Why Visit Downtown Orillia

Orillia Public Library

The new Orillia Public Library is more than twice as large as Orillia’s old public library, with enough space to accommodate diverse needs, extensive collections, quiet spaces for individual and group study, interactive exhibits and a dazzling array of community programs. Imagine a cultural hub with top-notch service, powerful technology and special attractions on every floor.

Orillia has grabbed an exciting opportunity to build an extraordinary new kind of library–a library for the 21st century, with a vast array of programs and services, rich resources and a convergence of technology, space, art, discovery and dialogue.

One of the grandest and most important public facilities the city has ever built, the new library stands as a model of architectural achievement and environmental leadership, reflecting Orillia’s position as a growing and vibrant city that values culture, diversity, excellence and quality of life.

Most importantly, it provides all Orillia residents universal access to the information, knowledge, powerful technology, and learning opportunities they need to meet the challenges of the future.

Orillia Museum of Art and History

Set in the heart of historic Downtown Orillia, the Orillia Museum of Art and History located in a designated heritage building with its own fascinating history. The museum offers a regular schedule of art exhibitions showcasing a collection of work of outstanding international, national and regional artists, including a works by the Group of Seven. A variety of exhibits bring Orillia’s history to life with fascinating artifacts and archival materials. Museum visitors can register for a wide range of cultural programs including art classes, seminars and lectures. The Clock Tower Gift Shop offers distinctive gifts and work by national and regional artisans.

The Orillia Opera House

In the heart of Orillia sits a fairy-tale building, and inside that building, legends are born. For over 117 years, the City has dreamed, laughed, wept and fought inside the Orillia Opera House. Many of the City’s defining moments have taken place under its landmark twin spires.

The Opera House was completed in 1895, described as “the finest building for corporation purposes of any town in Ontario” it became an immediate source of pride for Orillia. The auditorium had 905 seats with an exquisite wrap around balcony common to the formal Opera Houses of Europe, which might have contributed to its name. Renovations in the 1980s brought upgrades to the public areas with a public elevator and air conditioning. Remedial structure work was undertaken, smoke pockets were installed and a lighting bridge was added to the auditorium.

The Opera House, known for its fine acoustics, has featured such artists as: the Marx Brothers, Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson, k.d. lang, Mickey Rooney, Dan Hill, Liona Boyd, Blue Rodeo, George Canyon, Paul Brandt, Ron James, Manteca, Lighthouse, The Stampeders and Orillia’s very own, Gordon Lightfoot.

Since 1895 the Orillia Opera House has been bringing the best in local, national and international talent to its stages. From performances by living legends to our popular summer theatre series, there is always something happening that will entertain, educate and inspire.

Mariposa Folk Festival Office:

The Mariposa Folk Festival was founded in 1961 in Orillia, Ontario. After being held in various places in Ontario for a few decades, it returned to Orillia in 2000. Ruth Jones, her husband Dr. Crawford Jones, brother David Major and Pete McGarvey organized the first Mariposa Folk Festival in August 1961. The inaugural event, covered by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, featured all Canadian performers. The first festival held in the Toronto area, in 1964, was at Maple Leaf Stadium.

During past decade, the Mariposa Folk Foundation launched a Hall of Fame to recognize leaders and classic performers from its past. Mariposa has also entered into a Partnership with York University to protect, catalogue and digitize its nationally significant archive of folk music and materials.

In 2010, Mariposa Folk Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in Orillia, cementing its place internationally as one of the ‘Grande Dames’ of folk festivals. Gordon Lightfoot, Murray McLauchlan, Ian and Sylvia, and The Whiteley Brothers took the main stage on the festival’s final day. The 2010 edition also featured Jason Collett and Serena Ryder, who headlined the mainstage on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Orillia & District Arts Council:

In 1999 a group of enthusiastic arts supporters met to discuss the formation of an arts council. With some seed money from the City of Orillia and support from the Ministry of Culture and Recreation, public consultations were held to flesh out the concept of an umbrella organization to support the arts in Orillia. Within a year the Orillia & District Arts Council (ODAC) was formed.

Currently, the Arts Council is undertaking an organizational development project thanks to a 6-month project grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The goal is to consult with local arts and culture organizations, artists, municipalities, businesses and other arts council in the county to identify how the Arts Council can best meet the evolving needs of the community while moving towards being a sustainable and vibrant organization that is not dependent on grants for survival.

Port of Orillia:

The Port of Orillia has been one of the most essential parts of Orillia’s waterfront growth in recent years. It is located at our main waterfront park area, just at the foot of the Mississaga Street shopping district and downtown area, and the corner of Centennial Drive. Its location is perfect for boaters who want to visit the downtown area or arrive for local events since it is within walking distance of restaurants, grocery stores and local shops, laundry facilities, liquor store, and many events are held at the park areas adjacent to the Port, or on the streets of the downtown area.

The harbour itself has 206 serviced boat slips (30 amp hookups, publish washrooms, private boater facilities, and picnic tables, free wireless, ice vendor) while Couchiching Beach park provides playground areas for children, lots of grassy play areas, and two beach areas. Veteran’s Park is located next to the harbour and port area in the opposite direction, with an outdoor pergola, concrete skate park, pathways and park benches to relax on. There is also a fishing pier at the edge of the harbour, and the Island Princess Boat Tour office and cruise ship are berthed in the harbour at the town dock.

For those who arrive by car with a boat in tow, there is a paved boat launch at the edge of the harbour where it meets up with Couchiching Beach Park, and parking areas for boat trailers. The Port of Orillia office is located right on the promenade at the harbour and is open daily from the middle of May to the long Labour Day weekend in September.

The area surrounding the Port of Orillia and the port itself are beautiful – trees, open green space, floral gardens and park areas, and the view out towards Lake Simcoe is magnificent, particularly if you are an early riser. The sunrises over the harbour can be simply stunning!

The Port of Orillia is managed by the Orillia and District Chamber of Commerce:

VHF Channel 68

Please note – reservations are recommended for slips at the Port of Orillia – once the boating seasons moves into full sail, the harbour is usually packed. Marine services are located nearby (the Port staff can provide you with a listing if you don’t know the area).

The Island Princess:

One of the great things about Orillia’s main waterfront and harbour is the Island Princess tour boat. In summer months she loads up with visitors and local residents on an almost daily basis and leaves the town dock to head out over the waters of Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe for a relaxing scenic cruise. The general cruises are about an hour, and will give visitors a tour of the area with views along the shoreline of cottages and homes. There are benches and seats aboard, but most often when you see her moving through the waters people are at the railings watching the world go by under the sunny skies.

Costs for scheduled cruises run from $20 and up, with a special family rate (two adults, two or more children 12 and under) of $50 for the 1 hour morning cruises; lunch cruises (1.5 hrs) with lunch are about $40, and without lunch $22.50. Longer cruises (afternoon, 2.25 hrs) are $27.50. Throughout the season there are a few special cruises: a steak BBQ evening cruise with live music (2.5 hr, $50) at 7:00pm on Thursdays, an upcoming fall cruise to Sparrow Lake (all day with meals) for $65, Mondays are Senior’s Day, and Fridays are Kids’ Day.

Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital:

Located in the block surrounded by Mississaga Street, Colborne Street, Volunteer Drive (formerly where Dunedin Street ran) and Dunlop Street, the 230 bed hospital has been serving this area for over 100 years, It’s official opening (with 25 beds) was in 1908.

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