Barrie is in an exciting spot. It sits on a snow belt, making it a fantastic ski and snowboarding destination. Snow Valley Ski Resort, Horseshoe Valley, Hockey Valley Resort, Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Blue Mountain, a bit further north. It’s in the same county as Collingwood and Wasaga Beach. This makes Barrie great for Weekend Getaways.
Not only is it close enough to Toronto that it could be a day trip, but it’s also halfway to Muskoka Region, making it a great road trip pit stop. Either way, there are so many things to do in Barrie. It’s worth a visit.
Located on the shores of Lake Simcoe, Barrie is a vibrant city with a strong economy and a rich cultural life. The city is home to many boutiques, shops, and various restaurants serving local cuisine. There are also many parks and trails for visitors to enjoy.
The city has many fun activities every season — from sandy beaches to delightful ski resorts. So whenever you’re visiting, you can enjoy the best of the town without ever feeling like you’re missing out on anything.
Barrie is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a city with lots to do. There’s something for everyone in this vibrant community. Take a look at our complete travel guide and list of Barrie, Ontario, points of interest to help you plan your trip.
Where is Barrie, Ontario?
Barrie is a city in Southern Ontario, Canada. It is situated on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, an inlet of Lake Simcoe. This Simcoe County city is within the Greater Golden Horseshoe, a densely populated and industrialized region of Ontario.
Barrie’s urban area has been expanding since the 1990s with new residential and commercial developments, particularly in the city’s south end.
History of Barrie
- Initially, the land we now know as Barrie was home to the Wendat and Anishinaabe people. That was until 1812, when the area became an important supply depot for British forces during the war.
- The city was named in 1833 after Sir Robert Barrie, a British official in charge of the naval forces in Canada. The town began with a smaller population of British immigrants and just a few important buildings.
- By the 1870s to 1890s, the town’s population was growing, and so were the businesses. But this period was also treacherous for business owners and residents due to many fires ravaging the tiny wooden houses and buildings.
- Nevertheless, the town was rebuilt after each fire, and the population continued to grow. From that first group of 500 residents came 128,430 residents in 2016.
Getting to Barrie
You can quickly get to Barrie from other Ontario cities by car, train, or bus. The closest main city is Toronto, but there are easily accessible options from further away. Here are the most common ways to get to Barrie, Ontario.
Barrie is about an hour and a half drive from Toronto. You can take Highway 400 North to get there. If you’re coming from Ottawa, the trip is just under five hours, and you can take Highway 417 East to Highway 400 South.
There is a GO train station in Barrie. The GO trains operate daily, and the journey from Toronto takes about an hour and ten minutes. You can also take the VIA Rail from Toronto to Barrie. The train ride takes about two hours.
The train from Ottawa to Barrie is also operated by VIA Rail. The journey takes about five and a half hours.
Greyhound Canada operates a regular bus service from Toronto to Barrie. The trip takes about two hours. There is a Coach Canada bus that runs between the two cities.
You can take a Greyhound Canada or a Coach Canada bus from Ottawa. The trip takes about five hours.
What to Do in Barrie Ontario
There are many things to do in Barrie, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. The city is home to several parks, trails, shops and restaurants. Whether you’re looking for culture, history, or just a chance to relax. Here are some of the city’s highlights:
Visit Heritage Park
Heritage Park is a gorgeous open space for walking, biking, and enjoying lunchtime picnics. This is one of the most popular Barrie places to visit for families, couples, and even those seeking some solitude to come and enjoy the outdoor beauty Barrie is known for.
There are duck ponds to sit by and plenty of benches to take rests in between strolling through the floral gardens. The park is near the Barrie Waterfront, so you can fit in both attractions in one go.
Note: While the park is worth a visit, just be aware that if you are driving, you will have to pay for parking.
Head to Centennial Park
Centennial Park is a beach park offering 400 meters of sandy shore to frolic. The beach is pet friendly and has all the amenities needed for a fun family day. The first must-see spot in Barrie.
There are washrooms, food stands, and a healthy balance of sun and shade. There’s also a boat launch spot for anyone keen to try a bit of sailing.
Check Out The Spirit Catcher
The Spirit Catcher is an artwork located on the waterfront in Barrie. Designed by sculptor Ronald Baird for the 1986 Expo in Vancouver, it was inspired by the iconography of indigenous oral traditions in the Pacific Northwest. The work references the thunderbird.
Take a Hike or Go For a Bike Ride Through One of The Many Trails
There are plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking in Barrie, Ontario. The conservation areas, like Minet’s Point, provide plenty of space for a leisurely hike or a challenging bike ride. There are also plenty of trails that wind through the city and along the shoreline.
The views from the trails are spectacular, especially in the fall when the leaves change colours. The trails offer something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a strenuous workout or a leisurely stroll.
Barrie is also a great place to go cycling. The city has been working hard to create more bike lanes and make the roads safer for cyclists. There are dozens of kilometres of designated bike routes throughout the city, making it easy to get around on two wheels.
Cycling is a great way to see Barrie and its many parks, beaches and rivers. And, thanks to the flat terrain, it’s an excellent option for people of all ages and abilities. So if you’re looking for outdoor fun, check out Barrie’s hiking and biking trails!
Learn About Local Ecosystems at The Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve
The Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Barrie, Ontario. The reserve encompasses 6,000 hectares of land and water and is home to various plant and animal species. The biosphere reserve is open to the public year-round and offers free admission.
The reserve features hiking trails, nature walks, and interpretive programs. It is a great place to learn about the local ecology and wildlife.
Explore Fort Willow, an 18th-century British Fort
Fort Willow is a great place to explore for its natural beauty and history. Walking trails take you through the forest and down to the banks of the Willow River. There are also interpretive signs that tell you about the fort’s history and the area. If you’re lucky, you may even see some wildlife.
To explore Fort Willow in Barrie, take the Victoria Street exit off Highway 400 and drive south until you reach the end of the road. The hike to the fort is about two kilometres, and it’s an easy walk along a paved path. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead.
Visit the Simcoe County Museum
The Simcoe County Museum is one of the greatest places in Barrie to visit for those interested in history. The museum has a variety of exhibits that tell the story of Simcoe County, from its earliest inhabitants to the present day. There are exhibits on local industries and transportation, as well as on the First World War and the Second World War.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 to 16:00. Admission is free for children aged five and under, and reduced rates are available for seniors and students. Guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more people.
Take a Walking Tour of Barrie’s Historic Downtown
One of the best ways to see a new place is to explore the downtown area — this is typically where all of the excitement happens. And Barrie is no different. There are many things to see and do in downtown Barrie. You can enjoy a walking tour of the sights or explore at your own pace.
The main attractions include Heritage Park, the Art Gallery, and the downtown shopping district. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars in the area, so you can enjoy a meal or a drink while you’re there.
The Barrie Cenotaph
The Barrie Cenotaph was built in memory of Simcoe County’s fallen heroes of the First world war. While fighting ended after the German surrender in 1918, the Cenotaph lists the formal end of the conflict as June 28th, 1919, the signing of the treaty of Versailles. Hence, it was dedicated on June 28th, 1922.
Head to The Georgian Mall, One of The Largest Malls in The Area
The Georgian Mall is a popular shopping destination in Barrie, Ontario. It features over 150 stores, including well-known brands like The Bay, Sears, and Tim Hortons.
While outdoors is the place to be in Barrie, the mall offers some reprieve when you’re feeling tired or caught in a bit of rain. You can find anything from clothes and accessories to electronics and home goods. The food court offers a wide selection of cuisines, and the movie theatre is a great place to catch a flick on a rainy day.
Find Fresh Local Produce and Goods at The Barrie Farmers Market
The Barrie Farmers Market is the perfect place to find fresh, local produce. This market has been going since 1846 — before Barrie was even recognized as the city it is today! There is an excellent selection of fruits and vegetables, baked goods, meat, and cheese.
The prices are very reasonable, and the market is open every Saturday from 07:00 to noon. There are also several events (like the much-awaited pumpkin-carving contest) that you can participate in if you’re lucky.
Taste The Local Cuisine at One of Barrie’s Many Restaurants
If you’re looking for a unique culinary experience in Barrie, Ontario, check out the local restaurants! Each one offers its own take on regional cuisine, so you can taste a bit of everything. From casual dining spots to fine-dining establishments, there’s something for everyone.
So what can you expect to taste when you visit Barrie’s restaurants? Well, the area is known for its fresh seafood and smoked meats. On most menus, you’ll find dishes like fish and chips, seafood chowder, and pulled pork sandwiches.
Visit a Winery or Brewery in The Area
Barrie has several award-winning breweries and wineries that you can visit while there. Not only will you be able to taste some of the carefully crafted drinks, but a few of the establishments offer tours that show off how they make beer and/or wine.
For the best beer in Barrie (objectively), stop at Flying Monkeys Taproom. And for wines that will bring out the connoisseur in everyone, pay a visit to Heritage Estate Winery.
Take a Scenic Drive Through The Countryside
The rural landscape is a great change of pace from the city, and it’s a great place to relax and breathe fresh air. As you drive through the Barrie countryside, you’ll see plenty of farms and open fields. Some lovely country roads are perfect for a leisurely drive.
If you’re not visiting in your own car, you can also pick up a bicycle in town and cycle through some of the country. The views are amazing, the air is fresh, and as long as you pick a pleasant day, not much can ruin the trip.
Browse The MacLaren Art Centre
The MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie is a treasure trove of art and history. The centre has a permanent collection of over 7,000 pieces, including paintings, sculptures, and other artwork. The centre also hosts rotating exhibitions, including works by renowned artists like Andy Warhol and Rembrandt.
In addition to the art on display, the MacLaren Art Centre also offers educational programs for all ages and special events and activities. Whether you’re an art lover or just looking for something to do on a rainy day, the MacLaren Art Centre is worth a visit.
The gallery is open Monday to Sunday from 11:00 to 16:00, and admission is free. And you can grab a coffee and bite to eat from the Lazy Tulip Cafe on-site.
Best Places To Visit in Barrie To Eat and Drink
Stop and refuel at one of Barrie’s many delicious restaurants in between exploring the city. From fish & chips to upscale dining, there’s something for everyone’s taste buds in Barrie.
Halibut House Fish & Chips
The Halibut House restaurant in Barrie is a local favourite for seafood lovers. The restaurant is known for its fresh and delicious fish and chips and its wide variety of other seafood dishes.
The restaurant’s atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. The Halibut House is a great place to enjoy a casual meal with family or friends.
The Farmhouse Restaurant
The Farmhouse is a cozy restaurant that feels like home. The cuisine is primarily Canadian, meaning you can get beef dip sandwiches, mac & cheese, and various eggs benedicts. There’s also a selection of adult wines, beers, and cocktails. This is a family restaurant with a tasty kids’ menu.
Kenzington Burger Bar
If you’re looking for a more lively place to have dinner, this is the place. They (of course) have great burgers, but you can order chicken and other meals if you prefer. The restaurant is open until 14:00 and often has excellent music playing. That, combined with speedy but efficient service and great food, makes Kenzington a popular place to eat. Especially with the younger crowd.
The Crazy Fox Bistro
Seat yourself at The Crazy Fox Bistro for one of the best Barrie surf ‘n’ turf. This bistro has patio dining, so it’s great for a lunch date on a good-weathered day. Any dinner experience here is upscale and elegant, making for the perfect spot for a celebration or romantic dinner.
The dishes are not just tasty and well-prepared, but they’re also exquisitely plated. Any meal here is a whole experience. Although the restaurant is a bit pricier than others, it’s worth the slightly higher cost.
Symposium Cafe Restaurant & Lounge
For something a little different, visit the Symposium Cafe Restaurant & Lounge in North Barrie. This restaurant is decorated with a Renaissance theme, with murals all over the walls. The food here is primarily comfort food, like fish and chips, burgers, and a breakfast menu raved about by all who eat from it.
Despite its name, this isn’t quite a cafe. It’s more of an upscale restaurant with attentive and professional staff ready to serve you. You can get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all meals at Symposium.
Eat. Drink. Cheer.
This is the motto over at Hooligans Bar & Grill. They combine a casual atmosphere through great food and drink. Everything they serve, from appetizers, entrees, desserts, and cocktails, is made with care and attention. On top of that, their rooftop patio offers a fantastic view of Kempenfelt bay.
The Canadian Brewhouse
This Canadian-themed sports bar & grill is excellent for anyone wanting a hearty meal surrounded by loud laughs and true Canadian spirit. It can get hectic here, but the high energy will add to the atmosphere if you’re not afraid of crowds.
Where to Stay in Barrie
Even if you’re not coming from afar, staying the night in Barrie is an excellent idea because you can fit in a lot more sightseeing. Whether you’re looking for a cozy bed and breakfast or a luxurious hotel, Barrie has accommodations to suit your needs.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Barrie
The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Barrie is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a comfortable and affordable place. The hotel features spacious rooms with all the amenities you need, including free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, and a refrigerator.
The Hampton Inn & Suites
The Hampton Inn & Suites in Barrie, Ontario, offers several amenities, including a fitness center, pool, and complimentary breakfast. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the location is perfect for exploring Barrie and the surrounding area.
The Best Western Royal Oak Hotel
The Best Western Royal Oak Hotel is located in the historic downtown district and offers an on-site restaurant and bar. The hotel is central, located near the highway and within a short distance from many of the must-see attractions in Barrie.
It also offers a complimentary buffet breakfast each morning. The hotel staff is friendly and helpful and always willing to go the extra mile to ensure guests have a comfortable stay.
Our Final Thoughts on Barrie Things To Do
There are plenty of things to do in Barrie, Ontario. The city has a wealth of cultural attractions, including theatres, art galleries, and museums. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the many parks and trails in the area, and there are plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining.
The people of Barrie are friendly and welcoming, making it a great place to visit. This town caters perfectly to couples, families, and even solo travellers. We recommend spending some time in this charming city.