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Major changes in play at local hotel (10 photos)

Highwayman Inn renovations include revamped restaurant with bowling, bumper cars, arcade

Hotel or fun zone?

The Highwayman Inn and Conference Centre didn’t want to make that choice, so it is going with both.

The Orillia hotel has undergone its first major renovations in 15 years. All guest rooms have been redone. The lobby has been opened up with the removal of the fireplace. The floor in the pool room has been resurfaced and there are new change rooms. The furniture has been replaced and the bathrooms have all had makeovers.

While regular visitors to the hotel will certainly notice those differences, they’re in for a real eye-opening experience when they enter the restaurant formerly known as McCabe’s.

Now called the 201 Grill and Game Bar (the hotel’s address is 201 Woodside Dr.), it is almost unrecognizable. What used to be a more typical-looking pub now resembles a restaurant. And an arcade. And a bowling alley. There are bumper cars, too.

“Orillia needed something different,” said Kelly Callan, the hotel’s general manager. “The reaction to this has been amazing because you don’t have anything like this unless you go to Barrie.”

People who are in town for sporting events are often looking for something fun for their kids to do.

“They would say, ‘What’s there to do in Orillia?’ They would take them to the movies or something like that,” Callan said. “Now they can stay in Orillia.”

For those staying at the hotel, there are packages available that include the fun and games at 201, but those activities aren’t only for hotel guests. Anyone can stop in and purchase tokens to play.

The restaurant was closed from March until the end of August. The hotel remained open throughout renovations, which began in November 2016 and were finished this June. One of the finishing touches is being added: a new sign.

What has been known as the Highwayman Inn for 27 years will, effective Sept. 20, become the Quality Inn and Conference Centre. When new owners purchased the hotel two years ago, they decided to become franchisees and go under the Quality Inn umbrella.

Callan assures guests they will still have the experience they’ve come to expect from the Highwayman Inn.

“The customer service is still there,” she said. “There are only benefits to it. We now have that branded marketing behind us.”

Bobbie-Jo Robinson, who manages the restaurant, said customers can expect the same from 201.

“It’s still the same customer service. It’s still going to be that warm welcome, but with a twist,” she said. “It’s emotional because it’s come so far, but it’s a change that’s needed.”

A grand opening for the hotel and the restaurant will take place Sept. 27 from 4 to 8 p.m. It is open to the public. Food and refreshments will be offered, and visitors will get to try out the activities in the game bar for free.