Nestled in the midst of three sparkling lakes with a swath of trees and nature all around, Orillia attracts outdoor enthusiasts in every season.
The city also boasts college and university campuses and a number of large employers, from OPP Headquarters to Casino Rama Resort. In every way, it is fully immersed in the 21st century offering all of the amenities that one needs.
And yet, the heart and soul of the city – the area that draws the most visitors and residents – still rests in its historic downtown, where the impressive Orillia Opera House has stood proudly since 1895 and is now flanked by an equally notable, yet contemporary, state-of-the-art public library.
More than 75 shops and businesses within historic buildings line the streets of the city’s walkable core, which also embraces an effervescent arts district and more than 20 restaurants and cafes, many with outdoor patios or seating.
“A visit to Mariposa Market for lunch or a sweet treat is definitely at the top of the list for visitors to our downtown,” says Courtney Thompson, event and marketing director for the Downtown Orillia Management Board. The Orillia Museum of Art and History is also a cool place to visit. They offer a memorable summer camp that teaches a variety of different traditional art techniques for ages 9-12.
True to its likeness to the quaint fictional town, ‘Mariposa,’ created by author and former Orillia summer resident, Stephen Leacock in his 1912 book, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Orillia’s downtown is reminiscent of a time when shop keepers took pride in their storefronts and the community gathered regularly.
Orillia’s core is also known for its events, like its weekly farmers market, music festivals, Streets Alive, and the Classic Car Show, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018 and is still a favourite.
New and unique businesses continue to draw people in, like the Refillery District, a zero-waste take on grocery shopping that supports local farmers and artisans. Couchiching Craft Brewing Co., a restaurant, pub, and brewery launched in 2019, takes inspiration from the city’s roots to flavour and name their brews. Try out the Sunshine City blonde ale for a taste of Orillia’s sparkle.
“I think people should keep an eye on Orillia in general because we’re a growing community situated between three lakes, and downtown Orillia is the hub and heart of Orillia,” says Thompson.
Visit www.downtownorillia.ca for a list of businesses, restaurants and things to do.
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Originally published in 2019, this article may contain information that is out of date.
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