Let’s Go to the EX!

Winning giant teddy bear at dart games at the CNE
Winning giant teddy bear at the CNE.

The CNE is back this year from August 21 till September 7, 2015 at Exhibition Place and thousands of people flock there to enjoy a variety of crazy culinary concoctions because CNE food is undeniably an adventure in gastronomy. The CNE is a hot spot for musical performances, thrilling rides, fun carnival games, dog shows and lots more for children and adults. A whole lot of fun in one place.

The highly popular CNE Daily Parade makes its way through the CNE grounds as the much coveted Mardi Gras necklaces are tossed from the parade floats to the thrill of the crowds.

Tropical float at CNE parade
Partiers on tropical float throw Mardi Gras necklaces at the CNE.
CNE Parade in Toronto
The parade departs from the Princes’ Gates at 6 p.m. and moves westward throughout the CNE grounds.

First things first – food!

The CNE’s over-the-top food offerings test the boundaries of what can be deep fried, served on a stick or used as a sandwich bun. It is the place for trying every kind of novelty junk food you could imagine – from the doughnut burger to the deep fried everything – Mars bar, Twinkie, butter or cheesecake.

My friend wanted to try the garlic snow crab fries; fresh-cut fries piled high with delicate crustacean meat and drizzled with garlic aioli. Unfortunately, the line up was too long and neither one of us thought it was worth waiting in line for. She opted for Stack’d, one of the new novelty foods this year.

Stack'd from Pull'd: Pulled pork topped with two perogies and housemade coleslaw on a German pretzel bun at the CNE.
Stack’d from Pull’d: Pulled pork topped with two perogies and housemade coleslaw on a German pretzel bun.

The Colossal Onion is one of my favourites. One giant Vidalia onion is cut so that it looks like a bloom. Then it is plunged in the vat of batter until it is all coated and then it is deep fried. The result is a perfect greasy food. Really crisp giving a good crunch. It is fun to pull apart and dip in the chipotle mayo. I made a mess on the table, but that is all part of the craziness of the EX.

Colossal onion with chipotle mayo at the CNE
Colossal onion with chipotle mayo is ideally shared between three or more people.

I eyed Baonana Split Via Far East Taco. It’s a banana split in a steamed bao! This Asian bun is filled with hazelnut chocolate, sliced bananas, whipped cream, chocolate and strawberry syrup and topped with a Maraschino cherry. It is very tempting, but I had my heart set on something else… something all my friends are talking about and all the bloggers are blogging about…

Pickle Pete's at the CNE
Many of the food vendors, such as Pickle Pete’s, are outside of the Food Building. The Food Building doesn’t have it all.

This is what I was waiting so long for – a slice of New York-style cheesecake swaddled in a tortilla, fried until crispy and then topped with cinnamon sugar and chocolate syrup – rich, hot and thoroughly delicious!

Deep fried cheesecake at the CNE
Sweet meets crispy in Pickle Pete’s Deep fried cheesecake confection at the CNE

Grab a knife for easier eating and don’t forget a good stack of napkins. For a perfect EX experience, grab some food and sit outside while watching the Midway fun. We found stadium seating for an Ax show that just happened to be beside Pickle Pete’s food stand.

I do enjoy going on some of the rides. I went on the Mega Drop a year or two ago, which is quite thrilling. So is the Ferris wheel, but probably not the kind of thing you want to do right after eating.

Ferris wheel at the CNE
The big Ferris wheel is a standard ride at the Canadian National Exhibition

Sand Sculpture Competition at the CNE

We decided to do something more sedate so we took in the Consulting Sherlock Holmes exhibit and the sand sculpture competition. We were in awe of the amazing artistry!

Monkey sand sculpture at the CNE
A touching family scene
Face Sand Sculpture at the CNE
Mesmerized by the smooth face and amazing eyes on this sand sculpture.

See if you can make it out to see the sculptors in action for yourself.

Next up were the games. There is no way you can walk by the games booths without someone beckoning you, convincing you that you can be the next winner. My friend gave it a try and showed us that she could hit three dinosaur targets in a row. One right after another. I’d swear she has been practicing at her local pub for weeks.

Playing dart game at the CNE
Larger targets make this game of darts easier to win.
Winning a stuffed animal at dart games at the CNE
The proud winner walks away with Mr. Blue for her son.
Winning a prize at dart games at the CNE
I tried to convince her that my moral support and encouragement entitled me to have joint custody of Mr. Blue.

We really enjoyed the extensive shopping opportunities. It’s a good place to stock up on unique birthday and Christmas gifts, as well discounted items like this comfortable and pretty pink Bench cardigan that I found and wore right away.

Big Teddy Bear at the CNE
Shopping at the CNE is part of the fun.

I would have absolutely loved to see the skating shows, concerts, dog show and so much more at the EX. I recommend spending at least a half day to enjoy as much as possible.

I highly recommend:

  • The food – you can have normal food too if you want to forgo the deep fried everything
  • Aerial Acrobat and Ice Skating Show
  • The Air Show
  • Butter Sculpting
  • Sand Sculpting Competition

Word of caution: Give yourself extra time to get there. It took us a lot longer to get there via the Bathurst bus so we had less time to enjoy ourselves at the C.N.E. I usually find taking the Dufferin bus the better way.