Explore the city’s finest buildings, creative spaces and artistically or architecturally relevant sites at this year’s Doors Open Guelph. It’s a free, all-ages, community event offering up 14 locations spread across the city (and the Royal City is kicking off the province-wide celebration, to boot). We’ve helped navigate this experience with eight unofficial Doors Open Guelph mini tours consisting of one to three Doors Open Guelph locations, each paired with a #Guelphfoodie joint to help fuel your adventures.
Choose your own adventure! Visit a distillery and the river that holds its history? A story of juxtaposition featuring an 1800s cottage converted into one of the most eco homes in the city? What will it be?
Mini tour #1: Let The Kids Explore
This kid-focused quest lets the littles and the grownups enter a 20,000 sq. ft., newly renovated hub for KidsAbility. Let them play and explore, and if they haven’t blown off enough steam yet, we have Tiny Town and Funmazing Playcentre just minutes away. The kiddos will need fuel, and so will you, so head over to Diwa Classic Indian Cuisine or The Nguyễn’s for hearty, warm and filling family meals. Let’s just say, the adults are gonna need a little responsible warming up themselves and we’ve got you covered with Canada’s oldest independently owned microbrewery Wellington Brewery and Dixon’s Distilled Spirits serving up artisanal, small-batch spirits. Heads up: hop in the car!
Mini tour #2: Exhibition-centric
Start your morning with a walk to school. Take in The Victory School‘s gorgeous red brick exterior, original brass rails and wooden floors, and of course its perfect, park setting. Once you’re schooled, take a stroll to Greenbriar via Exhibition Park, a lush greenspace which was established in 1871. Back in those days, the park included a horse race track, exhibition building and livestock sheds. Just a few years before the park’s debut, Greenbriar, a Neo-Classical Vernacular house, had finished its build around 1867. It still features original woodwork and glass. Cap off your tour with the aptly named Park Grocery, a grocer and deli serving up the community (almost) the way they did back in 1890. And hey, maybe chow down on one of their house-made, smoked meat sandwiches with a picnic at, yup, you guess it, Exhibition Park. Picture perfect! Heads up: you can walk it, but there’s a big hill!
Mini tour #3: Crazy ‘Bout The (18)80s
Both these buildings may have been built in 1880, but they have very different stories to tell. Start on Essex Street and soak in the neighbourhood’s history. Take yourself back to a different time, one of uncertainty and strife. Heritage Hall, now home to the Guelph Black Heritage Society, once served as the British Methodist Episcopal Church. Between 1793 and 1865, tens of thousands of African-American slaves entered Canada via the network of Indigenous peoples and white anti-slavery activists. Guelph’s role in all that activity was at first no more than a stopping place, but for many writing their own history, 83 Essex Street was a place of safety for the black community, including descendants of runaway slaves. Down the road a bit sits a different house on its own narrative. 17 Aberdeen Street is a special privilege as it is a private home. This house has maintained its external heritage appearance while reconstructing and renovating its interior to be recognized as a Blue Built Home and one of the most energy efficient homes in the city. After this tour, sit down, reflect and exchange your history with a time-honoured tradition of storytelling over a pint among friends at Fixed Gear Brewing in the neighbouring ‘hood of the Junction. Heads up: you can walk it!
Mini tour #4: Down By The River
Get your runners on, you’re taking the trails by storm today. This walking tour throws in a few extra Guelphie treats. We want you to start at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Church nestled against York Road Park. This mid-century church is adorned with three onion domes set against its tree-lined backyard. Just before you head down the Eramosa River Trail stop at a little hot dog stand that is not to be missed and is a local, fan-fave. Cross over the river by stepping back in time along our wooden lattice covered bridge. It’s one of only two lattice covered bridges in all of Ontario. This will lead you into the Downtown Trail (also known as the Trans Canada Trail), a 4.3 km stretch that’ll take you up the Speed River and all the way to Riverside Park if your feet allowed. But this time, we want you to slow down, take in all the natural and historical beauty and stop in an area of Guelph that once housed factories, mills and distilleries. Fast-forward 183 years and you’ll find your last stop, the Spring Mill Distillery now in operation by the Sleeman family on the banks the Speed River. Yes, the same people that make the notoriously good beer. Heads up: you can walk it! UPDATE: St. Mary’s Ukrainian Church location CANCELLED.
Mini tour #5: Downtown Restored
Guelph’s downtown core really is special for so many cool reasons (ya, we’re biased). But we feel one particular characteristic stands out. A majority of our coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, entertainment venues, including a brewery and a bridal shop (to name a few) are within the walls of beautiful, reclaimed and repurposed vintage and historic buildings. You can sit, stir, sip and slurp among limestone, elaborate carvings, ornate dormers, and carved stone. The 1800s have come alive along our bustling, yet old fashioned and charming streets that reminisce of days gone by. This a three-location stop. First, park at Baker Street lot and feel like an aristocrat at Lornewood Manor, named after an 1879 visit from the Marquis of Lorne, one of our former Governor Generals. The house has been restored with its original ornate black walnut trim, ceilings, lead-glass windows, carpets and elaborate furniture. Make your way downtown where you’ll find two Doors Open Guelph locations: The Sovereign building and the Provincial Offences Court. Just like Lornewood Manor, and our glorious downtown, these two buildings are lovingly restored and rehabilitated for new purposes. This walking tour will not disappoint because you’ve ended your experience in the hub of culture, fine dining, locally-owned diners and bistros, organic menus, wine bars, breweries, pubs, movie houses, vinyl shops, consignment and vintage shops and so, so much more. This is just the beginning of your Visit Guelph adventure. Heads up: you can walk it!
Right downtown, just steps away from The Sovereign, is the Western Hotel & Executive Suites. Just like the tour above, the Western Hotel was renovated and resurrected from its late 19th century version. Robert Coulson broke ground on the original Western Hotel in February of 1881. His vision was to create the best hotel in Guelph. That same four-story stone structure, which boasted 40 rooms, still stands as a hotel prominently on Macdonell Street today. And we’ve got a steal for you! Want to save 10% off your stay? To book, call in and referrer to the “Doors Open” event to receive the discount.
Mini tour #6: Kraty Kids
This one is all about the kiddos! Let them explore and get crazy with crafts. Adults know, if you’re truckin’ along with the littles, you’ll need some caffeine and carbs. Stop at Polestar Hearth Bread for yourself and snag a hand-crafted apple and cheddar savoury danish. Just a few bites away is Diyode, a 2,500 sq. ft. space for makers and artists to access tools that they would not normally have access to. Make it kid-friendly, with activities to spark interest in electronics, machine building and practical problem solving. Trust us when we say, they’ll love it. After using all their senses, they’ll need to burn off some energy. What better than a walk, ney, a run down the Downtown Trail parallel to old railroad tracks, playgrounds and greenspaces? A stop at With The Grain for their Saturday lineup of cinnamon buns, baguettes and sourdough loafs along with ready-made sandwiches. Take it all to go and enjoy it on the other half of your trail zooming by Goldie Mill ruins all the way to the newly renovated Children’s Art Factory. A drop-in children’s art studio that will spark the imagination of anyone. Heads up: you can walk it!
Mini tour #7: Farm to Table, Literally.
You’re starting this walking tour at a farm, and you’re finishing it off sitting around tables which were crafted from a fallen black walnut tree. If that’s not farm to table, than we don’t know what is? Head south on Gordon Street until you’re just outside of the Guelph limits to Marcolongo Heritage Farm. This was one of the first farms in Puslinch Township. A granite fieldstone house, with an original timber-framed small barn, this property has been proposed to be protected as a Cultural Heritage Landscape under the Ontario Heritage Act. We want you to keep that farm fresh feeling alive, so head over to Borealis Grille and Bar where you’ll only find locally sourced Ontario ingredients harvested sustainably. We always need a good cuppa after a solid meal. Down about a block is Planet Bean serving up fresh, fair-trade and organic gourmet Arabica coffee that is roasted right here in town! Now that’s fresh. Pack it up in a reusable coffee mug and head back to the farm for Trails Open, a unique opportunity to view Hall’s Pond, the most important natural area within city limits. This tour is led by the Guelph Hiking Trail Club. If you haven’t had quite enough of our gorgeous Guelph, then wrap up this naturalist’s dream weekend with a trip to one of the best and most beloved treasures, the Donkey Sanctuary. Heads up: hop in the car!
Mini tour #8: The Bridge Between Dinner and Dessert.
If storytelling is your shtick, then you need to make this a must-do. Gow Bridge was built in 1897 and is one of only 10 remaining stone bridges in Ontario. An extra element will be present at this historic architectural gem that you don’t want to miss. Guelph’s theatre artist Jay Wilson will tell stories of the bridge, the Brooklyn area and some of the scandalous events that took place nearby. The entire Royal City Park area is booming with tasty treats to enjoy before, during or after, so if your thing is to have dessert before lunch, may we suggest a fan-fave, the Boathouse serving ice cream scoops and house-blend teas. Savour it all while you sit back in comfy Adirondack chairs, amongst geese and a rapid river. Need more to fill you up? Earth To Table: Bread Bar is just on the other side of Gordon Street up from the bridge where you’ll get to pick from over 10 stone baked pizzas including their MVP-izza, created and inspired by the season. Heads up: you can walk it! Please check in with Doors Open Guelph for scheduled performance times.
NEW THIS YEAR! Doors Open Guelph will have bike tours presented by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation, art walks guided by Ahmri + Abby opening your eyes to art you never knew existed, an official rest stop and info hub and of course the kick-off event at Guelph Civic Museum, Doors Open After Dark. The party starts at 9 p.m. and goes on ’til the wee hours of the morning… so you might as well just stay the night at the Western Hotel & Executive Suites with their 10% off discount.
Which ever door you walk in, we welcome you. We hope you can come to visit us again, because we’ll always open up a door to you.
For information about location details and history, parking, accessibility and washroom information, please visit the official Doors Open Guelph site.