Nestled between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching in Simcoe County, Orillia is a popular destination for tourists and a beloved hometown for residents.
We’re here to invite you to explore all that Orillia has to offer! Here are some of our favourite things to do and places to go in the Sunshine City.
Downtown Orillia is a lively and vibrant place. It’s home to many of the city’s festivals and cultural events, as well as many great restaurants and unique shops. Whether you’re looking for artisanal vegetarian dishes or the perfect gift for your gamer grandson, Orillia’s downtown core has what you’re looking for—even though it’s not in a major city!
Orillia’s city council has actively worked to ensure that Orillia’s downtown core retains its charm and character. It has specific rules and regulations in place regarding signs and decorations to keep a certain “small town” look. The result is a downtown that feels unique, with restaurants and shops you can’t find anywhere else.
Orillia’s vast waterfront sets the stage for four-season fun. With an extensive lakeshore boardwalk, a large park with two beaches, several playgrounds, an outdoor theatre, a touring ferry and tons of kid-friendly activities, Orillia’s waterfront offers plenty of excitement for the whole family. If you love aquatic sports – like swimming, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kite surfing, fishing and boating – then you’ll fall in love with Orillia!
Exploring the Trent-Severn Waterway is an incredible way to get up close and personal with the area’s beautiful canals and lakes. By going through different sets of locks heading north, you can end up all the way in Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Travel the opposite direction and you can boat all the way to Lake Ontario.
Orillia’s history goes back thousands of years, starting with the Huron and Iroquois peoples. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain visited Orillia in 1615 and even spent the winter with the Hurons. You can visit Couchiching Beach Park to see the monument to Champlain, which is a National Historic Site of Canada.
The city has many beautiful heritage buildings which give it charm and character, like the Orillia Opera House (pictured above).
The Orillia Museum of Art & History is a great place to visit to learn more about Orillia’s history as well as its vibrant arts and cultural scene. The museum is in the historic Sir Sam Steele Building, a landmark destination, and boasts a collection of over 10,000 artefacts of regional historical significance.
Another interesting detail about Orillia’s history is its nickname, the Sunshine City. This name came from Stephen Leacock’s 1912 book Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. The fictional town in this book, named Mariposa, was modelled after the City of Orillia – and this is how the Sunshine City nickname came about!
There’s so much to do in Orillia! The famous Mariposa Folk Festival (pictured above) takes place here, and is the longest running folk festival in Canada. Other popular festivals in Orillia include the annual Perch Fishing Festival, the Leacock Festival, the Blues Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Scottish Festival, and the Beatles Festival. There’s an annual Christmas in June event in Orillia, which includes a boat decorating contest and turkey buffet—Santa even stops by the Orillia Public Library! The summertime brings boat and cottage shows to Orillia, as well as an annual Canada Day event at Couchiching Beach Park complete with fireworks.
In terms of arts and culture, Orillia has an impressive variety of artists and art galleries, and even boasts an Arts District, located on Peter St. S., between Mississauga St. E. and Colborne St. E. The Orillia Museum of Art & History also includes a contemporary art space with stunning exhibits featuring both regional and international artists.
Orillia’s famous Casino Rama is the largest First Nations casino in Canada. Not just for gamblers, the casino includes 10 restaurants, a spa and a 5,000-seat entertainment complex which has hosted shows from the likes of Mariah Carey, Diana Ross, Alicia Keys, George Thorogood, New Kids on the Block, KISS and plenty of others. Live boxing and MMA events are also regularly hosted at the casino, as are comedy shows, magic shows and more.