You always know summer holidays are coming to a close when the Ex rolls around. It's a mixed bag of feelings: it's a bummer we're on the downward slide of the warmest months of the year, but, it's one more festival filled with things to do that adds to your already memorable summer full of laughs and reckless abandon.
It's the last big fair before you're going off to school. Or you know, enjoying Labour Day weekend before going back to the office.
But hey, the Ex is awesome, and you shouldn't miss out on it this year. It's full of fun surprises, free events, games, and enough food to feed an army and clog their arteries.
The Ex is on from August 21st to September 7th.
If you're unsure what to do, it's not a problem. We're here to help.
1. Brave The Food Building
You will find it all. For better or worse for your stomach, the food pavilion is packed to the brim with every conceivable sort of cuisine including Canadian, Caribbean, Greek, and Dutch cuisines, dozens of burger shacks, and much more. Good luck finding a place to sit in there, though.
Photo Cred - Toronto Food Trucks
2. Eat A Batch Of Tiny Tim Doughnuts
That just goes without saying. Before you even see Tiny Tim's food truck, you would have been following your senses like Daredevil. Just do it after you're done riding the Clipper.
3. Pay $6 For General Admission After 5 PM
Every Monday through Thursday, except Labour Day, you can get in the park for 6 bucks. That's not a bad deal at all!
4. Line Up At The Food Truck Frenzy
It's happening! Between August 28th and the 30th, there will be about 22 food trucks serving the masses with their delicious meals on wheels.
5. Try Something New At Craft Beer Fest
Right beside the Food Trucks, our most popular craft brewers are setting up shop to sell us beer. You can pick from 11 different brands including Beau's All Natural Brewing Company and Creemore Springs. How convenient to quench your thirst after a mean burger.
6. Experience Bon Voyage! Aerial Acrobatic & Ice Skating Show
A free show? Yeah and there's more coming too. Canadian Ice Dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, gold medal champions in Ice Dancing at the 2010 Winter Olympics and silver medal finalists in Sochi, are performing every day for you. With them are the husband and wife aerialist and acrobatic duo Dominic Lacasse and Karen Goudreault. How does aerial and ice skating mix together? Maybe you should go find out and tell us about it.
7. Hit Up The Casino
If testing your luck on a midway lane game isn't thrilling enough, you can mosey down to the casino. Play some Roulette, Texas Hold 'Em, Blackjack and more. There's even a $160,000 Hold 'Em tournament starting August 2nd until September 7th for you risk takers out there.
8. Ride The Sky
The Ex gets packed. That's one of those things you have to understand and be ready to deal with before buying your tickets. But there are several ways to beat the crowds and get away from them. Why not take a little trip on Sky Ride and enjoy the amazing sight of thousands of people, blinking lights, and the epic backdrop of downtown Toronto in the distance?
9. Take Five At Griffin's Wine Bar
Those feet must hurt after walking around all day. Have a break and refresh yourself with different brands of wine and beer emerging from the best province in Canada (Ontario, duh). Musicians will also be performing daily as you enjoy your drinks and local snacks such as cheese and sausages.
10. Get Your Country On At The Northern Comfort Saloon
Maybe you didn't get your fix at Boots and Hearts this year and need some more. That's cool. The Ex has you covered. Country bands are performing pretty much every day, all day, including artists such as Kelly Prescott and Jaydee Bixby from Canadian Idol. And before you ask, yes there's a mechanical bull.
11. Go For A Swing
Everybody has a moment of hesitancy when they're next in line for a ride at the CNE. "Is that thing safe?" you might ask yourself. Of course it is! Right? Just get on there and enjoy yourself. How else are you supposed to catch a breeze?
12. Win Your Date A Prize
You're holding hands and walking by the sprawling alleyway lined with games. The game keepers are all vying for your attention and getting under your skin. One guy finally gets you with a challenge you can't resist. You throw down that $5 meant for ice cream for three rubber balls. If you win, you're a hero and you gallantly give that stuffed Sonic the Hedgehog to your date. If you lose, well, the beer tent is up ahead.
Photo Cred - Eat Drink And Be Mary
13. Listen Live Music At The Bandshell
Every evening the CNE Bandshell Concerts will be presenting groups from a range of different genres and from countries around the world. Some big headliners are coming your way like Tokyo Police Club and Monster Truck at the end of the month.
Photo Cred - Toronto4Kids
14. Get Your Fill At Ribfest
More ribs? Open every day and conveniently set up beside the Bandshell stage, you can eat ribs to your hearts content as each shack competes for the Best Recipe title. Who will you choose?
It's a licensed area as well, so you can enjoy a cold one under the sun if that's your jam.
Photo Cred - Grouse Mountain
15. Check Out The West Coast Lumberjack Show
Ever wonder what it takes to cut a tree down? Want to admire strong, burly men? Well now's your chance.
Running every day, each show lasts 45 minutes. You will be exposed to such typical stunts as Chainsaw Racing, Log Burling, and Axe Throwing. Kind of sounds like a horror movie waiting to happen.
16. Watch SuperDogs
Everyone loves dogs. This fun, free, entertaining and frankly adorable dog show runs 3 times a day. If you're there with your date, or just feel like having a smile plastered on your face anyways, this is definitely worth checking out.
The Shoppers Market is a great place to find unique things from around the globe. Each booth sells all sorts of random merchandise ranging from antiques, to sports wear, to jewelry, to food stuffs and spices. Who knows what you'll end up bringing home.
Photo Cred - The Yorkies
18. Keep An Eye Out For Airplanes
Ever find yourself meandering down Yonge Street in late August and suddenly hear the sky split apart? You look up and see something tearing past above you followed by a very loud noise. Those are the jets making their way to Lake Ontario to perform daring aerial stunts.
The Air Show is on September 5th through the 7th. It's one cool way to close off the CNE with a bang. Pro tip: You don't need to buy a ticket to see it. Find a nice patch of grass by the lake and enjoy the spectacle.
19. Go For A Spin On The Polar Express
Everyone who has been to the CNE at one point in their life rode on the Polar Express. It's one of those rides that transcends time and doesn't ever lose its appeal. There's always a line up, and every time you go on it you end up laughing your head off and getting crushed by the person sitting beside you. The laughing part is fun; just hope you're buddy isn't twice your size.
It's not really a complete experience at the Ex without riding it once.
20. See A Concert At The Molson Amp
Technically, the Molson Amphitheater isn't part of the CNE. But, if you're lucky enough to have swung tickets to see your favourite artist perform while the Ex is on, you will be blown away by the aesthetic of it all. You'll notice as it gets darker the bright lights emanating from the fair behind the stage. You may also see the blinking beams of airplanes landing at the airport behind you. It's a light show from every angle and it makes your experience outdoors that much cooler.
Plus, as the show ends you have the choice to stick around the festival and work off your energy on a few rides. It's a win, win.
How are you going to spend the last weeks of summer?