Let’s Go to the Ex!

The Canadian National Exhibition is more than just a signal that summer is coming to a close—it’s a Toronto tradition. More than 1.5 million visitors each year send off the season in style by taking part in a flurry of fun fair activities. From testing your limits on the brand new Star Dancer ride to sampling an unlikely array of food combinations to scoring a deal on the perfect pair of back-to-school boots, there’s something for everyone at the Ex. Here’s what we’re looking forward to this season:

The Food

Would it really be a trip to the CNE if it didn’t include sampling some delicious and deep-fried food? The Ex is known for its outrageous culinary concoctions, and this year is no exception. So what’s on the menu for 2019? How about Frozen Cookie Dough Spaghetti? Comprised of cookie dough based ice cream and made using liquid nitrogen, the dessert is topped with strawberry sauce (instead of tomato sauce) and icing sugar (instead of parmesan cheese).

Frozen Cookie Dough Spaghetti. Image via CNE

In the mood for something heartier? How about a Funnel Cake Chicken Sandwich (fried chicken in between fresh funnel cake) or a Rainbow Grilled Cheese?

Rainbow Grilled Cheese. Image via BlogTO

If you’re on the hunt for something special, check out this article on the CNE’s newly launched secret menu. Available-upon-request items include the Orea Bomb (Oreo cheesecake combined with custard, hot peanut butter, chocolate fudge, caramel, and whipped cream) and Juicy Chicken Shawarma Poutine (freshly cut fries topped with chicken shawarma, Quebec cheese curds, and Sriracha). Or munch on Toronto’s favourite rapper by asking for “the Drake cookie” at Hula Girl.

Drake Cookie at the CNE. Image via Daily Hive

After you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth (and your salty one, too) it’s time to test your courage on one of the CNE’s rides.

The Rides

The Zipper is a CNE classic and a rite of passage. According to the CNE website, the ride is more than 50 years old, and for many, riding it marks the moment when “innocence is left behind and the dangerous world of wild abandon is embraced.”

New to the roster of attractions this year is Star Dancer, an enormous ride that promises to spin, swing, and loop riders around a full 360 degrees while reaching heights of over 70 feet.

A sister ride to the Canadian classic the Polar Express, the Himalaya was introduced in 2016 and is back this year for more thrills. Named after the Mountains in South Asia, the Himalaya moves at extreme speeds to the music, backways and forwards over multiple peaks and valleys, simulating the experience of traveling the mountains in style.

If you’re attending with little ones, there’s plenty of fun for young families. The Kiddie Midway is located east of Kid’s World at the west-end of the CNE grounds. It includes 30 rides for kids, including the Berry Go Round, Bumper Cars, the classic Merry Go Round and more.

Round off your CNE trip with a view on top of it all on the Sky Ride. Extending 40 feet above ground at its highest point, the Sky Ride elevates visitors into the air and transports them across the ground (hint: it’s the best place to capture a photo for the ‘gram).

The Games & Entertainment

What would any fair be if you didn’t test your hand at a game like Bingo, balloon and darts, or basketball? Compete for fun and for the chance to take home a prize, like an oversized plush toy.

If games aren’t your thing, allow yourself to be entertained. SuperDogs is back for another year of spectacles. Watch as magicians entice dogs to perform magic tricks, from invisible puppies to wizarding pooches.

This year there’s also a gaming garage filled with Pinball and Arcade machines as well as educational talks on video games. Nearby, check out the Innovation Garage, where you’ll encounter robots, demos, and more.

The CNE is also host to a variety of international performers. Experience music and dance just as diverse and Toronto itself. From Filipino folklore dancers to Irish and Scottish dancers to Mexican and Egyptian performers. Of special interest this year is a dance crew made up of differently-abled breakdancers.

The main attraction for CNE goers on the September long weekend? The Air Show, of course! This year, the Canadian International Air Show welcomes the Red Arrows, a team of pilots from the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The Air Show takes place August 31st thru September 2nd from noon until 3 p.m. Learn more about all entertainment and performances here.

The Shopping

Come for the food, but stay for the deals! While the flashy rides may steal the limelight, the CNE is actually a great place for those seeking to score household items, gifts, and unique finds.

The Arts Crafts and Hobbies Pavilion showcases 63,000 square feet of distinctive Canadian collectibles, including art, crafts, clothing, hobbies, specialty foods, homewares, jewelry, and leather goods. The Home & Garden Pavilion features home-related products and services, including furniture and appliances, lifestyle, leisure, and personal care merchandise, plus items relating to home décor, home improvements and home renovations.

Looking for a hot tub? What about a new pair of sunnies? Souvenirs? Books? Psychic services? There’s an endless array of possibilities at the Outdoor Market. If you’re hunting for treasure, then the International Pavillion is for you. Browse jewelry, clothing, and handicrafts from around the world. Bargain hunters know to check out the CNE’s Warehouse Outlets, where major Canadian retailers sell specialty discounted products.

What are you most looking forward to at the CNE? Tell us on Twitter, or share with us on Facebook.

The CNE is on now until September 2nd. For tickets and more information, visit www.theex.com. Title image via See Toronto Now.