Looking for the best things to do in Orillia, the gateway to Ontario cottage country?
Our Orillia Attractions guide is the perfect resource for visitors or residents keen to discover the province’s friendly Lake Country region.
Read on to discover the history of tourism in Orillia, the best Orillia hotels, popular annual Orillia festivals and a list of the top fun things to do in Orillia on a weekend getaway.
The four seasons resort is one of the best weekend getaways from Toronto, offering Winter skiing and snowmobiling, Summer water sports and beautiful Autumn hikes!
Before planning a trip to Orillia please check the local health authority guidelines to ensure you’re traveling Covid safe. We suggest contacting local businesses in advance to confirm if they are open as hours might have changed.
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How To Get To Orillia
Orillia is considered the gateway to Ontario cottage country.
As a little kid my parents would drive from our homes in Markham or Oakville to Muskoka and I would always know when we had arrived in Orillia once we drove under the famous orange bridge straddling the highway.
The bridge was built to accomodate the throngs of hungry families that stop for a bite at Orillia’s most famous restaurant, Webers. The iconic restaurant is housed in vintage railcars and specializes in charcoal barbecued beef burgers.
Orillia is located just 90 minutes from Toronto so it’s the perfect weekend getaway for couples, friends or families looking to enjoy the great outdoors.
Orillia Attractions History
Orillia was first a native reservation dating back to 1830. White settlers pushed the Chippewa out to Rama across the lake and began buying up building lots in what is now the downtown area in 1839, taking on the name “Orillia” for the village. It was incorporated as a village in 1867 (pop. 800) and as a town in 1874 (pop. 2000) and as a city in 1969 (pop. 21,000).
Local historian Dave Town shared, “In the mid-1850’s the lumber industry started in Orillia and by 1867 there were three sawmills on the waterfront driving the economy. After the railways came in 1871 and 1873 the town rapidly diversified into tanneries, wagon-makers/blacksmiths, and all sorts of mercantile enterprises. By the 1890’s foundries and manufacturers were becoming the dominant economic driver so that by 1905 Orillia was known as the principle industrial town north of Toronto.”
Orillia experienced a tourism boom thanks to the two railways: Northern Ontario in 1871 and the Midland in 1873. Town explained, “The Northern bought all of Couchiching Point and built an enormous 300-room luxury hotel there in an effort to attract tourists and boost use of the railway. It had its own railway station stop and attracted many famous guests including the Governor General, Lord Dufferin, General Sherman of Civil War fame and Oliver Mowat, the Premier of Ontario.”
Tourism unofficially exploded after 1900. In 1896 the town purchased the vacated asylum and its wonderful waterfront and gardens to develop a park. Couchiching Park, after a decade of development, was opened in 1907 and still operates today. The two railways heavily promoted the park as a tourist destination for day trips, again to boost rail ticket sales, with great success. In 1907 over 10,000 tourists visited the park by rail that summer. Tourism became a central focus of the town council after 1920 when the factories began closing. That’s when Orillia began calling itself The Sunshine Town, after Stephen Leacock’s famous book about Orillia, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, which was originally published in 1912,” said Town.
Today, the city of Orillia is in the middle of a massive development of its waterfront and downtown, with a close eye on tourism. Part of a mall is being knocked down to create better access to the waterfront and many acres of development sites are being prepared to accomodate tourism features.
Best Orillia Hotels
There are accommodation options in Orillia to fit every budget. Here are three of our favourite Orillia hotels and resorts.
- The Champlain Waterfront: Orillia’s best boutique hotel offers chic suites, complimentary breakfast and fitness centre. The pet friendly hotel is located a short walk from Orillia’s boardwalk. Check Reviews.
- Fern Resort: If you’re looking for a family friendly lakeside retreat this resort on Lake Simcoe is your best bet. The all-seasons resort offers an outdoor pool in the summer and skating in the winter. Check Reviews.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites: This affordable Marriott property offers an indoor pool and complimentary breakfast. Check Reviews.
Best Orillia Festivals
If you’re researching the best things to do in Orillia you might want to plan your visit around a popular annual festival or event.
- Mariposa Folk Festival in July: considered the ‘Grand Dame’ of folk festivals, the Mariposa Folk Festival is one of the most iconic music festivals in Canada, hosted on the shores of Lake Couchiching, for a weekend of music, arts and culture. From roots in the 60s folk era, the festival has grown to feature world class creators and performers of folk, roots, blues, gospel, acoustic and world music traditions in a beautiful, family-friendly setting.
- Orillia Waterfront Festival in August: features an in-water boat show with 250 boats at the Port of Orillia showcasing new, dealer trade and select brokerage models. With vendors and exhibitors offering everything from boating accessories to cottage and outdoors products. Family fun events and activities including exciting water ski shows and the hilarious Cardboard Boat Race.
- Starry Night Studio & Gallery Tour in August: explore the Peter Street Arts District and Mississaga Street where artists open up their studios and galleries, along with street vendors, musicians, and pop-up public art.
- Downtown Orillia Classic Car Show in August: a jaw-dropping collection of over 400 classic cars line Orillia’s downtown streets. Enjoy live entertainment, great dining, shopping and the largest car show in the region.
Fun Attractions & Things To Do In Orillia
Planning a road trip with friends, looking to book a romantic getaway or an active outdoor adventure with family? There are plenty of fun Orillia attractions to experience over a weekend.
Orillia’s restaurant scene has enjoyed a boom over the last decade as city slickers have moved here to swap tiny condos for the joy of spacious backyard living.
If you’re visiting on a weekend getaway you can easily ensure every meal is a memorable one by reviewing our detailed Orillia Restaurant Guide.
The city offers everything from romantic fine dining, cute cafes, mouth-watering bakeries, thirst-quenching craft breweries and cozy brunch joints.
Most of the restaurants in Orillia can be found along Mississaga Street East downtown and towards the city’s beautiful waterfront. Other popular local eateries are a short drive away along Memorial Avenue or across Lake Couchiching at Casino Rama.
5899 Rama Rd, 1-800-832-7529
One of the best things to do in Orillia for adults is a day trip or weekend getaway to Casino Rama.
The entertainment complex features a luxury hotel, spa, casino, live theatre and restaurants. The Chippewas of Rama First Nation and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation launched the popular Casino in Orillia in July, 1996.
The resort consists of a 289-room hotel, a world-class casino with a 192,000 sq ft floor, a 5,000-seat Entertainment Centre, and ten restaurants. The casino features 2500 slot machines and 110 table games.
We suggest booking a trip to Casino Rama around its entertainment schedule. Previous artists who have graced the stage include Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill, Gloria Estefan, Jewel, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys, Olivia Newton John, Tony Bennett, Michael Bolton, Jeff Foxworthy and Jay Leno.
Couchiching Beach Park
140 Canice St, 705-329-7250
Are you a nature lover looking for fun-in-the-sun Orillia attractions?
Couchiching Beach Park includes the town dock and sandy beach areas that attract many to Orillia each summer. This 14.5-acre park is home to many special events and features the historic Champlain Monument.
The Rotary Train, run by the Rotary Club of Orillia, is stationed at Couchiching Beach Park and brings joy to visitors in the summer months. It starts running around the end of June until the beginning of September on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. It also runs on holiday Mondays.
A stone’s throw from downtown Orillia, the city’s pretty waterfront is also home to French’s Hot Dog Stand, which first opened on June 3, 1920. The city’s most historic eatery once welcomed famous humorist Stephen Leacock.
Other amenities at Couchiching Beach Park include Aqua Theatre, swimming beach, flower gardens, outdoor skating rink, picnic tables, bandstand, pavilions, washrooms, fountains, and kayak rentals provided by A Breath of Fresh Air.
50 Centennial Dr, 705-326-6314
The Port of Orillia, also known as the Jewel of the Trent, is a huge draw each summer to boat lovers.
Thousands of boats dock at the Port of Orillia each year, enjoying a special stop on a voyage through the historic 386 km Trent-Severn Waterway.
If you’re planning a boating journey through Orillia we suggest taking advantage of the city’s unique Dock & Dine program. If you’re shopping, dining or attending an event or festival, you can access Downtown Orillia easily by water.
Simply tune in your radio to Channel 68, contact the Port of Orillia and a dock attendant will direct you to a space along the seawall or on the docks. Register with the Port office and they’ll provide you with up to 3 hours of free moorage (hydro and water not included) with proof of purchase from any Downtown Orillia merchant.
50 Museum Dr, 705-329-1908
History buffs researching the best things to do in Orillia should be sure to visit the Stephen Leacock Museum.
For over fifty years the Leacock Museum has been welcoming visitors to the Old Brewery Bay on the shores of Lake Couchiching.
The stately, 19-room summer home represents Stephen Leacock’s lifetime love affair with Orillia, a town he immortalized as the mythical Mariposa in his quintessential best-seller Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.
The two-storey wood-frame building was designed in the Arts and Crafts style by architect Kenneth Noxon and constructed in 1928.
Included in the sprawling 10 acre site are Leacock House, the Boathouse, and the museum archives and administration building. Don’t forget to stop by the Leacock Cafe and enjoy a sip and nibble.
The museum grounds feature gardens and trails such as the Orillia Millenium Trail or the Lightfoot Trail that travels throughout Orillia along the waterfront.
4500 Fairgrounds Rd, 705-427-3885
If you’re a foodie putting together an Orillia attractions list be sure to visit the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.
The Orillia Farmers’ Market is one of the longest running farmers’ markets in Ontario, with its roots dating back to 1842 when it first operated on the waterfront.
Today Orillia hosts two farmers markets. If you’ve got a car we suggest driving to the fairgrounds location. If you’re visiting Orillia and exploring the downtown on foot the location near the Opera House and Public Library is your best bet.
It’s here you’ll meet over 60 friendly vendors from local farmers, fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, honey, artisans and live music!
The Orillia Farmers’ Market is open for in person shopping every Saturday from 8am – 12:30pm.
109 Mississaga St E, 705-325-8885
Mariposa Market is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in Orillia for those looking to enjoy a snack while window shopping.
Take a stroll through 3 historic shops that include Orillia’s most celebrated bakery, cafe and boutique selling well-known fashion accessories, handmade soaps, candles and more.
Downtown Orillia’s most visited market is famous for its mouth-watering pastries, cakes and pies. The cafe is a perfect spot to indulge in a frothy latte before going on a morning stroll. You’ll also find great gift ideas from cookware to fancy fashions.
30 Peter St S, 705-326-2159
The Orillia Museum of Art & History (OMAH) is a hub of culture and heritage located in the heart of Orillia’s Peter Street Arts District.
The clock tower of the Sir Samuel Steele Memorial Building is a landmark that notes the gallery’s historical location. For ten years OMAH has been inspiring creativity and celebrating history, growing as a hub for local artists and historians.
Visit the Orillia Museum of Art and History and check out it’s rotating exhibits located on the first two floors. The museum also offers historical walking tours, which you can book in advance.
20 Mississaga St W, 705-326-8011
Orillia Opera House is located in a historic building originally constructed in 1895.
The Richardsonian Romanesque building replaced the city’s first permanent town hall, originally erected in 1874 to house the city council and local jail.
The Opera House, known for its fine acoustics, has featured such artists as the Marx Brothers, Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson, k.d. lang, Mickey Rooney, Blue Rodeo, Serena Ryder, and celebrated hometown boy, Gordon Lightfoot.
Fans of the Canadian music legend can snap a picture with Gordon Lightfoot at the front entrance of the Opera House.
285 Memorial Ave, 705-259-7500
Researching the best things to do in Orillia on a rainy or cold day? If you’re looking for indoor fun head to Orillia Bowl, the city’s only 18 lane bowling alley.
The business is owned and managed by Kathy and Andy, who reopened the newly renovated bowling alley in May, 2013.
Beyond 5 pin bowling guests can also book birthday parties, treats at the snack bar, and a pool table.
Orillia Bowl is open Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tuesday mornings cater to seniors while Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings get fun for kids with Glow-in-the-Dark Bowling.
Lanes rent for $35.99 an hour, $4 shoe rental and accomodate up to 4 people per lane.
Peter Street Art District
Orillia’s Arts District is located on Peter Street South in the heart of Downtown Orillia.
Each year local businesses support homegrown artists by sponsoring a thematic street art festival. During our visit in 2021 Orillia’s downtown was dotted with creatively adorned vintage cars. Previous installments in the annual art series include decorative doors, gorgeous guitars and decorative chairs.
The Peter Street Art District is home to several art galleries, art shops and artist studios. The hub of Orillia’s creative community is put on display a few times a year during fun organized art crawls.
4442 Fairgrounds Rd, 705-326-1444
Looking for the best things to do in Orillia for a romantic date night or fun afternoon with the kids?
Orillia and District Agricultural Society’s Roller Skating Place is the only existing roller rink north of Toronto!
In its 35th year of operation, this year round attraction is a ton of fun for families, couples or anyone looking to dive into vintage roller skating culture.
The sprawling space features 15,675 sq feet of exhibition space, roller skating floor, onsite skate rental and party room for birthdays or special celebrations.
11 Mississaga St E, Orillia, ON L3V 1V4
Dawn Nita is the founder, owner and Chief Chocolatier of DWN Craft Chocolatier. The Orillia chocolate shop started production in November 2020 and started selling in February 2021.
Nita shared, “The goal of opening my own chocolate factory has been percolating for the past five years. My family has been living in Orillia for the last 40 years and I moved here from Toronto in May, 2020 to spend time with my mother. The pandemic continued and I decided to stay in Orillia so I began to work on my business and look for a production space.”
Nita worked in the food industry for 15 years and began her first pastry job 2 years after graduating from culinary school. “I worked my way to Pastry Chef at Jamie Kennedy Kitchens and when I was ready to leave that position I wanted to specialize in either bread or chocolate. I chose chocolate because it has better hours than bread making. I got a job at SOMA chocolatemaker in Toronto and ran the company’s production for almost 5 years. My next job was at CXBO (Chocolates X Brandon Olsen) in the role of Head Chocolatier where I also ran production and R&D for the company.”
DWN Chocolatier’s top seller are Neapolitan Malt Balls. The malt ball centre is the ice cream cone that is then coated with a layer of white chocolate, then milk chocolate then strawberry chocolate.
Nita added, “I try to use seasonal Ontario products and local ingredients. I make a vegan white chocolate bar using freeze-dried Niagara strawberries and sumac that I harvested and dried last summer near my house.”
Chocolate lovers looking for the best things to do in Orillia should march over to DWN’s new retail store, which opened its doors in July, 2021.
Be sure to read all the descriptions on each bag and bar as they’ll make you giggle. Nita explained that they are all meant to evoke a feeling and they certainly made us smile!
Favourites include, “A slow stroll through the garden on a fresh summer morning,” and “Slipping into a warm bubble bath after a long day.”
138 Mississaga St E, 705-259-8700
Anchored with beautiful handmade furniture from The Northern Joinery, The Makers Market embraces the creativity and quality offered by many local artisans. Because the items sold here are of high quality and unique in nature, the Maker’s Market offers a one of a kind shopping experience in downtown Orillia.
The shop’s interior features an awesome collection of beautifully crafted wood tables by Dave Shaw. You’ll also find high quality gift ideas produced by local Ontario makers including pottery, preserves, candles, gift cards and fancy fashions.
18 Mississaga St E, 705-259-3261
If you’re a fan of sustainable shopping and proudly call yourself an environmental advocate you’ll love shopping at Refillery District.
At this eco-conscious refillery, customers can bring their own reusable containers and fill up on over 300+ products. The shop offersplanet friendly household tools, handcrafted soaps, whole foods, local and organic produce, ethical meats, eggs, dairy and dairy alternatives.
If you’re planning a picnic, hike or camping trip pop into Refillery District to mix and match your favourite seeds, nuts and granola to create your very own trail mix.
1101 Horseshoe Valley Rd W, 705-835-2790
Horseshoe Resort is a four seasons resort located between Orillia and Barrie.
The family friendly Ontario ski and golf resort offers four seasons of fun for those looking to enjoy an adventure in the great outdoors.
the Oro-Medonte Resort features 29 alpine ski and snowboard runs, 30 kms of groomed double track set Nordic trails, terrain park, snow tubing, snowshoeing, fat biking, golfing, man-made lake, wakeboard cable park, indoor and outdoor pools, treetop trekking, Yamaha Adventures, hiking and biking trails, two restaurants and luxurious Amba Spa.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Orillia in the winter we suggest booking a day pass to enjoy Horseshoe Resort’s many snow savvy experiences.
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