The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) draws thousands of visitors annually across Canada and beyond. This iconic Toronto, Ontario, event celebrates Canadian culture, food, entertainment, and innovation. The event dates are Fri, 18 Aug – Mon, 04 Sep 2023. Whether you’re a first-time attendee or a seasoned CNE enthusiast, this comprehensive guide will provide all the information you need to make the most of your visit to this spectacular event.
What is the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)?
The Canadian National Exhibition, often called the CNE, is Canada’s largest annual fair. The CNE has a rich history dating to its inception in 1879, making it a beloved tradition for many Canadians.
The event is hosted at Exhibition Place, a massive venue along Lake Ontario’s shores. It features many attractions, including thrilling amusement rides, live performances, agricultural displays, food vendors, shopping, and more. The CNE offers something for everyone, making it a family-friendly destination and a must-visit for tourists exploring Toronto.
Getting There and Parking
- Public Transportation: To avoid the hassle of parking, consider taking public transportation to the CNE. The venue is accessible via the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) streetcar and bus routes. You can also take the GO Transit commuter train, which stops at Exhibition GO Station, right next to the fairgrounds.
- Parking: If you plan to drive, there are several parking options available around Exhibition Place, but they can fill up quickly, especially on weekends. Be prepared to pay for parking, and arrive early to secure a spot. Consider carpooling or using rideshare services to make parking more manageable.
Tickets and Admission
- Ticket Options: CNE offers various ticket options, including single-day admission, family passes, and discounted tickets for seniors and children. You can purchase tickets online in advance or at the gate. Buying tickets online often provides discounts and allows for faster entry.
- Ride-All-Day Pass: If you love amusement rides, consider purchasing one. It grants unlimited access to most rides and attractions, excluding a few select ones.
- Special Promotions: Keep an eye out for special promotions and discounts on specific days, such as discounted admission for post-secondary students or special deals for military personnel.
- Kids’ Pass: Families with children will appreciate the Kids’ Pass, which includes admission and ride tickets for kids at a reduced price.
- Midway Rides: The CNE is famous for its thrilling rides, including roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and other attractions that provide a bird’s-eye view of Toronto’s skyline. Be sure to check ride height restrictions if you have younger children.
- Food Building: The Food Building is a culinary paradise featuring various foods worldwide. From classic Canadian National Exhibition fare like poutine to international delicacies, there’s something to satisfy every palate.
- Bandshell Stage: Enjoy live music, dance performances, and other entertainment acts at the Bandshell Stage. Check the CNE schedule for specific performers and showtimes.
- Gaming and Exhibits: Explore the Gaming Garage and Innovation Garage to discover cutting-edge technology, video games, and interactive exhibits. These areas showcase the latest advancements in various industries.
- The Farm: Visit the Farm to see various farm animals, learn about agriculture, and witness live demonstrations, including sheep shearing and cow milking.
- The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Air Show: If your visit coincides with the Labor Day long weekend, take advantage of the spectacular RCAF Air Show featuring thrilling aerial acrobatics and demonstrations by Canada’s top pilots.
Food and Dining Options
The CNE is a food lover’s paradise, offering various culinary delights. Here are some food-related tips:
- Food Building: As mentioned earlier, the Food Building is a must-visit. It’s home to countless food vendors offering everything from gourmet sandwiches to international street food.
- Unique Treats: Don’t miss out on iconic CNE treats like the legendary “CNE Cronut” and “Tiny Tom” mini donuts. These are beloved traditions for many fairgoers.
- International Flavors: Explore the International Food Pavilion for a global gastronomic experience—sample dishes from various countries and regions.
- Food Allergies and Dietary Restrictions: If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions, check with the food vendors for options that suit your needs. Many vendors offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan choices.
- Hydration: Remember to stay hydrated, especially on hot summer days. You’ll find beverage stands throughout the fairgrounds, offering water, soft drinks, and more.
Entertainment and Shows
The CNE offers a diverse entertainment lineup, from live music and dance performances to magic shows and comedy acts. Here are some entertainment options to consider:
- The CNE Casino: If you enjoy gaming, visit the CNE Casino for various table games and slot machines. Please gamble responsibly.
- Live Performances: Check the CNE schedule for daily performances at venues like the Bandshell Stage and the CNE Amphitheatre. You might catch a famous artist in concert or discover a new favorite band.
- Gaming and Esports: Explore the Gaming Garage for video game tournaments, virtual reality experiences, and the latest gaming technology.
- Cultural Exhibits: Learn about different cultures through exhibits, displays, and performances celebrating the diversity of Canada.
- Kids’ Midway: The CNE is family-friendly, with a dedicated area for children featuring kid-friendly rides, games, and entertainment.
If you enjoy shopping, the CNE offers a wide range of vendors and exhibits where you can find unique products and crafts. Here are some shopping highlights:
- Arts, Crafts, and Home Décor: Explore the Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Pavilion for handmade jewelry, artwork, and other artisanal goods.
- Marketplace: The CNE Marketplace features a variety of vendors selling clothing, accessories, home goods, and more.
- Bargain Alley: If you love a good deal, don’t miss Bargain Alley, where you can find discounted items from various vendors.
- Farmers’ Market: Visit the Farmers’ Market for fresh produce, baked goods, and gourmet products from local vendors.
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Tips for a Great CNE Experience
- Plan Your Visit: Review the CNE schedule and map in advance to plan your day and make the most of your time at the fair.
- Stay Comfortable: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
- Budget Wisely: Set a budget for your day at the CNE to avoid overspending on food and attractions.
- Arrive Early: To beat the crowds and enjoy shorter lines for rides and popular attractions, consider arriving at the fairgrounds early in the day.
- Stay Connected: Bring a portable phone charger or power bank to stay connected and share your CNE experience on social media.
- Capture Memories: Don’t forget to take photos and capture memories of your CNE adventure.
The Canadian National Exhibition is a one-of-a-kind event that brings together people of all ages to celebrate the best of Canada. From thrilling rides to mouthwatering food and live entertainment to unique shopping experiences, the CNE offers a little something for everyone. Whether a local or a tourist, attending the CNE is a fantastic way to create lasting memories and immerse yourself in Canadian culture, so get ready to enjoy this annual tradition’s sights, sounds, and flavors and make the most of your visit to the Canadian National Exhibition.