CNE 2013- Let’s go to the Ex!

While all the news sources in town were concentrating on the demise of the Kronut Burger, the kids and I took the opportunity to tour the relatively quiet CNE. We visited the day after people got sick and besides some visitors eyeing the food vendors with caution, nothing was amiss and we had a great time.

Most people I’ve discussed this visit with have asked why I would ever go to the CNE alone with two kids but the answer is simple, there is a ton of fun stuff to do. Like most people, I used to view the CNE as nothing more than a midway with rides and deep fried foods. I have visited in the past and haven’t been truly blown away by anything. I’m glad to report this year was quite different.

If you are only planning on heading to the Kid’s activities, I recommend parking in Lot 5 or 6 off of Lakeshore which gives you direct access to the Saskatchewan Gate (sometimes called Dufferin Gate) and the kids areas. The map found here displays those areas clearly. This allows you to by-pass the remainder of the exhibition and only attend the kids activities if that is your plan. The only downfall is that you will need to cross the entire exhibition if you want to attend the Superdogs show which is in the Direct Energy Centre and quite a lot of fun for kids. The easiest way to get from one side to the other is by shuttle which runs daily and stops at many locations within the exhibition. You can also rent a wagon if you are desperate for $10 but be prepared to pay a steep $50 refundable deposit.

You can purchase tickets to the exhibition at the parking lot entrance or at any gate and online. Children 5-12 are admitted for $12 while general admission is $16. Also if you look around the entrances to the ex, we found coupons with the maps that offered free kid’s passes.

Once we arrived we immediately headed to the Farm. The Farm is open daily from 10 am until 10 pm and the cost is included in the daily admission fee. In past years, I remember the farm having a petting zoo. This year it doesn’t. Otherwise, it is a lot of fun. Will and Charlie immediately headed to a section of the farm where they were able to role play the life of a farmer. They were given buckets and seeds that they planted and did other tasks such as picking up eggs and apples and then took a tractor to the market to sell their goods. They absolutely love it and there were lots of people working and engaging with them.

Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
Will planting seeds at the farm
Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
Kids taking turns milking a (fake) cow
Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
Picking apples in the orchard
Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
Charlie had a little trouble with her tractor
Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
Each farmer was rewarded with a colouring book and ribbon

Once you make it through farmer training, there is a lot more stuff to do. Make sure to try the horse racing as well as the tractor pull. There are also real animals including cows, pigs, turkeys and llamas and a fishing demonstration where your kids can try to catch real fish. We had a great time in this section and its a don’t miss for anyone headed to the ex with kids.

Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
The horse race was a lot of fun.
Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
Will trying out horse riding

After the farm, the kids were hungry so we headed towards the Kiddie Midway and stopped in at Tiny Tom’s donuts which are completely peanut free. Most of the food vendors at the CNE that we spoke to were very aware of food allergies and able to tells us what was safe for kids with peanut allergies.


After our snack, it was off to the rides. Looking back I wish we had skipped this portion of the CNE. Rides at the CNE are quite expensive and not very good. Every ride we found required at least 4 coupons which is $5 per ride. We bought 44 coupons for $44 which meant the kids went on about 4 rides each and we had tickets left over that didn’t add up to another ride. Any adult wishing to ride with younger children must also pay the full price. You can purchase a ride-all-day bracelet for $38 each but I would probably skip the rides all together and concentrate on the other aspects of the CNE. Its a good idea to check the height requirements before purchasing a bracelet or tickets because they are much stricter than other local amusement parks like Centreville or Canada’s Wonderland and you may find your children are not tall enough for a lot of the rides.

Childrens rides at CNE
Charlie riding in the back of a pick- up truck

Another word of caution if you do head to the Kiddie Midway–the restraints and seatbelts are incredibly easy for children to open. While the kids were ridding on the motorcycle ride, it had to be stopped because a child had unclipped the belt. The other kids then all did the same thinking the ride was over. If you have a child that is a little younger this could be quite dangerous and unlike other amusement parks, the restraints do not need a key to the be opened and can be opened at any time so stay close to the ride that your child is on.

After the Midway we headed over to Kids’ World Park which is attached to the Midway. At this point, I realized how much other stuff there was to do and really regretted wasting time at the Midway. The Kids’ World Park has a playground, dress-up station and face-painting in the middle of it. The face painting is really incredible and surprisingly included in the daily admission cost. There is a also a fun caricature drawing station that is also included for no extra cost.

Across from the face painting there is a main stage featuring shows throughout the day including Thomas the train, Barney the Dinosaur as well as many live acts. We caught the My Little Pony show and the kids loved it.

Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
My Litte Pony show at the CNE

After the show, we explored the Kidstreet Interactive Zone located next to the stage and were blown away by the activities which are all available at no extra cost. This was really the highlight of the CNE for us. We first attended the Pizza Nova Kid’s Pizza Making Workshop. This fills up quickly and its worth checking the daily times and showing up a little early. Here a chef teaches your kids to prepare pizza dough and it is quite fun. There is a brief advertising video for Pizza Nova but once it is over, you will be glad you tried it. If you can, get a seat in the middle table as it is much easier for kids to follow along from there. Once the demonstration is over, kids are rewarded with a certificate and free slice of pizza as well as a gift bag.

Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada
Kids preparing pizza dough at the workshop
Canadian National Exhibition Toronto Canada

After the pizza making workshop, we were all exhausted and it was hot. The three of us decided we would need another day at the exhibition to check out the remainder of Kids’ World. The kids are particularly excited to try the circus workshop, music room, art studio and magic lessons.

Check out Day 2 of the CNE with Kids here.

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