Ontario’s Lake Country is a gorgeous area that, as the name suggests, has stunning landscapes of lakes and rivers and Orillia is one of the city’s in the area that not only has natural beauty but also cultural and historical finds as well. As it’s only a short drive from Toronto, it is an amazing destination to escape to – whether it be for the day, a weekend or even a week. It caters to locals and tourists alike with things to do and see for all four seasons making it a place you can return to again and again. Since Ontario has several months of winter weather, Orillia is a fantastic destination for a winter getaway – so, if you’re looking to head there in the colder months, we’ve put together a list of some of the amazing things you can do and see while there!
Maple Tree Tapping and Pancakes
There’s really nothing like fresh maple syrup and whether you’re Canadian, or just visiting, you’ll appreciate the connection between maple trees, maple syrup and the country. You’ll definitely gain a larger appreciation while learning more about maple syrup production and luckily, there’s one must-see place in Orillia that will allow you to eat some amazing maple syrup AND learn about the whole process.
Shaws Maple Syrup Bush has been tapping maple trees since 1904 but there’s also so much more to do while there. We walked through the Maple tree bush with 4000 trees and saw the interconnected tubing that brings sap right to the processing area, saw the sap boiling area (there are times to view the boiling process) and, the tastiest part of the day, got a chance to enjoy recently produced maple syrup at their Pancake House! Here’s where you can try some fresh-made pancakes and french toast and several other maple-influenced items like maple baked beans and maple tea. It’s definitely a perfect breakfast in Orillia with a little something more!
Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Horseshoe Valley Resort
There’s really nothing to do about winter and snow in Canada other than getting out and enjoying it and if that’s what you’re looking to do, Orillia has got you covered! There’s one place in particular that we enjoy because of the sheer number of options for outdoor fun in the winter – Horseshoe Resort. As the two of us are composed of a skier and an non-skier, hitting the snow in anything other than boots can be intimidating for the one half of us that is, shall we say, winter-sport challenged (hint: if you want to know who we’re talking about, take a look at the person on the RIGHT of the photo above…). Horseshoe Resort offered different activities for our comfort levels, amazing instructors and great ways to warm up after!
It was here that we first tried cross country skiing and snowshoeing and had an absolute blast. Downhill skiing is also available and while we were up for giving the slopes a whirl, the temptation of trying some of the other activities won out. Our instructor for cross country skiing was amazing and the trails for it and snowshoeing were a pretty sight with the white snow glistening. We also had the chance to go tubing which was not about skill but instead about pure fun! Warming up for lunch had us enjoying a great meal and heading back outside to sit by an outdoor fire and roast marshmallows.
Since they also have fat biking and snowmobiling, and we didn’t end up downhill skiing, it will definitely be somewhere for us to return to next time we’re in Orillia in the winter!
Explore Art & History
Though it may be considered a small town, Orillia has a cultural scene that shouldn’t be missed. From the Rama First Nations history, art and culture to the town’s own history and art scene, there’s something to be found if you’re looking.
We made a stop in to the Orillia Museum of Art & History (OMAH) and found some incredible talent along with some interesting tidbits of local history. OMAH is dedicated to showcasing local history and art as well as the artwork of surrounding areas. They have some incredibly interesting exhibitions that move through and we were fortunate to be able to be there for the 21st annual International Women’s Day exhibition with a theme of ‘renewal’.
History of the area is displayed in various artifacts and in the story of the building itself and these, combined with the stellar art, give a glimpse into the community of Orillia.
Exploring the Orillia Museum of Art & History is just one way to experience the arts and culture scene and a great way to spend some time out of the winter weather outside.
A Getaway at Casino Rama Resort
Orillia is usually closely linked to Casino Rama Resort and is often what is first thought of by people from outside the area… and with good reason. The sprawling resort is more than just a casino, it’s an entertainment destination with so much more to do than just gaming and has been dubbed ‘The Great Indoors’.
It’s also a fantastic place for a winter getaway in Orillia – the spacious hotel rooms, multiple dining options, theatre that hosts amazing performers and the casino floor itself offer a multitude of activities and make for a perfect place to spend time while in Ontario’s Lake Country whether you plan to combine it with some outdoor fun or just stay inside the resort the entire time!
Imagine a cold winter day while inside the resort, swimming in the saltwater pool and taking some time in the sauna before heading in for a spa treatment. Whether you top that off with a fantastic meal and maybe a show is up to you, but either way, it’s a pretty fantastic plan for a day in the great indoors!
Tour The Phenomenal Culinary Scene
The food scene in Orillia may just blow you away. We know were were absolutely blown away by the meals we enjoyed while there. In truth, you could spend your entire winter getaway in Orillia hopping from restaurant to restaurant enjoying incredible food, but then you’d also be missing out on all the other things to do that we just mentioned!
If you’re already intrigued by the pancake breakfast at Shaw’s Maple Syrup Bush, we’ve got a couple more recommendations to make sure your meals are covered while in Orillia – Rustica Pizza & Vino and The Grape & Olive.
Rustica Pizza & Vino not only serves ridiculously good wood oven pizza but also a variety of Italian dishes that are perfectly executed. We started off our meal with some arancini (rice balls) which were scrumptious and followed it up with some pizza – each option as good as the other but all of them out-of-this-world good. Seriously. We are planning to drive to Orillia again soon just to dine at Rustica. Their dessert solidified it for us – we had fried pizza dough with nutella and strawberries and we really don’t have to say much more than that, do we?
We quickly realized that The Grape & Olive would become one of our staple restaurants when visiting Orillia. The service was impeccable, the food was delicious and we had a fantastic dining experience overall. Though we ate off one of their featured menus, we took a look at their regular options and we’ve chosen a few dishes we’ll be ordering the next time – or we may even go as a group and check out the interactive dining that they have available where the chef will prepare your 3-course meal right in front of you!
No matter how long you plan to stay in Orillia, there’s no shortage of things to do and planning a winter getaway to the area gives you access to a whole host of activities to help you enjoy the cold weather and snow!