Doors Open London, Opens Doors to The Forest City

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Looking for something interesting to do in London, Ontario? In the fall you can consider a tour of its finest heritage buildings as part of Doors Open. The first Doors Open event was in France in 1984. Almost 40 years later, you can find Doors Open events throughout Europe, North America and Australia.

Also known as Open House or Open Days in some communities, you can also take a digital tour of locations throughout the world. Every year the public is welcome to discover heritage buildings and businesses in the Forest City and this year there will be 28 sites to visit.

On the weekend of September 16 and 17, 2023 Doors Open welcomes visitors from London and afar to visit these locations. There is always something interesting to see in London Ontario. With family options such as the Children’s Museum, Fanshawe Pioneer Village or one of the oldest fire stations – Fire Hall 4 – in the city. As a Londoner, I’ve put together two different itineraries that you can follow with the help of a Google Map. I hope you find sonething new to explore in the Forest City. Enjoy the weekend.

Fire Hall No 4 Doors Open London Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Fire Hall No 4 Doors Open London Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

The theme for this year is London’s Heritage Through Cuisine—and invites participants to explore London’s culture through food. The London Heritage Council (which oversees Opens Door London) has created a fantastic map to use as you search out the sites that interest you. They have provided the location addresses and below is the list of attractions with their websites.

What to see at Doors Open London in 2023

  1. 1st Hussars Museum
  2. 427 Wing & Spirit of Flight Museum
  3. Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO)
  4. Banting House National Historic Site of Canada
  5. Brick Street Pioneer Historic Cemetery
  6. Canada Life
  7. The Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory – Western University
  8. Covent Garden Market
  9. Eldon House
  10. Fanshawe Pioneer Village
  11. Golden Harps Steel Orchestra at Church of the Transfiguration
  12. Hamilton Road Mystery Tour – Hamilton Road Seniors Centre
  13. HDR Architectural Associates Inc.
  14. Grosvenor Lodge – Heritage London Foundation
  15. The Richard Ivey Building – Western University
  16. The Jet Aircraft Museum
  17. The London Children’s Museum
  18. Clayworx: Ceramic Arts Learning Centre (CALC)
  19. London’s W. Peter Harding Fire Hall No. 4
  20. The London Food Coalition – Glen Carin Community Centre
  21. The London Muslim Mosque (LMM)
  22. Museum London
  23. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology
  24. The Oakridge Presbyterian Church
  25. The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum
  26. The Secrets of Radar Museum
  27. Saint James Westminster Anglican Church
  28. Urban Roots

Day One – Itinerary for Doors Open London

Banting House

Banting House Photo Credit DownshfitingPRO

Explore the Banting House National Historical Site during Doors Open London! Discover the “Diabetes Ink” exhibit, showcasing the diabetes legacy. Learn about carbohydrate counting and enter a cookbook raffle. Enjoy the pop-up theatre showcasing Banting in London, Ontario on October 31, 1923, celebrating his Nobel Prize for Medicine, and hear his inspiring journey from failed physician to national hero.

Canada Life

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Canada Life Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

I have been in this building many times but love the architecture of Canada Life — an insurance company and presenting sponsor of Doors Open London. Open since 1951, you will be taken on a tour of the cafeteria to learn about the evolution of their corporate kitchen, explore new food offerings, and learn about employee wellness initiatives. See the Selwyn Dewdney mural, which graces the cafeteria bulkhead, and the new lobby display!

London Muslim Mosque

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London Muslim Mosque Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Experience the environment of a souk (or a bazaar) at the London Muslim Mosque. Doors Open will provide an opportunity to tour the oldest mosque in Ontario, engage in various activities such as henna applications, having your name written in Arabic, and trying on a hijab. In addition, take your tastebuds around the world at the Food and Merchandise Bazaar.

Richard Ivey Building

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Ivey School of Business Western University – Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

A stunning addition to the Western University campus, The Ivey School of Business will open its doors to its culinary heritage. Join the Ivey alumni and student entrepreneurs from Southwestern Ontario, uncovering captivating tales behind their food ventures. Indulge in diverse gourmet products, from chocolates to boozy beverages, and meet a range of innovative food creators. Purchase delectable treats and experience a flavourful celebration of entrepreneurship.

Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory

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Walk across Western Road towards the main campus and on Lambton Road you will see The Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory on your right. It houses three telescopes and a wealth of scientific heritage in London. At this year’s Doors Open London, you can explore what astronauts eat at the International Space Station and see tours of the beautifully restored observatory. If the skies are clear, the observatory will also demonstrate how the telescopes work while observing objects in the night sky.

Brick Street Pioneer Historic Cemetery

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Brick Street Cemetery – Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

I’ve driven by here thousands of times and had only noticed the Montessori School adjacent to the cemetery but this was a very interesting stop. One of the oldest cemeteries in London, the Brick Street Pioneer Historic cemetery, dates from 1813 and has undergone recent restoration and improvements. Historical research has been undertaken to reveal the interesting stories behind some of the individuals buried here. Ground Penetrating Radar surveys have revealed numerous unmarked graves.

Day Two – Itinerary for Doors Open London

Fanshawe Pioneer Village

Fanshawe Pioneer Village with Mom @DownshiftingPRO
Pioneer Village Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

On a fall day, this is the perfect place to continue your tour of Doors Open London. Pioneer Village is a living history museum that shares the local history of London and Middlesex County between 1820 and 1920. It is large and has many buildings to visit. Give yourself at least an hour here.

427 Wing & Spirit of Flight Museum

The museum, housed in an original 1940 RCAF Canteen, is dedicated to highlighting from the Southwest Ontario Region, the many varied aspects of civilian and military aviation history unknown to the public today. Utilizing the building’s heritage and the adjacent Spooner Memorial Gardens, the Museum will collect, preserve, and display artifacts, provenance, and stories significant to the region’s rich aviation history.

The Secrets of Radar Museum

This Secrets of Radar Museum was located in Pond Mills but has been relocated to be closer to the other two aviation museums. It is dedicated to preserving the experiences, artifacts and history of the men and women who helped build, develop, operate and maintain Canadian radar. Learn about the history of radar in Canada through exhibitions, programming and public research facilities. Doors Open visitors will also learn the culinary experiences of radar personnel from fine dining to field rations.

The Jet Aircraft Museum

During Doors Open, there is much to discover here! Explore a working aircraft hangar, interact with historical aircraft, learn about the science of flight with demonstrations in the schoolroom, experience a flight simulator, sit in the cockpit of a Cold War-era jet and wooden Dash-8 mock-up, and explore post-war cuisine through vintage cookbooks.

Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

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Royal Canadian Regiment Museum at Wosley Barracks – Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

In previous years of Doors Open, I visited one of my favourite London attractions, the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum at Wosley Barracks. This small military museum is very interesting with extensive diagrams, a chapel, medals, uniforms and even a few ‘re-enacted’ scenes. They always welcome the public to enjoy this regiment museum. Interact with re-enactors on Saturday. Learn about military rations with the “What’s for Lunch” video and rations show-and-tell at select times on Sunday.

Wolsely Barack Canadian Regiment Museum in London Ontario Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Royal Canadian Regiment Museum at Wosley Barracks Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Covent Garden Market

If you are starting to get hungry, head downtown to The Covent Garden Market. With plenty of food and entertainment. This year, they are hosting the 6th annual Multicultural Market with vendors from different cultures. In addition, in partnership with Hindu Legacy, you can learn about Hindu art, dancing, displays, music, clothing and henna. Don’t miss out on the delicious eats and dancing on Rotary Square.

If you have time

If you are in the downtown core, I would encourage you to visit the following places:

FAQ

When is Doors Open London?

Open Doors London will be held the second week of September – Saturday, Sept. 16 and Sunday, September 17th. Check the website for times as they vary per location.

What is Doors Open?

Doors Open Ontario is a provincewide heritage tourism program that gives the public free access to explore fascinating heritage properties all across Ontario.

When is Doors Open?

Different communities host at different times of the year and some host online digital tours.

Where can you visit Doors Open in Ontario?

There are fall and spring events and you can attend Doors Open in London, Kingston and Area, Ottawa, Cornwall and Area, Belleville, Quite West, Peterborough, Oshawa, Toronto, Richmond Hill, Brampton, Burlington, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Mary, Woodstock, Simcoe County, Waterloo Region, Guelph, Dutton & Dunwich and more.

Are Doors Open Events Free?

Yes, to encourage public accessibility, participating sites must offer free admission to the public and can include museums, places of worship, public, cultural or institutional buildings, private businesses, trails and natural areas – and more. There may be vendors offering food or local goods for sale.

Doors Open in Ontario

Doors Open is not exclusive to London, Ontario. You can find other cities that hold one or two-day events. Kingston and Area even have three different events through the summer. This is a great way to encourage tourism throughout the region.

Fall

Spring & Summer

  • Guelph – April
  • Oshawa & Hamilton – May
  • Richmond Hill – May
  • Toronto – May
  • Ottawa – June
  • Kingston & Area – July & August
  • Simcoe County – August

Virtual Visits – Doors Open Digital Tours

Can’t get away, no problem, Doors Open also has virtual tours. From their website:
Take a digital tour of Ontario! Visit the breathtaking Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in the morning, followed by learning about Ontario’s Black heritage at the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History. Then, make a stopover in Ottawa to explore the Canadian War Museum (and play their popular online game), followed by an exploration of the ancient Mnjikaning Fish Weirs in Orillia, which were built by the Wendat. Finish your day with a thrilling virtual fireworks display at Canada’s Wonderland.”

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.