Historic hotspots to discover during Doors Open Toronto

The Doors Open festival returns to Toronto on May 23-24, 2015. Now in its 16th year, the free citywide event invites locals and visitors to take a sneak peak inside more than 150 architecturally, culturally and socially significant buildings. Grab your walking shoes and get ready to explore Toronto’s hidden history at these hotspots across the downtown.

Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre

189 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5B 1M4

A true Toronto landmark, this grand Edwardian-style double-decker theatre is the last of its kind in the world. The architecturally unique multileveled theatre dates back to 1914 and is a can’t-miss stop on your Doors Open tour. Visitors can take a leisurely self-guided front-of-house tour and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about both the Winter Garden and Elgin theatres. Be sure to ask about the venue’s haunted past to hear tales of the legendary ghosts who have been spotted by former theatre staff and actors.

The Bata Shoe Museum

327 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1W7

Footwear fanatics will find their bliss at this Bloor Street institution. Celebrating its 20th year this May, the shoe museum boasts a comprehensive collection of over 13,000 shoes, with 1,000 artifacts on display at any given time. Exhibits range from funky to functional to famous (think Justin Bieber’s sneakers and Marilyn Monroe’s red leather stilettos). During the Doors Open festival, museum docents will give visitors a hands-on demonstration of some of the more intricate shoes and put on footwear-themed crafting activities and scavenger hunts for children.

Amsterdam Beer

45 Esandar Dr, Toronto, ON M4G 4C5

Make sure to bring your government-issued ID to this craft brewery in Thorncliff Park. Visitors who are 19 and older will get a chance to sample award-winning pale ales and lagers while touring the impressive 24,000-square-foot facility. Hourly guided tours offer a behind-the-scenes look at the brew house’s state-of-the-art fermenting tanks, bottling and canning lines, and the hidden on-site barrel-aging room. You’ll also hear about Amsterdam’s unique brewing process and learn about the differences between an IPA and a stout. Bottoms up!

Mattamy Athletic Centre

4109-50 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5B 1J2

An arena that once served as home-ice for Toronto Maple Leaf legends now hosts the athletic stars of the future as Ryerson University’s brand new athletic centre. The former Maple Leaf Gardens space has been renovated and reborn as a state-of-the-art fitness facility complete with an NHL-sized ice rink and a multi-purpose court. Visitors can take a seat in one of the rink’s original blue seats to absorb the site’s historic past while getting a glimpse of the radical transformation process via the Mattamy AC smartphone app.

Church Of The Holy Trinity

10 Trinity Sq, Toronto, ON M5G 1B1

Blink and you’ll miss this tiny church tucked away in Trinity Square behind the Eaton Centre. Guided tours will give Doors Open visitors a chance to learn more about the building’s unique Tudor-Gothic style architecture and hear about the inclusive church’s community initiatives for socially marginalized groups and individuals. Guests will also be treated to live musical performances on the church’s Casavant Freres tracker pipe organ. Afterwards, take a stroll on the adjacent labyrinth path.

Colborne Lodge

11 Colborne Lodge Dr, Toronto, ON M6R 2Z3

Tourists and residents flock to High Park at this time of year for the cherry blossoms, but this historic home is a must-see, especially during Doors Open. Situated inside the park, the mid-Victorian country manor was transformed into a museum in 1927 and features original furnishings and artwork depicting early Toronto. Costumed staff will be offering guided tours every 20 minutes throughout the Doors Open weekend. The museum will also be hosting a special textile exhibition with embroidery work from Meghan Macdonald. If you’re hungry, stop in at the nearby Grenadier Restaurant afterwards for a bite to eat.

Fort York

100 Garrison Rd, Toronto, ON M5V 3K9

Play tourist in your own city for the day at this national historic site. The sprawling 43-acre battlefield is now home to the largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings in the country. During the Doors Open festival, staff will lead special military architecture tours of the barracks, officers’ quarters and other fort buildings. Volunteer historic cooks will host demonstrations to give guests a taste of what the historic kitchen would have been cooking up for military personnel during wartime.

BMO Field

170 Princes Blvd, Toronto, ON M6K 3C3

You may have cheered on your favourite footie team in the stands at this Toronto soccer stadium, but spectators rarely get a glimpse of the action happening off the pitch. The back-of-house areas at BMO Field will open up to visitors during the Doors Open weekend. Toronto Football Club fans will have an exclusive opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the facility, which has recently been expanded in anticipation of the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games coming to Toronto in July 2015.

Spadina Museum

285 Spadina Rd, Toronto, ON M5R 2V5

Affectionately described as Toronto’s Downton Abbey, this remarkable heritage home was first built by Toronto financier James Austin back in 1866. Fully restored in the 1920s and 1930s, the impressive mansion has retained much of its original décor and is now filled with 20th-century artifacts and furnishings from the pre-war era. Visitors will have a chance to explore the third-floor servants’ rooms and wander through the beautiful gardens and parkland that surround the estate.

Orde Street Jr PS

18 Orde St, Toronto, ON M5T 1N7

Dragging the kids to school on a Saturday might seem counterintuitive, but this 100-year-old public school is filled with unique architectural details and hidden treasures that are sure to delight little ones. Built in 1914, the school was first established to accommodate the influx of immigrants in Toronto at the turn of the century. The former open-air school for children with tuberculosis has since been transformed into a rooftop garden terrace. Doors Open visitors will love exploring the school’s mysterious hidden stairwell that leads to nowhere and the soccer workshop that will run on site throughout the weekend.

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