As popular and well-attended as most summer events are in the vibrant city of Toronto, they all pale in comparison to summer’s entertainment peak, the Canadian National Exhibition.Kicking off on Friday, August 15th and running until the end of Labour Day weekend on September 1st, the CNE is one of the largest annual fairs in all of North America. Open daily at 10 am and running until well after sundown, the CNE covers nearly all of Toronto’s historic Exhibition Grounds next to Lake Ontario. More than 1.8 million visitors move through the grounds each year over its 18-day run.
There’s bound to be something at this wide-ranging fair to appeal to nearly anyone who might visit. Younger guests will be attracted by dozens of rides, the carnival midway, and the legendary assortment of snacks and treats. Family entertainment abounds, including magic shows, hypnotists, animal encounters in the Farm Building, parades, a variety of stage shows, and the Labour Day Weekend air show. Nightly concerts in Bandshell Park will appeal to the young adult crowd, as will the adjacent Ribfest, featuring barbecqued meats from across the continent. The CNE Casino offers gaming excitement to those of legal age and is open until 6 am.
The CNE is also an annual pilgrimage point for shoppers and gourmands alike. The majority of the halls of the Direct Energy Centre are given up to vendors’ booths from around the world in the International Pavilion, as well as celebrity chef, fashion, and lifestyle demonstrations and a cornucopia of household products for sale in the At Home Pavilion. Serious deals on clothing, accessories, and homewares can be found at the warehouse outlet sales. Unique products and gifts can be found in the Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Pavilion as well as at the outdoor market stalls nearby.
Meanwhile, the highly active Food Building is a magnet for foodies interested in sampling classic dishes of the Ex as well as the inevitable new and infamous culinary concoctions (chocolate fried chicken is already sounding like this year’s hit item). The Food Truck Frenzy returns to the CNE this year as well, as many of the Toronto area’s favourite take-out spots on wheels park inside Princes’ Gate from August 22nd to 24th to offer their delicious treats to hungry fair patrons. There are less hectic, sit-down meal options as well, including the Wine Garden restaurant next to the Ricoh Coliseum and the chic Gossip Restaurant on the grounds.
With single admission tickets as well as Ride All Day passes, the Canadian National Exhibition offers a remarkable amount of entertainment and diverson for a reasonable price. It’s one of the most popular features of a Toronto summer, and is not to be missed.