Ocala is a city in Marion County, Florida. As of 2006, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau was 52,488. It is the county seat of Marion County, and the Primary City of the Ocala, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated 2006 population of 316,183.
In the twentieth century, Ocala increased in prominence as a center for tourism in Florida. Important attractions included the Silver Springs, Wild Waters water park, and the now-defunct Western-themed Six Gun Territory, all in nearby Silver Springs, Florida. Silver Springs is a 350 acre nature theme park that surrounds the headwaters of the Silver River, the largest artesian spring formation in the world.
In 1956, the Ocala area Thoroughbred industry received a boost when Needles became the first Florida-bred to win the Kentucky Derby. In 1978, Marion County-bred and -raised Affirmed won the Triple Crown. Today, Marion County is one of the major Thoroughbred centers of the world, with over 1,200 horse farms in total and about 600 Thoroughbred farms.
One event that shows Marion County's enthusiasm about its horses was Horse Fever. This public art project featured 51 artist-inspired full-size horses around the town for a while till they were sold at auction. The action raised over $800,000 for animal-related charities. Most of the horses remained in the area, and four are proudly displayed on Ocala's downtown square.
Many historic homes are preserved in Ocala's Historic District.
One major attraction to Ocala is the neighborhoods for private plane owners. John Travolta is its most famous citizen, and all the residents can land, and park their planes by their homes.