🔓Insiders, looking for something to do? Here’s where you can horse around

Watch horse shows for free at outdoor arenas in Ocala

As the holiday break creeps closer, some Insiders reached out looking for new attractions and family activities close to home.

Well, you’re in luck, as News 6 Insider Crystal Moyer takes you to the “Horse Capital of the World,” Ocala.

The World Equestrian Center at 1750 Northwest 8th Avenue sits on more than 380 acres and is the largest equestrian complex in the country, offering indoor and outdoor arenas and venues.

But the WEC is no farm. It provides state-of-the-art equestrian facilities and arenas as well as shopping, dining and even a full-service spa. Oh, yeah... a spa!

The Equestrian Hotel sits at the center of the property, and it’s luxurious from the moment you walk into the lobby.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Flip through photos of everything the World Equestrian Center has to offer]

“The dining is my favorite part. We’ve got nine restaurants available here on property,” said Justin Garner, WEC director of hospitality operations.

One of their fine-dining restaurants has an outdoor eating area that looks onto Grand Outdoor Arena. And for those on a budget, you can access the outdoor arena seating area and walk the property for free.

“It’s a unique opportunity in Central Florida to come out and watch these shows live. It’s great entertainment,” Garner said. “We’ve got everything from barrel racing, Western Pleasure, Arabians. It’s an amazing facility.”

While you’re there, you can stop by the bakery for some fresh handmade treats and then visit the Mr. Pickles and Sailor Bear Toy Shoppe.

“There’s a little bit of everything here and some unique items, like a 15-foot giraffe,” Garner said. “Kids don’t get that toy store experience. Everybody buys their things online, so when they were developing the hotel, they wanted to create a space where kids can be kids and where adults can be kids.”

The store features hand-carved rocking horses from England and a large collection of Breyer horses.

It’s all brand-new and has been open for less than a year. If the horses don’t interest you, the unique atmosphere will.

The World Equestrian Center is ramping up for its holiday events, installing Christmas trees around the property, including a 40-foot walk-through Christmas tree. There will be live entertainment, live Reindeer and an ice skating rink. The month-long holiday event will kick off Nov. 26th at 5 p.m. with a festive lighting ceremony and run through December 31st. General admission is free, but there will be a parking fee of $10 during the holiday events.

World Equestrian Center Winter Wonderland Schedule

  • November 26: Light Up WEC - Event Kickoff 6 p.m. - Grand Plaza
  • November 27:
    • Breakfast with Santa 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. - Stirrups Terrace
    • Musical Performance - Atlantic City Boys 7 p.m. - Arena 1
  • December 4: Ice Carving Demonstration (TBD)
  • December 10: Holiday Show on Wheels 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. - Grand Plaza
  • December 11: Ice Carving Demonstration (TBD)
  • December 13: Live Reindeer 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Lugano Ring
  • December 14: Live Reindeer 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Lugano Ring
  • December 17: Holiday Show on Wheels 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. - Grant Plaza
  • December 17: Grande Liberte Performance with Sylvia Zerbini 7 p.m. - Arena 1
  • December 18: Breakfast with Santa 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. - Stirrups Terrace
  • December 19: Grande Liberte Performance Matinee with Sylvia Zerbini 3 p.m. - Arena 1
  • December 20: Live Reindeer 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Lugano Ring
  • December 21: Live Reindeer 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Lugano Ring
  • December 26: Holiday Show on Wheels 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. - Grant Plaza
  • Daily Events:
    • Carolers 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
    • Face Painting, Caricaturists, Balloon Artists (rotating)
    • Stilt Walkers, We Flip Elves, Jump Roping Toy Soldiers, Power Skipping Elves (rotating)
    • Pictures with Santa 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday (11/26-12/23)
    • Ice Skating 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 12 p.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday ($15/person and includes skate rental)
    • Food Activations 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a multimedia journalist who joined the News 6 team in February 2020. Crystal comes to Central Florida from WKMG’s sister station, WJXT in Jacksonville, where she worked as a traffic anchor and MMJ.