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The Horse Capital of the World Simply Bought Its Second Luxurious Lodge — Right here’s What It’s Wish to Keep

Central Florida has a protracted historical past of being neglected by vacationers sure for the Gulf Coast to the west, the Panhandle, and the state’s Atlantic-facing seashores (learn: anyplace with stunning Florida seashores lapped by salt water). However intrepid vacationers seeking to divert from the state’s storied coasts know that to see a few of Florida’s most beautiful, rolling landscapes and ethereally stunning freshwater springs (rivaling Mexico’s cenotes), detouring inland within the Sunshine State is the place it’s at.

And that’s the place The Driving Academy Lodge, sister property to The Equestrian Lodge, enters the image as an idyllic vacation spot for a special Sunshine State trip.

Located within the coronary heart of the state’s horse nation in Ocala (about 90 miles northwest of Orlando), the property had its gentle opening in mid-March of 2024 and formally opened April 1, simply in time for the World Equestrian Middle — the most important equestrian advanced within the U.S., sprawling throughout 400 acres, and the resorts’ house — to host the U.S. qualifier for the Longines League of Nations, a serious equestrian showjumping occasion.

With 390 rooms in comparison with The Equestrian Lodge’s 248 rooms, The Driving Academy is bigger than its sibling and caters squarely to the dog-friendly and family-friendly crowd. (It is also only a 10-minute stroll away by means of the pedestrian-friendly grounds.)

DAVE MILLER/Courtesy of Maven Photograph & Movie

All rooms are pet-friendly, and 250 are outfitted with two queen beds and a settee, making all of it the better to welcome households past two or three individuals.

Whereas The Equestrian Lodge nods to formal, European-inspired aptitude, The Driving Academy, which has a barely cheaper price level, was designed to really feel extra informal, says Rick Owens, the senior designer at Roberts Design Group, which is behind the resort’s very changing into seems.

“We took conventional equestrian motifs however added extra intense hues just like jockey silks — brilliant greens, purples, navy blues, and brilliant butternut colours reflective of saddle leathers,” Owens instructed Journey + Leisure. “The usage of these brighter, robust plaids offers a pop to the darker leather-based sofas and provides a more energizing, extra present really feel.”

Throughout an antiquing journey to a furnishings market in Excessive Level, North Carolina, Owens stated his group noticed an vintage carved picket horse signal behind a store with “Driving Academy” on it.

DAVE MILLER/Courtesy of Maven Photograph & Movie

“We knew it was an indication concerning the resort’s title since we have been initially struggling to consider one thing,” he stated. “What do you title one other property following The Equestrian Lodge? This unbelievable vintage simply actually solidified that.”

There are clear hyperlinks between the 2 properties, in fact — maybe most obvious within the many nods to canines, probably the most beloved pets of the resorts’ proprietor. However whereas oil work of canine portraits dominate The Equestrian Lodge, The Driving Academy’s considerable art work skews extra informal and eccentric, with canines dressed up as jockeys, riders, and professors within the work, prints, and sculptures displayed within the public areas and visitor rooms.

DAVE MILLER/Courtesy of Maven Photograph & Movie

“It has this kind of collegiate yearbook vibe to it that performs into the academy side rather well,” Owens added.

Floor has already been damaged on the street-facing aspect of The Driving Academy for an 80,000-square-foot outside procuring venue to return that may characteristic roughly 30 new outlets, two rooftops, an occasion area, and 4 new eating places, which can begin opening in mid-2025.

For now, come to get pleasure from The Driving Academy’s beneficiant and splendid rooms, beautiful pool, and all of the facilities, eating places, and spa space on supply at The Equestrian Lodge, too — only a scenic stroll (or golf cart tour) away by means of the oak-lined grounds of The World Equestrian Middle. 

Learn on for T+L’s full evaluation of Ocala’s latest luxurious resort.

The Driving Academy Lodge

  •  Visitors can lease golf carts throughout their keep, excellent for zipping round with the children and canines. 
  • The massive pool has a zero-entry space on the far finish for households to play like on a seashore, and there’s a devoted children’ water play space close by. 
  • The vast majority of the rooms are one-bedroom suites with two queen beds and a further couch sleeper in a separate dwelling area, nice for privateness. 
  • The onsite market off the foyer sells Starbucks espresso, connoisseur salads, craft beers, and seltzers, accessible by the can to get pleasure from poolside or in your room. 
  • The large outside fire on the sundeck patio is a gorgeous place to collect come night.

The Rooms

DAVE MILLER/Courtesy of Maven Photograph & Movie

All 390 rooms have wood-like ceramic tile flooring, marble loos with rainwater showers, outsized closets designed to accommodate all of the attire horse individuals usually must journey with, and luxurious Bellino Italian linens on the beds. We’re speaking severe room to unfold out in these lodging, too, with the smallest amongst them (a king studio) sprawling throughout 439 sq. ft. A two-bedroom suite is greater than 1,100 sq. ft.

Additionally, a perk for the canine-loving equestrian set: In contrast to its older sibling, all rooms on the Driving Academy Lodge are dog-friendly for a one-time payment of $100 per canine as much as 75 kilos.

DAVE MILLER/Courtesy of Maven Photograph & Movie

Of the rooms, 250 are one-bedroom suites with two queen beds and a separate pull-out couch in one other room that may be closed off with a door, accommodating six individuals — hiya, massive households! Playful art work incorporates animals: canines dressed as jockeys, chinchillas parading atop zebras, you title it. There are refined equestrian touches, too, corresponding to Ralph Lauren stirrup sconces, customized trophy lamps, and customized leatherwork on throw pillows harking back to a bridle and reins. In-room espresso makers and Sub-Zero mini-fridges spherical out the residential touches.

Meals and Drink

For now, there’s just one onsite meals choice at The Driving Academy, a connoisseur market, which is an effective choice for a lightweight breakfast or lunch to go. Hit The Tack Room, proper off the foyer, for Starbucks espresso drinks, grab-and-go charcuterie platters, connoisseur salads, and a gentle serve machine the children will beg to hit each time you stroll in. You’ll be able to order breakfast objects on the counter, together with smoked salmon, bagels, avocado toast, cinnamon rolls, croissants, quiche, and English muffin sandwiches. From 11 a.m. onward, nachos, chorizo flatbreads, baked hen wings, Bavarian pretzels, and smoked brisket grilled cheese sandwiches are additionally accessible.

Visitors at The Driving Academy can stroll or request a complimentary shuttle to succeed in The Equestrian Lodge and the eating choices scattered round The World Equestrian Middle that embrace Mexican and Italian counter-service eating places, Filo’s Mexican Cantina and Viola & Dot’s; an cute sweet and ice cream store referred to as Miss Tillly’s Lollipops; Ralph’s Burger & Sandwich Store; and extra upscale choices just like the pub-style Yellow Pony and steakhouse and seafood restaurant, Stirrups. Don’t miss bringing the household to Emma’s Patisserie for a candy deal with within the type of freshly baked macarons and different beautiful European-inspired pastries and sandwiches. 

Actions and Facilities

DAVE MILLER/Courtesy of Maven Photograph & Movie

Loads of lounge chairs encompass The Driving Academy’s freeform swimming pool, which is on the coronary heart of the resort in an outsized courtyard full with a separate water splash space for youths and an outside fire that’s a stunning place to collect within the evenings. Two health facilities on-site at The Driving Academy have all the fashionable gear and free weights you want.

Visitors even have entry to the pool at The Equestrian Lodge, surrounded by stunning oak timber and residential to an onsite cafe and bar referred to as Horse to Water, the place the Palomino punches, Mai Tais, and frozen cocktails circulate.

Renting a golf cart from the resort’s fleet is a enjoyable method to set out exploring your entire property, shaded with old-growth reside oak timber, and the place there’s normally some horse occasion or one other taking place at one of many many arenas. Of the beautiful close by freshwater springs to discover inside a half-hour drive of the resort, bookmark Rainbow Springs State Park, which is great for swimming, and Silver Springs State Park, excellent for a ship cruise down the river. Each have waters teeming with fish and turtles that appear to glow turquoise from inside.

The Spa

Whereas there’s no spa onsite at The Driving Academy, friends can ebook sizzling stone massages, collagen-boosting facials, decadent wraps, pedicures, hair styling, and extra at The Equestrian Lodge’s 7,000-square-foot Calluna Spa, embellished in shades of purple as an ode to lavender. The spa’s 5 remedy rooms embrace one designed for {couples}, and there’s a full-service hair salon onsite. 

Household-friendly Choices 

The World Equestrian Middle’s walkability and frequent schedule of occasions — they go all out for the vacations, together with Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Christmas, Easter, and extra — make staying at The Driving Academy family-friendly by nature.  Youngsters love the soft-serve ice cream machines and an enormous array of ice cream sandwiches and popsicles on the market within the Tack Room, which they will seize and produce outdoors to get pleasure from at The Driving Academy’s colossal pool. And the children’ splash pad space, embellished with colourful outsized critters, is its solely little watery wonderland to discover collectively, too. 

Accessibility and Sustainability

The property options ADA-accessible resort rooms with roll-in showers and lodging for hearing- and visually-impaired friends. Greater than 700 reside oak timber have been planted since building started on the 400-acre property, and if any have to return down, two extra are replanted to exchange them. To preserve water, the World Equestrian Middle doesn’t irrigate turf areas past the Saint Augustine turf grass. All flowers on the property are from the proprietor’s farm, which grows greater than 650,000 annual flowers yearly — a mean of 90,000 annuals are planted onsite on the WEC annually.


Onsite at The World Equestrian Middle, on the east finish of the property that’s being newly developed, The Driving Academy is only a 10-minute stroll or three-minute golf cart journey throughout the advanced from The Equestrian Lodge. Ocala could be reached in about 90 minutes (roughly 90 miles) from Orlando Worldwide Airport to the southeast. You’re greatest off renting a automobile when you don’t arrive right here in your individual car to take advantage of exploring the encircling area’s freshwater springs and the gorgeous downtown district of Ocala, about 10 miles (20 minutes) away, brimming with eating places, breweries, and outlets of its personal.

Easy methods to Get the Most Worth Out of Your Keep

Rooms at The Driving Academy hover at a cheaper price level than these at The Equestrian Lodge. However you’ll wish to make sure you plan your keep round any main horse present collection’ when you’re not coming for these occasions (test the occasions calendar). Usually, off-peak months when room charges fall are Could, early June, late August, and September.

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