Heads up for all of those who appreciate a good skyline view: keep May 24th and 25th open! Amongst the buildings that will open during the 15th Annual Doors Open Toronto, several will offer rarely seen vistas of Toronto! Presented by Great Gulf, this city-wide event offers free access to more than 155 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across Toronto. We will highlight a number of the options available to you in a short series of articles. Today we start with a list of the Top Five Views during Doors Open 2014: click on the building titles for exact times, and photographers, make sure to bring your cameras!

Canada Life Building

Due to popular demand, the self-guided tour of the Canada Life Building is returning this year. Completed in 1931, this iconic structure on University Avenue was designed to symbolize the company's stability. At 17 storeys and 276 feet high, this large Georgian/Neo-Classical structure towers over its prominent location. The famous weather beacon up top was added in 1951. It warns of changes such as temperature rises and drops. The building most prominently features a historic 17th floor observation room, looking out towards Toronto City Hall to the east, or one can see all the way to Lake Ontario to the south. This spectacular panoramic view can only be accessed by the general public once a year during Doors Open!

Doors Open 2014 Toronto Canada Life Building Observation16th Floor of Canada Life Building, image by reaperexpress

Toronto City Hall

Coming back for another year, Toronto City Hall continues to be one of the most popular Doors Open attractions. The Viljo Revell-designed structure was completed in 1965, and has become one of Toronto's most recognizable landmarks. Visitors can wander around the City Council chambers, the newly completed Nathan Phillips Square stage, City Hall's green roof, and most importantly for this article, the 27th Floor Observation Deck. Those who head up should be blown away by the view of Nathan Phillips Square and the skyscrapers of Toronto's Financial District. The deck is closed to the general public during the year, and is only open during Doors Open.


Doors Open 2014 Toronto City Hall Building Observation
Toronto City Hall Observation Deck, image by Zena Curwain

Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning (SickKids)

Newly added this year, the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning is open for Doors Open 2014. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and completed in 2013, this LEED Certified building is part of the Hospital For Sick Children SickKids campus. The first three floors will be open to the public where visitors will get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a health science researcher. For those who are hoping for a spectacular view, the centre features prominent curved glass atriums on the upper levels of the building, only accessible on guided tours which will be offered every half hour. The views from the 19th floor will be worth line up!

Doors Open 2014 Toronto Peter Gilgan Centre SickKids Building ObservationLooking south over Bay Street from Peter Gilgan Centre, image by Jack Landau

Canada's National Ballet School

One of Jarvis Street's most prominent buildings, Canada's National Ballet School is taking part in this year's Doors Open. On the campus, one can find historical buildings such as the old CBC Radio building and the former Ladies Havergal College. During the 2000s, the historic buildings were preserved and supplemented by modern glass structures. Visitors to the campus will be able to tour the NBS campus and will be guided in small groups around it. Visitors also have the chance to tour the school's sixth floor terrace, which features a stunning view of the east end and down to Lake Ontario. This site will only be open on May 24th from 10am-5pm.

Doors Open 2014 Toronto Canada's National Ballet School Rooftop TerraceRooftop terrace at Canada's National Ballet School, image by canmark

Arcadian Court

Returning to Doors Open 2014 is the Arcadian Court event space in the Simpsons Tower at Queen and Bay Street. Guests will be taken through all three parts of Arcadian Court: Arcadian Court, Arcadian Loft, and Arcadian Studio. All three rooms create an interesting event space, renovated by O&B in 2012. Arcadian Loft and Arcadian Studio both feature access to the Panoramic Room, featuring a north facing view of the city and Old City Hall. This special venue will only be open on May 25th from 10am-5pm.

Doors Open 2014 Toronto Arcadian Loft Simpsons TowerView of Old City Hall from Arcadian Loft, image by Edward Skira

BONUS: Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

This sight will be offering a completely different skyline view, simply because this historic structure isn't on the 'mainland', in fact we are talking Toronto Islands here, and the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. This historic structure dates back to 1808. It is the second oldest lighthouse in all of Canada, and the oldest lighthouse along the Great Lakes. Visitors can climb approximately 90 steps to the top level of the lighthouse. At the top is a cast-iron lantern and its rare fixed Fresnel lens, made in 1870, France. A view of the lake and the surrounding Toronto Islands can be seen, as well as a partial downtown view. Visitors will need to pay for a ferry ride to the Island to view the lighthouse.

Doors Open 2014 Toronto Islands LighthousePrefabricated cast-iron lantern at Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, image by George Thorogood

This year's theme for Doors Open is "Secrets and Spirits… Exploring the Mysteries Behind the Door". 80 locations feature secret spaces, stories of spirit sightings and unexplained mysteries. For more information about Doors Open Toronto 2014 check out the Doors Open portal on the City of Toronto website, where you can find a full list of buildings open to the public on May 24th and May 25th.