocala and its surrounding horse country began the moment I visited the area in 2010. I was stunned by the natural beauty of this precious landscape that is home to some of the world’s most famous race horses. After purchasing the 100-acre FoxTrotter Farm that had fallen on hard times, I was delighted to spend the next year restoring this amazing piece of property into what is now my second home: BG Ocala Ranch. My interests grew from there with a number of key acquisitions of properties and places that needed a second chance, including several local entertainment, dining and recreation venues. In all they represent our commitment to restoring key Marion County landmarks and the lifestyle they represent, including BG Downtown, Cowboys Saloon, BG Trail Rides at the Florida Horse Park, Wild Waters Water Park and Silver Springs State Park (home of the original glass bottom boat tours), and the refurbished 50-room BG Sun Plaza located at the entrance of both parks that is now the premiere boutique accommodation for park guests and area travelers.
Silver Springs State Park
Throughout the year, Silver Springs State Park is proud to be an eco-tourism destination. Glass Bottom Boat Rides or a kayak or canoe excursion are the perfect way to enjoy the park’s natural beauty. Experience the native landscape, plant and wildlife habitats that Silver Springs State Park is famous for. Enjoy the trails of the park at your leisure, and engage with nature and the wealth of history that surrounds the property or stay overnight at our neighboring campgrounds. Throughout the year, Silver Springs State Park is also the host of special events and festivals. From the charming Valentine’s Day festival to a jazz fest and Easter Sunrise service, the event calendar is as varied as it is exciting.
Silver Springs State Park is open 8 AM to sunrise 365 days a year. State Park admission is $8 per carload up to eight people. $5 for single occupant vehicle, $4 per vessel launch fee (personal canoe or kayak), and $2 pedestrian or bicyclists.
5656 East Silver Springs Blvd., Silver Springs, FL 34488; 352-261-5840; www.silversprings.com
For years, Wild Waters Water Park, a central Florida landmark, has been famous for its flume-style rides and family-friendly attractions. Today the water park still operates the same eight core water attractions which have generated appeal for decades: the Silver Bullet, The Hurricane, The Wave Pool, Bunyon’s Bend, Mini Monster, Osceola’s Revenge, Alligator Ambush and The Cool Kids Cove. These popular attractions are situated alongside a state-of-the-art arcade with 15 interactive machines, a surf simulator, sand volleyball and tug-a-war tournaments in addition to a range of hospitality options including Fast Eddies Fish Taco Stand, Shivers Ice Cream and Deli and The Splash Bar. Wild Waters will hold summer hours beginning in May, on weekends only from 10 AM – 6 PM. June – August the park will be open Monday – Sunday from 10 AM – 6 PM. General park admission is $27.99 plus tax for 11 and under, $32.99 for 12 and over and season passes for $55.99. A $4 State Park fee also applies to guests of Wild Waters.
5656 East Silver Springs Water Park, Silver Springs, FL 34488; 352-877-2267; www.silversprings.com
BG Sun Plaza
Once a dilapidated motel, BG Sun Plaza is now the area’s premier boutique accommodation and gateway to Silver Springs’ top ecotourism attractions — Silver Springs State Park, Wild Waters Water Park, and BG Trail Rides at the Florida Horse Park. Following an ambitious six-month renovation and rebranding, the newly designed 50-room Sun Plaza features a polished Palm Springs vibe and unique guest experience that includes top-of-the-line furnishings and linens, luxurious king and queen size beds, flat screen televisions with free cable, complimentary continental breakfast, fitness room, business center with free WiFi, and seasonal outdoor swimming pool.
5461 East Silver Springs Blvd., Silver Springs FL 34488; 352-236-2343; www.bgsunplaza.com
BG Trail Rides
Enjoy year round equestrian trail riding with BG Trail Rides at Ocala, Florida’s 500-acre Florida Horse Park. BG Trail Rides offers a complete riding service for novice and experienced riders throughout the park’s hundreds of miles of pristine oak-lined riding trails that wind through the lush Florida Greenway. Guided trail rides begin each day at 9 amand conclude after the evening sunset ride. Cost is $50.00 for a one-hour guided walking tour and $100.00 for a two-hour guided walking tour, which includes an Argentinean barbecue. All trail rides include helmets and are walking only.
11008 S. Highway 475, Ocala, FL 34480; 352-207-1882; www.BGTrailRides.com
Ocala’s most sophisticated cocktail lounge and gathering spot and ideal place for friends to gather before or after dinner, for office parties and for corporate functions. The luxury lounge offers signature martinis and mixed drinks as well as a wide variety of beer and wine options.
11 East Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, FL 34471; 352-390-8969
AMERICAN BAR & GRILL
What began as the second Florida location of this casual dining, bar, and entertainment venue has grown to become one of the most exciting and fastest growing additions to the country western bar and grill landscape. Following a multimillion-dollar build-out that replaced the former Midnight Rodeo complex in downtown Ocala, which had closed in 2011, and a third location in Gainesville, FL. Cowboys Saloon: American Bar & Grill has since expanded into Arizona, New York, and Colorado with openings in locations once occupied by Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill. The four newest stores, which are slated to reopen next year, are located in the Park West Center in Peoria, AZ and City North Center in Phoenix, AZ; the Destiny USA shopping and entertainment complex in Syracuse NY; and the Northfield Stapleton shopping complex in Denver, CO. www.cowboyssaloon.com.