5 Things To Do At The Toronto CNE

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Memories Of Childhood

There are so many great summer festivals in Toronto. One of my favourite childhood memories was of going to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) with my family. The CNE runs for several weeks at the end of August and wraps up on the Labour Day weekend with an awesome air show. We drive past the CNE often and the draw is strong to return. When we were offered media passes, we had no excuse. It was time to return and see all the things to do at the Toronto CNE.

It is easy to get to the CNE. Just look for the beautiful Princes’ Gates. Several different bus and streetcar lines run right into the CNE grounds. The GO Train also has a stop at the CNE. There are several parking lots if you are heading in from out of town.

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We put on our walking shoes. And enjoyed a day as we explored the things to do at the Toronto CNE!

1) Have Fun On The Midway

As a kid, we always wanted to start at the midway. There are rides for kids of all ages. They are still the big attraction for us.

I loved the rides that took me high. Drops were no problem. Maybe that was why I had no problem when I started skydiving! But to this day I have a problem with rides that spin around and whose sole purpose is to get you dizzy. These are ones to avoid if you have just eaten!

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Mega Drop CNE Rides - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

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If rides are not your thing, maybe you can test your skill or luck. I am sure I always ended up paying more in game costs than it would have cost to buy a stuffed animal.

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Game Prizes Stuffed Animals - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

I always liked “Whack A Mole”. It was a great way to take out my frustrations. And over the years, many different faces have been imagined on those mole heads!

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Wander the grounds of the CNE and you will find something that will catch your attention. On this visit, we were attracted to the giant lizard with the flicking tongue. We did not stop to get our fortunes told. And I absolutely did not let someone guess my weight!

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When we wandered the grounds, we found so many things to do at the Toronto CNE.

2) Head Inside To The Display Floors

When we needed a break from the sun and heat, we headed indoors. There were a number of exhibits that showed how you can create art in so many different forms. The butter sculptures are a regular CNE display. Native wood and soapstone carvings were intricate. One display even showed what you can do with old plastic flip flops.

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There was a large area with sand sculptures. We must admit to being a little jaded in this regard. When we visited the Algarve in Portugal, we saw the most amazing sand sculpture park with hundreds of massive displays. But we enjoyed the chance to see the sand sculptures on display.

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Sand Sculptures - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

Sand Sculptures - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

If you need some retail therapy, there are many different spots to shop. This year we were interested to find a very large outlet shopping area. Or you can head off to find the smaller booths.

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Looking at the indoor displays is one of the things to do at the Toronto CNE.

3) Enjoy The Shows

We wanted a chance to sit down. It was tiring work checking out all the things to do at the Toronto CNE. We found great seats and settled in to watch the Super Dogs show. Dogs and their masters raced around the ring and showed off their tricks.

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Super Dogs Show - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

An indoor ice rink provided a cool spot to relax. Skaters went around the rink, singly and in pairs. Acrobats took to the ice to provide a great show.

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Ice Skater Show - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

Ice Skater Show - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

Ice Skater Show - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

Ice Skater Show - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

We loved the chance to see the shows. It is one of the things to do at the Toronto CNE that you should plan. Get a schedule and then work the rest of your day around the shows you want to see.

4) Don’t Miss The Chinese Lanterns

We definitely wanted to see the Chinese Lanterns at the CNE when we visited. There were so many bright colourful displays to see. We enjoyed a trip along the Silk Road, the magic of fantasy and mythical characters and a walk through the animal forest.

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If you limited time at the CNE this year, I would highly recommend you make sure to see the Chinese Lanterns at the CNE.

5) Eat Your Way Around

No trip to the CNE is complete if you don’t fill your face. As kids, we marvelled at the selection of food you could find in the Food Building. There were annual favourites like the tiny sugar donuts. And every year we looked for the strangest food we could find. This year it may have been the cheesesteak decked out like an eclair? We even occasionally found healthy options!

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No matter where you walked in the CNE, food tempted us. Can you pass on popcorn, caramel apples or cotton candy? And there were adult options too. Beer gardens and wine bars offered a chance to stop for a civilized moment.

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This year there was also a giant food truck frenzy section at the CNE. There was a great selection of unique and gourmet food truck options. If you followed our travels to Ottawa for Canada Day, you know we were tempted by the BeaverTails. But maybe more by the sweet chimney treats we found when we visited Prague.

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Food Truck SWAT Philly cheesesteak - Things To Do At The Toronto CNE.jpg

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We ate and drank our way around the grounds. This is definitely one of the things to do at the Toronto CNE that everyone wants to enjoy!

So Many Things To Do At The Toronto CNE

It was great to return to the CNE. It had been many years since we visited. But it brought back so many childhood memories. There were lots of more traditional things to do at the Toronto CNE. But there were also many new things to draw us back year after year.

We loved the Chinese Lanterns and were so glad we saw them this year. We are excited to finish off the CNE with the air show! What a great way to finish up summer in Toronto!

What was your favourite of the things to do at the Toronto CNE?

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20 Comments

  1. Gosh what an amazing event. There seems to be such a variety of things to do and see. The fair looks awesome – I love the shot with the legs flying out. And the butter sculptures are stunning. Definitely worth knowing about. Like you, I love doing things that bring back memories of childhood…My equivalent would be goose fair in Nottingham or even the local fairground in the seaside town I grew up in.

    • Fiona, It was great to go back to the CNE after so many years away. We were amazed at how much more we found as adults. I am not sure I have ever been to a goose fair. But I understand that fairs are the kind of thing that stay with us from our childhoods. Linda

  2. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the CNE! I love all your food / food truck pics – it reminds me of fun on the midway at the Calgary Stampede! I love the dizzy rides, they are the best – but not after eating mountains of fun fair food. The chinese lanterns look incredible – good tip to see them if you have limited time!

    • Hannah, In Canada we have a lot of end of summer fairs. Before we all scurry indoors for the winter! We loved the chance to get back to the CNE this year. Maybe on your next visit 🙂 Linda

    • Leah, If you visit Toronto at the end of August, you will get the chance to visit this great fair. If you want Beaver Tails, they are generally around for all big festivals. In Ottawa, they even have a full time stall in the Byward Market! Love me my Beaver Tails 🙂 Linda

  3. When there was no internet of mobile phones, places like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) were the best ways to experience the world in a fun way. Princess gates with inscription looks beautiful. Sand Sculptures looks looks interesting.

  4. OMG! What a fun place! Those rides are so thrilling yet I may dread to ride them 😀 Nevertheless I must time my visit to Toronto for these festivals.

  5. This place is an absolute fiesta. Love the sand sculptures that you can see here. So many creative pieces. I would love the display floors too. And then the rides around the park definitely seem like a fun thing to do.

  6. We are going to Toronto both this year and next, and have never been before, so thanks for the ‘5 things to do!’ We may even be there in time for the CNE in 2019, and we’d love to see the airshow. At this point in my life, I will skip the amusements (I never thought I’d say that, but age does make a difference).
    Those butter sculptures are amazing, and those sand sculpture – fabulous! I love watching dog shows on TV; it would be fun to see one in person, and ice dancing too. Wow – all the shows look incredible. What a fun time Toronto seems to offer!

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