Must-see events and things to do at the CNE

By Jenn Reid
Last Updated: August 4, 2017

It’s finally time for the CNE! The unofficial end of summer activity is always the CNE, the week-long fair that Torontonians love to flock to. Although most people are all about the rides and midway games, there’s plenty more to experience each year! Head down to Exhibition Place between August 18 and September 4, and check out some must-see events and things to do during the CNE. [Photo credit: courtesy of the CNE]

Must-see events and things to do at the CNE

Celebrate Canada 150
The Canada 150 celebrations continue this summer and the CNE has a few ways to mark our anniversary. There’s programs and exhibits celebrating our history, including the Quilt of Belonging which features more than 200 quilted squares representing 71 indigenous groups and 192 nationalities found in Canada, plus a photography exhibit, a panoramic origami display and a virtual reality experience. You can also check out the Unity Pole, a colourful celebration of Canada’s indigenous communities by Ojibway artist Kris Nahrgang.

Eat your way through the food building
Why else are you going to the CNE, really? It’s all about the delicious, over-the-top fair food! You can help yourself to staples like Tiny Tom Doughnuts, funnel cake and poutine, or try some of the weird and wacky new inventions that pop up every year. Churro burger? Old news. Hot dog with crickets? Tried that. Bacon ice cream? Please. We’ll have to wait and see what eats the CNE is daring us to try this year, but we’re ready to rise to the occasion.

Game on!
New this year, the CNE introduces the Gaming Garage. The interactive space has virtual reality, video games, eSports and pinball competitions. If you’re not ready to go pro, there’s also chances to play for fun with games for every age group. Also, check out the Chess Grandmaster Challenge, where one lucky volunteer can go head to head with one of chess’ greatest players.

Party east coast style
Lobster, anyone? The CNE is having its first ever East Coast Kitchen Party where you can eat like you’re in the maritimes. There’s live music and fiddlers to keep you entertained while you check out an oyster shucking competition and a battle of the bartenders over who makes the best caesar. And of course, there’s all kinds of maritime-inspired cuisine.

Catch a concert at the Bandshell Stage
Every night during the CNE a different artist takes to the stage for a free outdoor concert. Pretty much every genre is represented, from rock to reggae and dance to hip-hop. You can check out Burton Cummings, Sam Roberts Ban, Kiefer Sutherland (yes, he sings too!), Marcia Griffiths with Jay Douglas, The Sheepdogs, Pavlo, Shawn Hook, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Dear Rouge, Bret Kissel, A Tribe Called Red and USS.

Enjoy the double whammy of food trucks and craft beer
Food Truck Frenzy is back with all the city’s best food trucks on site. Grab some tasty dishes from old favourites like Bacon Nation, Fidel Gastro, Chimney Stax and more, plus first-time participants Beavertails, Mustache Burger and Delight Bite. There’s also a craft beer fest happening during the food truck madness, so wash down your meal with a brew from Muskoka, Great Lakes, Side Launch or more great local breweries.

Watch a laser light show
There’s a new experience this year and it’s all about lasers! MZ Laser hails itself as a ‘visual experience’ happening nightly at the CNE. There’s laser and illusions set to music happening at 8:30 pm, 9:30 pm and 10:30 pm every night during the fest. This new experience is definitely one worth checking out!
When: August 18 to September 4

See some cool classic cars
Car fans, there’s something new for you to enjoy at the CNE this year! The Mustang Roundup has 25 to 35 vintage Mustangs on display. These retro cars are some of the most popular of all time, completely refurbished and looking as good as new.

  • When: September 1 to 3

Learn to cook from the best
Let’s be real: sometimes the weather’s too hot to handle and you just want to duck inside for a bit. Thank goodness for the Celebrity Chef Stage! You can hang out and watch internationally renowned chefs serve up delicious culinary creations from around the world. Jamie Kennedy, Vikram Vij, Michael Smith, Nick Liu, Ivana Raca, David Wolfman and more are all a part of this year’s lineup.

Don’t miss the air show!
There’s only one way to end the summer and it’s with the CNE air show! The 68th Annual Canadian International Air Show will have The Canadian Harvards Aerobatic Team & the Canadian Forces Snowbirds take to the sky for impressive stunts, high-speed flights and unique formations.

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