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Barrie, Ontario, grew up along the Nine Mile Portage, a watercraft-carrying route used by First Nations people for centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Just an hour away from Toronto in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the city sits by Lake Simcoe on Kempenfelt Bay in Simcoe County. It is one of the quickest-growing cities in Canada, due to its beautiful surroundings, plentiful outdoor activities, diverse attractions and thriving arts scene.

Barrie attractions will keep visitors busy no matter the season. In winter, a bevy of ski resorts beckon, like the 26-run Horseshoe Resort or the 170-acre Mount St. Louis Moonstone; the latter is an ideal destination for beginners. If the weather is warm enough and the golf clubs are in tow, there is no shortage of links. Horseshoe Resort has a semi-private layout, and the Innisfil Creek Golf Course is a golf course with a Scottish flair.

Families with children also enjoy Barrie attractions like Springwater Park, with its trail for children and a wildlife viewing area. History buffs gain local insight at the Base Borden Military Museum and the Simcoe County Museum. The arts thrive in Barrie due to art galleries like the McLaren Art Centre, as well as performance venues like the Mady Center downtown and Georgian College’s Georgian Theatre. When it is time for an adult beverage, take a brewery tour like those offered at the waterfront Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. If the traveller is eager to try some locally produced flavour, McCutcheon’s Maple Syrup Farm might be just the ticket; they have been world champions twice.

Shopping destinations in Barrie range from traditional and antique malls to quirky speciality shops. The Georgian Mall on Bayfield Street and the Kozlov Center will satisfy the retail addict. If relics of the olden days are sought, head to Innisfil Street’s two-floor Barrie Antique mall, which was once a factory. When it comes to speciality shops, look no further than the Burnett’s and Strouth Scottish Regalia Ltd in Barrie’s South End for tartans and kilts galore.

After a long day of visiting Barrie and its surroundings, plenty of restaurant options are available to recharge and refuel. Houston Avenue Bar & Grill is a casual but chic steakhouse in the northern part of the city. Local favourite Crock & Block serves up prime rib in a family atmosphere. Italian restaurant Casano has been around for over 20 years and makes their pasta in-house, and Manhattan’s has great martinis and an even better view of Kempenfelt Bay.

The nights can be cold in Barrie, but area nightlife does not follow suit. Near Five Corners, Donaleigh’s Irish Pub has ales aplenty and tasty pub grub, or you can dance to DJ beats into the wee hours at Traffic Lounge. Ruannes Nightclub has live bands on weekends, and the Clarkson Pub, which dates back to 1870, has become popular as a gastropub and live music venue. Beer or tunes not your scene? Head over to Yuk Yuk’s Barrie comedy club for a good laugh.