Here Are Some Great Things To Do in Barrie, Ontario!
Oh, Barrie. What do we make of you? If you’re looking for a functional city with the natural beauty of a freshwater lake, Barrie, Ontario is a city for you.
From breweries to ski resorts, Barrie is a spread-out “commuter city” that offers day trippers and those commuting to Ontario cottage country a nice stop-through!
We like Barrie. Even though Eric grew up very close by, Barrie is a place that he didn’t really get the chance to explore until he moved away! So, he grabbed Lisa and headed up to the city to enjoy the sunshine and the waterfront.
Whether you are looking for things to do in Barrie in the heat of July summer or the cold of January winter, this weekend, or this upcoming holiday season – here’s a list of indoor and outdoor Barrie attractions to keep you busy!
Barrie Quick Guide
Best Time to Visit: Summer for warm weather and lake/beach activities (busy), fall for the amazing colours, and winter for the surrounding ski hills/resorts.
Getting Around: Downtown/waterfront is very walkable. A car is needed for exploring surrounding areas and attractions. Barrie Transit for public transportation.
Where to Stay: Monte Carlo Inn – Barrie for a popular hotel choice just off the Highway, Four Points by Sheraton for a convenient, quieter location, and Parkside House for apartment rentals close to downtown and the waterfront.
Table of Contents
Things to Do in Barrie, Ontario – Downtown
So now that we have covered the basics about getting to Barrie and getting around, let’s dive into what you can do and see in Barrie. There are actually a number of things in Barrie that made our list of what to do in Ontario.
Since Barrie (and its attractions) are very spread out, we’ve divided this post into two sections: things to do that are close to downtown/the Barrie waterfront and things to do that are not downtown Barrie. You’d need a car to get to these places. Let’s explore!
Explore Downtown Barrie
Location of the 5 Points Intersection: https://goo.gl/maps/9iF1TisiJDPeAeUW7
Whether you’ve got a limited amount of time to explore or you just want to see the best parts, exploring downtown Barrie is a great place to start any Barrie adventure.
The historic downtown core is right on the waterfront (which we’ll mention more in-depth below) and is loaded with restaurants, bars, large and small shops, and more.
We wandered through during the day – but Eric has been there to go out at night. Places like Donaleigh’s Irish Public House are great with their outdoor patios!
One popular intersection in Barrie is the 5 Points – an intersection where 5 streets come to meet. This corner loosely defines the west end of the downtown core.
As you walk along Dunlop Street East in an easterly direction, you’ll come across the Barrie Cenotaph which is a war memorial and open square area leading down to the waterfront.
If you walk along Dunlop, you’ll find a second stretch of bars and restaurants. This is where you’ll find the famous Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery (also mentioned below).
If you head north up any street like Mulcaster Street, you’ll end up at Barrie City Hall and the skating rink/farmer’s market area out in front.
You will also pass other downtown attractions like the MacLaren Art Centre (which we will ALSO mention down below). Just have a wander about – you’ll find loads of interesting places to check out!
Visit the Farmer’s Market/Skate at Barrie City Hall
Address: 70 Collier St, Barrie, ON L4M 4T5
Depending on the season, you’ll want to visit Barrie City Hall. The iconic building with the clock on top is the heart of administrative business in Barrie.
That said, you aren’t visiting City Hall – but the public area in front. In the summer, you’ll find a round fountain with a covered area. This is where you find the Barrie Farmer’s Market on weekends (Saturdays).
In the winter, you can enjoy the very same fountain as the “Circle at the Centre Rink”. This public skating rink is one of many maintained by the city – and one of dozens maintained by volunteers around the city.
Bring your skates! You can check opening hours for this and other outdoor rinks around Barrie here.
Raise a Pint at Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
Address: 107 Dunlop St E, Barrie, ON L4M 1A6
If you are in Barrie and you’re a lover of craft beer, then you absolutely have to stop by Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery.
If you didn’t already know, Ontario has a MASSIVE craft beer scene that has been exploding over the past decade and a half. Flying Monkeys was basically at the start of that movement!
Founded in 2004 under a different name, Flying Monkeys has been brewing under the moniker “weird is normal”. It’ll all make sense when you see their logo, labels, and inside the taproom located in downtown Barrie!
You can go to Flying Monkeys for a pint, a sampler flight, and even do a brewery tour on weekdays and weekends.
They have 16 tap lines open with their delicious brews – many of which you can find in Ontario restaurants and beyond. A classic is their Hoptical Illusion (shown above – a personal favourite) but they have MANY other classic and seasonal brews to try.
Check out Flying Monkeys Brewery – you won’t regret stopping by!
Enjoy the Barrie Waterfront along Kempenfelt Bay
Other than the downtown core, the other distinguishing feature of Barrie is the beautiful waterfront.
Just a stone’s throw from the bars, restaurants, and shops of Dunlop Street are kilometres of shoreline, green space, and the beautiful blue water of Lake Simcoe.
Barrie meets Lake Simcoe at a large bay – called Kempenfelt Bay – and the shoreline of Kempenfelt has been shaping the city of Barrie for centuries.
There is loads to do down at the waterfront close to downtown so we broke this section up into chunks. Just so you know, the Tourism/Visitor’s Centre is at the Southshore Community Centre.
This is near the Allandale Go Station (and on the opposite side of the bay from downtown) but you can enjoy the walk along the bay to get there or hop on the bus if you like.
Walk/Bike the Barrie Parks and Waterfront Trails
Speaking of walking, one of the main things to do at the Barrie waterfront is to just enjoy the paths. The paths hug the shoreline and are great for walking and biking – oftentimes they are their own separate paths.
You can get some exercise (and very fresh air) as you follow the trails that connect the whole bay from north to south past downtown and the Barrie Marina.
There are a few parks around Kempenfelt Bay close to downtown Barrie. We could name the ones even further away but for the purposes of this post, we want to cover the ones that are the most accessible if you are heading to Barrie for a few hours.
From north to south, moving counterclockwise along the Barrie Waterfront, there is Heritage Park, Centennial Park (see below), Allandale Station Park (near the Allandale Go Station), Minet’s Point Park (good for windsurfing), and Tyndale Park.
This last one is quite far from downtown and might require a car to access. Some of these also have beaches attached to them.
If boating is your thing, then you can get to Barrie by boat and dock your boat in the Barrie Marina.
You’ll pass the Marina on the way to Centennial Beach and see all the boats hanging out waiting for their next adventure. Just be careful in the bay since there can be heavy boat traffic (motorized and not)!
Barrie Waterfront Sweet Treats
There are a number of places to get a sweet treat along the waterfront. One such place is the little stand “Scoops & Cones”.
This tiny ice cream stand sells Kawartha Dairy ice cream – which is an Ontario classic summertime treat (and eating ice cream is a top thing to do in summer in Ontario).
We didn’t get ice cream this day but we’ve had Kawartha Dairy before and boy oh boy do you need to try Kawartha Dairy ice cream if you haven’t.
SplashON Water Park Barrie
If it’s the blazing summer heat and you’re with the kids, they might want to have a bit of fun in the water. While Centennial Beach is a great option, there’s another way to have some fun on the water!
For this, there’s nothing better than Splash ON Water Park – a giant inflatable water park with things to climb, jump from, and play on!
Barrie Kempenfelt Bay Ice Fishing
If you’re exploring Barrie in the winter, you might try your hand at ice fishing! In this case, there is ice fishing in Barrie on the bay and on Lake Simcoe in the surrounding area (like Innisfil).
It’s important to follow the season guidelines and safety regulations and/or be sure to ask a local/company if you want to give it a try!
We outline all of this in our guide on winter activities in Ontario!
Relax in Centennial Park
While we have mentioned parks by the waterfront before in this post, the largest and most central is Centennial Park.
Right in the middle between the Allandale Go Station and Barrie’s downtown core, this park has lots of facilities: change rooms, washrooms, a playground area, many walking paths and some food stalls.
Of course, the popular Centennial Beach is also located in this park – which makes it even more popular/busy in the summertime!
You can find parking nearby if you are driving but – as we mentioned above – parking right at the best park in town can be pricier than downtown or farther away!
Tan and Swim at Centennial Beach
Address: 65 Lakeshore Dr, Barrie, ON L4N 2M6
If enjoying the summer sunshine is in the cards, then a visit to Centennial Beach is for you! Located right at the water’s edge within Centennial Park, the beach is conveniently located a quick walk from downtown Barrie.
You could also easily walk from the Allandale Go Station and there is plenty of parking (although it’s more expensive near the beach than downtown Barrie)!
When we visited, it was early in the season so the lifeguards weren’t out yet but the beach has guard chairs and a designated swim area roped off with floating buoys. There are chance facilities and washrooms in pavilions nearby, too.
Keep in mind that many of the parks also have related beach areas – like Tyndale Beach or Minet’s Point Beach – but for those visiting downtown, Centennial is the main beach for you to check out.
Admire the “Spirit Catcher”
Address: 15 Lakeshore Dr, Barrie, ON L4N 6T4
If you’re walking along the Barrie waterfront, you will not miss the large metallic sculpture dominating the sky. This is the Spirit Catcher – and it’s come to be known as an iconic image of Barrie.
The Spirit Catcher was originally created by artist Ron Baird for the 1986 Canadian Expo held in Vancouver.
Made to resemble a Thunderbird from Aboriginal myth on Canada’s West Coast, it was donated to Barrie (to what is now the MacLaren Art Centre) and moved to its current place from Vancouver in 1987.
We got the chance to snap a few photos and watch its feathers flap in the strong winds. You’ll get a great shot of downtown Barrie from its base so check it out when you visit!
Visit the MacLaren Art Centre
Address: 37 Mulcaster St, Barrie, ON L4M 3M2
If exploring Canadian art is more your thing, then head over to the MacLaren Art Centre! Moved to this site in 2001 and originally called the Barrie Gallery Project in the late 1980s, the gallery has expanded quite a bit and changed locations over the years!
Technically, the first piece in the collection was the Spirit Catcher – which we already talked about (and you can find it down by the Barrie waterfront).
The Centre also has activities and workshops for kids so keep an eye on the schedule if you’re visiting Barrie!
See a Show at The Five Points Theatre
Address: 1 Dunlop St W, Barrie, ON L4N 1A1
If you enjoy performing arts, then you can head to the Five Points Theatre to catch whatever is on! Barrie is known for great local performances from musical numbers to funny shows and other performances.
Since the Five Points Theatre is right downtown at the famous intersection, you can grab a drink and/or a bite to eat before or after the show! Oftentimes, local restaurants have “theatre night” deals for patrons attending shows.
Barrie actually has a number of theatres you can check out – but the Five Points is the most central. You can check for shows at all of them and buy tickets for shows at Five Points here!
Check out The G & Sf Regimental Museum
Address: 36 Mulcaster St, Barrie, ON L4M 3M1
If you want to learn a little bit about the city’s role in Canadian military history, then stop by The Grey and Simcoe Foresters Museum.
The Grey and Simcoe Foresters are technically a primary reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Forces.
Originally a Regiment created by locals from the Barrie/Grey/Simcoe region in the early/mid-1800s, the museum in downtown Barrie highlights the history of the regiment and their role in conflicts at home and around the world.
Explore Bear Creek Eco Park
If you want to get the “outdoor” hiking experience without leaving the middle of the city, a visit to Bear Creek Eco Park might do the trick.
Located in the middle of the city, this surprisingly large park provides walking paths and trails of all ages and fitness levels.
Parking is just off of Ferndale – and you can even find a wooden boardwalk that floats over a wetland area. This makes you feel like you’ve driven out of Barrie to discover nature without having gone far at all!
Attend a Barrie Festival or Event
Address Barrie Waterfront (generally Centennial or Heritage Park)
Regardless of the time of year or season, there is likely to be something going on in Barrie in regard to events, shows, or festivals.
The summer season at Barrie’s waterfront feels like a never-ending cycle of event tents and things to check out!
Of note, you might want to plan to be in Barrie for The Barrie Waterfront Festival, Winterfest, The Jazz & Blues Festival, Ribfest and Craft Beer Show, the Barrie Film Festival, and arguably the most famous arts/craft/music show – Kempenfest in August!
Scuba Dive the J.C. Morrison Wreck
Address: Just off Centennial Beach
In the case that scuba diving is something you’re interested in, you’ll be happy to hear that Ontario actually has a number of great dive sites (due to the number of bodies of water all over the place!).
One such site is the wreck of the J.C. Morrison right off the shores of Centennial Beach. This steam-powered paddlewheel ship caught fire in 1857 and sunk just offshore.
Today, it’s a popular dive site for beginners since there’s great parking, it’s not too deep and generally has good visibility.
The only downside is that boaters in the area don’t always know what the dive flags mean so be careful if you dive here! You can learn more about (and see a few photos of) this dive site at the link above.
Go to an OHL Hockey Game
Address for Sadlon Arena: 555 Bayview Dr, Barrie, ON L4N 8Y2
If you’re in Barrie (or visiting Canada) and want to enjoy a beloved Canadian pastime, then you can always go to an ice hockey game! For this, you can go and see the Barrie Colts play at the Sadlon Arena.
OHL Hockey (Ontario Hockey League) is generally good hockey with good young talent trying to make their way into the NHL.
The season runs from September to April (playoffs depending in May).
Throw Axes at Bullseye Axe Throwing Barrie
Address: 371 King St #10, Barrie, ON L4N 6B5
If you’re looking for a more active activity with friends, then consider throwing a few axes!
Bullseye Axe Throwing in Barrie prides itself on providing a safe and fun atmosphere for throwing some axes – at targets that are real, freshly cut log cross-sections!
Located in Barrie’s south end, you might need a car to get there but it would be worth it!
Things to Do in Barrie, Ontario – Out of Town
Now that we are done with downtown Barrie, it’s important to note that there are LOADS of things to do that are near/around Barrie.
While many of these attractions will end up in other posts (like the ski resorts in Ontario, for example), we’re covering some of them here given their proximity to Barrie!
Visit the Simcoe County Museum
Address: 1151 ON-26, Minesing, ON L9X 0Z7
Likely one of the best attractions in the area is the Simcoe County Museum. Taking a deep dive into the rich history of Simcoe County has never been easier with interactive displays and many actual heritage buildings in the outdoor parkland!
From learning about how the Canadian Indigenous peoples lived in the area to the life and times of the early settlers from the 18th through the 20th century, the museum has great indoor and outdoor exhibits suitable for all ages and interests!
It definitely leaves you with a sense of appreciation of how difficult life might have been but how resilient people were back in the day.
Ski/Tube/Hike at Snow Valley
Address: 2632 Vespra Valley Rd, Minesing, ON L0L 1Y3
If it’s wintertime and you are looking for things to do in Barrie for the family, then heading to Snow Valley is a good option.
This small ski hill is an area known for its short ski runs, really good snow tubing park, and snowshoeing trails. Eric has been so many times he can’t even count – and every time has been a blast.
Snow Valley is not an overly sophisticated facility but it does the trick for beginner ski/boarders, families looking to get out in the snow, and those looking to go snow tubing.
You can check out the hours, prices, and snow conditions on their website above.
Explore the Tiffin Centre for Conservation
Address: 8195 8th Line, Utopia, ON L0M 1T0
If you want another great area for hiking and enjoying the Ontario outdoors, Tiffin Centre might be a great option!
Located to the west of Barrie’s downtown, you’ll need a car to reach the over 300 acres of green forest, meadows, wetlands, and more.
There are 17 km of multi-usage trails for hiking and biking in the summer and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
There is even a disc golf course which is free to play (Eric wants to try it out) – you just have to pay for parking!
Golf at Innisbrook Golf Course
Address: 211 Lockhart Rd, Barrie, ON L9J 0B4
If golfing is your thing, then you’d probably want to know that Barrie has a number of golf courses where you can get out and enjoy the nature of the region.
Specifically, there are a number of courses bunched together in Barrie’s south end – and a top choice is Innisbrook.
Eric has golfed a few courses around Ontario but not Innisbrook. We’ll eventually cover golf courses on this site – for now, you can check out the website for Innisbrook Golf Course.
Ski/Bike at Hardwood Hills
Address: 402 Old Barrie Rd W, Oro Station, ON L0L 2E0
If cross-country skiing in the winter is what you want to try or mountain biking in the summer is calling you, then head to Hardwood Hills! This multi-purpose trail parkway north of Barrie is worth the trek out there!
Eric has been there numerous times for cross-country skiing and it was always a blast. Aside from skiing and biking, you can head up there to hike the trails, play disc golf, and more.
They have a great chalet/cafe onsite and full rental service so you don’t even need to show up with any gear – just the right clothing for the season!
Visit Bear Creek Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary Inc.
Address: 8633 10th Line of Essa Township, RR 2, Barrie, ON L4M 4S4
While we generally don’t promote “zoos” or places where animals are held captive, we do make exceptions.
In this case, the Bear Creek Exotic Sanctuary is a non-profit that takes care of neglected or abused exotic animals that make their way to Ontario.
Known for large snakes, tigers, lions, and other animals not native to Ontario, the centre provides tours and education sessions for visitors to learn about the animals and the risks involved with keeping exotic pets.
You can learn more about Bear Creek Sanctuary located southwest of Barrie on their website.
Ski/Hike/Golf at Horseshoe Valley Resort
Address: 1101 Horseshoe Valley Rd W, Barrie, ON L4M 4Y8
Located a bit of a drive north from Barrie up Highway 400, you’ll find a larger ski resort with loads to offer in any season: Horseshoe Valley Resort.
This large operation has a much larger trail system than Snow Valley and comes with golfing in the summer, other seasonal activities like snow tubing and zip-lining, and even accommodations + spa facilities.
Eric has been to Horseshoe for skiing and running meets loads of times – it’s a really nice location to get out and enjoy nature.
Tip: Check for Accommodations at the nearby Carriage Ridge Resort.
Because there’s more to do at Horseshoe, you can even stay for a night or two and make use of the spa facilities for a romantic weekend getaway in Ontario.
Visit Innisfil Beach Park
Address: 676 Innisfil Beach Rd, Innisfil, ON L9S 4H6
Technically located in the nearby Town of Innisfil, Innisfil Beach Park is a little bigger and has a large offering of services and facilities. This beach and green space on the shore of Lake Simcoe is about 30 minutes by car.
You can obviously swim and use one of the multiple beaches, but there’s also room for barbecuing, launching the boat, sports, renting kayaks or paddleboards, and more.
In the winter, there are activities like ice fishing. You can find details about parking, swimming, boating, and more on the Innisfil website.
Hike at Springwater Provincial Park
Address: 1331 ON-26, Midhurst, ON L0L 1X0
If you want to get away from the Barrie Waterfront for a few hours and find a few kilometres of hiking trails, head north of Barrie towards Midhurst for Springwater Provincial Park.
This day-use park has 12 kilometres of hiking trails which are also for mountain biking. In the winter, you can use the trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other activities.
There are BBQs on-site and a few other facilities which make it good for a picnic, day trip, or nature walk! You can learn more about the park on the Ontario Parks website above.
Ski/Board Mount St. Louis Moonstone
Address: R.R.4, 24 Mt St Louis Rd W, Coldwater, ON L0K 1E0
Last, but certainly not least, we have the last ski hill on the list: Mount St. Louis Moonstone.
This ski hill is very much a winter-only facility that is right off Highway 400 about 25 minutes driving north of Barrie. In fact, you can see it from the highway heading to the cottage!
Eric has been numerous times and it’s always been pretty good. He even ran “Tough Mudder” here when it was in Canada many summers ago.
They are known for their terrain park if you are into that side of skiing/boarding. You can learn all about passes, hours, and snow conditions on their website.
Things to Consider Before Travelling to Barrie
Before you go exploring Barrie, there are a few things that you should know!
From getting there and getting around to where to stay, here are a few Barrie trip planning details to think about!
Where to Stay in Barrie, Ontario
If you are looking for a place to stay in Barrie, there aren’t a ton of places to choose from.
As we mentioned, Barrie is a bit of a commuter town between cottage country and Toronto so it serves a variety of functions for different travellers.
This means there’s a handful of hotels in Barrie scattered around the city.
If you want a hotel in Barrie, Ontario, many of the nicest ones are located in Barrie’s south end or close to Highway 400.
Check out the very popular Monte Carlo Inn Barrie for a great location just off the highway close to downtown.
The Four Points by Sheraton Barrie is for a nice upscale stay tucked away in a convenient location in the middle/south end of the city.
If you are looking for more of a holiday stay, Parkside House has rental apartments located a short walk to downtown and the waterfront.
How to Get to Barrie, Ontario
Since this is such an important topic to cover, we’ve written a whole post on how to get from Toronto to Barrie.
In short, there are a number of ways to get to Barrie: driving, the GO Train, coach bus, boat, and snowmobiling (in winter, technically speaking).
Generally speaking, like most of Ontario – it’s all very spread out and driving yourself across great distances is usually the best way to get around.
Having a rental car is money well spent since there are places you simply cannot access in Ontario without a car.
Barrie is located at the west end of Lake Simcoe about an hour north of Toronto. You take Highway 400 north from Toronto and can get off at Mapleview, Essa (for the waterfront), Dunlop and/or Bayfield (for downtown Barrie).
If you are planning on going downtown, there is ample (and affordable) parking right downtown at the waterfront which makes a car a great option. We parked downtown for a few hours and it was really cheap and convenient.
The GO Train/Bus is also a really, really good option if you are in Toronto (or on the “Barrie Line” that runs northbound from the big city).
The Allandale Go Station is the last stop from Toronto and is right at the south of Barrie’s waterfront.
The whole ride from Union Station would take about 1 hour and 45 minutes one way (if you take only the train the whole way) and 2.5 hours (if you have to go train + bus).
The trip costs just over $13.00 CAD with a Presto Card or $15.00+ with cash. You can find the full schedule for the “Barrie Go Line” here.
Getting Around Barrie, Ontario
Once you are in Barrie (especially downtown), you have a few options to get around. If you are just playing tourist in the city centre, walking around is a good bet.
You can also rent a bike (or bring one on the GO Train or in your car) for usage on the waterfront trails. Learn more about biking in Barrie here.
Realistically, the best way to get to the ski resorts, beaches, or attractions outside the city centre is by car. If you didn’t arrive in one, there is Uber in Barrie and cab companies like Barrie Yellow Taxi are among the top-rated.
Barrie also has a transit system made up of the city bus. You can learn more about Barrie Transit fares and routes here.
The bus is a great option if you came/are leaving on the GO Train because you get a free ride when you are connecting to/from the GO Station!
To ride the Barrie bus for free this way, just keep your paper ticket OR show your Presto Card (the transit fare system card).
You also need to be connecting within 30 minutes of the GO Train you intend to catch! Again, if you are playing tourist near the water you should be able to walk everywhere.
If you’re exploring this area of the province, you might find these other posts useful as well:
- How to Get From Toronto to Barrie (All Options)
- Hike in Scanlon Creek Conservation Area
- Renting a Cottage? An Ontario Cottage Rental Guide
- Barrie makes a Great Day Trip from Toronto!
And there you have it – some of best things to do in Barrie! As we said, there’s so much to do and see all over the region that you can spend a day exploring or you can stay overnight – it’s up to you!
Let us know what you think if you visit Barrie – and let us know what you love to do and we’ll add it to this growing list!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?