Doors Open Ontario and behind the scenes tours
Get a sneak peek behind the curtains and closed doors at theatres, historic spaces and galleries that engage, inspire and entertain. Meet actors, artists and curators of famous and familiar venues and productions. Find fascinating digital platforms sharing stories and histories from our past.
Note: Tickets and reservations for many of these unique tours are limited and some are seasonal, book in advance so you don’t miss out.
Doors Open Ontario
One of Ontario’s most extensive and exciting behind-the-scenes events, Doors Open Ontario invites visitors to take a peek and explore the stories of heritage, natural and cultural sites that are rarely seen by the public.
The Ontario Heritage Trust has been working with communities across Ontario to showcase new venues and share new stories for over 20 years. Events traditionally took place in various locations between April and October, however, Digital Doors Open provides even more access to Ontario’s fascinating, intriguing and charming places and spaces online.
Explore Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, the world’s last operating stacked theatre and vaudeville venue in Toronto. Visit the Olde Walkerville Theatre in Windsor, designed by C. Howard Crane, a leading architect for Fox movie theatres.
Go backstage at the theatre
Enhance your theatre outing with special immersive experiences. In support of diverse, up-and-coming Canadian playwrights, Canadian-produced shows are exclusively on the marquee at The Factory Theatre. In addition, groups of ten or more are eligible to add on backstage tours and candid pre or post-show talks with production members.
Location: 125 Bathurst St, Toronto
Go beyond the stage at London’s historic Grand Theatre with pre and post-show talks, events and tours. Expand Your Experience with their ‘Afterwords’ guided discussions with the artists and creative team. And you won’t want to miss the chance to walk onto the stage, survey the orchestra pit and hear stories about the theatre’s resident ghosts on a Backstage Tour.
Location: 471 Richmond St, London
The world-class Shaw Festival pays homage to the brilliance of playwright George Bernard Shaw and provides the perfect escape into a world of comedy, drama and music. Get a unique view into the creativity of the directors and designers through the Meet Directors and Designers program and learn about the intricate details and innovations that go into elaborate costumes and masterful set designs.
On the Backstage Tour you’ll get to see all the costumes, accessories and special props that help bring the stories to life. On Tuesdays, enjoy a complementary Tuesday Question & Answer session with the actors following performances.
Location: 10 Queen's Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Thousand Island Playhouse deck provides peaceful and scenic lakeside views. It’s also the perfect outdoor backdrop for their Dock Talks series held on Wednesdays, the matinee pre-show chat with members of the production of the latest theatrical performance that takes place in August and September.
Location: 185 South Street, Gananoque
Ontario’s premiere theatre festival offers exciting programs and events for theatre lovers to see what’s happening behind-the-scenes. The Forum series features special performances, speakers & panels, workshops and tours. Check out selected performances for changeover tours where you can witness props being set up on stage. Here’s a selection of unique experiences at Stratford Festival’s four venues and costume warehouse.
Special programs at Tom Patterson Theatre
Stratford’s latest gem, the newly unveiled Tom Patterson Theatre magically luminates along the Avon River at night. Aptly named after Stratford Festival’s founder, Tom Patterson Theatre embodies comfort, spaciousness, style and modern elegance. The award-winning building’s interior features curvilinear design and top-of-the-line technology with pristine acoustics. Guided tours of the new theatre reveal its fascinating history and stunning architecture. Lazaridis Hall is a space in the theatre where talks and workshops take place. Check out Stratford’s calendar of events for behind-the-scenes programs and special Lazaridis Hall Forum events.
Location: 111 Lakeside Dr, Stratford
Lobby Talks at Festival Theatre
Join lively, theatre-related discussions during the Lobby Talks at Stratford’s main theatre.
Location: 55 Queen Street, Stratford
Backstage Tours of Avon Theatre
Closer to Stratford’s downtown, the Avon Theatre is one of Stratford’s original theatre venues that formally served as a cinema and a vaudeville theatre. Learn fun trivia about the space on a backstage tour, like the fact that the property once belonged to Tom Patterson’s grandmother.
Location: 99 Downie Street, Stratford
Virtual Tour of Studio Theatre
Just a short distance from the Avon Theatre, Studio Theatre, the smallest venue at the Stratford Festival is packed with big talent.
Location: 34 George Street East
Festival Archives Costumes & Props Warehouse
See over 70 years of magic in the making! Available from June to September, guided, hour-long warehouse tours explore the extensive collections of costumes and props from countless festival productions over the years.
Location: 350 Douro Street, Stratford
Explore the past with Archives of Ontario
The Archives of Ontario have been carefully collecting, preserving and curating documents, images records and other materials depicting diverse aspects of Ontario’s history since 1903 for present and future generations. Theatre lovers will enjoy ON Stage: Spotlighting the History of Theatre in Ontario which traces the development of Ontario’s live theatre scene and demonstrates the growing allure of the stage.
Other exhibit categories include Black Canadian and Indigenous histories, as well as women’s stories and Ontario in wartime. There are also fascinating collections dedicated to land, environment, infrastructure, arts, architecture and our agricultural past.
A fun online exhibit that looks back on the evolution of tourism in Ontario through documents, images and promotional tourism photos.
View a series of image galleries, including places, people and points in time that serve as a visual window into Ontario’s past.
Gain a fresh perspective at art galleries
Art lovers are invited to participate in free, 10-minute Pop Up On the Dot Talks with knowledgeable volunteers at Toronto’s largest art gallery. The informal events are held daily on various ‘On the Dot’ spots identified on the gallery floor. New virtual talks and tours on special exhibitions are also available for private groups for a fee.
Location: 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto
The Group of Seven are some of Canada’s most recognized and iconic artists. Take a guided tour of their works followed by mini painting lesson inspired by their signature artistic style at the Art Gallery of Algoma.
Location: 10 East Street, Sault Ste. Marie
Southwestern Ontario’s largest and oldest art institution was founded in Hamilton in 1914. Join specially trained art guides called ‘Docents’ through the exhibitions on designated Tour Days. The uniquely tactile Touch Tours allow you to explore art through sound and touch.
Location: 123 King Street West, Hamilton
Windsor’s public art gallery has been showcasing works of art and celebrating local and national artists since 1943. Engaging programs and events include guided gallery tours, art and wellness workshops and sessions with the conservator in residence.
Location: 401 Riverside Drive West, Windsor
Expand your mind at a museum
One of North America’s largest museums, the Royal Ontario Museum is brimming with art, culture and natural history exhibits from around the world. ROMWalks takes the learning beyond the walls and rooms of the museum and into the city with guided walking tours exploring the history, architecture and culture of various neighbourhoods of Toronto. Private groups tours can be arranged.
Learn about Ontario and Canadian Government
Admire the Richardsonian Romanesque architecture on a tour of Ontario’s Legislative Building. The tour includes a visit to the Chamber where Ontario's Members of Provincial Parliament debate and pass laws. There is also a tour of the historic grounds of the Legislative Building, where you will see various monuments and the trees, flowers and shrubs native to Ontario.
Overlooking the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill is the seat of Canada’s federal government and is comprised of several historic buildings in striking Gothic revival style architecture.
Currently, the main Centre Block building is closed for renovation. Visitors are invited on free guided tours of the House of Commons at the West Block and the Chamber Senate of Canada building on Rideau Street, the temporary home of Canada’s Senate during the renovation of the Centre Block building. During the summer, visitors can tour restored heritage rooms of the East Block, including the office of Canada’s first prime minister.
Reserve your guided Parliament tours online and feel free to explore the grounds around Parliament Hill including the Centennial Flame in front of the Peace Tower.
Location: Wellington Street, Ottawa
The home and workplace of Canada’s Governor General is just three kilometres north of Canada’s Parliament. The sweeping grounds at Rideau Hall are open to the public and boasts a botanical history lesson featuring an array of blossoms, shrubs and trees in various well-designed gardens. Take a guided indoor tour to learn about the magnificent spaces, such as the famous Tent Room that was used to entertain royal families, famous people and dignitaries from around the world.
Location: 1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa
Last updated: January 11, 2024