Increasingly in recent years, the booming central Ontario city of almost 150,000 people has become a bedroom community of the giant metropolis roughly an hour south of it.
Barrie's biggest feature is that it's located on Kempenfelt Bay on the western shore of Lake Simcoe. The Trent-Severn Waterway links Lake Simcoe with everything around it and because of that Barrie has a considerable amount of summer tourist traffic passing through. Back in the day, Lake Simcoe was the it destination of the cultured set in Toronto, though that area has now moved to Muskoka, about an hour further north. With that evolution, Barrie now essentially serves as a gateway to Cottage Country. But Lake Simcoe and Kempenfelt Bay have always been a pretty piece of shoreline and three Barrie beaches -- Centennial, Johnsons and Tyndale -- are popular primarily with locals but the occasional day-tripper as well.
Barrie has developed its local arts and theatre scene quite well. Georgian Theatre (located on the campus of the college of the same name) and the Mady Centre for the Performing Arts are chock-a-block throughout most of the year with various productions. A number of art houses, highlighted by the McLaren Art Gallery, also operate in the city.
From a sports point of view, the local major junior hockey team, the Colts and the semi-pro baseball Baycats dominate the local headlines, though rugby has also taken root in recent years.
Perhaps most of all -- and to the chagrin of some locals who feel things have gone a bit crazy -- Barrie's downtown has a vibrant nightlife. The roughly kilometer street downtown between Mary and Mulcaster Streets is, well, mad on Thursday through Saturday night (with the occasional Tuesday as well). It would be tough to find a bar district anywhere locally or further afield in Toronto more lively than downtown Barrie. If you plan on doing a pub crawl, plan it right or it may result in fuzzy memories and a roaring headache.
But the golf here will soothe all aches and pains. Tangle Creek Golf & Country Club in the south end strikes a nice balance between playability, difficulty and hospitality. The Nottawasaga Resort, just to the south of Tangle Creek, has two golf courses located on site and is the preferred destination of many professional and national sports teams looking for a few days of R&R away from the hustle-bustle of Toronto. Further north of Barrie is where most of the golf courses are located: Horseshoe Resort(36 holes), Heritage Hills Golf Club and Hawk Ridge Golf & Country Club (36) are all solid tracks just north of the city heading toward Muskoka.
Muskoka, the cottage country destination two hours north of Toronto, is home to 1,600 lakes -- big and small -- and, most important to golfers, some of the best golf courses in Canada. With more than 20 courses, Muskoka states a strong case as the best golf destination in the country, Jason Scott Deegan writes from Huntsville.
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Muskoka is stocked with difficult courses cut through the rocky terrain, but for those seeking a simple walk in the park, Windermere Golf & Country Club is the choice. Members love the 6,215-yard Windermere for its three abilities: affordability, walkability and playability. The course is well suited for a family, seniors, juniors, beginners or couples looking for a nice day out playing golf.
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