9 Top-Rated Things to Do in Bracebridge, Ontario

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Dec 11, 2020

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. Close enough to Toronto to make for a pleasant day trip, Canada's waterfall capital offers plenty of fun things to do for all ages.

Traveling with kids? Your first stop must be Santa's Village, a delightful mini-theme park that's been entertaining kids and patient parents for over 50 years.

And for grown-ups there's also no end of fun to be had. 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.

To learn more about 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: Santa's Village

A staple on every parent's Muskoka must-do list for over 50 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.

The water park area's also fun and includes a rotating barrel ride and the world's longest waterslide. 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 good list!

Address: 1624 Golden Beach Road, Bracebridge, Ontario

Official site: www.santasvillage.ca

2. Explore "Canada's Waterfall Capital"

Waterfall in downtown Bracebridge
Waterfall in downtown Bracebridge

No visit to Bracebridge 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 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 (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.

Official site: www.bracebridge.ca/en/be-active/Beaches-Parks-Trails-and-Waterfalls

3. Celebrate in Downtown Bracebridge

Bracebridge Library
Bracebridge Library | Perry Quan / photo modified

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, caf├ęs, 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.

4. Take a Cruise aboard Lady Muskoka

Lady Muskoka
Lady Muskoka | Explorers' Edge / photo modified

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

Docked alongside the Quality Inn, this pleasant 31-meter-long, 300-passenger vessel takes visitors along the Muskoka River out into Lake Muskoka, the largest of the region's lakes. With three levels of seating to choose from, there are plenty of great vantage points from which to watch the spectacular scenery pass by.

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.

For a special treat, book one of the popular lunchtime cruises - it's a fun way to see some of the best scenery this beautiful region has to offer.

Address: 300 Ecclestone Drive, Bracebridge, Ontario

Official site: www.ladymuskoka.com

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 amid (at the time) 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

Official site: www.bracebridge.ca/en/explore/woodchester

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.

Other fun things to do during the fall season in Bracebridge include taking a hike along the nature trails around its many waterfalls, 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.

Official site: muskokaautumnstudiotour.com

7. Check Out Muskoka Arts and Crafts

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. Here, 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

Official site: https://muskokaartsandcrafts.com/summer-show/

8. Have Fun at the 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 fun 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. 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

Official site: https://bracebridgefair.com/index.html

9. 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

Official site: www.muskokapioneerpower.ca

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