Sunday, 26 May 2013

Behind the City Scenes at Doors Open Toronto

What? Doors Open Toronto! An annual city-wide event that grants one-time access to buildings and locations not normally accessible by public. For urban-nerds like me, it’s an opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at how Toronto operates and the people/things that keep the city running. Doors Open Toronto has celebrated this 14th season this weekend, showcasing ‘over 150 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city’. The Toronto version of Doors Open is the original prelude to a province-wide event, now larger than ever with cities and towns all over Ontario participating. The best part: everything is absolutely free. Just show up and get ready to enter a world beyond the day to day.
Endless rows of documents at The Toronto archives
Where? We visited three sites over the period of one day in Toronto: The Toronto Archives at Spadina and Dupont, the Spadina House (aka ‘Spadina Museum’) just above Davenport, and Lower Bay Station. We had to pick and choose but you really need two full days to cross off everything you are interested in – and even then it would be difficult to do as most locations don’t open until 10 – 11am and close at 5pm, and many are only available for one day. Our advice is to really focus on the top 3 – 5 places in your list and keep a few more in case you find yourself with some buffer time.

I can say with confidence that I could easily spend an entire day at The Toronto Archives – a municipally operated storage and archival centre for all things City of Toronto. Copies of original Toronto maps dating to the early 1800’s can be viewed, council notes read, artifacts from significant locations available – you can even do research on the history of your house, including who owned it first and when it was built.

The Spadina House (aka ‘Spadina Museum’) was also a wonderfully preserved piece of Toronto History, but kind of dragged on throughout the self-guided tour. Unless you’re a detailed history buff, old houses kind of all look the same, regardless as to how many rooms are actually shown. Lower Bay Station, an unused subway station below the current ‘Bay Station’ and the stuff of folklore within urban exploring circles, was fun for about 7 minutes until you realized it just looked like a subway station. But knowing some of the most popular films featured scenes filmed on-site made it a little more special.

Lower Bay Station
How? A TTC family day pass is probably your best bet – allowing for unlimited public transit use for multiple riders at a time at the relatively cheap price of $10.75. If you plot out a route to maximize your time you get the most from Doors Open.

Go Again? I would definitely give Doors Open another crack (how punny!), especially because I had a positive experience this year, not only with the sites but the helpful and knowledgeable staff. I’d obviously choose different locations. Whether you’re new to Toronto or a veteran citizen, there’s always something worth learning at these events.

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