The best Doors Open Toronto events for 2018

From May 26 to 27, more than 130 buildings will open their doors to the public


This weekend, water treatment plants, architecture firms, art studios, a historic jail and even the mayor’s office open their doors for the public to explore.

For the 19th annual Doors Open (May 26 to 27), there’s a special focus on spaces that make up Toronto’s TV and film industries, including old theatres, special effects studios and movie sets. Although there’s 55 new sites this year, you can visit old Doors Opens favourites like the Historic Don Jail, R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant and the Masonic Temple, too.

Additionally, a number of speaking series and free walking tours are planned for the weekend as well. Here, we pick the eight best Doors Open Toronto locations.

Union Station (65 Front West)

Along with being the busiest multi-modal transport hub in Canada, Union Station has also been the backdrop to the musical Chicago and the Arkells’ music video, Knocking At The Door. Explore the Beaux-Arts architecture of the station, which was designed in 1927 by Montreal-based firm, Ross and Macdonald. Afterwards, try to capture the stunning architecture of the station’s Great Hall during Union Draws, a free sketch class led by OCAD University instructors. Art materials are provided but you must pre-register. See website for details.

MOCA (158 Sterling)

Now that the official grand opening of MOCA has been pushed back to September, art enthusiasts can get a sneak peek of the art gallery’s new home inside the converted, Art Deco-style Tower Automotive building in the Lower Junction neighbourhood. The public will be able to check out five floors of the new gallery as well as see a preview of future exhibitions. See website for details.

Cinesphere (955 Lake Shore West)

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Cinesphere since it re-opened last November, this weekend is a good time to finally go. Along with seeing architect Eberhard Zeidler’s post-modern masterpiece up close, you’ll also be able to catch some free flicks, including Graeme Ferguson’s North Of Superior (the first film to be screened at the Cinesphere), Terrence Mallick’s Voyage Of Time and The Dark Knight in IMAX. See website for details.

TTC Bay Lower Subway Station (1240 Bay)

What do The Handmaid’s Tale, Repo Man, Resident Evil and a Grimes music video all have in common? They were filmed in Bay Lower Subway station, aka, the station underneath a station. Lower Bay Station was officially closed to the public in 1966 and since then, has been used in countless movies, TV shows and commercials. Props from movies shot in the station will also be on display. See website for details.

The Fox Theatre (2236 Queen East)

Opening in 1914, the Fox Theatre is the second oldest movie cinema in Toronto. (The Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles beat it by two years). Guided tours will detail the theatre’s history while the Toronto Jewish Film Foundation will show free short films, including screenings of Bella! Did Ya Eat?: The Story Of Judy Perly and Free Times Café and Building History: Benjamin Brown, the story of Toronto’s first working Jewish architecture. The films play both Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm. See website for details.

Pure Spirits Still House (3 Tank House)

The massive 19th century tanks at Pure Spirits Still House once distilled alcohol. Now, the tanks have been converted in editing suites and storage space. Visitors can see the adaptive-reuse of the tanks in a guided tour, and then walk through the rest of the Distillery District, which was filmed in Cinderella Man, X-Men, Chicago and more. See website for details.

Scadding Cabin (3 Alberta)

This one-room cabin is the oldest surviving building in Toronto. Built in 1794 by John Scadding, who was part of the “entourage” of the first Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, the cabin was originally located on the east bank of the Don River. Nearly a century later, it was moved to the Exhibition grounds to create a display of settler buildings. Inside the cabin, a display of furniture, tools and other household items are on display. See website for details.  

Toronto City Hall (100 Queen West)

In the City Hall Rotunda, see costumes from The Shape Of Water, Star Trek: Discovery, The Handmaid’s Tale, Anne With An E, Murdoch Mysteries, Odd Squad and more created by members of the Canadian Alliance of Film and Television Costume Arts and Design. At City Hall, you’ll also have access to VR headsets by Yulio VR to virtually explore eight Doors Opens sites, including the Spadina House Musuem, Massey Hall and the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. See website for details.

samanthae@nowtoronto.com | SamEdwardsTO

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