What an incredible few weeks it’s been for the Canadian National Exhibition! And it’s not over yet! There’s still two days left to visit the CNE if you haven’t already gone. The annual Toronto fair has a ton of fun events and activities planned for the Labor Day long weekend – including the Canadian International Air Show – so now is the best time to go!
I visited the CNE a few days ago, and I found it to be somewhat mind-boggling considering all there is to see and do – games, rides, concerts, an air show, new and strange foods to try, an animal building, parades, shopping, a casino, celebrity chefs, international performances and more! If you end up going this weekend, I highly suggest you spend the entire day, from morning til night.
The food building alone was overwhelming. With so many restaurants set up along the sides and strewn throughout the middle, it’s like trying to navigate a maze rather than having everything simply set out in aisles. If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get lost and become separated from the rest of your family or friends. There are food options to please every palette – everything from the familiar to the strange.
Every year, as a tradition, the CNE adds new food outlets that showcase and serve new and strange food. In this past, this has included such unique items as cake poutine, chicken and waffles on a stick, deep-fried cheesecake, red velvet Oreo cookies, chocolate covered bacon, and bacon wrapped grilled cheese – everything you could possibly need for a massive coronary. Among this year’s eclectic eats, I managed to sample deep fried mac and cheese curds from the Mac & Cheesery, deep-fried cookie dough balls and deep-fried Reese Pieces balls from Cookie Dough Me, and a funnel cake from a vendor in the Midway. If I hadn’t been so completely stuffed from all of that deep fried goodness, I would have tried a few other highlights from this year including the pulled pork cinnamon rolls from Howie’s Cinnamon Rolls and the Jolly Rancher chill and donut (exclusive to the CNE) from Tim Horton’s.
The list of experimental food options didn’t stop there, and I saw a lot of people trying and reacting to the different dishes, including churro cheeseburgers from I Love Churros (beef patty sandwiched between two churros), Philly steak from Philthy Philly’s (choux pastry loaded with Philly cheesesteak and bacon, topped with chocolate icing and whipped cream), sweet potato pie from Farm to Fryer (flakey pie crust stuffed with maple marshmallows, topped with mashed sweet potatoes and bacon), the cartoon dog from Maggie’s (deep fried, bacon wrapped hot dogs, topped with peanut butter, jam, Capt’n Crunch cereal and spicy mayo – I would recommend a Gravol with this one), dessert nachos from Nacho Libre (tortilla chips topped with Nutella, strawberry puree and bananas) and the bug dog from Bug Bistro (beef franks topped with coleslaw and crispy mustard crickets) – which was a big hit and the most talked about strange food at the CNE this season.
How appetizing did that all sound? Well… maybe some of it, the crispy cricket Bug Dog is certainly questionable.
Amongst the strange foods, there were also a few food festivals that took place at the fair including the RibFest, Craft Beer Fest and the Food Truck Frenzy. Each was very successful.
If you weren’t there for the food then you likely went for the games or rides. Every year, there’s a new hot stuffed toy at the CNE that everyone wants to win. This year, the current craze from the PokémonGo app made the most popular toy a stuffed Pokémon. I saw everyone from children to teens to adults walking around the fair with a Pikachu or a Squirtle in their hands.
After it’s 2012 debut, the Sky Ride returned to the CNE, which is a very popular ride. That was the only ride that I got the chance to go on. It’s a very relaxing ride with spectacular views. I even caught a glimpse of the Toronto Argonauts game that was on that night!
Other classic rides that returned to the CNE this year included: the Crazy Mouse Roller Coaster, Swing Tower, Polar Express, Niagara Falls Flume, Wave Swinger and Mega Drop.
New to the CNE this year – in terms of rides – is the Himalaya. It is similar to the Polar Express. Taken from the CNE website: “It travels a distance at extreme speed, as it moves backward and forwards over multiple peaks and valleys, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, all while pumping out the best music on the midway.”
One thing I’m disappointed to have missed – which was new to the CNE – is the CNE’s Innovation Garage. It was a three-day hub that featured an Innovation Playground, which showcased a slew of new products and services. It also featured an Emerging Innovators Pitch Competition where Ontario’s young inventors competed for prize money including a $25,000 grand prize.
Every night at the fair, there is a big concert, which is set at the CNE Bandshell Park. I was lucky enough to see A Great Big World perform their hit single “Say Something” which was a magical performance. I got goosebumps from the powerful vocals. Other big performances included: Luciano, Dean Brody, Dan Talevski, Scott Helman, Tyler Shaw, Repartee and Coleman Hell. If you plan on visiting the CNE tomorrow (Sunday, September 4) then be sure to check out Walk Off The Earth at the Bandshell at 7:30 p.m.!
If you plan on visiting Sunday or Labor Day Monday, then you must see the Canadian International Air Show. I went countless times as a kid and it was mesmerized every single time. The show is from noon until 3 p.m. on both days.
There were A LOT of other events, shows, and attractions happening at the CNE this year that I haven’t mentioned. It’s simply impossible to see and do it all. However, if you think I’ve missed something was a must-see, then be sure to leave a comment below to let other readers know what they should check out! Or, simply let us know what YOU liked best at CNE 2016.
By Marisa Filippo
Photos in Article by Marisa Filippo
Lead Photo and Final Gallery by Tiffany Shum