Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Equestrian Lodge: The Final Luxurious Resort in Florida’s Horse Nation

If you happen to love horses, probably you’ve already heard of the World Equestrian Heart. It’s the biggest equestrian heart on this hemisphere, spanning some 380 acres in Ocala, Florida, just a bit over an hour north of Orlando. The property has its personal fuel station, common retailer, chapel, laundromat, retailers, and 23 arenas the place you’ll discover all the things from volleyball tournaments to automotive reveals to concert events. And horse reveals. Tons and plenty of horse reveals.

However whereas Ocala and Marion County are well-known because the Horse Capital of the World, the WEC isn’t only for equine fans. Due to The Equestrian Lodge, which opened in 2021, it’s a vacation spot for riders and their households in addition to on a regular basis of us trying to take pleasure in its signature model of luxurious.

Curious? Verify into The Equestrian to see what it’s all about. Right here’s a sneak peek inside.

Luxurious Aptitude and Effervescent Enjoyable

World Equestrian Heart Foyer at Evening. Picture Credit score: Ethan Tweedie

Once you enter the lodge’s luxurious foyer, you already know you’re in for a deal with. There’s an unmistakable sense of stylish: hovering ceiling, glittering chandeliers, the gleam of mahogany and porcelain. A grand piano performs softly within the nook whereas the scent of fresh-cut flowers wafts ever so delicately by the air.

One factor that can undoubtedly catch your eye, and definitely delight any youngsters in your get together, is the paintings lining the partitions. They’re dozens of portraits of canines. The well-bred pups add a refined allure to the grand room. Certainly, it’s this juxtaposition — studied magnificence with a touch of caprice — that’s discovered all through the resort, making it in contrast to anyplace else I’ve ever stayed. 

Living proof, as I turned down the hallway, passing Lugano Diamonds, the place bespoke jewellery sparkled within the home windows, I got here to an outsized pink teddy bear sitting beneath a portray of an eagle carrying a swimsuit. This space of the lodge was designed particularly with kids in thoughts, however extra on this under.

Creature Comforts

World Equestrian Heart VP Suite. Picture Credit score: Ethan Tweedie

The rooms present simply as a lot consideration to element, from the interlocking bridle sample within the hallway right down to the bit handles on the nightstands. The lavatory, particularly, with its marble flooring, frameless bathe with two bathe heads, and luxurious cleaning soap and hair care merchandise from the on-site Calluna Spa. On the finish of a busy day, falling into the European linens on the plush mattress was bliss. And I may solely think about what the view from our room overlooking the 145,000-square-foot Grand Enviornment can be like with horses and riders leaping hurdles under.

There’s equestrian and animal artwork on the partitions within the rooms and all through the lodge. On the seating space simply off the elevator, for instance, there’s artwork that rotates out. Once I acquired off on the second ground and observed the fashion of artwork was totally different than on our ground, I visited each subsequent ground to see it. It’s cool. And the health heart, which we used, was very nice.

Talking of consolation, the spa, additionally on the second ground, is the proper place for pampering. They do every kind of massages in addition to hair styling, skincare, manicures and pedicures with periods as temporary as 50 minutes or so long as 5.5 hours when you so select.

Eating on the World Equestrian Heart

Emma’s Patisserie. Picture Credit score: Ethan Tweedie

There are eight eating places on the property with extra on the way in which. The present lineup contains:

  • Stirrups Restaurant, the advantageous eating possibility on the bottom ground of the lodge
  • Yellow Pony Pub & Backyard, that includes a horseshoe-shaped bar the place beer, bourbons, whiskeys, and cocktails move freely and reside music performs on patio
  • Emma’s Patisserie, each French and acquainted sweets (like doughnuts) plus breakfast sandwiches
  • Horse to Water Pool & Bar, for poolside drinks and snacks like a virgin daiquiri and a tuna quinoa energy bowl
  • Filo’s Mexican Cantina, serving Mexican favorites, together with breakfast, in an off-the-cuff indoor and outside venue
  • Viola & Dot’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria, by the slice or by the pie
  • Ralph’s Burger & Sandwich Store, the place you may’t go mistaken with a burger, shake, and fries
  • Miss Tilly’s Lollipops, for ice cream cones and home made fudge with old-timey candy store vibes

I attempted the primary three on this listing, starting with Stirrups — and what a starting it was! This Southern steakhouse focuses on prime steaks and chops in addition to recent Florida seafood, and the grasp sommelier might help you discover the proper pairing in your meal from 6,000 bottles of wine.

Stirrups Restaurant. Picture Credit score:  MAVEN Picture+Movie

Dinner right here is an expertise, not in contrast to the competitions within the Grand Enviornment, which the restaurant’s terrace overlooks. Like an occasion unfolding in acts, every course makes you excited for the subsequent. We started with an amuse bouche from the chef, a heat chunk of freshly made agnolotti. Then biscuits and rolls got here with honey butter and blueberry jam. Bread is one among my love languages, and people rolls have been beautiful.

I attempted the soup of the day, a corn bisque that was simply probably the most surprisingly memorable dish I had the entire weekend, shiny and summery with layers of taste I couldn’t determine however didn’t have to as I savored my bowl. The scallops I ordered have been pleasantly massive and completely scrumptious as was my husband’s burger. The dessert, advisable by our server, was a masterful mix of taste and artistry: a mousse injected with gelée and dipped in white chocolate, styled to seem like a complete lemon. 

The Yellow Pony, the subsequent evening, was rather more informal. It is a place for convivial dialog and drinks late into the evening (they’re open until a minimum of midnight daily). I can think about jockeys swapping suggestions or John Travolta, who’s been recognized to cease in, grabbing a saddle seat at a excessive high.

Yellow Pony Pub & Backyard. Picture Credit score: Ethan Tweedie

They are saying their starters are shareable, and that’s no exaggeration. The smooth pretzel appetizer was the scale of my head, and the perimeters are beneficiant too — my lobster mac and cheese was creamy and decadent, and I used to be glad to separate it. The menu stars burgers, but it surely’s rounded out with world fare like fish and chips, flatbread, a bao bun, poke and extra. I wanted one thing veggie-centric after my indulgence the earlier evening, so the Cobb salad with avocado, peas and corn was good. Be sure you ask what their pie of the week is. Or you may’t go mistaken with the citrus and berry crumble.

After which there’s Emma’s Patisserie. If you happen to don’t go to Stirrups and order the epic Florida Citrus talked about above, strive one of many fruit mousse confections at this counter-service store. Like each different dessert on the lodge, every merchandise was conceived by their on-site French pastry chef. They use the very best elements, like butter imported from France, to create a glistening pastry case to rival the wares at Lugano Diamonds throughout the hallway (effectively, relying in your proclivities — it did for me).

Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart. Picture Credit score: Cheryl Rodewig

Throughout breakfast, they’ve sandwiches on biscuits, bagels, or croissants. Go for the croissants and assume you’ll need a minimum of a pair pastries, perhaps an entremet or macaron. Order just a few in your get together and encourage sharing. It’s finest with a latte. Seize-and-go choices like salads and sandwiches spherical out the menu. 

Particularly for Households

Toy Store. Picture Credit score: Ethan Tweedie

This all may sound very fancy, and it’s. However the resort’s creators have been considering of their grandchildren all through its inception, and that shines by in particular touches of playfulness all ages will take pleasure in.

Listed below are just a few we cherished:

  • Mr. Pickles & Sailor Bear Toy Shoppe, the emporium of your childhood goals with an particularly huge number of collectable Breyer Horses
  • The 15-foot Geoffrey the Giraffe from the FAO Schwarz flagship retailer in NYC, situated contained in the toy store 
  • A big singing bear and roaring lion, additionally within the store (Sure, they’re on the market.)
  • Rainbow candies and colourful murals at Miss Tilly’s Lollipops
  • An animal-themed splash pad subsequent to the zero-entry pool
  • Topiaries formed like a dragon, bear, elephants, and extra
  • Youngsters’ actions at particular occasions, just like the inflatables and yard video games on the WEC Spring Pageant the weekend we visited

World Equestrian Heart Splash Pad. Picture Credit score: Ethan Tweedie

There are additionally extra lodging choices on the property, together with an RV park and absolutely furnished House Away From House leases good for big households. Subsequent 12 months, a brand new lodge is opening on the WEC that can provide much more rooms for households at totally different worth factors, broadening your choices.

Occasions and Actions

Oktoberfest. Picture Credit score: MAVEN photograph+movie

Earlier than you go, examine the calendar to see what’s on. It may be Arabian horses one weekend and girls in extravagant hats one other for Derby Day. There’s a lot of canine reveals in addition to horse reveals — equestrian occasions are probably the most frequent in season throughout summer season, fall, and winter. Most of the occasions are free to attend, though if you need the very best seat in the home for the Grand Enviornment, reserve a desk on the terrace at Stirrups. That is additionally the go-to spot for the Mom’s Day and Father’s Day brunch.

If it’s St. Patrick’s Day or every other vacation, you may virtually assure they’ll have one thing occurring. There are artwork reveals, spa reveals, bull driving, highschool marching band performances, and extra, relying on the day. Throughout Christmas, they placed on a gala Winter Wonderland.

If you happen to really feel like purchasing, you may browse greater than 25 boutiques on the WEC. There’s additionally a golf course subsequent door at Golden Ocala. Otherwise you may cease by the statue of Sgt. Reckless to be taught in regards to the Marine Corps mare’s navy service.

Even when you simply tour the grounds and gardens, maybe selecting up a rainbow lollipop the scale of your head at Miss Tilly’s, it’s a pleasing option to spend the day.

In regards to the Creator

Cheryl Rodewig is storyteller, marketer, and award-winning function author specializing in journey. Her Venn diagram contains minimalism, waterfalls, French, and the em sprint. Discover her at or on Twitter at @cherylrodewig.

Function Picture Credit score: MAVEN Picture+Movie









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