Florida : Safety by City
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- North Port
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- Pembroke Pines
- Pompano Beach
- Port St. Lucie
- Punta Gorda
- St. Augustine
- St. Petersburg
- Vero Beach
- West Palm Beach
- Winter Park
You won’t find sparkling beaches or lighthouses in the inland Florida city of Ocala, but you will find horses.
Lots of them. It’s the “Horse Capital of the World” and has more horses than anywhere else in the United States.
Ocala beach proves you don’t need an ocean or gulf to have fun on the water.
The Ocklawaha River and Lake Weir are just two of the top water destinations in the Ocala area.
(“Ock-la-wah-ha” and “Weer” are the pronunciations of those lakes).
You can kayak, fish, boat, or just sit riverside.
You can wander through a U-Pick farm and get some Florida citrus samples right from the tree.
Visit the Fort King National Historic Landmark.
See where the FBI finally caught up with Ma Barker in 1935 and put an end to the criminal escapades of her family that ranked them “Public Enemy #1.”
For many people, Ocala is a nice place to stop and fill up the tank on a trip across Florida, but they’re missing so much more that can be found in this inland getaway.
Just ask John Travolta.
He’s had a home in this area for years.
Warnings & Dangers in Ocala
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk, with all crime rates being well below the national average. It's not a top tourist destination, so the shady suspects that come with the big crowds aren't a concern here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Taxi drivers must be licensed and follow all applicable laws, so there's a low risk there. The SunTran bus system is another safe option with 7 routes throughout Ocala. The city isn't that big, but the activities are spread out, so renting a car is a good idea here to save costs and guarantee the safety of everyone in the vehicle.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The chance of theft is one in 123. Larceny/theft crime has been trending down the past three years. There's a low risk of this happening on your trip to Ocala, Florida.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Ocala is safe from the worst of the hurricanes that hit Florida, and by the time they arrive, they are usually weakened to a tropical storm. Those storms can still dump large amounts of rain and leave flooding. Also, people who evacuate from hurricane areas can fill up hotel rooms in places like Ocala. Severe thunderstorms are common in the summer. There is little to no earthquake risk.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Robberies are especially and surprisingly low in this town with just a one in 3358 chance of being a victim. The most common things stolen are cars. This is a low risk.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's nothing in Ocala that would stand out to a terrorist organization, so we're going to give this a low risk as well.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There are many reports of scams in Ocala, but mostly ones that affect residents. That means you have a low risk in town, but never trust that scammers aren't getting more creative, so always be aware of deals that seem too good to be true.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Nothing in the crime data suggests women have a higher chance of being a victim of a crime here, and with those low crime numbers, we'll call this a low risk too.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The city of Ocala passed the water test with flying colors for 2020, meaning its water was not found to have any elements exceeding regulations, so there's low risk when using tap water for drinking or bathing.
Safest Places to Visit in Ocala
Ocala is ranked #4 on the list of safest places to live by U.S. News and World Report.
It’s #6 of the fastest-growing places.
There’s so much to do safely here, but you’re going to need to like the outdoors if you want to enjoy most of it.
Just east of town is Silver Springs State Park.
Yes, you can do the usual kayaking and hiking, like any park, but this one comes with glass-bottomed boats and Cracker Village, and a replica of a 19th-century pioneer settlement.
(“Cracker” is a Florida term for a pioneer settler and their descendants who still live in Florida).
You can get a sample of Ocala history too, by visiting the historic downtown area.
Boutique shopping, antiques, and bistros fill this part of the city.
The World Equestrian Center is a horse lover’s paradise with plenty of dining options.
See if there’s an event happening during your trip at the Florida Horse Park or maybe just take a casual horse ride through the beautiful Ocala wilderness.
Art enthusiasts will love to stroll through the Tuscawilla Art Park.
Don’t miss the Appleton Museum of Art on the east side of town either.
Places to Avoid in Ocala
When you search for Ocala and safety measures, it’s downright confusing.
Some websites claim it’s one of the most dangerous cities in Florida.
Others say it’s so dangerous you shouldn’t even go there.
Yet others claim it’s one of the safest cities.
Our numbers come right from the 2020 crime report given to the FBI and are broken down by major categories that would impact tourists.
All crime categories are lower than the national average.
U.S. News and World Report wouldn’t call a city “safe” if it wasn’t.
You can check out the crime statistics on the Ocala Police Department website and read their annual report with actual numbers of crimes and trends.
Does Ocala have crime?
Is there that “one part of town” to avoid?
I’ve poured through crime maps and the central part of town gets the most crime, and then west to I-75.
The farther east you go, the lower the crime numbers go.
Since it’s not a tourist haven, you want to treat your personal safety as you would in any town.
Don’t walk down dark streets at night, don’t wander in strange neighborhoods.
If you get a bad feeling about a person or place, then leave.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Ocala
- The city name is pronounced: “Oh-cal-uh.” I didn’t get it right the first time, so I thought it was worth sharing. It took me 4 times to get Alachua right when I lived in Florida (which FYI is “Alatch-ew-ah”)
- Downtown parking in Ocala is a little bit of a board game. There are places you pay at the meter, places that are free to park, places you can never park, and places that sometimes you can park. Be sure to clearly understand where you are parking and what, if any, charges come with it. It’s not all-or-nothing and the rules can change depending on the time of year, construction, and traffic flow.
- You’ll need a freshwater fishing license in Ocala and surrounding Marion County. You can start the process at the Florida Fish and Wildlife website. There is a separate license for saltwater fishing. Just a heads up so you don’t get the wrong one. The water in Marion County is not saltwater.
- A popular tourist attraction is the Gypsy Gold Farm, but this has nothing to do with panning for gold. It’s a farm where Gypsy Vanner horses are bred and trained. It is open for tours, but don’t bring your gold panning equipment.
- You can zip line in several Ocala and Marion County locations but there are some safety requirements. You must weigh between 70 and 270 pounds. You must be 10 years or older. You have to wear closed-toed shoes and long hair should be pulled back into a ponytail. Don’t wear any loose jewelry.
- A heads up for anyone enjoying the fresh waters of Ocala, there are alligators in this area. Alligators can only live in freshwater, and it’s not unusual to stop one while boating, kayaking, or fishing. Do not feed the alligators. They aren’t aggressive animals against humans, but the occasional attack can happen.
- Stargazing is another popular activity in the Ocala area. The Ocala National Forest is one of the best places to see the stars without the light pollution from the city. The park is open 24 hours, but bring a flashlight and bug spray (lots of bug spray!) for safety.
- Despite Florida’s humid climate and vibrant greenery, wildfires happen here and they can quickly shut down roads and interstates. If there is a fire burning, never drive through a smoke-covered road.
- There’s some monkeying around in the nearby area of Silver Springs. Monkeys were brought to the area to liven up a “jungle tour” attraction. Turns out these rhesus monkeys can swim, and they took off. Years of reproduction later, the monkeys are all over this town.
- There are nearly 500 homeless people in Ocala and Marion County. This can lead to panhandling, especially near busy intersections and in the downtown area. It’s not illegal to panhandle in Ocala, but people cannot become aggressive or block your path to do so. They also need to stay 20 feet away from business entrances and ATMs.
So... How Safe Is Ocala Really?
I’m an investigative journalist with more than two decades of experience and I’ve extensively looked at the latest crime numbers in Ocala.
Over the past decade, Ocala hasn’t had a year with more than 500 violent crimes.
Crime spiked in 2016 – 2019 but was down in 2020.
It’s still below the national average.
Even when I crunched the violent crime numbers of Marion County in 2020, it still came in below the national average and the numbers are the highest they’ve been since 2013.
Homicide numbers are up in Marion County, with nearly 30 in 2021 and 19 in 2020.
This is on par with a national trend.
The FBI says murders were up 30% nationwide in 2020.
At least half of the cases in Marion County were “Stand Your Ground” cases.
That’s a law that allows people who feel they are in danger to use force against their attacker instead of running from them.
It’s a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the basics of the law.
For all the websites claiming Ocala is so dangerous, I’m not sure how they interpret or present the data, but based on the real crime statistics as reported to the FBI, Ocala is safer than most cities in the United States.
There is certainly not a targeted attack against tourists in Ocala.
How Does Ocala Compare?
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- Visas - The Visa requirements are handled at the entrance to the United States, whether you cross the border, fly into an airport, or arrive on a boat. No special ID is required to get into Ocala.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar currency in Ocala. Don't walk around with large sums of cash and use credit cards when possible to purchase items or attraction tickets.
- Weather - Central Florida, where Ocala is located, gets the best and worst of Florida weather. Winters are mild with temperatures up to the 70s but can get chilly at night, into the 40s. Summers can be oppressive. Highs get into the mid-90s and there's not much relief at night with lows in the 70s and it gets very humid. Bring rain gear no matter what time of year you visit. In winter, you'll want a jacket, maybe a light coat.
- Airports - There's no commercial airline in Ocala, so you'll need to drive to get to and from another airport. The Orlando airport is about 90 minutes southwest, the Tampa Airport is 90 minutes south. Gainesville has a regional airport about an hour north.
- Travel Insurance - You'll need travel insurance for your trip to Ocala. Weather can cause delays year-round and unpredictable delays can happen with the larger commercial airports in the state.
Ocala Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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