Destination Ontario – Ontario’s Lake Country
By N. Dionne
The Trent-Severn Waterway is a 368-kilometre canal route connecting Lake Ontario (in Trenton) with Lake Huron (at Port Severn). It’s along this route that you come across some of the most picturesque shorelines and feats of ingenuity – including 32 kilometres of man-made canals and 44 locks. Ontario’s Lake Country (made up of Orillia, Oro-Medonte, Rama and Severn) lays claim to the 44th lock – the final call. Big Chute Marine Railway is one-of-a-kind in North America. It’s a popular spot to anchor, or to enjoy a picnic, while marvelling at its operation.
Orillia is situated between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching, and is considered to be the heart of Lake Country. With a population of more than 30,000, those who grew up in Orillia, as well as the surrounding area, have come to appreciate all that it has to off er. More recent residents have made the move to a more-serene way of life.
Living in Lake Country affords residents year-round access to a wide range of outdoor activities and entertainment options, including swimming, fishing, paddling and boating. Hiking trails and golf courses are plentiful, and come winter, ice fishing huts dot frozen lakes, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails are carved out of forested areas.
PLAY AND STAY AT RAMA
The fun continues when you move indoors at Casino Rama Resort. Ocean mist and humid temperatures are recreated in the hotel’s spa. Soak in the tepid saltwater pool, after some cleansing time in the steam room.
At this luxury resort, you can wine and dine at any one of the eight restaurants. The internationally inspired Noodle Bar offers authentic hot bowls like you’d get on the streets of Hong Kong. The Willow features both Cantonese dim sum and Chinese/Canadian favourites. At St. Germain’s, you can expect a fine steak dinner in an equally impressive atmosphere. For more casual fare, check out the menu at Cedar, or grab some nibbles and drinks at the Dream Catcher Sports Bar or Firestarter Lounge.
Casino Rama Resort offers an all-encompassing vacation close to home. And with that comes worldclass entertainment. Book tickets in advance for some of the best musical performances and comedy acts. After the show, the casino floor is your playground with more than 100 gaming tables and 2,500 slot machines.
ARTS AND CULTURE
Known for its hollow acoustics, the Orillia Opera House is the epicentre for theatre and live music. Legendary greats who have performed there include Glenn Gould, k.d. Lang, Mickey Rooney, Blue Rodeo, and Orillia’s very own Gordon Lightfoot.
The artisan’s strip, referred to as the Peter Street Arts District, has an abundance of art studios and galleries – perfect for browsing and purchasing. At The Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH), you’ll discover historical pieces and contemporary exhibitions. The OMAH sponsors installations in, and out of, town like the sculptures of Grant’s Woods, which is part of The Couchiching Conservancy.
Streets Alive! is becoming more popular each year. On an annual basis, artists are invited to decorate a themed piece, which are then displayed throughout the city. Previous themes include iron sailboats, guitars and large armchairs. In 2017, maple leaf statuettes were transformed to commemorate Canada’s 150th.
The Mariposa Folk Festival draws festival goers from all over Canada, and has done so since its inaugural event in 1961. Families gather to enjoy live entertainment in Tudhope Park – one of Orillia’s public spaces by the water. This location provides easy access for cottagers and boaters to enjoy the festival from the lake. Other events held each year include The Orillia Jazz Festival and Roots North Music Festival.
Young entrepreneurship has infused a new energy into downtown Orillia, as well as all things local. Stroll the gentle slope of Mississauga Street, and take in the store fronts and restaurants.
Harold & Ferne (named after the owner’s great grandparents) curates handmade goods and crafty studio workshops in this charming boutique. Verona Coffee Co. brings a literary inspiration to an afternoon latte break with tempting daily-made treats. If fresh baked goods are on your shopping list, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for at the Mariposa Market – and much, much more.
BOOTS TO THE ROOTS
The Farmers’ Market in downtown Orillia started in 1842, and is one of the longest running markets in the province. Local preserves and craftmade specialties are featured every Saturday in the community halls of the public library. Come summer, vendors spill out into the large city square to sell their wares. Browse the various stalls for a wonderful selection of fresh fruit and veggies, as well as home-style delicacies. Plus, it’s a great place to connect with your neighbours, and to catch up on what’s going on about town.
Photography, courtesy of Ontario’s Lake Country