12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Bracebridge, Ontario

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Updated Mar 24, 2023

Author Bryan Dearsley lives near Bracebridge and enjoys sharing the many fun things to do in this popular destination in Muskoka with visitors from across the globe.

Set overlooking spectacular waterfalls and the fast-flowing Muskoka River, the attractive town of Bracebridge is one of the best places to visit in Muskoka for those seeking a getaway or vacation in Ontario. Close enough to the city of Toronto to make for a pleasant day trip, Canada's waterfall capital offers plenty of fun things to do for all ages.

Downtown Bracebridge, Ontario
Downtown Bracebridge, Ontario | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Traveling with kids? Your first stop must be Santa's Village. This delightful mini theme park has been entertaining kids and patient parents for over 60 years. Kids will also enjoy spending time at the beach, with Bracebridge boasting some of the best riverside parks and beaches in Muskoka.

And for grown-ups there's also no end of fun. From world-class concerts and shows at the Rene M Caisse Theatre to great fine- and casual dining restaurants to fun festivals and events in the downtown core, Bracebridge certainly delivers when it comes to providing great cultural and entertainment experiences for adult travelers.

To learn more about this beautiful small town in Muskoka, be sure to read through our list of the top things to do in Bracebridge, Ontario.

1. See Santa's Summer Home at Santa's Village

Santa's Village
Santa's Village | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

A staple on every parent's Muskoka must-do list for over 60 years, Santa's Village continues to entertain kids with its fun mix of theme park and adventure-park-style attractions. These days, a visit to Santa's Village includes much more than just the chance to see Santa in shorts at his official summer home.

There's everything here from the pay-as-you-play Sportsland Park, which includes activities such as go-carts, mini-golf, laser tag, batting cages, and arcade-style games. There's even a thrilling zipline and treetop trekking experience suitable for teens.

Younger kids, of course, also have plenty of fun things to do in Santa's Village. Highlights guaranteed to keep them busy for hours include the fun mini-train that circles the park, roller coasters, carousels, boat rides aboard Santa's Summer Sleigh along the Muskoka River, and a chance to visit Santa's summer cottage.

Santa's Village
Santa's Village | Photo Copyright: Santa's Village

The water park areas, known as Santa's Spray and Play Beach Zone, are also fun and include a variety of splash pads and wet play areas for youngsters to cool off in (bring a towel!). For a special treat, why not book a fun "breakfast with Santa" experience for the kids?

And if you're planning a winter visit to Bracebridge, there's still plenty of fun to be had, as the big man returns to Santa's Village for a few days each December to participate in SantaFest. Fun activities include gingerbread cookie decorating, seeing Santa's reindeer at the petting farm, roasting marshmallows, and checking you're on Santa's "nice" list!

Address: 1624 Golden Beach Road, Bracebridge, Ontario

2. Explore "Canada's Waterfall Capital"

Waterfall in downtown Bracebridge
Waterfall in downtown Bracebridge | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

While Bracebridge may not have the biggest waterfalls in Canada, no visit here is complete without visiting at least one of its eight major waterfalls. In fact, you can't visit this picturesque Muskokan town without at least driving past (or over) its largest waterfalls. Bracebridge Falls is located at the bottom end of the downtown core, where Manitoba Street meets Ecclestone Drive, and is crossed by both a rail bridge and a road bridge known to locals as the "Silver Bridge."

The best way to experience the thundering waters of the Muskoka River as it passes over the falls is from Bracebridge Bay Park at the bottom of the falls (parking available). From here, you can walk past the historic Bracebridge Power Plant (you can't miss it — it looks like a cute cottage), right over the falls, to Kelvin Grove Park on the other side. Here, you'll find a lovely riverside boardwalk, as well as a playground for the kids to burn off some steam.

When heading back to the town center, take the historic Riverwalk with its spectacular views of Bracebridge Falls. If you're around Muskoka on Canada day, be sure to stake your claim to a spot adjacent to the falls to watch one of the best fireworks displays to be seen outside of Disney World (seriously, it's that good!).

Other falls worth exploring in Bracebridge include the aptly named High Falls, which resembles a mini Niagara falls, and Wilson's Falls, accessible by a pleasant riverside trail. For some of the most dramatic photos of these falls, try to time your visit for early spring when the melting snow up-river greatly increases the flow of water.

Read More: Top-Rated Waterfalls in Canada

3. Celebrate in Downtown Bracebridge

Bracebridge Library
Bracebridge Library | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Downtown Bracebridge is a vibrant, always bustling locale that's well worth exploring. Even when there are no events or festivals being hosted here, the town's hub is a great place to visit. Here, you'll find everything from great restaurants, cafés, and delis to boutique clothing stores, art galleries, and sporting goods outlets.

Starting at the top of Manitoba Street at Memorial Park, the main street slopes gently down to Bracebridge Falls, with no end of shopping opportunities along the way. Visit during the annual Midnight Madness Street Festival each summer, and you'll be treated to a fun summer's evening of entertainment, food and drink experiences, and late night shopping.

Come back in winter, and the main street is transferred into a winter wonderland. In the lead-up to Christmas, the kids will love participating in Santa's Festival of Lights and Shopping Party. Fun activities include wolfing down some festive treats, live music, and wagon rides. Then return in the New Year for the Fire and Ice Festival, with tubing runs and a carnival atmosphere that draws locals and visitors alike.

And don't be shy to wander away from the main street. By taking a little detour, you'll find yourself wandering around classy heritage homes dating from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

Come back at night, and the main street is magnificently lit up, highlights being the town's historic clock, the bell tower, courthouse, and, of course, its silver bridge spanning Bracebridge Falls. And consider taking in a movie at the classic Norwood Cinemas, one of the oldest family-run movie houses in Ontario.

Address: Manitoba Street, Bracebridge, Ontario

4. Take a Cruise on Muskoka's Lakes

Muskoka Lakes cruise boat
Muskoka Lakes cruise boat | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

As popular with tourists during the summer season as it is in the fall when Muskoka's maple trees burst into a spectacular cavalcade of color, a cruise around the "Big Three" Muskoka Lakes is a great way to explore the waterways and lakes around Bracebridge.

A number of excellent cruise options are available, including some that operate out of Bracebridge itself. Docked alongside the Quality Inn, the recently launched Muskoka Gaga features daily departures that take in picture perfect "cottage country" views along the Muskoka River and Lake Muskoka.

One of the ship's most popular cruises takes in the famous Millionaire's Row. This nearly three-hour tour passes by some of the largest and most luxurious cottages on the lake, many of which have been in the same families since the region opened up to tourism in the early 1900s.

The Muskoka Cruises company also offers sightseeing voyages out of the neighboring community of Port Carling. This vessel, the Lady Rosseau, offers scenic cruises along an area that's known as "Billionaires Row" for its mammoth cottages, many owned by Hollywood elites and successful tech industry founders.

Also fun, the historic Peerless II offers a variety of cruises out of Port Carling into Lake Rosseau and Lake Joseph.

Address: 300 Ecclestone Drive, Bracebridge, Ontario

Read More: Best Lakes in Ontario

5. Visit Historic Woodchester Villa

Woodchester Villa
Woodchester Villa | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Perched high on a hill overlooking Bracebridge Falls stands Woodchester Villa. Built in 1882, this remarkable octagonal building was the Muskoka home of Henry J. Bird and his family for over three generations before ownership was transferred to the Town of Bracebridge.

Often referred to by locals as "The Bird House," this unique home was considered innovative at the time of construction. Set at the time amid 100 acres adjoining the Muskoka River, the home's design was influenced by 19th-century architectural philosopher Orson Squire Fowler, who not only believed an eight-sided building was a more economical way to build but that it also led to heightened well-being.

Woodchester Villa is also notable for having been the first home in Bracebridge to have electric lighting, forced air heating, and ventilation shafts, as well as being an early example of poured concrete walls. Many of the home's original furnishings, too, have been preserved.

While visits to The Bird House should be booked in advance, they include the opportunity to enjoy the gardens, take in the views, and explore one of the Muskoka region's most important heritage buildings. This impressive building can also be rented out for special events such as weddings.

Address: 15 King Street, Bracebridge, Ontario

6. Tour the Fall Colors and Artists' Studios

Fall colors at Potts Falls near Bracebridge
Fall colors at Potts Falls near Bracebridge

While autumn can be one of those awkward "slow seasons" for many travel destinations, for Muskoka, it's quite the opposite. When the region's famous fall colors start peeking through the greenery right to their climax in mid- to late October, Muskoka's parks, trails, and scenic driving routes are full of "leafers" from far and wide, all here to view the spectacle.

And, thanks to its many lovely waterfalls, Bracebridge is definitely one of the best places to visit to experience the beauty of Ontario's fall colors. One of the most popular driving routes, and one that takes in a number of Bracebridge locations, is the Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour.

This fun driving route also takes in some of Muskoka's top art galleries and artists' studios along the way, providing a unique opportunity to see the creative process firsthand and interact with local painters, sculptors, and artisans.

Fall colors in Bracebridge
Fall colors in Bracebridge | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Other fun things to do during the fall season in Bracebridge include taking a hike along the nature trails around its many waterfalls. Also fun is, enjoying a gentle stroll through the town's leafy neighborhoods, or playing a round of golf with the trees providing a colorful backdrop.

If traveling with kids, be sure to include the always fun Bracebridge Fall Fair on your travel itinerary. Some of the best Muskoka resorts also offer seasonal packages that include opportunities to enjoy these spectacular fall colors.

Read More: Top-Rated Places to Travel in October

7. Have a Splash at Kirby's Beach

Kirby's Beach
Kirby's Beach | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Many visitors to Muskoka are surprised to learn that the region boasts a variety of excellent, kid-friendly beaches. Bracebridge is certainly no exception, and offers a number of places for families to relax and soak up a fun beach experience.

The best of Bracebridge's beaches is Kirby's Beach. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Bracebridge, this popular day trip spot is set overlooking Strawberry Bay on Lake Muskoka and boasts superb views out over the water. Features include the soft sandy beach with shallow-water entrances, a large grassy area that's perfect for running about and playing ball games, picnic tables, as well as a playground.

Ample parking is available, and washroom facilities and change rooms are located close to the beach. Although smaller and not so shallow, High Falls Beach is great for those traveling with older kids or as a couple.

Address: 1010 Kirby's Beach Road, Bracebridge, Ontario

Read More: Best Beaches in Muskoka

8. See the Lake Views from Huckleberry Rock Lookout

Huckleberry Rock Lookout
Huckleberry Rock Lookout | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Located about mid-way between Bracebridge and the small community of Port Carling, Huckleberry Rock Outlook is one of the best places to visit in Muskoka for those seeking the ultimate cottage country selfie. While this spectacular pink granite outcrop is interesting enough from the impressive rock cut along Hwy 118 West, the best "wow!" moments are had when you make the climb up to the park's namesake lookout point.

Following the trails from the info kiosk adjacent the car park, you'll need to expend some energy making the climb to the top of this large, pink granite dome. And don't despair if you find yourself losing sight of the official trail. Keep the lake on your right and keep walking for no more than about 15 minutes across the exposed granite and you'll eventually what you're looking for: the lookout point.

The views from atop this tall, rounded slab of granite are breathtaking. Spread far below and disappearing into the distance is Lake Muskoka, the region's largest lake. And while a selfie is always a great souvenir, you'll likely find a fellow visitor willing to take a shot of you and your friends or family atop the rock — an especially memorable experience at sunset.

A wonderful book by a leading local writer and editor, Andrew Wagner-Chazalon, The Hidden World of Huckleberry Rock provides an overview of this attraction's appeal, along with some stunning photos by local photographer Bev McMullen.

Address: 1057 Milford Bay Road, Bracebridge, Ontario

9. Check Out Muskoka Arts and Crafts

Muskoka Arts and Crafts
Muskoka Arts and Crafts | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

In addition to the popular Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour, there are many other great opportunities to explore the vibrant arts scene in and around Bracebridge. The main event is the annual summer Muskoka Arts and Crafts Show.

Now in its sixth decade, Muskoka's largest and oldest outdoor art show draws upwards of 25,000 art enthusiasts each year to beautiful Annie Williams Memorial Park. Held each July, this fun-filled three day event sees some 200-plus vendors from across Canada display their unique work, sharing their craft with visitors young and old alike.

Muskoka Arts and Crafts also hold a number of smaller, but no less interesting art events throughout the year. One of the most popular is the Christmas Show, when up to 100 local vendors get together to display their wares.

Address: 15 King Street, Bracebridge, Ontario

10. Have Fun with the Family at Bracebridge Fall Fair

Fall Fair in Bracebridge
Fall Fair in Bracebridge | Photo Copyright: Explorers Edge

After having been a fixture on the Muskoka events calendar for over 150 years, the always-enjoyable Bracebridge Fall Fair and Horse Show makes for another great excuse to visit cottage country post-summer. With an emphasis very much on family fun, this three-day fixture is held over a weekend in mid-September and offers plenty of fun things to do for all ages.

Highlights for younger kids include midway rides including a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and carousels, as well as classic carnival games, live animals, a petting zoo, and a variety of interactive exhibits.

Bracebridge Fall Fair
Bracebridge Fall Fair | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

Add to this the traditional fall fair staples such as horse pulls, light- and heavy horse displays, tractor pulls, horticultural events, and food, and this great fall fair offers plenty of old-fashioned fun for everyone.

Location: JD Lang Activity Park, 30 Fraserburg, Bracebridge, Ontario

11. Get All Steamed Up at Muskoka Pioneer Power

Muskoka Pioneer Power
Muskoka Pioneer Power | Photo Copyright: Muskoka Pioneer Power

Another great event held annually at JD Lang Activity Park, the Muskoka Pioneer Power Show has been a summer fixture for many years in Muskoka. Organized by the Muskoka Pioneer Power Association, this unique event brings together a vast array of exhibits and people related to vintage machinery.

Held each year in July, you'll find everything here from gas and diesel-powered tractors, cars, vans, and trucks to classic, old steam-powered vehicles once used on Ontario farms and factories. Also displayed is machinery and equipment related to logging and forestry, including items from Muskoka saw mills and blacksmith shops, as well as models.

Other highlights include tractor pulls, a country store, vendors, and wrapping the whole show up, a grand parade.

Location: JD Lang Activity Park, 30 Fraserburg, Bracebridge, Ontario

12. Spend the Day in Port Carling

Muskoka Lakes Museum in Port Carling
Muskoka Lakes Museum in Port Carling | Photo Copyright: Bryan Dearsley

A pretty 25-minute drive west of Bracebridge through the Huckleberry Rock Cut, a trip to the small community of Port Carling makes for a fun excursion. Street parking is available but can be tough during the busy summer months, but the rewards for a little patience and maneuvering are plentiful.

In addition to excellent shopping and dining opportunities, there are a number of interesting attractions here, too. The focal point is the Port Carling Locks, where you can enjoy watching cottage boat traffic coming and going, as well as the occasional historic wooden pleasure-craft Muskoka's famous for.

You'll also find a beautiful park adjacent to the locks. Home to the Muskoka Lakes Museum, this pleasant green space is perfect for a picnic.

Bracebridge, Canada - Climate Chart

Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Bracebridge, Canada in °C
-5 -16 -4 -16 2 -9 10 -2 18 4 22 9 25 12 24 11 19 7 13 2 5 -3 -2 -12
Average monthly precipitation totals for Bracebridge, Canada in mm.
89 64 69 74 84 86 76 91 109 97 112 107
Average monthly snowfall totals for Bracebridge, Canada in cm.
86 53 38 14 3 0 0 0 0 4 43 85
Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Bracebridge, Canada in °F
22 2 25 3 35 15 50 29 63 39 72 48 77 53 74 52 66 44 54 35 40 26 27 10
Average monthly precipitation totals for Bracebridge, Canada in inches.
3.5 2.5 2.7 2.9 3.3 3.4 3.0 3.6 4.3 3.8 4.4 4.2
Average monthly snowfall totals for Bracebridge, Canada in inches.
34 21 15 5.6 1.1 0 0 0 0 1.5 17 33