With so many Digital Doors Open sites to discover, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Explore the following suggested itineraries – or “staytrips” – and discover sites that may be completely new, or stories that certainly are. Sometimes, too, the digital experience is something that you cannot have any other way.
Take a staytrip from the comfort of your own home and find some sites throughout Ontario that will make you want to visit them in the future!
General tour | New discoveries | Covering the province | Educational resources | Getting back to nature | Ontario film sets | Food and drink | Museums large and small | Mad about the art | Architectural and engineering marvels | Home sweet home | Ontario theatres | Going behind the scenes
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 Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site. 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.
Discover some new sites in Ontario ... virtually. Wander through the evocative Brockville Railway Tunnel. Then take a zipline adventure across Niagara Falls. Stop by Camp X for some spy training fun. Visit the Warsaw Caves Conservation Area for some socially distanced spelunking. And end the day at the David Dunlap Observatory by taking a peek at the stars.
Covering the province
From one end of the province to the other, Digital Doors Open offers something for everyone. Start your day in Thunder Bay with a walking tour of one of the city’s fascinating districts. Discover your inner artist at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Go bird watching at Tommy Thompson Park (don’t forget to download your free birder’s guide). Take an aerial tour of the beautiful Olmsted gardens at Brockville’s Fulford Place mansion. And round out the day with an online performance of a Shakespeare classic at the Stratford Festival.
Visit these sites and explore their educational resources – for teachers and students. Start your journey at the Toronto Zoo and explore their behind-the-scenes activities, educator resources, podcasts and Facebook Live sessions with experts and animals. Then swing by Burlington’s Royal Botanical Gardens to check out all of their kids’ activities, teacher resources (including virtual field trips and lesson plans), and recipes in their popular Culinary Corner. Next stop: the Archives of Ontario, where you can discover workshops and online resources for students and educators, as well as extensive genealogical resources for tracing your ancestry. Spend a while in Stratford exploring the famous Stratford Festival and learn more about Shakespeare and his theatre through the Festival’s extensive study guides. Wander over to the nation’s capital and visit the Canadian War Museum and learn about Canada’s wartime past through a series of online exhibits, research guides, games and activities. Stop by the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse and take a virtual tour to learn more about this site – Toronto’s oldest-standing school. Wander the gallery spaces of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and find resources for virtual classrooms, teacher retreats and more. Finish the day at the Ontario Science Centre and enjoy some hands-on fun through easy-to-follow videos, or explore their curriculum resources to feed those hungry minds.
Getting back to nature
Get outside with Digital Doors Open! Many of these natural sites are open for in-person visits, but you can also have a great digital experience. Start the day at Tommy Thompson Park, a 250-hectare park in downtown Toronto, where you can have great hikes or explore over 300 species of birds! Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Thunder Bay offers spectacular views from the top of the giant. Burlington’s Royal Botanical Gardens provides over 1,100 hectares of environmentally sensitive areas (including trails) for you to explore – with gardens and natural spaces – in every season. Take in another botanical garden at the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens, where you can enjoy an immersive experience online or in person. Visit the majestic Niagara Falls where you can just stare in awe at the grandeur of the site – or get more adventurous with a virtual zipline or helicopter ride. Midland’s Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre offers lots of great at-home activities and videos so that you’ll feel like you’re right there. Explore the spectacular Warsaw Caves Conservation Area and go digital spelunking. And finish the day taking an aerial tour of the scenic Elora Gorge.
Ontario film sets
Heritage sites often make great backdrops. Visit some of these treasures and get behind the scenes at some of Ontario’s most spectacular film sets. In Toronto, there are many sites that have been film sets for major motion pictures and television series ... starting with Toronto’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre – the backdrop for such films as The Shape of Water, Chicago and most recently another Guillermo del Toro flick called Nightmare Alley. Just down the street, at the Ontario Heritage Centre, filming remains a large part of their operations – with such films as Cinderella Man and Serendipity and TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Umbrella Academy and Queer as Folk. Across town stands the resplendent George Brown House, home to one of our Fathers of Confederation … and film set to several episodes of Murdoch Mysteries. Then make a sidetrip to Oshawa where you’ll find a site that is not so much known for its film activity as it is for the inspiration behind a hit television series. Camp X was once home to a top-secret spy training school and became the inspiration for the CBC’s hit series X Company. End your day in Cambridge where much of the downtown became the set for The Handmaid’s Tale. Learn how the city became the fictional town of Gilead, as well as take a tour of Cambridge to see some of the key filming locations. See Ontario’s heritage from a whole new perspective.
Food and drink
From a family farmstead and a former schoolhouse to an old foundry and a telephone exchange, heritage sites have changed over the years to offer state-of-the-art farming techniques and new uses. Let’s begin the day taking a tour of the Bench Brewing Company in Lincoln, where you can see how this former schoolhouse has been converted into a new brewery. Spend the next while in Waterloo Region and visit two farm operations that have been in their respective families for generations: Eby Manor Golden Guernsey Milk and Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Tapestry Hall in Cambridge, once an old foundry, has become home to a thriving event venue and brewhouse business. Down in Niagara-on-the-Lake, an old telephone exchange building has been converted into The Exchange Brewery ... even retaining some of the site’s original features. A 1950s beer store in Oshawa has been converted into the popular All or Nothing Brewhouse, where you can take a virtual tour of the brewing process from barley to beer can.
Museums large and small
Ontario’s museums are repositories of our rich and diverse history. Visit these sites and learn about our past in unique and enriching ways. Start the day in Chatham-Kent at the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum where you can discover Ontario’s Black heritage. Make a stop at the Royal Ontario Museum and delve into the distant past where you’ll find ancient mummies, dinosaurs, European cultures and Canadiana collections (you can even make your own dino eggs)! Then visit the Erchless Estate in Oakville, the family home of the town’s founding family, the Chisholms. The Oakville Museum delves into the community’s history – watch for the Underground Railroad exhibit upstairs. Next, we whisk to Ottawa where you can explore the BYTOWN Museum to learn about Ottawa’s history, with a special focus on the Rideau Canal. Then march across town to the moving Canadian War Museum to learn about Canada’s military past. From here, we learn about the history of agriculture – and particularly cheesemaking – at the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum. Aviation enthusiasts will thrill at the many exhibits contained in Quinte West’s National Air Force Museum. Learn about the history of Simcoe County at the Museum on the Boyne, complete with an old log house and barn. Heading north now, we have to stop at the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre to brush up on our northern history. Now, we fly off to Guelph to discover a unique collection at the Hammond Museum of Radio. Then make a stop in Oshawa and learn about the history of the car at the Canadian Automotive Museum, housed in a 1920s car dealership. While not an actual museum, Research Casting International in Trenton actually makes replica dinosaurs for museums around the world as well as for films like Jurassic Park! What a fascinating way to end your day. Whew!
Mad about the art
Art offers a great way of learning about our province and the people who came before us. Visit these sites to discover Ontario’s artistic splendour. Begin the day with a visit to the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives in Brampton, housed in an old courthouse and jail. Then stop by the Art Gallery of Ontario and immerse yourself in nearly 95,000 pieces of art (as well as do some activities to help you discover your inner artist). Wander through the online galleries at Innisfil’s Be Contemporary Gallery, which is housed in a heritage building that has been a general store and a library. Then visit the former home and studio of artist Doris McCarthy – Fool’s Paradise on the spectacular Scarborough Bluffs. Then stop by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Durham Region’s largest gallery, and enjoy a guided tour of the permanent collection. No art trip would be complete without a stop at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where you can study Indigenous masterpieces as well as Group of Seven canvases. You can end your day where you started, in Brampton, at the Beaux Arts Brampton – and explore more modern pieces by new and established artists.
Architectural and engineering marvels
Sometimes, the architecture itself is enough to blow you away. Here are some architectural and engineering marvels – new and old – that continue to wow visitors. Let’s begin at the Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, near Ottawa, which was built to protect the government from a nuclear attack. The Brockville Railway Tunnel is a unique structure in the middle of town, with resources to help you learn more about Canada’s railway history as well as take a pretty cool walk through this brilliant tunnel. Heading north, we can stop by the octagonal Thunder Bay Tourist Pagoda – Canada’s oldest continuously operating tourist information bureau. The Brampton Fire Services Apparatus and Maintenance Facility is a massive modern structure that provides maintenance for large fire trucks as well as training facilities for firefighters. Dundurn Castle in Hamilton is the next stop on the itinerary. Take a guided tour of this 1834 villa and learn more about this grand country estate. Richmond Hill’s 1935 David Dunlap Observatory allows you to gaze at the stars, albeit virtually right now (don’t forget to download your star gazer map). Then we’re off to Waterloo Region where we find the spectacular Shand Dam, opened in 1942 – an architectural feat of engineering. Finally, we end the day in Whitby at a site not so much known for what it currently has, but for what it once had. Camp X was the site of a Second World War spy training school. While no buildings remain today, the site remains an evocative location for this fascinating history.
Home sweet home
Digital Doors Open features many old homes that have taken on new roles. Check out some of these magnificent structures for yourself. Let’s begin with Oshawa’s Parkwood National Historic Site – a 55-room mansion complete with period rooms and spectacular manicured gardens. Next stop is Belleville, where ornate interiors await at the Glanmore National Historic Site. Fulford Place in Brockville is an Edwardian mansion that belonged to the wealthy and influential Fulford family. Don’t miss the Olmsted gardens. Next, we swing down to Southwest Ontario for a tour of Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, the homestead of Josiah Henson who escaped slavery in the United States. Returning to the Greater Toronto Area, don’t miss Heintzman House in Markham – the home of the grandson of the founder of the Heintzman Piano Company. Hillary House in nearby Aurora is a Gothic revival structure that now houses the Koffler Museum of Medicine. Brampton packs a double-whammy with two historical homes – the 19th-century Alderlea, which is now a rental venue, and the Georgian-style Historic Bovaird House, which is today a museum. Down the road a bit is The Grange, a historical home that is today the home to Heritage Mississauga. And, finally, there’s the Auchmar Manor House in Hamilton – a heritage landmark with a storied past.
Curtains up on Ontario’s heritage! Follow this itinerary to see some iconic theatres throughout the province. The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre in downtown Toronto is the last operating double-decker theatre in the world. Brampton provides a double-punch of theatrical fun with the Lester B. Pearson Memorial Theatre – a creative hub for performing arts groups – and The Rose, a performing destination for local and world-renowned performers. The Regent Theatre in Oshawa has a fascinating past from cinema to live performances to its current use as a lecture hall for Ontario Tech University. Of course, no trip around Ontario would be complete with a stop at the Stratford Festival – North America’s largest classical repertory theatre company. Break a leg!
Going behind the scenes
Let’s go behind the scenes at some of Digital Doors Open’s more fascinating sites for rare, exclusive opportunities! These sites offer exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences that you cannot have any other way but through Digital Doors Open. Start your day in Waterloo Region at the Shand Dam, where you will have exclusive behind-the-scenes access throughout this engineering marvel’s superstructure. In nearby Cambridge, stop by the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory and have a behind-the-scenes experience at this tropical paradise. Heading north, we find ourselves at the Thunder Bay Museum for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour with the museum’s executive director and a knowledgeable curator. Stop by the Stratford Festival for some exclusive interviews with Shakespearean actors and production staff. Brampton’s Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives for a rare opportunity to explore a sketchbook from none other than artist Tom Thompson. And finish your day at the Toronto Zoo where Wild Encounters program lets you get up close and personal with kangaroos, rhinos and grizzly bears. Oh my!