Free, Behind-The-Scenes Tours of 20 Quirky Vancouver Landmarks: This Weekend Only

Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Ever wondered what those big smokestacks on the south end of the Cambie Street Bridge are for … the ones that spew lots of steam and even light up from time to time? They’re actually attached to the False Creek Energy Centre, the first facility in North America to capture heat from sewage and waste water.  The heat is then returned to local buildings, cutting emissions by up to 60 percent.

If that kind of stuff fascinates you, then you’re in for a treat.  The False Creek Energy Centre and 19 other iconic and sometimes mysterious local buildings will be opened to the public this weekend as part of the inaugural Doors Open Vancouver. On Saturday, Oct. 4, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (some times vary), you can swing by for free, behind-the-scenes tours that look at the architecture, engineering and history of some real Vancouver landmarks.

The only hard part is choosing which buildings to visit.  

Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Among the highlights is downtown’s Orpheum Theatre, opened in 1927 as a Vaudeville house.  At the time, it was Canada’s largest theatre, with some 3,000 seats, and it cost an astronomical $1.25 million to build.  Saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s, the theatre today boasts 140 original Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, including a giant one suspended from the central dome.

Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Open Door Vancouver also offers a glimpse inside unique facilities like the Vancouver Animal Control Shelter in Strathcona. Best known for enforcing pet bylaws and issuing licenses, animal control also operates a 48-kennel adoption centre.  Come by to meet the animals and learn how officers are able to successfully reunite 97 percent of licensed pets with their original owners.

There’s plenty of nerdy stuff to see, too, like the Dedicated Fire Protection System False Creek Pump Station in Yaletown’s David Lam Park.  I’ve walked by this facility dozens of times and always notice the ominous “Caution: Fire Pump Intake” signs right off the False Creek seawall.  It turns out this station is capable of sucking massive amounts of water from False Creek and sending it through high-pressure mains and hydrants for firefighting purposes.  It’s specially designed for use in natural disasters like earthquakes, when other water sources might not be available.  They’ll be doing demos and even spraying water into the air on Saturday

Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Carnegie Community Centre. Photo sourced from doorsopenvan.ca

Other highlights include City Hall, the historic Salt Building on False Creek, the Vancouver Police Department’s Mounted Unit in Stanley Park, the Carnegie Community Centre on Main Street and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Training Centre.

The “open doors” concept of showing off civic infrastructure has proven a hit in other world cities.  Similar events in New York, London and Toronto have attracted hundreds of thousands of participants.

A complete list of participating buildings, with times and tour descriptions, is available on the Doors Open Vancouver website.  Note that some buildings are open for limited hours or require advanced registration.

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