One of Canada’s fastest growing cities, Barrie sits along the western shore of Lake Simcoe on Kempenfelt Bay. The city is around 90 kilometres north of Toronto and easily accessible from the larger city.
Barrie is a dynamic city with loads of charm. Part of this is due to its beach-lined waterfront and part of it is because of its history. Tourism has always played an important role in Barrie, and with this comes a plethora of things to see and do.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Barrie:
1. Have fun on the waterfront
Barrie’s waterfront is one of its most popular features, what with its three beaches, numerous parks and lovely waterfront trails. It is actually one of the city’s biggest draws.
Relax on a beach, play volleyball, have a picnic in a park or go for a swim. There is even a large children’s playground, a splash pad and some great restaurants and cafés.
Enjoy a walk along Kempenfelt Bay’s 6.7 kilometre trail, which is paved and predominately flat. Or find a bench and enjoy the summer breeze.
2. Enjoy a festival
Barrie is known for this, particularly in the summer, although there are a few festivals at other times of the year. Most are held in downtown Barrie in a known venue.
Kempenfest is one of the most popular annual events, taking place over the first weekend in August. The arts and crafts festival features live entertainment, children’s activities and food demonstrations, and features over 300 artisans.
The Barrie Waterfront Festival, Winterfest, Celebrate Barrie, Ecofest, Jazz & Blues Festival and Promenade Days are a few other festivals not to miss. Food lovers will want to check out Barrielicious or the Ribfest and Craft Beer Show.
3. Go skiing
Or snowboarding, snowmobiling or tubing. Barrie is a winter wonderland for adrenaline junkies.
There are a few well-known ski resorts in the city, including Horseshoe Resort, Mount St. Louis Moonstone, Snow Valley and Blue Mountain. It is also possible to go snow-shoeing at all of these spots.
Of these, Horseshoe Resort is arguably the best of the bunch, which also happens to boast two award-winning golf courses. Blue Mountain is the largest, with 42 runs and 13 lifts.
4. Visit a gallery
The MacLaren Art Centre is a prominent gallery in downtown Barrie. The gallery is best known for its bronze cast of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture ‘The Thinker’ that sits in the front garden.
There are three galleries that display artwork by both Canadian and international artists. In fact, the gallery has over 27,000 works of art in its permanent collection.
The MacLaren Art Centre also hosts special shows and exhibitions throughout the year. There is also a shop and a café onsite.
5. See a massive spirit catcher
Right along the shore of Kempenfelt Bay is a 21 metre high, 25 metre wide spirit catcher. The sculpture was created by sculptor Ron Baird for Vancouver’s Expo 86.
The twenty ton sculpture was purchased and donated to the ‘Barrie Gallery Project’ as a way to inspire artists and to create an art gallery. In fact, it sits right next to the MacLaren Art Centre.
The sculpture is a city icon and a focal point of the Barrie waterfront. No trip to the city is complete without seeing the massive ‘Sprit Catcher’.
6. Head to a game
Ice hockey is the biggest sport in the city, with games taking place at the Barrie Molson Centre. The 4,195-seat multi-purpose arena is home to the Barrie Colts hockey team.
The arena also holds special events, like wrestling, the Ontario Hockey League Championship Series and lacrosse games. It was also once the training camp for the Toronto Raptors.
Hockey fans should definitely try to get a ticket to one of the Barrie Colts games. Or, at the very least, head to its onsite restaurant and bar and watch a game from there.
7. Shop to exhaustion
Barrie has a plethora of shopping opportunities, from small local boutiques to large international shops. There are malls, flea markets and stand-alone shops, making it possible to shop until you can’t shop anymore.
Downtown Barrie is the best place to head to for funky fashion shops and unique gift stores. The 400 market is a great place if you want to find unique items under one roof.
If name brands is more your thing, head to Georgian Mall, which is the largest in the city. Here, you will find Guess, The Gap, H&M, Michael Hill, The Body Shop and Pandora, amongst others.
8. Tour a brewery
See how craft beer is made by touring a brewery in the area. There are three in Barrie, all of which offer tours.
All brewery tours also include a tasting, so you not only learn about making the beer, but also get to try different brews, all of which are on tap.
In addition to craft beer, all three breweries have a restaurant onsite. This means that after the tour you can enjoy a pint of your top pick with a delicious meal.
9. Get grounded
You can get grounded and find your inner peace by joining a yoga class. Doing yoga while on holiday is a great way to relax and unwind.
Whether you practice regularly or are a beginner, there is a yoga class suitable for you. Join a drop-in class that is suitable for you; be it Hatha, Vinyasa, Aerial, Yin or Ashtanga.
Meditation is also offered, which is a great way to find your zen. If you want something a bit more active, try TRX, Barre or spinning.
10. Learn about Barrie’s heritage
A walking tour is a great way to learn more about the heritage of the city. These self-guided tours will take you through different parts of the city to admire each of their charms.
There are stylish homes, prominent buildings and landmarks all over the city that are waiting to be explored. Walk around downtown Barrie and see the Wellington Hotel, Trinity Church, the Beaux Arts Classicism home at 37 Mulcaster Street and the Classic Revival style home at 124 Dunlop Street West.
Go on a tour of grand homes, like 23 Theresa Street, 17 Peel Street, 101 Clapperton Street and 96 Sunnidale Road. Or wander along Rodney and Blake Street to see some beautiful architecture built in numerous styles.
11. Please your taste buds
There are hundreds of restaurants in Barrie, giving you the opportunity to truly please your taste buds. Everything from fast food to fine dining is available, as well as everything in between.
Downtown Barrie has the most eclectic mix of restaurants to choose from, many of which offer authentic international cuisine. It also has a few trendy restaurants, burger joints and English tea shops.
The Golden Mile area is filled with stylish new restaurants with up-and-coming chefs. South End also has some great options, from casual to fine dining.
12. Get pampered
There are a few fantastic spas where you can get fully pampered while visiting the city. The spa at Blue Mountain is one of the best, which has a spectacular setting.
Enter the spa and be awed by its natural setting, which is matched by its award-winning therapies. It features Scandinavian baths as well as offering a variety of massage options.
The spa at Horseshoe Resort is also top-notch, and, like the one at Blue Mountain, is open all year. There are also a couple of other spas within the city where you get pampered.
13. Look at flowers
The 26,500 square metre Bradford Greenhouses Gardens is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon if you are a lover of flowers. There are a plethora of flowers in the greenhouse, which you can look at or even buy.
There are annuals, perennials, tropicals and potted plants, as well as tree shrubs and vines. Wander around the greenhouse and look at all of the flowers throughout the property.
The Bradford Greenhouses Gardens also hosts events, like balcony gardening workshops, herb garden workshops and vegetable garden workshops.
14. Fly over the city
Jump in a hot air balloon and fly over the city. Enjoy Barrie, the countryside and Lake Simcoe from high in the sky.
A hot air balloon ride is a spectacular way to see the city. It is quite a thrilling experience as well and not for those with acrophobia.
No more than five passengers can go on the ride, so it truly is an intimate experience. Fly at sunrise and enjoy the city at dawn, or take a ride on a sunny afternoon.
15. Experience history
Get a glimpse into the area’s past by visiting the Simcoe County Museum. This is a great way to experience the history of Barrie and the Simcoe region.
There are five galleries at the museum, as well as 16 heritage and display buildings, all of which are from the 19th century. The Simcoe County Museum spans across 132 hectares of land and includes a forested area.
Look at heritage tools and other artefacts that depict the history of the area. Go on a self-guided tour, or get in depth information by joining a guided tour.