The CNE Toronto, or Canadian National Exhibition, is Toronto's ultimate end-of-summer event. This historic festival takes place at the end of August and features midway rides, carnival food, concerts, animal shows, air show and more.
The CNE, or "The Ex" as locals call it, is Canada's largest community event and one of the oldest as well, dating back to 1879.
This annual festival and fair takes place over 18 days in late August.
To those of us who grew up within driving distance, it symbolized the end of summer, and was always a bittersweet event, because it meant fun but it also meant going back to school.
Today the event is as big as ever and just as popular with the crowds. It is in fact the 5th largest festival in North America!
Some of the attractions and events at the CNE today include:
-midway with rides and games
-carnival food and other treats
-live performances including concerts and circus acts
-animal shows including a horse show
-displays of new gadgets, stuff for the home
-an air show
-special exhibits such as the Sand Sculpture show and art shows
The Location: Exhibition Place
CNE also refers to the place where the event is held. More properly called "Exhibition Place", this property is 192 acres in size, and is located along the waterfront just west of downtown Toronto. There are 25 buildings on the site and many of them are used during the annual event to house the temporary exhibits. During the rest of the year they are used for other festivals and conferences as well as some permanent tourist attractions like the Medieval Times theatre.
The Ex began way back in 1879. It was "the" place to showcase new products and technology. Over the years it has evolved to include more entertainment aspects. In fact many people go just for the carnival part, enjoying the chance to try all the rides on the midway and the cotton candy, caramel apples, and other favourite treats.
During World War II the Ex was closed to the public. The Canadian army and navy took it over and used it to house their recruits. My father, who was in the army, stayed in the horse barracks. Today the "Horse Palace" houses horses again, those belonging to Toronto Police Mounted Unit, Exhibition Riding Academy and Toronto Animal Services.
I have a personal connection to the CNE Toronto too. Before the Hockey Hall of Fame moved to its current site on Front Street, it used to be housed on the grounds of the CNE. I worked here as an archival assistant for a brief time one winter in the 1980s. The grounds were deserted in the winter, and creepy, and I always felt like I was walking on haunted grounds as I rushed from the streetcar stop to the building.
The streetcar is still the most direct route to the CNE Toronto. You can also take the GO Train. During the annual event these public transit options are crowded but so are the parking lots. Pack your patience.
There is a General Admission fare to get into the grounds, and then you'll pay more for rides and concerts, so this isn't a cheap event. See the web site below for current prices. Also food can be quite expensive so to save money, pack your food. You can also buy family passes.
For more information
For information about special events, ticket prices, times and how to get there, see the CNE web site http://www.theex.com
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