This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
The Canadian National Exhibition has returned to Toronto to mark the end of summer 2023. As someone who visits the iconic fair at Exhibition Place every year, there are some things at the CNE that I think make the cost of admission absolutely worth it.
The CNE is in Toronto until September 4, 2023, and if you haven't paid the fair a visit yet, you're seriously missing out.
From concerts and performances to food, the Ex has it all. And with the cost of admission ringing up at $25, I think it's definitely worth adding to your list of things to do in Toronto before summer ends.
Whether you're a carnival food connoisseur, a kid at heart, or you just want to try something new, I'm positive that you really can't go wrong with a visit to the Ex. Here are seven things to do at this year's fair that I think are definitely worth the ticket price.
Seeing adorable pets
I'm a sucker for a cute pet, and the CNE's dog show is always on my list of things to do at the fair.
SuperDogs is a must-see show where adorable canines do impressive tricks and it will basically melt your heart.
The show takes place daily in the Enercare Centre. Stick around until the very end and you can even meet the talented pups for yourself!
Iconic rides on the Midway
The rides at the CNE are a big draw for me, but I'm also of the opinion that you only need to hit a few rides at the fair to have a great time.
These iconic rides have been at the CNE for years, and are staples of any good visit.
First, a trip across the park on board the Sky Ride won't disappoint. The ride delivers great views of the fairgrounds and also saves you the hassle of navigating through the busy Midway. It's one of the best spots for capturing shots of the entire fair and is also an easy ride that all ages can do.
And instead of lining up for the much-hyped Superwheel this year, a trip on the CNE's classic Ferris wheel is a great way to amazing, unobstructed views of the park and is especially beautiful at night.
The Food Building
Imagine a place where every food you could possibly be craving, every dish you can imagine can be found. The CNE has it!
The Food Building at the CNE is another classic attraction that's been a part of the fair for years. You'll find over 100 food vendors here, with everything from Japanese street food and deep fried desserts to comfort food classics and fast-food favourites.
Whether you need a Double Double from Tim Hortons after a long day of losing money on the Midway (those games are tricky!) or you want to drown yourself in bacon at Bacon Nation (no judgement), you can find it (and eat it) here.
Try the Durty Fries at Yatai Japanese Street Food for a delicious bite, or save on $1.99 spaghetti (it honestly slaps). Finish it off with a classic lemonade from one of the big-lemon lemonade stands on site (perfect for those who love a tart lemonade) or go sweet with some Tiny Tom Donuts (you'll be floating Looney-Tunes style once you smell these).
If the chance to try all these incredible restaurants and unique offerings doesn't make the admission price worth it, I don't know what does.
Free concerts at the Bandshell
There's truly nothing better than kicking it back at the CNE bandshell, listening to some fun live music and taking a break from exploring the fairgrounds.
The CNE Bandshell hosts tons of artists during the fair's run, with this year's headliners including Amanda Marshall, nine-time JUNO-winning artist Jann Arden, Bollywood music icon Shafqat Amanat Ali, legendary reggae songstress Marcia Griffiths, singer-songwriter William Prince, and country superstar Brett Kissel.
While some performances are more low-key than others, you really can't go wrong with a stop here. It helps that all the concerts are free with your CNE admission.
Unique on-site experiences
There are so many unique things to do at the CNE conveniently gathered in one place, and many are included in the cost of admission.
For instance, this year, visitors can enjoy an Asian-themed patio and bar experience at the CNE by Hotel X and Porject XIX that essentially turns into a bumping nightclub-like experience after dark. The patio is open to all visitors at the CNE and doesn't cost anything extra.
You'll also find an on-site tattoo parlour at this year's fair where you can basically get a lifelong souvenir from the 2023 CNE (my partner and I are considering doing just that during a second visit to the fair).
The Tattour mobile tattoo studio is offering piercings, tattoos and custom bag painting every day during the fair.
Another one of my favourite unique CNE experiences is getting a psychic reading. The CNE hosts palm readers and psychics who can give you a glimpse into the future and answer questions about life and love. You'll find them throughout the park, outside the Arts and Crafts building, on the Midway and in the Enercare Centre.
The Food Truck Frenzy
Food Truck Frenzy at the CNE.
Are you a sucker for a good food truck? Me too! What I love about the CNE is the gathering of food trucks you'll find here, also known as Food Truck Frenzy.
Found in front of the Enercare Centre by the Princes Gates, the Food Truck Frenzy is home to so many mouth-watering food stops. I feel like I could spend so much time here just trying what each truck has to offer. While I can't say I've yet been able to do this, I can say that what I have tried from this section of the fair has been delicious.
Here, you'll find classics like Beavertails and more unique offerings like Cheese Headz, 6 Spice Rack and I Love Churros.
You can also find some of the CNE's Secret Menu items here, like Crispy Honey Tater Tots, which can be ordered at the Get Your Own Tater Tots food truck.
Whac-A-Mole at the CNE.
I can't imagine anything more fun than unleashing your inner child in a few rounds of a classic fair game, and the CNE has an abundance to choose from.
Try your hand at knocking over blocks for a chance to take home your very own scooter, or see how long you can hang on a rotating bar for a chance to win a giant plushie.
There are also classic games like Whac-A-Mole, hoops, water guns and betting games where you could make a quick buck, if luck is on your side.
Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.