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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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

Central Florida has an extended historical past of being neglected by vacationers certain 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 trying to divert from the state’s storied coasts know that to see a few of Florida’s most attractive, 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 mushy opening in mid-March of 2024 and formally opened April 1, simply in time for the World Equestrian Heart — the biggest equestrian complicated within the U.S., sprawling throughout 400 acres, and the accommodations’ dwelling — 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 lodge’s very turning into appears to be like.

“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, sturdy plaids provides a pop to the darker leather-based sofas and offers a brisker, extra present really feel.”

Throughout an antiquing journey to a furnishings market in Excessive Level, North Carolina, Owens stated his crew 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 in regards to the lodge’s identify since we have been initially struggling to think about one thing,” he stated. “What do you identify 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 accommodations’ 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 type of collegiate yearbook vibe to it that performs into the academy facet rather well,” Owens added.

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

For now, come to take pleasure in The Driving Academy’s beneficiant and splendid rooms, attractive 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 Heart. 

Learn on for T+L’s full overview of Ocala’s latest luxurious lodge.

The Driving Academy Lodge

  •  Company can hire golf carts throughout their keep, good for zipping round with the children and canines. 
  • The large pool has a zero-entry space on the far finish for households to play like on a seaside, and there’s a devoted youngsters’ water play space close by. 
  • The vast majority of the rooms are one-bedroom suites with two queen beds and an extra couch sleeper in a separate residing area, nice for privateness. 
  • The onsite market off the foyer sells Starbucks espresso, gourmand salads, craft beers, and seltzers, accessible by the can to take pleasure in poolside or in your room. 
  • The massive out of doors hearth 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 bogs with rainwater showers, outsized closets designed to accommodate all of the attire horse individuals typically 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: Not like its older sibling, all rooms on the Driving Academy Lodge are dog-friendly for a one-time charge 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 identify it. There are refined equestrian touches, too, reminiscent of 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 gourmand market, which is an efficient choice for a light-weight breakfast or lunch to go. Hit The Tack Room, proper off the foyer, for Starbucks espresso drinks, grab-and-go charcuterie platters, gourmand salads, and a mushy serve machine the children will beg to hit each time you stroll in. You’ll be able to order breakfast gadgets 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 rooster wings, Bavarian pretzels, and smoked brisket grilled cheese sandwiches are additionally accessible.

Company at The Driving Academy can stroll or request a complimentary shuttle to achieve The Equestrian Lodge and the eating choices scattered round The World Equestrian Heart that embody Mexican and Italian counter-service eating places, Filo’s Mexican Cantina and Viola & Dot’s; an lovely sweet and ice cream store known 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 attractive 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 lodge in an outsized courtyard full with a separate water splash space for teenagers and an out of doors hearth that’s a stunning place to collect within the evenings. Two health facilities on-site at The Driving Academy have all the fashionable tools and free weights you want.

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

Renting a golf cart from the lodge’s fleet is a enjoyable option to set out exploring all the property, shaded with old-growth dwell oak timber, and the place there’s often some horse occasion or one other taking place at one of many many arenas. Of the attractive close by freshwater springs to discover inside a half-hour drive of the lodge, bookmark Rainbow Springs State Park, which is superb for swimming, and Silver Springs State Park, good 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, visitors can e book sizzling stone massages, collagen-boosting facials, decadent wraps, pedicures, hair styling, and extra at The Equestrian Lodge’s 7,000-square-foot Calluna Spa, adorned in shades of purple as an ode to lavender. The spa’s 5 therapy rooms embody one designed for {couples}, and there’s a full-service hair salon onsite. 

Household-friendly Choices 

The World Equestrian Heart’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.  Children 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’ll seize and produce outdoors to take pleasure in at The Driving Academy’s colossal pool. And the children’ splash pad space, adorned with colourful outsized critters, is its solely little watery wonderland to discover collectively, too. 

Accessibility and Sustainability

The property options ADA-accessible lodge rooms with roll-in showers and lodging for hearing- and visually-impaired visitors. Greater than 700 dwell oak timber have been planted since development 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 Heart 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 median of 90,000 annuals are planted onsite on the WEC annually.


Onsite at The World Equestrian Heart, 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 experience throughout the complicated from The Equestrian Lodge. Ocala could be reached in about 90 minutes (roughly 90 miles) from Orlando Worldwide Airport to the southeast. You’re finest off renting a automotive in the event you don’t arrive right here in your individual automobile to take advantage of exploring the encompassing area’s freshwater springs and the gorgeous downtown district of Ocala, about 10 miles (20 minutes) away, brimming with eating places, breweries, and retailers of its personal.

The best way 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 remember to plan your keep round any main horse present sequence’ in the event you’re not coming for these occasions (examine the occasions calendar). Basically, off-peak months when room charges fall are Could, early June, late August, and September.

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