Doors Open Toronto

This is another late in the day adventure post because we literally just got back in from exploring the city all day (25,000 steps and 32 flights of stairs later) but here it goes. This weekend was the annual Doors Open event here in Toronto. Doors Open is a city-wide event featuring over 150 of Toronto’s unique buildings which grant explorers free access to get a look inside some of the more cultural, historical, and architectural significant spaces that aren’t always open to the public or that usually charge admission. The event has been running for the past eighteen years and always take place sometime in May. This was actually my first time hearing about it as well as my first time taking part. Moving here has opened me up to so many new experiences and this one was definitely unique.

We started our day at Spadina Museum is a historic manor kept intact as a museum. It is actually the neighbour to grande old Casa Loma which features in another one of my adventure day posts which you can read here. I was excited to check out Spadina House because later next month they are hosting a Great Gatsby Party that I’m thinking about getting tickets to. Unfortunately, tickets to tour the house are already sold out so if I do go I’ll just be going for the outside events. That’s alright though because today I got to tour the house for free.

As was the case with many of the buildings we visited there were lots of volunteers and staff members always willing to answer questions and give bits of information about the locations we were visiting. We toured around each of the manor’s grand rooms before heading back out to the yard. The house itself was neat and has been beautifully maintained but soaking in the sun was a little bit nicer. It was beautiful out so of course I couldn’t resist taking a selfie before we headed back down the intimidating stairs leading up to Spadina House.

It was then off to our next stop.

Now, before we headed out on this adventure, my dad had sent me a list of the buildings he wanted to go to so it was a bit more manageable than the overall list of 150. I mapped his spots all out on a custom google map and got rid of the ones that were way out of the way. I then planned out a grand ole plan of how to be effective with our time and hit as much as possible. We didn’t follow it perfectly but it certainly helped us get around a little bit. Two $12.50 group passes for the TTC also made getting around a lot easier, and yet it seems we mostly walked everywhere.

We left Spadina House and headed to our local seat of provincial parliament the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park. I remember being in this building during elementary school but since then it’s just been a big pretty building we’d drive by on our regular route out of downtown (back when we used to drive there). Today I got to take another look inside via a self guided tour throughout some of the major areas of the building.

By the time we left Queen’s Park it was apparent that we were going to have to readjust our plans since everyone was getting hungry. We started the cheats of the day off at at Fancy Franks, a local gourmet hot dog chain specializing in fully loaded hot dogs. Matt and I have actually checked out Fancy Franks before but since that was over two years ago we decided it would be a good spot to check out again.

Mom and I shared their Coney Island Dog (a chilli dog) and their Corn Dog, both of which were delicious. Meanwhile, Matt and my dad both went for a some wilder choices; Matt grabbed the Franks Got Seoul which had Korean beef ribs, kimchi, sesame seeds, and scallions while my dad opted for the Chi-Town Fancy which was topped with tomatoes, chopped onions, pickle, pepporancini, mustard, and celery salt. We all shared an order of fries and onion rings as well as some refreshing fountain drinks. It is pricey for hot dogs but dogs are delicious and definitely unique. The batter on the corn dog was especially different and easily made it my favourite part of the meal. I do love some good street meat but Frank’s is a good place to go if you’re looking for something more.

In addition to the Doors Open event and our lunch stop at Frank’s, we also strolled down to Kensington Market for the first Pedestrian Sundy of the season. There were buskers and street artists out on the street as well as a number of stalls to buy goods from the local stores and eateries. I fell in love with Kensington Market last year and while I didn’t buy anything this time around I really do enjoy a good stroll through the area and doing so while the streets were closed down was pretty cool.

After pushing through the crowds at Kensington, we ventured back to University Avenue to continue our Open Doors tour. While the Canada Life Building was a letdown because the elevator was broken, our stop afterwards was one of the best of the tour. In fact, it was my favourite. Osgoode Hall is a historical landmark building on the corner of Queen and Avenue. It should come as no surprise that there was a couple taking their wedding pictures here, it’s quite a striking building, inside and out.

From the court rooms to the entrance hall, Osgoode Hall is definitely a lovely piece of preserved history.

The reason Osgoode Hall ended up being my favourite spot on the tour was because of the library. There are two portions of it and the first is relatively compact but it’s really quite beautiful. It’s one of those rooms out of a storybook with spiral iron staircases leading up to higher stacks. The volumes upon volumes of law and legislative books that line the shelves are definitely not what I’d be picking up as some light reading but just standing in the room itself was quite magical.

In the end we hit seven of the spots on our list. Unfortunately we did miss out on the #1 on my list just because of timing but Massey Hall has been around forever and I’m sure it’ll still be there for next year’s Open Doors event. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to check out more next year.

I truly believe you don’t need an event like this one as an excuse to explore your own city or the ones around you. You’ll be surprised what you can find if you just venture out for a walk. You can find places you’ve never seen before or even known about. There’s always something to see, you just have to be willing to look.

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