A Cultural Tour of Barrie, Ontario

Barrie is a city in southeastern Ontario, Canada, and the seat of Simcoe County. It is situated along Kempenfelt Bay, an arm of Lake Simcoe, about 55 miles (90 km) north-northwest of Toronto. 

The city's history dates back to 1812 when a storehouse was built. Later, the Nine-Mile-Portage became the landing and starting point of the War of 1812. The city was named after Commodore Robert Barrie, commander of a naval squadron at Kingston, Ontario. 

Barrie's early economy was based on agriculture and lumbering, but it has since diversified to include services and manufacturing. Today, Barrie is a popular summer and winter resort, offering attractions such as Centennial Park, the Simcoe County Museum and Archives, Springwater Provincial Park, and the Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology. 

As of 2021, the city had a population of approximately 147,829, with many immigrants from various countries, including the United States, Europe, Africa, India, the Philippines, Korea, and China. 

Barrie is known for its low cost of living, decent employment prospects, and moderate climate, making it an increasingly attractive city for newcomers to Canada.

History of Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Barrie, Ontario, Canada, has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century. The city's origins can be traced back to the First Nations People who used the western shores of Kempenfelt Bay as a place of rest before traveling the portage between Lake Simcoe and the Nottawasaga River to Lake Huron. 

The War of 1812 resulted in increased use of the area, allowing British troops and supplies to bypass American forces at Detroit. After the war, settlers arrived and took up residence at the end of the portage, beginning the traces of Barrie's first community. 

The British military presence is reflected in many street names and even in the city's name, in honor of British Admiral Sir Robert Barrie.

The early economy of Barrie was based on agriculture and lumbering. In 1846, the population of Barrie was roughly 500, mainly from England, Ireland, and Scotland. A private school, three churches, a brick courthouse, and a limestone jail were in operation. 

Local businesses included three taverns, six stores, three tanneries, a wagon maker, a bakery, a cabinet maker, six shoemakers, and a bank. 

By 1869, Barrie became the county seat of Simcoe County, flourishing with a population of over 3,000 people. This population increase led to the establishment of prominent businesses and landmarks. 

In 1850, Edward Marks established the Barrie Hotel (now called the Queen's Hotel), the oldest continuously running hotel in Barrie. 

James and Joseph Anderton established the Anderton Brewery in 1869, one of Barrie's most significant employers for years. Edmund Lally opened one of the Canadian Bank of Commerce's original branches in Barrie in 1867.

A line of the Northern Railway was opened in 1853, connecting Barrie with Toronto and several other municipalities in Simcoe County and Muskoka. 

The Hamilton and North-Western Railway (H&NW) also ran through Barrie, and the two railways would eventually reorganize into the Northern and North-Western Railway in June 1879. Allandale Station was the primary train station serving Barrie at the time. 

The Grand Trunk Railway purchased the original Northern Railway in 1888, and the line serving Barrie would become a branch of the Canadian National Railway (CPR). 

Throughout the latter part of the 19th century, steamships ran from Barrie to the Muskoka Territory, Orillia, and other communities, and passengers were also taken to Penetanguishene.

The period of 1870 to 1890 defined Barrie's downtown development. A series of raging fires sequentially destroyed the city, giving rise to the moniker that Barrie was 'among the best burning towns in Canada.' 

Many local businesses like breweries, tanneries, and sawmills depended on fire, endangering the ramshackle assortment of wooden homes and buildings that made up the city center. 

One of the most destructive fires came in mid-1875 when the entire section north of Dunlop Street to Collier Street, bounded by Clapperton and Owen Streets, was reduced to ash, destroying around 20 local businesses.

In the 20th century, the modern streets and buildings of Barrie began to take form in a massive rebuilding process. The long-anticipated railway connection in 1865 joined Barrie to the City of York, its resources, and industry. 

However, the building of Highway 400 in 1950 provided tourists with easy access and exposure to our beautiful city by the Bay. Barrie is the favorite for family fun in Central Ontario. 

Today, Barrie has a population of more than 145,000 and continues to be one of Canada's fastest-growing cities. Some of our key attractions focus on remembering our heritage and what led to our city's success. 

The Simcoe County Museum invites you to explore the area as it once was. Pioneer buildings and a Victorian Village Street invite you to 'take the infinite journey' back in time.

For historical information about Barrie and Simcoe County, please get in touch with the following organizations: 

Heritage Barrie City Hall, Planning Dept., P.O. Box 400, Barrie, ON L4M 4T5 

  • Phone: (705) 726-4242 
  • Description: Acts as an architectural advisory committee to the City Council on the historical and architectural importance of buildings and other heritage matters in Barrie. The City Council appoints the committee. 

Barrie Native Friendship Centre175 Bayfield Street, Barrie, ON L4M 3B4 

  • Phone: (705) 721-7689, Fax: (705) 721-7418
  • Web:

Simcoe County Archives 1149 Hwy 26, RR#2, Minesing, ON L0L 1Y0 

  • Phone: (705) 726-9331, 
  • Fax: (705) 725-5341 
  • Web:

City of Barrie70 Collier Street, Barrie, ON L4M 1G8 

  • Phone: (705) 739-4242, 
  • Fax: (705) 739-4237
  • Web:

Geography of Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Barrie, Ontario, Canada, is located in Central Ontario, approximately 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Toronto, within Simcoe County along the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, an arm of Lake Simcoe. 

The city is part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe subregion and is accessible via Highways 26, 400, and 11. Barrie is considered a "bedroom community," with about 4/5 of its population residing in the metropolitan area, which covers 898.02 square kilometers. 

The city's countryside features ample farmland and grassland, with numerous creeks and streams flowing into Kempenfelt Bay.

Barrie's infrastructure includes a historic downtown area in a valley along the western edge of Kempenfelt Bay, part of Lake Simcoe. 

The city center is relatively flat, gradually moving upwards to the south and north, with some areas having steep terrain. Key landmarks in Barrie include the Simcoe County Museum and Archives, Springwater Provincial Park, Centennial Park, Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology, and the Canadian Forces Base Borden, located a few miles west of the city.

Economically, Barrie is a summer and winter resort with a diversified economy that includes services and manufacturing. While the median household income in Ontario was $74,287, Barrie's median household income was $113,575. 

The city's workforce is varied, with employment opportunities in retail, healthcare, social assistance, and other sectors. 

Barrie's historical roots trace back to its establishment as a municipality in Canada in 1837. It evolved from an economy based on agriculture and lumbering to a vibrant city known for its arts, culture, and picturesque waterfront views.

Barrie, Ontario, has a rich history, diverse economy, and picturesque geography, including a mix of urban and natural landscapes. These make it a popular destination for residents and tourists alike.

Economy of Barrie, Ontario, Canada

The economy of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, is diverse and dynamic. Key industries drive economic growth and provide employment opportunities for its residents. 

Barrie's economy is characterized by a mix of industries, with significant contributions from sectors such as retail trade, educational services, healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and tourism. 

Manufacturing plays a crucial role in the local economy, providing more than 17% of employment in the county. At the same time, retail trade and tourism also contribute significantly to job creation and economic activity in the region.

Barrie's economic development strategy focuses on nurturing small businesses and incentivizing entrepreneurship and business growth.

Initiatives like Invest Barrie consolidate efforts to assist small businesses through resources and support from the Economic & Creative Development Department. 

The department offers services such as demographic research, location selection, and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their businesses there.

The city's economic growth has been notable in recent years. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of jobs in Simcoe County doubled to 200,000, with a majority concentrated in southern communities like Barrie. 

Around 63% of Barrie residents work within the city, and this trend is expected to continue with projected population growth. By 2041, the city's population is estimated to grow by approximately 69% to 253,000, with an increase of around 129,000 jobs. 

Barrie's unemployment rate is lower than the national average, standing at 8.89%, and various sectors have experienced double-digit growth, including industries related to arts, entertainment, recreation, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and healthcare.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada has invested significantly in Barrie and the surrounding region to support economic growth and development. 

These investments, totaling nearly $14 million, aim to enhance tourism attractions, improve public spaces, create jobs, and stimulate local economies. 

Projects funded through initiatives like the Tourism Relief Fund and the Canada Community Revitalization Fund are designed to attract visitors, strengthen communities, and provide accessible public spaces for residents and tourists.

Barrie's economy is characterized by diverse industries, a focus on supporting small businesses, significant job growth, and substantial government investments to drive economic development and enhance the city's overall prosperity.

Demographics of Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Barrie, Ontario, Canada's demographics provide a comprehensive overview of the city's population, housing, income, and language distribution. As of 2021, Barrie has a population of 147,829, with a population density of 1,493.1 individuals per square kilometer. 

The city's population increased by 4.5% from 2016 to 2021, indicating steady growth. The median age in Barrie is 38.4, with a relatively balanced male-to-female ratio of 1:1. 

Most residents in Barrie are married couples, accounting for 63% of the population, and 45% of families have children at home.

Regarding language distribution, the vast majority of the population in Barrie speaks English only, with 92.6% of residents reporting English as their primary language. French is spoken by a tiny percentage of the population, at 0.1%. 

The city's demographics also reflect a diverse cultural background, with a visible minority population that includes individuals of Black, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American, and Filipino descent, among others.

Regarding income, the average total income in 2020 among recipients in Barrie was $51,550, with an average after-tax income of $43,560. The average total income for households in 2020 was $108,300, with an average after-tax income of $91,600. 

The employment rate in Barrie stands at 58.1%, with an unemployment rate of 12.5% and a participation rate of 66.4%.

The demographics of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, paint a picture of a growing and diverse city with a relatively young population, a strong presence of married couples and families, a predominantly English-speaking community, and a mix of cultural backgrounds contributing to the city's vibrant and dynamic social fabric.

Education in Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Education is an essential aspect of Barrie, Ontario, Canada's development and growth. The city has a rich history of education, establishing a private school, three churches, a brick courthouse, and a limestone jail in 1846. These cater to a population of roughly 500, mainly from England, Ireland, and Scotland. 

By 1869, Barrie had become the county seat of Simcoe County and flourished with a population of over 3,000, leading to prominent businesses and landmarks.

The city's educational landscape has evolved to cater to the needs of its growing population. Georgian College, located in Barrie, offers a range of educational opportunities, from single courses to diploma, certificate, or degree programs, allowing students to study at their own pace. 

The College's Barrie Campus provides a conducive learning environment for students, contributing to the city's educational landscape.

Barrie's economy is diverse, with significant contributions from various sectors, including retail trade, educational services, healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and tourism. 

The city's educational services sector plays a crucial role in shaping the local economy, providing employment opportunities for residents, and contributing to the city's overall growth and development.

The city's commitment to education is evident in its efforts to nurture small businesses, with initiatives like Invest Barrie consolidating efforts from Barrie's Small Business Centre and the Economic & Creative Development. 

These efforts aim to ensure that the city's entrepreneurial spirit thrives, providing opportunities for residents to start or expand their businesses in the surrounding Simcoe County area.

Education is an essential aspect of Barrie, Ontario, Canada's growth and development. The city's rich education history, diverse economy, and commitment to nurturing small businesses contribute to a vibrant community.

Transport System in Barrie, Ontario, Canada

The transportation system in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, is diverse and well-connected, offering a range of local and long-distance travel options. The city has two bus services, GO Bus and Ontario Northland, which bring commuters to Barrie from Toronto's main bus stations. 

The Barrie Bus Terminal is located in Downtown Barrie and serves as a hub for public transit. Barrie Specialized Transit offers a door-to-door shared ride-accessible public transit service for those with mobility challenges.

The city's public transit system, Barrie Transit, operates from the Transit Terminal at 24 Maple Avenue and offers convenient transportation throughout the city4. 

System and platform maps can be picked up in person at Service Barrie, the Downtown Transit Terminal, Allandale Recreation Centre, and East Bayfield Community Centre.

In addition to public transit, Barrie also offers taxi services, including Barrie Taxi and Deluxe Taxi, for those seeking more personalized transportation options. 

Simcoe County Airport Service Inc. provides safe and reliable transportation between Simcoe County and Pearson International Airport for air travel.

LINX, a conventional public transit system, links major urban hubs and local transit services in Simcoe County1 for intercity travel. LINX offers three routes: 

  • Route 1 - Penetanguishene/Midland to Barrie, 
  • Route 2 - Wasaga Beach to Barrie, and 
  • Route 3 - Barrie to Orillia.

Furthermore, Landmark Bus Lines offers various charter transportation services, including vans, school buses, motor coaches, executive coaches, and limousines.

Barrie's comprehensive transportation system offers a range of local and long-distance travel options, including public transit, taxi services, air travel, and intercity bus services.

Living in Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Living in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, offers a unique combination of urban and natural environments. The city is situated along the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, a part of Lake Simcoe. 

Barrie's location is ideal for transportation convenience. It is about an hour and fifteen minutes north of Toronto, making it a popular choice for those looking to live near the Greater Toronto Area and the waterfront.

Barrie is a mid-sized city in central, southwestern Ontario. As of 2016, its population was over 141,434, representing a nearly 4% increase from the previous census data collected in 2011. 

The city is known for its rich history. Its early settlement was largely agricultural, and its economy later industrialized to include manufacturing and service industries.

The city's economy is diverse, with significant contributions from various sectors, including retail trade, educational services, healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and tourism. 

Barrie's economy is supported by a strong transportation system. Two bus services, GO Bus and Ontario Northland, connect commuters to Barrie from Toronto's main bus stations. 

The city also has a well-connected public transit system, Barrie Transit, which operates from the Transit Terminal at 24 Maple Avenue.

Living in Barrie offers a range of housing options, from single-family homes, condos, apartments, and townhouses in many unique neighborhoods. 

The city is also known for its robust education system, with Georgian College providing various educational opportunities, from single courses to diploma, certificate, or degree programs.

Barrie's natural environment is another significant draw for residents. Kempenfelt Bay provides opportunities for water-based activities, and the city's parks and green spaces offer plenty of outdoor recreation options. 

Compared to Toronto, the city's lower housing prices and cost of living make it an attractive option for those looking for a more affordable lifestyle without sacrificing access to urban amenities and business opportunities.

Living in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, offers a unique combination of urban convenience, natural beauty, and a diverse economy, making it an attractive option for those looking to relocate to the area.

Tourist places at Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Some of the top tourist places to visit in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, include:

  • Spirit Catcher Sculpture: Located at 15 Lakeshore Dr, the Spirit Catcher is a famous landmark in Barrie, offering visitors a unique and artistic experience.
  • Arboretum Sunnidale Park: Situated at 265 Sunnidale Rd, this park provides a serene natural setting for outdoor activities and relaxation, attracting many visitors with its beauty and tranquility.
  • Minet's Point Park: Found at 10 Lismer Blvd, Minet's Point Park offers stunning views and recreational opportunities along the waterfront, making it a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.
  • Centennial Beach: Located at 65 Lakeshore Dr, Centennial Beach is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the waterfront in Barrie.
  • Waterfront Fountain: This fountain, situated on Lakeshore Dr, is a picturesque spot that adds to the charm of Barrie's waterfront area, attracting visitors with its beauty and ambiance.
  • The Big 2000: Positioned on ON-400, The Big 2000 is a unique attraction that offers a different experience for those visiting Barrie.
  • Bear Creek Eco Park: This park in Barrie provides a natural setting for outdoor activities and exploration, appealing to nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat7.

These attractions offer natural beauty, artistic expression, and recreational opportunities, making Barrie a diverse and engaging tourist destination.

Traditional Dishes of Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Barrie, Ontario, Canada, offers various traditional dishes from various cuisines. The city's culinary scene includes a mix of local and international flavors, with many restaurants offering authentic dishes worldwide. Here are some traditional dishes you can find in Barrie:

  • Amaya - The Real Indian Food: Amaya offers a unique dining experience combining the best Indian cuisine with modern culinary techniques. They pride themselves on showcasing authentic Indian food in a contemporary way.
  • Rim Thanon Thai Kitchen: Rim Thanon offers delicious and authentic Thai street food, with a family-run restaurant that brings the flavors of Thailand to Barrie.
  • Sea Snap: Sea Snap is a premier, one-of-a-kind restaurant that invites you on a global culinary odyssey. It offers a unique dining experience that transcends borders and brings together flavors from around the world.
  • Sandwich Co. Famous Italian Sandwiches: Sandwich Co. Famous Italian Sandwiches offers classic Italian sandwiches made with high-quality ingredients, making it a local favorite.
  • Rooh's Shawarma & Fast Food: Rooh's Shawarma & Fast Food serves mouthwatering shawarma and a diverse range of fast food options, with a commitment to quality and exceptional service.
  • Carib Dish: Carib Dish serves authentic Caribbean cuisine in Barrie, offering dishes like jerk chicken, curried goat, rice and beans, and coleslaw.
  • Campbell British Food & Tearoom: This restaurant offers traditional British dishes like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and afternoon tea, bringing a taste of England to Barrie.

These are just a few of the traditional dishes available in Barrie, and many more options are available for those looking to explore the city's diverse culinary scene.

The city also has a thriving arts and culture scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues. Additionally, Barrie hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, including Kempenfest, Barrielicious, and Winterfest.

Its proximity to Toronto, just an hour's drive away, makes it an attractive location for commuters looking for a balance between urban amenities and natural beauty.


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