Last Updated: September 14, 2023
Orillia: The Sunshine City.
If the nearby city of Barrie is known as the gateway to the Muskoka Lakes region, then Orillia itself is where the adventure takes hold.
Cerulean lakes and acres of spruce forest surround the area. Sitting on the banks of both Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching, its unapologetic natural beauty defines the city of Orillia.
Beyond its natural wonder, Orillia also hosts a thriving arts and culture scene – museums are plenty, and the resident Cloud Gallery is a newer establishment to admire.
Access to The Sunshine City is as simple as a 1.5-hour car journey from Toronto.
So, outdoor adventure? Lake country leisure? Museum wandering? Here is the list of things to do in Orillia, Ontario.
Visit Cloud Gallery
Orillia’s Cloud Gallery promotes art and innovation.
Industries are in a state of transition due to the continued growth of the online economy and the lasting effects of the COVID pandemic. The art sector is no different. The founding partners of Cloud Gallery recognized this evolution and worked to unify the traditional physical aspects of art curation with the growing benefit of all things digital. Cloud Gallery exists as a hybrid entity – holding its physical ‘anchor’ gallery in Orillia while also maintaining a significant online presence.
The gallery is founded on uplifting its artists – aiding creative minds in building long-term relationships with their audiences and ensuring lasting success. The art on display at Cloud Gallery draws inspiration from throughout Ontario; including Algonquin, Collingwood, Muskoka, and more.
To witness the brilliant, supportive work that the gallery offers to artists and the beautiful art itself, visit Cloud Gallery at its anchor location on Mississaga Street. You’ll quickly see why it is one of the top things to do in Orillia.
Enjoy Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching
The indigenous Wyandot people’s ancestral name for Lake Simcoe is Ouentironk, meaning beautiful water. That moniker alone justifies Lake Simcoe’s place on this list.
Orillia is fortunate to reside on the banks of two lakes – Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. The city’s proximity to both bodies of water brings a wealth of enjoyment and interest to locals and travellers alike.
Resident companies like A Breath of Fresh Air and World of Watersports provide the facilities for people to make the most of lake country – kayak rentals, water tubes, inflatables, and so on.
Call in at the Mariposa Market
Maybe it’s the 110-year-old building. Perhaps it’s the Mariposa Market’s goods that have been sold there for 35 years. Regardless of what piques the most interest for visitors, the Mariposa Market earns the attention it receives.
Bakery, café, seasonal shop – the market offers a variety of services. Mariposa’s is known for the cakes and bakes that it creates though, word of mouth tells that the bakery’s Texas doughnuts are particularly special.
The market is just a 2-minute walk down Mississaga Street from Cloud Gallery, and the two make for a perfect union of local attractions.
Explore Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park
Just 1-hour’s drive from Orillia is Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park.
In its entirety, the park spans 33,505 hectares. More than 100 habitats are within the park, creating a delicate biological ecosystem. This ecosystem supports local fauna like moose and American black bear.
To those who enjoy the outdoors, the park offers a unique opportunity for backcountry exploration. However, Ontario Park authorities recommend visitors have intermediate wilderness experience if adventuring for prolonged periods.
At the very least, a day hike from the park’s main entrance on Devils Lake Road comes highly recommended.
Take on the Ganaraska Hiking Trail
At over 500-kilometres long, hiking the Ganaraska Hiking Trail point-to-point is daunting for even the most accomplished hikers. Luckily, hiking trails like the Ganaraska are designed for walkers to hop on and hop off.
A substantial section of the trail passes near Orillia, presenting lovers of the great outdoors with a perfect opportunity to see the Ontario landscape on foot. Hike past lakes, over rocky plateaus, through spruce forestland – the trail is a can’t miss for trekkers.
Roam around Mara Provincial Park
The outdoor theme continues – Orillia’s access to natural beauty was no idle boast.
On the northern shores of Lake Simcoe is another provincial park that provides Orillia locals and visitors an area to hike, camp, and canoe.
Not only does the Mara Provincial Park offer a pleasant trail to wander, but it also offers a secluded lakeside beach to enjoy too. The park also caters to those who fancy a night beneath the stars.
Mara is a great spot to spend a few hours or days when in Orillia.
Refuel at Webers Hamburgers
Webers on Highway 11 is an iconic stop for food for cottage goers and road trippers.
Webers first started serving burgers to the residents of Orillia, and passers-by, in 1963. So, by now, the burger joint is very much considered to be an Ontario landmark.
Join the queue of salivating customers to see why Webers is so popular – while the burgers are a crowd favourite, they offer a broader menu of hotdogs and other cheap eats.
Enjoy the Stephen Leacock Museum
Stephen Leacock – a famous Canadian literary humourist – was born in England but emigrated to Canada with his family during his early years. His family came to settle around Ontario’s Lake Simcoe, and later in his own life, Stephen took up residence in nearby Orillia. The waterfront house he built remains as the museum that now honours his life and works.
Stephen’s writings reflect his love for Orillia and the surrounding area. His bestseller Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town celebrates Orillia under the pseudonym Mariposa. It’s actually through Leacock’s work that Orillia adopted its ‘Sunshine City’ moniker.
The museum houses an archive of Leacock’s work, making it a must-visit for literature fans – humorous or otherwise. The on-site café is another good reason to stop by.
Hit the slopes at Mount St. Louis Moonstone Ski Resort
Go from lounging on the shores of Lake Simcoe to bombing down ski slopes in just a 20-minute drive.
Twenty minutes by car to the west is Mount St. Louis Moonstone, a resort featuring 36 runs and a terrain park. The longest run is 2km in total, and the site has over 170 acres of skiable land.
The resort has a variety of ticket packages to cater to visitors of all needs. Understandably, skiing is perhaps not the most budget-friendly sport, but Moonstone does offer competitive pricing. Heading over to their website to evaluate expenses is probably the best option.
Visit the Orillia Museum of Art and History
Another of the cultural spots to hit when visiting Orillia is the resident art and history museum.
The museum, located in Peter Street Arts District, stands as a local culture and heritage pillar. The museum’s purpose is twofold – firstly, to celebrate the local history through art appreciation. Secondly, to inspire further creation of art and expression. The OMAH has been operating with these purposes for over twenty years.
With a constantly evolving schedule of exhibitions, the OMAH is a must-visit when in the local area.
Immerse yourself at the Orillia OPP Museum
If two local museums are not enough, then here is another.
The Orillia OPP Museum is a unique one – it being the museum of Ontario’s Provincial Police. This place will no doubt call to the historian amongst us.
At the OPP Museum, you’re able to learn everything you’re possibly allowed to know about its local law enforcement. Plus, the museum is housed within the OPP headquarters campus, providing an immersive experience.
The museum is also a space for children to dress up in police uniforms and enjoy crafts.
Watch theatre at the Orillia Opera House
Year-round entertainment is on display at the Orillia Opera House. Whether it be conventional theatre, traditional opera, or musical events, the opera house stands as the focal point for Orillia entertainment.
Though its doors opened for the first time way back in 1895, the establishment shows no signs of slowing down.
Orillia is a natural haven. The sheer access to the nature that the city offers is astonishing. You can easily transition between the waterfront, ski slopes, and cross-country trails.
It is a city so undoubtedly generous in its offering of outdoor adventure. Kayak on the waters of Lake Simcoe, enjoy the wilderness of the Ganaraska Trail or ski down Mount St. Louis. Whatever your motivation, Orillia accommodates.
When the adventuring is done, head into the city itself. Experience the local passion for creativity and expression at the genuinely remarkable hybrid space that is Cloud Gallery. Or perhaps the literary humour of Stephen Leacock tickles your fancy. Regardless, Orillia’s relationship with art, culture, and heritage is beautiful to behold.
It comes as no wonder that Orillia is called The Sunshine City. Smiles here are plentiful.
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