I was born in Toronto, but when it comes to the CNE ( the Canadian National Exhibition for international readers ) it doesn’t matter where you’re from.
The summer is a special time for everyone in Toronto, and the CNE is a bittersweet moment. You love it for all that it is, but it is the harbinger of summer’s doom. What better way to squeeze the last fun out of the season before it ends.
But while most people have just one visit to the CNE, for years I’ve had three and they’re three totally different CNE’s too! I hope you find some value and maybe ideas in one of them…
1) The Kids. Being of baby-raising age right now this is a wonderful full day of activities that is affordable and crazy fun. We don’t live close by so the secret is to drive to the underground parking in the Direct Energy Centre that is accessible for strollers. Start the day walking to the kids area where this is always lots to do – the petting zoo is a must. Lunch at the food building, a visit to the agricultural building with an early afternoon finish at the ever-awesome superdog show. They end up tuckered out, wheel them downstairs to the car and you’re off before the crowds show up.
2) The Friends. There is nothing like the midway at night. This thing is 135 years old so anyone who grew up in or around the city will have nostalgic feelings for the place – so much history! Show up on the Red Rocket in the late afternoon when most folks are leaving and head to the food building for something delicious and dangerous. I never miss out on a huge pickle and something deep fried that usually leaves me queasy for a couple hours. The sun goes down, the lights come up and the fun begins. Every night there’s something fun to do at the CNE. Walking and catching up with friends, winning at the horse races, losing at crown and anchor is always awesome. Some years there are fireworks, a date-night staple. Riding that loud and crowded rocket back into town is the best way to end the night.
3) The shopping (senior secret). Funny enough, this trip is best made with someone over 70. Before my grandmother passed well into her 80’s we would again drive into the Direct Energy Centre early in the morning, use that wheelchair accessible elevator and take a thoughtful stroll. To see stuff that the kids wouldn’t have patience for and my friends would usually make fun of (yes, I like flowers). I love to see the many different things for sale in the craft building, the sights, sounds and smells of the world in the international shops and I love to barter and argue with the hard sellers in the shoppers market. Finish it off with a slow stroll through the garden show and it is always a day well spent for a tiny cost. If you have seniors in your life, these areas are totally accessible.
I always find fun and unique things at the Ex. Heck, I’ve just scratched the surface! I have friends who are die-hard airshow fans, some are into the music – check out this page for all there is to do! This year I’m on vacation and will take my family to opening day, it’s going to be a treat. It’s one of Toronto’s true treasures and I hope you find your way down.
I leave you with the jingle that made the hearts of every kid born in the past 50 years will know well. See you at Tiny Tom’sTiny Tom’s….
( How about sharing a story of your Ex-capades below? )
Thanks for reading! Paul