Exploring Doors Open Toronto with your Family

(Four-minute read)

By Meike Vangerwen 
Family Care Office & Faculty Relocation Services Information and Communications Officer 

This weekend, May 27 & 28, there is a free, family-friendly event happening called Doors Open. Participating buildings across the city open their doors and invite you to be curious, learn about what happens inside and see beautiful architecture. It is a great way to get out and explore parts of the city you and your family may not be familiar with or explore familiar buildings that you have always been curious about. 

The first Doors Open I went to with my mom, we went inside Old City Hall at Queen and Bays Streets. I had travelled past the building for 25 years before I ever set foot inside. I remember walking up the steps to the second floor wondering how many people had to have walked up and down these stairs over the years to create the worn out curve in each marble step. Every time I pass the building now, I think of the old worn out steps. Chances are, no matter where you are in the city, there is a participating building near you to change your perspective of a building.

To plan your weekend, take time to look the list of participating buildings and sites ahead of time and consider what is interesting to you and your family. On the Doors Open site, you can search buildings by the year they were constructed, the architectural style or the building type. You can also use the map function to locate what buildings in a particular area are participating. If you have a young child who loves transportation or fire stations, be sure to use the Building Type filter and choose the government or city owned option. The Danforth Garage/TTC Barns will be open for young transportation aficionados  (only open Saturday). 

Toronto is huge and the event happens every year. So don’t feel you have to see all 150 buildings in one weekend! Over the years I have used different approaches to visit different sites. Here are my tips for attending Doors Open with a family.

 Choose One Site

After riding my bike past the Portland Energy Center for many years, I noticed that it was part of Doors Open but only open on the Saturday. Located on Leslie Street, south of Lakeshore Blvd., it is not an easy location to access without a car. So the year I finally went, I decided it would be the only site I would visit that day. This approach may also be useful to families with young children. Make the day enjoyable by limiting the building you see and allowing time to follow your child’s lead. Consider allowing your child to take photos of the parts of the buildings they notice and find interesting. 

Choose One Neighbourhood

Look at the Doors Open Map and choose one neighbourhood with a cluster of participating buildings. This can be a fun way to discover neighbourhoods and buildings you may not otherwise visit. Doors Open offers their own Guided Neighbourhood Tours. This approach would work well with slightly older children who have longer attention spans and willingness to walk further distances. Places of interest close to the St. George Campus that are participating in Doors Open include:
Daniels Building

Coach House Books

Department of Physics

Thomas Rare Book Library

If You Are a Doors Open Pro

If you have participated in Doors Open before, consider inviting a friend or family member to explore some of your favourite locations. One year, I invited a friend who had recently moved to Toronto from Spain and let them choose the buildings they were interested in seeing. It was a great opportunity to see my hometown from the perspective of a newcomer. Another option is to use the New Sites for This Year filter to discover what new buildings have been added this year. 

City Of Sound

This year’s Doors Open theme is City Of Sound. Take a look at the sound scavenger hunt to go with 6 building sites. There are also Listening and Sound Prompts for all sites and Listening and Sounds Prompts for Travelling Between Sites.

The wonderful thing about Doors Open is how welcoming this event is for anyone of any age. Pack some snacks and choose your own architectural adventure this weekend. If you check out one site or 20, Doors Open is a fantastic way to explore the city and discover the interiors of the buildings that make up the city.