Orillia Ontario Lake

Best Things to Do in Orillia (2023)

Looking for things to do in Orillia? You’re in the right place.

Orillia, Ontario is known as the gateway to cottage country in northern Ontario, the first town in North America to introduce Daylight Savings time, and having one of the longest-running farmer’s markets in the province.

Needless to say, Orillia is an interesting town with a lot of hidden gems. Located just 90 minutes north of Toronto, Orillia’s population of 32,000 makes it a mid-size town, with things to do that include outdoor activities, interesting museums, markets and famous festivals.

Living only an hour from Orillia, I’ve been here countless times for events and to visit friends. I’ve also consulted fellow Canadian travel blogger Kim Gervais from Explore Your Bucket List on the best things to do in Orillia.

Whether you live in Orillia, are moving there, or just stopping by to or from northern locations like Algonquin Park, then I can assure you that its worth a day or two exploring Orillia. This article will provide you with the best things to do in Orillia, year round.

So, let’s jump in – things to do in Orillia!

Things to Do in Orillia

Whether you’re looking to spend time outdoors in the natural beauty that surrounds Orillia, attend special events and festivals, or learn some fascinating local history, Orillia has a lot of things to do

1. Enjoy a day at Couchiching Beach Park

This is a very popular park of 14 acres in Orillia that is a meeting place for many. There are sandy beach areas, and the town dock is located close by where people can arrive by boat. On any given day you will see many visitors enjoying the wide-open area of the parkland. Many people come here to walk, play games in the park, or have a picnic.

Couchiching Beach Park

Couchiching Beach Park is the location of many summer festivals and houses the Rotary Train. A family favourite, the train carries passengers around the park on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12:00pm-5:00pm.

2. Take in views at the Port of Orillia

The Port of Orillia is the marina of Orillia, and its located at Couchiching Beach Park. There is a maintained boardwalk for a nice stroll along the water, picnic areas, and a sandy beach.

This marina is an important location along the Trent-Severn Waterway. Similar to other touristy lake towns in Ontario such as Tobermory, the Orillia waterfront is visited thousands of people every year to admire the views and spend some time on the water. 

Port of Orillia

3. Shopping in Downtown Orillia

Orillia’s downtown area stems from Mississaga Street and offers more than 150 shops and 30 restaurants. The main street has a charming small-town feel with pretty flower planters in the summertime in hanging baskets.

Downtown Orillia Ontario

There are many specialty stores that provide a great opportunity for some retail therapy. Be sure to check out the Makers Market where you can find beautiful handmade items crafted by local artisans.

4. Find locally sourced products at the Orillia Farmers Market

The Farmers Market in town has been running since the 1840s – one of the longest running markets in Ontario. The market has many vendors offering prepared foods along with crafters and local artisans. This is a great spot to find some wonderful local souvenirs.

Originally it was a trade market that focused on hay, chickens, pigs, milk, farm produce and baked goods. As the market evolved through the years, produce from local farmers has continued to be a mainstay in the busy market.

The Orillia Farmer’s Market is in front of the Orillia Library and operates every Saturday from 9:00am-1:00pm. Parking is free during the market in the lots closest to the library.

5. Admire Artwork at the Peter Street District

If you enjoy art, make sure to visit this vibrant street in downtown Orillia which is designated as the Arts District of Orillia. Easily accessible along one street, this is the home to many art studios and galleries that bring together local artists’ work.

Art in Orillia

Each year there is also a themed art festival sponsored by local businesses. This is a fun way to see art installations throughout the town and fosters a real sense of community. On our latest visit, the theme was Gordon Lightfoot guitars. There were many guitars painted in various colours and designs. They are all over the downtown area, so it adds a lovely artistic flair to the town centre.

If you’re looking for other unique art in Ontario, drive about an hour north to Screaming Heads.

6. Spend an afternoon at the Museum of Art & History

Also located on Peter Street you can visit the Museum of Art & History which is the hub of culture and heritage in Orillia. Here you can learn about the city’s history, participate in art programs, or see the various exhibitions on display.

Museum of Art and History in Orillia

The Museum of Art and History is open from 11am – 4pm Tuesday through Saturday, and its open later on Thursdays until 7 pm.

Fun fact: The basement of the museum was originally used as a jail!!

7. Orillia Opera House

The Opera House is the only professional quality arts venue in Orillia, and is the heart of the cultural scene in the city. The original building opened in 1895 as part of a larger complex that housed the Council Chamber, City Hall offices and a market. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire in 1915. It was eventually rebuilt but was never restored to its original grandeur. 

The main stage offers seating for over 650 people with a balcony and main floor set up. Many famous artists have played here including Glenn Gould, KD Lang, Blue Rodeo, Bruce Cockburn and of course Gordon Lightfoot (after whom the auditorium is now named and whose statue is outside of the building).

A variety of theatre arts are presented here. I’ve been lucky to see my daughter perform a few ballet recitals at this beautiful stage.

Each summer there is a full theatre season offered and during the year there are concerts, educational programming, community theatre, band, and dance studio performances. Check out the full event lineup at this link.

8. Enjoy Hiking Along the Trails

Being a town surrounded by water, forests and a lot of natural beauty, hiking is one of the many outdoor activities that there are to do in Orillia. There are trails ranging from easy to hard. Some of them go along the waterfront, while others are trails in the forest.

Here are some easy hikes you can find in and around Orillia:

  • Grant Woods Trail – 2.7 km and takes 45 mins to complete
  • Millennium Trail – Tudlope Park – 4km and takes 1h10 mins to complete

Orillia is included on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail that covers 3600kms. The specific section in Orillia is a designated 3km trail along the waterfront.

However, this trail is also a connection hub to many others in the area including the Ganaraska Hiking Trail and the Simcoe County Loop Trail that connects to the city of Barrie. Be sure to see the extensive hiking system that connects through this area.

9. Step into History at the Leacock Museum

Leacock Museum is an old house and museum that once belonged to a writer. If you enjoy reading. writing or history, then you’d enjoy a visit to this Victorian home, which is mostly kept in its original shape. You are free to roam the house and grounds to gain a further understanding of the author that the museum is named after, as well as his family.

Stephen Leacock was a famous author initially from England who spent most of his life in Canada. He studied in Toronto and started his career as a high school teacher but then moved on to become a professor, and finally a world-famous writer.

The story behind the Leacock House

One day while sailing on Lake Simcoe, he found a plot of land that was once a brewery. He purchased it and named it Brewery’s Bay. Eventually, he built his home on the property and retired there.  It is said that “Leacock travelled the world, but his paradise was in Orillia.”.

The Leacock House is open daily from 10am to 4pm. Special events are held throughout the year, such as Halloween events, and guided historical tours. Guided tour tickets can be bought here. Otherwise, contact the museum at 705-325-2196 for more information.

 10. Ontario Provincial Police Museum

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Museum is a collection of documents, artifacts and memorabilia that illustrates the history of policing in Ontario. The material dates to 1909. 

Ontario Provincial Police Museum

Here you can experience what life was like for a police officer, understand their investigations and forensic science and see uniforms and equipment that was used by the police force. There are also several rare vehicles on display including a 1931 Henderson motorcycle and cars and boats dating back to the 1940s. And best of all – it’s free of charge!

11. Activities on the Lakes

Located among some spectacular waterways, Orillia offers many water activities in the summer and winter.

In the summer, visitors can enjoy swimming at the beach, boating, kayaking and paddle boarding. Kayaks can be rented from local companies such as A Breath of Fresh Air.  There is location for docking canoes and kayaks alongside the main pier.

Orillia beach

Going to be in Orillia in the winter? You cans still find lake activities in Orillia in the wintertime. There’s ice fishing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling along the lake in Orillia.

Things to Do Near Orillia

Here are some things to add to your bucket list which are located within 30 minutes of Orillia

1. Vettä Nordic Spa

Scandinavian-style spas has become very popular in Ontario in recent years, and Orillia is no exception. Vettä Nordic Spa is a traditional Finnish spa that includes two hot pools, one warm pool, two cold plunge pools, three relaxation rooms, a salt scrub shower, and a warm stone room. You pay a base rate for access and rotate amongst the treatment areas on a circuit. 

I’ve gone to Vettä a few times with my husband to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries, and its always makes for a peaceful and rejuvenating day. One thing we like about Vettä is that they have food and restaurants on-site. It makes it easier to spend the day there.

Vettä Nordic Spa is located in Horseshoe Valley, approximately 25 minutes from downtown Orillia. Your entrance fee includes a robe, towels, and a locker. As a cell phone-free experience this is a perfect spot for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Note: guests must be 19+.

2. Casino Rama Resort

Casino Rama is a large entertainment complex that offers a huge gaming floor, a 5000-seat concert venue, nine restaurants, a large hotel and a spa.

The ‘casino’ part of Casino Rama features 47 gaming tables including six poker tables and 1800 slots and electronic table games.

Similar to the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Casino Rama is a very popular concert venue. I’ve been lucky to see a few bands perform here – Beatle’s cover band The Fab Four, as well as Toronto bands Monowhales and Our Lady Peace. See the available schedule of upcoming concerts you can buy tickets for here.

Casino Rama is located just a 15 min drive from downtown Orillia.

Where to Eat and Drink in Orillia

Looking for places to eat in Orillia? Check out these quaint markets and popular restaurants

1. Mariposa

One of the most popular for enjoying sweet treats is the Mariposa Market. They bake incredible scones, bars, cakes, strudels, cinnamon buns, loaves – you name it. But their most famous is the donuts; particularly the Texas Donut. The classic chocolate dip is their specialty, but they also make delicious Skor and Maple options too.

There are many wonderful things available to purchase in the market and you can enjoy a great breakfast or lunch there. In our opinion this a must thing to do in Orillia.

2. Wilkie’s Bakery

If you want to try something that is a true Canadian favourite and want to try one of the best around – be sure to visit Wilkie’s to taste their amazing butter tart. It is said that they make the best butter tart, and we must agree it is definitely the best we have had. This is a true Orillia hidden gem.

The pastry literally melts in your mouth and the filling has just the perfect amount of ooze. They offer a plain, raisin or pecan version. You may have to try all three to see what you like best!

3. Couchiching Craft Brewery

Orillia has its own craft brewery located in downtown. They are relatively new having opened only in 2020. Here they make a wide variety of beer and everything ranging from Blonde to Stout to Lagers and IPAs.

Couchaching Brewary

You can also order food at their location – some appetizers and good patio food are available. Be sure to check out their live music schedule as well.

4. Fare Restaurant

For the only waterfront restaurant in Orillia be sure to visit Fare Restaurant. This upscale location offers freshly prepared meals for lunch and dinner along with lighter fare in the afternoon. They also prepare brunch on Sundays. Their latest menu is full of tasty contemporary meals, and they accommodate both gluten-free and vegetarian needs.

Fare Restaurant Orillia

Fare Restaurant is open from 11am to 9pm every day, but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

5. Hill’s Maple Leaf Restaurant

Hill’s Restaurant is a small, family-owned restaurant that has been has been a staple of the Orillia locals since 1926. Its the kind of place where if you become a regular, they’ll know your name and your order by heart. They offer large portions and very reasonable prices for breakfast and lunch.

Hills restaurant, Orillia Ontario

Hill’s is open from 6am until 3pm most days. Although it isn’t open during the dinner hour, they have all day breakfast, lunch and dinner available. You’ll find items like burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, and breakfast dishes like eggs and pancakes. There are a kid’s menus and a few vegetarian options.

Hill’s is a busy spot on the weekends, but the service is friendly and quick.

Orillia Event and Festivals

Attending a festival is one of the most popular things to do in Orillia . While Orillia is much less well known as some larger cities in Ontario for festivals, such as Ottawa, it still has quite a few festivals and special events that you can attend year-round.

  • Mariposa Folk Festival.  Founded in 1961, this 3-day music festival held in July boasts over 100 performances. This festival has been running for 60 years and draws music enthusiasts from across Ontario and beyond.
  • Scottish Festival, a 45-year old festival held every July that celebrates Scottish heritage, culture, food and music
Scottish Festival in Orillia

In addition to the above, there are music, art and cultural festivals through the year. For a list of upcoming special events and festivals in Orillia, click here.

How to Get To Orillia

Being only 90 minutes away, Orillia is very easily accessible from Toronto. Having long been noted as the gateway to Ontario’s Cottage Country, its also very accessible to Barrie, and locations up north, such as Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Algonquin Provincial Park.

Orillia is located on Lake Simcoe between Barrie and Gravenhurst on Highway 11. It is an easy drive up Highway 400 or alternatively up Highway 12 if coming from further east of Toronto.

Orillia Ontario Lake

Things to Do in Orillia: FAQ

Here are the most commonly asked questions about living in or visiting Orillia, Ontario. These can help you plan your visit or stay, and know some interesting tidbits about this Ontario town

What is Orillia known for?

Orillia is known for being the jewel of the Trent-Severn waterway, and the gateway between cottage country and the Greater Toronto Area. Its also known for being the birthplace of singer Gordon Lightfoot. A fun fact is that Orillia was the first North American town to establish Daylight Savings Time.

Who is the most famous person from Orillia?

Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot was originally from Orillia, along with the early 1900s author Stephen Leacock who settled in Orillia after moving from Toronto.

Is Orillia a nice town?

Orillia is a nice, mid-size town of just over 30,000 people. It has a nice downtown with some historical buildings, a popular lake front with water activities year round, and in the summer there farmer’s markets and festivals. Orillia is also a gateway between cottage country Ontario and the Great Toronto Area (GTA)

What is the crime rate in Orillia Ontario?

Orillia has had problems with drug-related crimes, in recent years, although they’ve been on the incline. According to the news source Orillia Matters, other crimes such as break and entry, theft, fraud and arson have all risen in 2022.

Things to Do in Orillia: Conclusion

By now, you’ve liked learned that Orillia quaint little town is worth visiting and should be a consideration when planning a weekend getaway. With its close proximity to the city and several nearby small towns, beautiful waterfront, many attractions and a cultural scene – there are many reasons you should start planning your trip!

One of the coolest features about Orillia is being right on the water. Other nearby towns and cities, such as New Tecumseth aren’t. Being on Lake Simcoe provides natural beauty as well as a lot of outdoor water activities.

Aside from the water, there is never a lack of things to do in Orillia. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, music or art, or simply fun outdoor activities, Orillia will have something for you! And by the way, Orillia isn’t only just visitable in the summer – Orillia is also one of the best places to visit in the winter.