Inverness is a city of slightly more than 7,000 residents that’s located in central Florida’s Citrus County.
It’s about a 40-minute drive southwest of Ocala, and though day-trips to nearby cities are popular, there are a variety of recreation options nearby for those who’d rather not waste valuable vacation time stuck in a car.
The area is particularly well-known for its large citrus groves and proximity to several state and national parks that are perennial favorites of the fit and outdoorsy crowd.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Inverness that rank high on many visitor’s itineraries.
1. Inverness Visitor Center
For those visiting an area for the first time, there are few better places than visitors’ centers to check out first.
The Inverness Visitor Center is located on East Dampier Street in town and is open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
The center is on the shores of Lake Henderson and is full of regional and state tourist information, including maps, travel magazines, and discount books, many of which offer exclusive deals on everything from tours and lodging to dining and recreational activities.
The center is also staffed by knowledgeable locals who are full of useful information and unique ideas for things to do that are often overlooked.
2. Fort Cooper State Park
At more than 700 acres, Fort Cooper State Park is a spacious attraction that boasts an abundance of recreation activities, making it popular with active, outdoorsy types and lovers of nature.
Fishing, sunbathing, and swimming are favorite ways to spend a day, and boat-borne nature tours are big hits as well.
If you happen to be around in March, there’s an annual reenactment of a battle that took place between settlers and Seminole Indians more than a century ago.
The park is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and features extensive trails from which a variety of animals are easily seen.
3. Citrus County Speedway
Located on South Florida Avenue in Inverness, the Citrus County Speedway is a unique figure-8 racetrack that hosts a number of popular races throughout the season.
Races are held in different classes that feature professional drivers all the way down to upcoming local talent.
The speedway is known for its loud engines, enthusiastic fans, and exhilarating atmosphere, and even for non-race fans, it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Check out their website for a full list of upcoming races, and take a look at the cool driver’s bio page that’ll let you know who’s participating in upcoming events.
4. Citrus County Courthouse Museum
The county courthouse that now houses the Citrus County Courthouse Museum was built in 1912. Though it no longer functions in an official capacity, it’s now the home of the Citrus County Historical Society.
The museum features a number of impressive exhibits that focus on the county’s settlement, culture, and economy. It’s even got art on display created by local and regional artists.
They often host temporary history and art exhibits from other institutions as well, and there are always volunteers around who are more than happy to answer questions and give visitors the dime-tour, so don’t be shy if you’d like some unique insight from a local.
5. Valerie Theater
Like many historic theaters all over the country, the Valerie Theater has gone through a tumultuous cycle of booms and busts. Though it was built in the ‘20s, for much of its life it fell into disuse and disrepair.
After extensive renovations, it was finally reopened just a few years ago. It is now a popular entertainment attraction that features movies, concerts, dramatic plays, and other special events throughout the year.
Previous guests have noted that the theater retains much of its quaint charm while having state-of-the-art sound and lighting, which make for great shows. The prices are reasonable too.
6. Pine Ridge Community Golf Course
Pine Ridge Community Golf Course is a public facility that features three, nine-hole portions; regardless of the combination in which they’re played, all total about 6,400 yards from the men’s tees.
To accommodate the young, elderly, and women who’d rather not play from the men’s tees, there are other options that reduce the course’s total yardage significantly. Cart and club rentals are available too.
The course’s amenities include a driving range, practice greens, and professional lessons. Though walking is allowed, most players choose to spend a few extra bucks for a cart, especially during the often oppressive summer months.
7. Withlacoochee State Forest & Trail
Stretching nearly 50 miles through a variety of natural habitats, the Withlacoochee State Trail is the longest paved trail of its kind in the entire state.
Most bikers and hikers choose to pick up the trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest, and for physically fit bikers, it’s possible to make it from one end of the trail to the other in a day.
The trail also includes sections near towns and includes historic attractions and nature viewing areas, as well as lots of shaded spaces that are great for an afternoon rest or a picnic lunch before continuing.
8. Crystal River
The Crystal River near Inverness is home to one of the state’s largest populations of manatees; they’re particularly prevalent during the winter months when the river’s temperature is warmer than other coastal waterways.
It’s also one of the only places that visitors can swim with manatees in their natural habitat, and it’s fed by springs that keep the water relatively constant and in the low-70s year-round.
There are several access points on the river, and many visitors choose to spend an entire day swimming, hiking, and fishing. The nearby town is home to a historic plantation and a variety of shops and restaurants for those who prefer to keep moving.
9. Nature Coast Botanical Gardens & Nursery
Located on Parker Avenue in nearby Spring Hill, Nature Coast Botanical Gardens & Nursery are one of those often overlooked vacation attractions that usually make visitors feel like they’re much farther away from civilization than they really are.
Tranquil, serene, and colorful are adjectives often used to describe the garden grounds; though they’re beautiful year-round, they’re particularly so during the spring bloom in March.
Herbs, palms, and a variety of native and exotic plants, trees, are flowers are represented, and the on-site nursery is a great place to pick up landscaping elements for those doing a bit of outdoor landscaping.
10. Crews Lake Wilderness Park
Crews Lake Wilderness Park is located close to downtown Spring Hill, but at more than 100 acres, it’s large enough to give visitors a feel that’s usually only present in larger and more rural parks.
The park features an extensive network of multi-use trails that lead through varied environments. Along the way, there’s an observation tower, cultivated gardens, and lots of bird feeders that draw an abundance of bird species.
There are plenty of areas along the trails where visitors can throw a blanket down before diving into a picnic lunch. The park is particularly pleasant in the low light morning and evening hours when it’s not so hot, and the animals are most active.
11. Appleton Museum of Art
The Appleton Museum of Art is located in Ocala on the campus of the College of Central Florida and is one of the area’s premier attractions for lovers of fine art.
The museum is comprised of five distinct galleries and features a live entertainment venue and a scenic courtyard with gardens and covered seating areas.
Founded in 1987, the museum’s collection includes varied works both old and new, and they come from nearly every corner of the globe, including Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Many special events are held throughout the year, including art fairs, guest speakers, juried art competitions, and instructional courses for beginners, pros, and even kids.
12. Strong Tower Vineyard
Though it’s most well-known for golf, beaches, and world-class theme parks, Florida is also home to a thriving wine community, and Strong Tower Vineyard in Spring Hill is one of the area’s most celebrated spots.
The vineyard offers a seasonal wine menu that includes hearty reds and a number of berry-based wines that are quite the delectable oddity for many wine aficionados.
Facility tours are offered on a regular basis, and there’s a pleasant veranda that’s the perfect place to relax with a glass or two after a long day on your feet.
Their wines are for sale at the gift shop, so stop by before heading off to your next adventure.
13. Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
For drag racing fanatics, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits is considered the sport’s founding father, and the museum that bears his name is like a mecca for diehard fans.
Don Garlits’ career spanned more than four decades and included over a hundred first-place finishes and an astonishing 17 world championships.
The museum is located on SW 16th Avenue in Ocala, and unlike other sports stars who live in gated communities, the Garlits’ live next door.
Guests appreciate the restored cars, uniforms, photographs, and first-hand accounts of significant milestones in his illustrious career, and there are interactive and audio-video displays as well.
14. The Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center
The Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center is a unique facility that’s maintained and run by the local school system; its main goal is to expose children to the wonders of the natural world and the area’s history.
The museum and education center are located on NE 58th Avenue in Ocala. Though they’re only open for school children and field trips during the week, they’re open to the general public on the weekend, and admission is only a few dollars.
In addition to interactive exhibits that touch on animals, ecology, and Native Americans, the staff offer a variety of programs and tours, so check their calendar of events before heading out.
15. Half Moon Wildlife Management Area
At nearly 10,000 acres, Half Moon Wildlife Management Area is large even by Florida park standards. It’s comprised of a variety of natural habitats including flatwoods, wetlands, and hammocks that are both scenic and home to a variety of animals species, many of which are readily seen.
The management area’s extensive network of multi-use trails are open to bikers, walkers, and horseback riders. They’re great places from which to see a variety of birds, including multiple species of woodpeckers, raptors, and wading birds.
Before venturing off on your own, pick up a map by the gate near the parking lot at the main entrance.