Filed under: Family Day Trips, Historic Places & Landmarks, Kid-Friendly Trips, RV Home School, Uncategorized
Doors Open Ontario
Last year, out of the blue, we have decided to participate to the Doors Open Ottawa during the first week-end of June. That year, we have discovered a wonderful way to learn more about the facilities in our city as we visited the Traffic Control, the Supreme Court, the parliament, the paramedic’s headquarters as well as the Ottawa Citizen on a two days adventure.
This year, we will miss Doors Open Ottawa since we are away from home. But I discovered that this event is not limited to Ottawa only. Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to participate to Doors Open Toronto and discovered interesting things.
Here’s the places we went to learn more about these iconic places in Toronto.
Since the opening in 1927, Union Station has been one of the most significant hubs in Canada’s transportation network. In the last 35 years, the station has taken on added importance in the Toronto area as the terminal for commuter rail services and as a vital link in the Toronto subway system.
This was our first stop of the day. We arrived just in time for a tour to start which was a blessing I in disguise as we would have had to wait one hour and a half for the next one. Though major construction to revitalize the Union Station is on-going, we had a great tour and learned quite a bit about the history of this central hub of the train transportation. The kids even saw a train leave the station at one point during the tour. We had the opportunity to see the waiting area for the first class travelers, the places were voyagers go to load their luggage’s and take the train as well as saw the improvements made so far and the ones to come.
The Toronto Railway Heritage Centre is operated by the Toronto Railway Historical Association on behalf of the City of Toronto. The Centre is housed in the John Street Roundhouse, which was opened by the Canadian Pacific Railway in October 1929 with 28 locomotive stalls and a 120-foot long rotating turntable. The roundhouse was built to service steam locomotives that hauled about 50 passenger trains a day into Union Station. In 1931, the roundhouse was expanded to 32 stalls, but was only one part of a huge complex of tracks and buildings that extended all the way over to Bay Street and included the largest passenger coach yard in Canada. After steam locomotives were retired in 1960, the roundhouse continued to service CPR and, from 1978 to 1982, VIA Rail diesel locomotives until it was closed in 1986 and turned over to the City of Toronto. The Toronto Railway Heritage Centre opened in 2010 and is also spread out over much of Roundhouse Park. The collection includes six locomotives, two passenger cars and four freight cars, as well as four historic 19th century wooden railway structures that were relocated from other parts of the city and completely restored.
This was a disappointment. Though there were trains outside and you could do a tour on the rotating roundtable, the museum itself was a huge disappointment for our family. Inside the brewery there were miniature trains but the way it was set up was tricky as if you took the door in the back of the room you would end up in an area where they would sell food. Besides, the so-called train ride through Roundhouse Park behind an authentic steam locomotive on a half-kilometer long miniature railway was not free at all! Adults were charged 4$ and children 3$. For a family of six, it would have been pricey so we chose not to spend any money there. Also they were asking people to sign a petition to keep this “museum” open because apparently the city of Toronto wants to do something else there. Honestly, seeing what it looks like I don’t see why they keep this place open. Mind you I am not a big fan of trains like my brother-in-law is so maybe I simply don’t get it.
Historic Fort York, a National Historic Site, is the birthplace of modern, urban Toronto, a battlefield, an archaeological resource, and is home to Canada’s largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings.
When we arrived we had the opportunity of watching a small video to learn more about Fort York and the history behind the birthplace of Toronto. We were wondering how come the fort was not located close to water and through this video we learned how the area changed through the years. Initially, there was water next to the forth but the growth of Toronto changed the landscape and moved the water further south.
We also had the opportunity to do a tour with someone explaining how the fort was defended in times of war. It was very interesting to see the hidden slots which would allow the soldiers to shoot anyone hiding close to a building.
In the officers’ barracks, we explore the underground and found a hidden section where the gold would be stored. Someone was also in the kitchen explaining how the cooking was done for the officers. I particularly liked looking at the kitchen and get ideas on how I could decorate my own kitchen.
Afterward, the kids had much fun running around and climbing the canons. They also didn’t hesitate one second to climb in the bunk bed they have found in one of the barracks… Looking over the stone wall, we could see the Gardiner Expressway and imagine where the shoreline was back in 1812.
We arrived just in time for the last tour of the Redpath factory. And to be honest I think it was the highlight of our day.
Constructed to coincide with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, the Redpath plant was officially opened by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is the principal production facility for Redpath sugar following upon the original facility in Montreal that operated from 1854 to 1980. Constructed principally of steel, concrete and brick, this production centre won awards for its architectural design in 1959.
The first thing we saw was the Redpath sugar video documenting the sequence of production that takes place in the plant. Did you know that the logo of the Redpath products is based on the signature of John Redpath, the founder of the company? There was also a special exhibit held by various departments from the plant which presented the various steps of processing the raw sugar to transform it as the products we all know. We also had the opportunity to visit the Redpath sugar museum but since we were the last ones to be in there, we didn’t have much time to explore this part as we wanted to do the guided tour to see the 65,000 tonne capacity raw sugar shed. Our guided tour was done by the museum curator himself and we had more information about the plant than the regular tours. For example, when the raw sugars leave the shed it goes up a conveyor belt to fourteen stories. The sugar is processed in sequence going up and down and back up again at various stages. The temperature inside this section of the plant can reach about 95 degrees Celsius. Quite hot! We finally arrived in the raw sugar shed and saw an impressive 12,000 tonne of raw sugar just waiting to be processed. It smelled good inside and the kids couldn’t believe their eyes. We also learned how they deal with vermin and birds with different ways. And when we left, we received some sugar cookies as a treat.
Is Doors Open worth going?
In conclusion, we had a wonderful time visiting various places in Toronto though the parking can be a pain in the butt. Many places will charge exorbitant prices for parking your vehicle downtown. If you are willing to walk to discover the heritage, you can find something for about 10$ per day. But if you move to go elsewhere, know that you will have to pay more again.
Now in case you are wondering, Doors Open Ontario happens every year at different week-ends depending on where you are in the province. From April to October each year, communities open the doors to some of our most intriguing and charming heritage sites. Admission is free! The Ontario Heritage Trust – the province’s lead heritage agency – invites you to experience these hidden heritage treasures first-hand. Make your travel plans for Doors Open Ontario events for the remaining of 2012 (or 2013) and explore the rich heritage that awaits you.
I would recommend rvers and homeschoolers to consider participating to this fun event throughout Ontario. We will definitively find new places to discover in the future.