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The Canadian National Exhibition - The CNE, a Toronto tradition

Updated on September 29, 2010

The Canadian National Exhibition is a yearly summer tradition in Toronto. It has been in operation since 1879 when it was started as an agricultural exhibition. In its heyday, the CNE attracted millions of visitors to its grounds. Although less popular now, it still attracts at least 1 million visitors yearly.

The CNE grounds are located on Lakeshore Blvd. close to Lake Ontario and across from Ontario Place. The CNE runs from late August until Labour Day. Many Ontario children can't wait for the Ex (as most call it) to begin but they also realize that summer and school holidays are almost over when the exhibition opens its doors.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

The CNE features a midway with rides and games, a farm, a full-scale Casino, an agriculture building, a food building, a garden show, a kid's area, and free concerts at the Bandshell. One of the most popular events is the air show which takes place during the final weekend. During the Ex, Ontario Place is free with admission. Ontario Place features a water park, mini golf, boats and concerts.

The Midway

The midway features 31 different rides including a ferris wheel, the Polar express and the crazy mouse. It also features games like bingo, skeeball and guess your weight and/or age.

The midway features all the usual games you see at any fair where you throw something to win a prize and trade your way up to big stuffed animal. These games are always dubious...are they fixed or not? Can you really win? You do always see girls walking around with huge stuffed animals that their boyfriends have won for them so it is possible. Regardless, the games provide a huge amount of fun.

Agriculture Building

The agriculture building features horse shows, a cat show, and a Super Dogs show. It also provides information on agriculture and farming.

Kids Area

The Kids area features rides suitable for the very young. Rides include bumper cars and the Wacky Worm coaster.


The Bandshell features free concerts with admission to the Ex. Acts presented in 2010 included Bobby Vinton, Debbie Reynolds, Kim Mitchell and a blues festival.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

Open 10 am to 11pm


  • General $16
  • Seniors (60+) $12
  • Children (13 and under) $12
  • Children (2 and under) Free
  • Family pass (2 adults/2 children)(1 adult/3 children) $48


  • All day pass $36
  • 4 tickets $5
  • 22 tickets for $22
  • 55 tickets for $55


I have many fond memories of the Ex. When we moved her in the summer of 1969, I remember being taken to the Ex. I won a huge pink cat. I mean huge, it stood at least 3 feet tall and had pink shaggy hair. I held onto that for at least 10 years after.

My friends and I spent many fun days walking around the Ex. I used to love the wooden roller coaster they had (sadly long gone) and was terrified by the Mouse. There used to be a gondola ride that took you from one end of the park to the other, letting you check out everything to do.

I saw a David Cassidy concert at the Ex on September 1,1972. I remember begging my parents for the $7 to buy a ticket to go see him. Yes, $7! I remember going down to a ticket booth near City Hall to pick up my ticket. My seats were not great but I was overjoyed to be finally seeing my idol in concert. I went alone but a friend came to the Ex with me, she met me afterwards and said I looked stunned...then she dragged me into a freak show exhibit.

There were many fun times spent at the Ex, I saw my first cat show there, I saw my first horse show there. It really was a great place for a city kid to learn about animals and agriculture. And of course, there were the mini donuts hot off the grill and the corn dog on a stick. The food building used to be great with free samples galore, a kid could eat very cheaply here. Sadly, that too is long gone, you now have to buy samples for a reduced price.

I must have gone to the Ex ever single year until I was at least 30. As I got older, the visits became less and less. Now I don't even live in Toronto but I have very fond memories of the Ex and I'm sure today's kids are developing some great memories of their own.

If you haven't gone to the Ex, do yourself a favour and check it out. You won't regret it.

Canadian National Exhibition


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  • saddlerider1 profile image

    saddlerider1 7 years ago

    Uninvited Writer. Wow did you ever bring back memories for me of this wonderful exhibition. I remember being taken there when I was just a 10 year old living in Montreal. My uncle would pick up my mother and load her an us 5 kids into his 1947 Oldsmobile and away we would head to Toronto.

    I was mesmerized by all the buildings with exhibits in them, the great aromas of food and candy in the air. The fun park and all the rides, throwing up after some of the wild rides, going back on and doing it all over again.

    It was so much fun, something I never forgot. We had Belmont Park in Montreal, but this Toronto Exhibition was the cat's meow for sure. It wasn't till Expo67 came along and I was 18 yrs old that similar enjoyment came back to me. Again thanks for the memories, a great Hub and I rate it UP UP and UP some more.

  • dealrocker profile image

    dealrocker 7 years ago from California

    What a great hub. Very informative.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    The Midway looks huge and the whole event sounds more fun than an amusement park. Great Hub!

  • SteveoMc profile image

    SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

    Sounds like a lot of fun. The last time I paid $7 to see anything was about 30 years ago....I wish I could buy entertainment for those bucks again. Nice hub, entertaining and informative if not a little nostalgic.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

    Fairs are a wonderful form of entertainment, and you make the CNE seem like an event not to be missed. Thanks for the introduction.