The CNE is one of the largest fairs in North America, attracting over 1.5 million visitors each year. Originally called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, it’s been held every year since its first iteration in 1879, except during World War I, World War II, and 2020.
Planning to visit the famous exhibition? Learn about its best attractions and which activities to try when you get there.
A Complete Guide to the Canadian National Exhibition
What is the Canadian National Exhibition?
The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), also known as The Ex, is an annual exhibition held in Toronto originally intended to showcase Canadian agriculture and industry. Founded in 1879, it’s Canada’s largest annual event.
The CNE is held every year from late August to early September. It features a variety of attractions, including rides, games, food, and entertainment.
Where is the Canadian National Exhibition?
The Canadian National Exhibition is held at the Exhibition Place, a 192-acre site in downtown Toronto. It’s along the shore of Lake Ontario, just west of the CN Tower and Rogers Centre.
The venue is divided into four areas: the midway where you can find rides, the food building where you can try various food vendors, the entertainment stage where you can catch live performances, and the kids’ world where children can have fun.
Here’s a map of the venue and its surrounding area:
How to Get There
Train: The closest TTC subway station to the CNE is Exhibition GO Station, which is on the Bloor-Danforth line.
Streetcar: Several streetcars stop at the CNE, including the 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina, 501 Queen, and 511 Bathurst.
Bus: The 29 Dufferin Bus brings you to the Dufferin Gate Loop, which is a short walk from the CNE.
Car: The CNE is easily accessible from the Gardiner Expressway. Parking is on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early to secure a spot.
Tips on How to Prepare for CNE
The CNE is always packed, so it’s better to come prepared. Here are some tips to make your visit more enjoyable:
- Before you go, decide what you want to see and do. This will help you make the most of your time.
- Arrive early to avoid long lines.
- You will be doing a lot of walking, so it’s important to wear comfortable shoes.
- The weather can be unpredictable in Toronto, so it’s a good idea to bring sunscreen and a hat, even if it is cloudy.
- Many vendors don’t accept credit cards, so it’s a good idea to bring cash with you.
- Bring a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.
What to Do at CNE
Stuff yourself with delicious food
The CNE’s food building is filled with more than a hundred food vendors selling all kinds of tasty treats, from classic Canadian delicacies to savoury Japanese street food. Have your wallets ready because the wide selection is hard to resist.
Catch live performances
There are plenty of live performances to catch at the CNE, including band performances, magic shows, and comedy acts. Check their website for the schedule so you don’t miss anything that you might want to watch.
Enjoy the rides
A lot of people flock to the exhibition to enjoy its magnificent rides, such as the giant Ferris wheel, roller coasters, a haunted mansion, and the cable car. They also have water and kiddie rides ideal for families looking to have fun.
Shop for unique finds
Various merchandise, some from known brands, are available at the CNE, including clothing, jewellery, souvenirs, and gifts. You can also find home goods, electronics, and cute handmade items.
Test your luck at the casino
— From: @mrsunyli
The CNE Casino is open from 12 PM to 6 AM and features a variety of table games including blackjack, roulette, and poker. There are also several slot machines where you can try your luck and win (or lose) some money.
Explore the exhibitions
The CNE has various exhibitions that showcase Canadian culture, history, and innovation. Exploring them is a great way to support local creatives and learn about the country’s established and emerging industries.
Showcase your skills in carnival games
Test your skills in a variety of carnival games including classics like balloon darts, ring toss, skeet shooting, skeeball, and the whack-a-mole. There are plenty of options for all ages, and the prizes are always worth a shot.
Watch the annual airshow
The CNE’s annual air show features a variety of military and civilian aircraft. Professionals like the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the GEICO Skytypers showcase incredible flight manoeuvres.
What to Eat at CNE
BeaverTails is a Canadian chain of restaurants that specializes in deep-fried dough pastries that are shaped like beaver tails. The pastries are made with dough that is stretched into a long thin rectangle and then deep-fried until golden brown.
Created in 1978 by Grant Hooker, it’s become a popular snack at the CNE. It has a booth at the event every year and is one of its most sought-after food vendors.
Ali’s Roti is a West Indian restaurant in Toronto that specializes in roti, a type of flatbread that is made with flour, water, and salt. The roti is then filled with a variety of savoury ingredients, such as curried chickpeas, vegetables, and meat.
Wanting to create a restaurant that would serve authentic West Indian cuisine, Shiraz Aligou founded the restaurant in 1976 when roti was popular but not widely available in Toronto.
Bacon Nation is a restaurant in Toronto that specializes in—you guessed it—bacon! The restaurant offers a variety of bacon-focused dishes, including bacon burgers, bacon mac and cheese, and even bacon-wrapped ice cream.
It was founded in 2012 by friends who shared a passion for bacon. They wanted to create a restaurant that would celebrate bacon in all its glory.
Bub’s Bad@ss Burgers
Bub’s Bad@ss Burgers is a burger restaurant in Toronto that is known for its creative and delicious burgers. The famous burger joint offers unusual and indulgent burgers that are different from the usual fast food options.
The menu at Bub’s Bad@ss Burgers features a variety of burgers, including the signature Bad@ss Burger, which is made with two beef patties, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and secret sauce.
Just Cone It
Just Cone It is a family-owned food truck that revolutionizes the cone by using it to make snacks that aren’t ice cream. They make premium quality savoury snacks that you can eat on the go, perfect as you explore the CNE grounds.
Enjoy classic dishes like Philly cheesesteak, pepperoni pizza, and pulled pork in a cone.