A long-celebrated destination for travelers, locals, movie makers, artists and more, Silver Springs has at last received the recognition it deserves by being inducted into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame during the 2016 Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism. To accept the award on behalf of the two gentlemen responsible for the success of Silver Springs were James “Bim” Davidson Ray, grandson of Walter Carl Ray, Sr., and John McLeod, great-grandson to W.M. “Shorty” Davidson. Also in attendance was another grandson of Walter Carl Ray, Sr., Walter Ray Berman, and family friend, Paul Ferguson, who played a large role in writing and submitting the nomination.
In 1924, Walter Carl Ray, Sr. and W.M. “Shorty” Davidson took a beautiful, natural spring from a local spot serving 1,000 travelers to an international attraction visited by 1.5 million visitors over the course of thirty years. Silver Springs became one of the most visited tourist destinations in Florida by 1962, and it remains a top choice amongst travelers visiting Central Florida.
Another innovative addition envisioned by Mr. Ray, Sr. was the development of the first fleet of gasoline-powered glass bottom boats, which would soon become powered by electricity. Today’s modern travelers still enjoy this wholesome family attraction, which offers the perfect setting to capture a memorable “selfie” or family photo.
Silver Springs’ picturesque surroundings have also been featured in a number of Hollywood hits, starting with the 1930s movie Tarzan. Over the next 50 years, several other motion pictures would be made in and around Silver Springs in Ocala/Marion County, featuring celebrated actors like: Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Kim Bassinger, Sally Field, Gary Cooper, Burt Reynolds and many others.
The natural attraction isn’t the only renowned outdoor activity in Ocala/Marion County. A true paradise for any outdoor enthusiast, the County is home to many other experiences, including:
Horseback riding—Known as the Horse Capital of the WorldTM, Ocala and its surrounding regions feature many horseback-riding trails and guided tours offer a unique perspective on the area’s scenery. Navigate through the cool forest underneath the canopy of centuries old trees as the sounds of streams and springs bubble nearby and experience the wild, untouched side of Florida. During your ride, you may see some of the state’s unique wildlife, including the great horned owl, Sherman’s fox squirrel, red tail hawk, barred owl, and coyote.
Mountain biking—The Santos Mountain Bike Trails have received the prestigious designation of a bronze-level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, one of only six designated Ride Centers in the nation. Riders of all skill levels can find a fun challenge through the 80 miles of unpaved Santos trails, with color-coded difficulty levels ranging from yellow (easy) to red (extreme).
Zip line—Sky-high thrills can be found at the Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours, a can’t-miss attraction in the heart of Ocala/Marion County. These zip lines are the longest, highest and fastest in Florida and the longest zip lines over water in the U.S. While most of Florida is flat terrain, Ocala/Marion County is home to massive limestone canyons within a vast wooded wonderland, providing an epic setting and extreme elevation for adventure enthusiasts.
For additional information on other natural attractions, eco-adventures, equine events or upcoming festivals please visit Ocala/Marion County or call toll-free 1.888.FL.OCALA.