Last Updated on February 25, 2024

In the heart of central Florida’s picturesque horse country, Ocala stands as a vibrant and inviting town seamlessly combining Southern charm with a rich equestrian heritage.

Ocala’s Marion County is renowned as the “Horse Capital of the World” boasting rolling hills and an abundance of horse farms contributing to its unique character. Beyond its equine allure, Ocala is a haven for outdoor recreation offering access to waterways for swimming and paddling, and thousands of acres for hiking, trail riding, running, and biking in the Ocala National Forest.

With a warm climate and friendly community, Ocala beckons visitors to experience its charm.

World Equestrian Center

Before introducing this amazing hotel, I must start with the bigger picture and introduce The World Equestrian Center (WEC). This premier facility located on a 380-acre estate is world-renowned for hosting a variety of equestrian competitions, including show jumping, dressage, hunter-jumper competitions, and more. It attracts top riders and horses from around the country, not to mention weekly equestrian competitions attracting exhibitors from all over the world.

Beyond competitions, this state-of-the-art facility includes multiple indoor and outdoor arenas and an impressive number of stabling for horses. To create a comprehensive experience for both competitors and visitors, the WEC also includes on-site lodging, dining and over 30 retail shops promoting a complete equestrian lifestyle experience.

There’s even a chapel on site.

The Equestrian Hotel

World Equestrian Center Equestrian Hotel in Ocala Lobby at Night.
World Equestrian Center Equestrian Hotel in Ocala Lobby at Night. Photo credit Ethan Tweedie

Entering the lobby of this stunning hotel within the WEC made me feel as though I’d been transported back to Paris. The opulence and grandeur of this impressive facility are beyond imagination. To say it’s one of the most elegant places I’ve stayed in the U.S. is an understatement, and it took me completely by surprise as photos can’t adequately capture the ambiance of Ocala’s only AAA Four Diamond Resort.

The grand lobby sports 20-foot ceilings, crystal chandeliers, a floor-to-ceiling fireplace and a grand piano. Mahogany accents, Italian porcelain and black marble floors are found throughout the entire first floor with plenty of plush and welcoming seating.

The large, elevated lobbies showcase the work of local and regional artists and the luxurious European design features equestrian-inspired details throughout the entire hotel.

However, I found nothing pretentious about the hotel. The staff are incredibly professional and engaging and top-notch customer service is at the forefront, which only makes the experience that much more enjoyable when you can just relax and let the pros handle your needs and requests.

Equestrian Hotel Accommodations

World Equestrian Center Equestrian Hotel Rooms Standard King Bed overlooking the Grand Arena.
World Equestrian Center Equestrian Hotel Rooms Standard King Bed overlooking the Grand Arena. Photo credit- Ethan Tweedie

The 248-room, five-story, full-service hotel offers a diverse mix of luxurious rooms and suites, many overlooking the Grand Arena, as my king room did.

Grand foyers await guests on each floor. Room interiors reflect a blend of the equestrian lifestyle with haberdashery-style plaids, textured wall coverings and velvet draperies with horse photos adorning the walls.

Rooms are quite spacious with European linens on high-quality beds that make for a restful slumber. Each bathroom offers lighted vanity mirrors, frameless showers and marble interiors. Accommodations also include a separate living and dining room space and a refrigerator that’s stocked with both still and sparkling water.

Hotel Amenities

World Equestrian Center H2W Pool at Sunset.
World Equestrian Center H2W Pool at Sunset. Photo Credit Ethan Tweedie

Guests can enjoy lounging by the zero-entry pool and 24-hour access to the gym and fitness center. Parking is complimentary unless you choose the valet option and high-speed Wi-Fi is included in the room fee.

Those who want more access to the entire WEC property can rent a golf cart on site. For a total relaxation experience, the lovely Calluna Spa and Salon offers five massage rooms with a variety of spa services and body treatments.

Book your stay at The Equestrian Hotel

Dining at The Equestrian Hotel

Stirrups Restaurant

This is fine dining at its best. The refined dining room open for breakfast and dinner overlooks the Grand Arena and serves sustainable Florida seafood dishes, prime steaks and chops, and Southern-inspired seasonal offerings. The wine and cocktail menu is impressive, as is the setting, the cuisine and the service.

I had the chance to dine here for a breakfast and two dinners and each time, I rated the experience an A+.

Breakfast offerings range from healthy fruit and grains to griddle and hearty egg dishes along with a variety of bakery items. I loved starting my day with the Granola Parfait, a creative dish with Greek yogurt cones, granola, local honey and assorted berries.

Dinner entrees feature fascinating starters, soups and salads and sea, land and pasta choices. Though my entrees included an amazing Beef Tenderloin served with a choice of signature sauce and Roasted Diver Scallops with succotash, bacon and Sea Island peas, being with a group of friends meant sharing, so I was able to sample the Ora King Salmon and Jumbo Prawns. Every dish here was divine.

Land entrees do not include sides but if you choose to add one or two, just know that portions are large and meant for sharing.

Yellow Pony Pub & Garden

This laid-back eatery open for lunch and dinner offers guests a fun and festive pub atmosphere with lots of good options to choose from including starters, raw bar items, greens, flatbreads, sandwiches and mains.

Contributing to the all-equestrian experience, many of the bar stools and chairs are real-deal full-size horse saddles – a very cool decorative touch.

Numerous rare bourbons, whiskeys and craft cocktails are available along with an impressive wine list and beverage collection.

My lunch entrée was an absolute treat for a seafood lover as the Premium Ahi Tuna Poke with avocado, radish and wakame (seaweed) salad with ginger soy over sticky rice was so fresh and flavorful.

I selected the Market Fish of the Day for dinner, a Blackened Branzino with grilled mixed vegetables over rice, and oh, did it deliver on quality and presentation.

Whether you dine at Yellow Pony or Stirrups, consider saving a bit of room for dessert as the menus feature some impressive choices and are ideal for sharing.

Emma’s Patisserie

This charming quick-service coffee and pastry shop will tempt you beyond your wildest dreams. The showcase display a tantalizing array of sweets which include European pastries, delightful macarons, gourmet donuts, cookies and cakes of all types.

If you’re looking for a quick pick-up, the refrigerated case has salads and sandwiches to choose from along with a variety of beverages. During my visit, there was always a line out the door, of no surprise.

Other Dining Options

Just outside the hotel within the World Equestrian Center, guests can find a burger and sandwich shop, a Mexican cantina, an Italian kitchen and pizzeria and an ice cream and candy shop to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Shopping in The Equestrian Hotel

High-end shops at the hotel will tempt you to come in and at least browse.

Don’t miss stopping at The Debonair Collection and Equestrian Collection for luxury décor and home products and J. McLaughlin for lifestyle brands.

Rooney’s and John Craig Clothier feature sophisticated fashions for women and men. Even if you’re not into jewelry, stop into Lugano Diamonds to ooh and aah over their stunning collections.

The cutest store of all for both big and little kids alike is Mr. Pickles & Sailor Bear Toy Shoppe. The toy collection here is amazing and you’ll be delighted with the animatronic animals who also talk.

Whether you’re a horse lover or not, a stay at The Equestrian Hotel is a must. With its stunning architecture and design, impeccable customer service, divine dining, amazing shops and world-renowned WEC, this is a place to stay at least once. However, like most wonderful experiences in life, once is never quite enough.

Book your stay at The Equestrian Hotel.

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