Located in Simcoe County, Ontario between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, and only about an hour and a half drive from Toronto, Orillia is the small town I called home for a huge portion of my childhood. To those that have actually heard of this town of around 30,500 people, they usually know it because they’ve passed through it on the way to a cottage, played hockey here as a kid, or know it for the famous burgers at Weber’s on the highway. Orillia isn’t known for much, like most small towns, however it has a certain charm to it and makes for a great short visit when you’re looking for something to do or a day trip/getaway. Here’s some things to know and things to do if you find yourself wandering around Orillia.
Where to eat
Being a small town, Orillia doesn’t have an overwhelming abundance of places to eat. At least it’s not like being in a city like Toronto. There is, as to be expected, a lot of chain restaurants (East Side Mario’s, Kelsey’s, etc.). However, there are still some great spots to get a bite and places that I still love going to. Here are some of my suggestions, but I also created this food guide to give you some more ideas.
The building that Mariposa Market is currently in has housed a bakery for over 150 years, but the bakery as it is now opened in 1987. It’s hard not to fall in love with Mariposa Market. Their main store sells delicious cakes which I remember getting for my birthdays growing up, pastries and preserves, and then there is a cafe which you can order some fresh goodness and eat-in. It’s hard to decide what you’re going to go for when ordering food here because everything looks so good.
Apple Annies has a gift shop located under Mariposa Market, but it also has a cafe located down the street which serves delicious lattes and hot beverages (plus food). Try their pumpkin spice latte in the fall!
Opened in 1993, Brewery Bay holds a lot of memories for most people who grew up in Orillia. I remember drinking soda from a licorice straw as a kid there, having birthday parties there, and of course, catching up with friends even now when I go home for a weekend. Brewery Bay has great pub grub, and most famously, the most delicious cookie skillet you’ll ever have (photographed above). You can also find lots of Vegetarian options on their menu!
Enjoy typical pub food right on the lakefront in Orillia. I grew up with this being the place to drink my face off in the summertime with their awesome patio, however, their food menu is also great.
Kenzington’s is technically a chain but not one you’ll find in major cities as they only have locations in Orillia, Barrie, and Bradford. Kenzington’s is a great place to eat unreal burgers and have a pint or two. It also becomes lively at night if you’re looking for a place to “go out”.
A relatively new addition to Orillia’s downtown, Shine is a juice bar and cafe that focuses on locally grown produce and organic products. Their menu seriously makes healthy food yummy, serving things like quinoa or noodle bowls, salads, sandwiches and more. Their menu is entirely gluten free and vegan and regularly changes based off the season.
What to do
Orillia can be a fantastic place for a small weekend getaway. It’s a bit of a lazy town, not too fast paced and quite a few different things to do depending on your interests. Here are some of the things I recommend:
Visit local markets
There are a couple farmers markets in Orillia. There is the downtown market and then the Orillia Fairgrounds Market. Obviously the downtown market is more accessible given it’s location but both are worth checking out. Shop local artisans and food producers, stalk up on locally grown produce and fill your belly with tasty treats. My favourite is Fox Foods, a local taco joint that serves paletas (Mexican popsicles) and occasionally some of the best tacos you’ll ever try. Both markets are open Saturdays, all-year-round.
Shop in the downtown boutiques
The downtown of Orillia has a lot of cute boutiques to kill some time in. Mariposa Market has both a gift shop, market and scent shop attached to it. Kahuna is one of my favourite clothing shops in town selling popular brands. You’ll also find cute record shops, antique stores, and other clothing stores. Don’t miss a stop at Wilkie’s Bakery too for one of their famous cinnamon buns. Wilkie’s has been in town for over 20 years serving delicious baked treats.
Walk the waterfront
The Orillia waterfront can be a great place to spend a summer day. Sit on the beach, pack a picnic or just walk along the boardwalk. Stop for lunch at the famous French’s Stand which has been serving Orillia since the 20s and is one of the oldest operating businesses in town. For dessert, grab an ice cream cone at Sweet Dreams Ice Cream (fun fact: this is where I had my first job).
Hike Scouts Valley
Scouts Valley is 2km west of Orillia and is a 93 hectare nature park which boasts three 2km trails. This can be a fantastic place to visit for a snowshoe in the winter, or a hike in the summer or fall.
Horseshoe Valley is located about a 20 minute drive out of Orillia and although there is a resort there where you can stay, you can also visit for the day to take part in some of the activities it has to offer. In the winter you can snowboard/ski or snow tube, in the summer you can bike, golf or go treetop trekking.
See a concert or gamble at Casino Rama
A 10 minute drive from Orillia, Casino Rama is a beautiful casino for whether you’re looking for a place to eat, gamble or even entertainment as they host a variety of different acts on a regular basis. Personally as someone who grew up in Orillia this wasn’t a go-to spot of mine but if you’re someone looking for this sort of activity, Orillia has it!
Hit up a festival
Orillia has an abundant amount of festivals that happen throughout the year, especially in the summer. From the Winter Carnival to their famous Folk Festival, to name a few. See what’s happening in town when you’re visiting.
Where to stay
Orillia has your typical chain hotels, AirBNB’s and also bed and breakfasts. Choose what type of accommodation works best for you.
More options here.
A weekend or even day in Orillia can be the perfect escape from the city or if you’re just looking for an adventure that isn’t too far from home. Share in the comments some of your fav things to do in Orillia or your fav small Ontario towns to visit.