Princes Gates at Canadian National Exhibition

The Complete 2023 Guide to the CNE

Published: August 11, 2023

This CNE 2023 guide will provide a preview of the Canadian National Exhibition, what to see and enjoy, and tips for visitors and residents. It will also assist event-goers in getting the most out of this exciting late-summer event. Use this guide to plan ahead so that you don’t miss something that you and your family want to see!

Why is the CNE a can’t-miss event? Because with 145 years of entertaining and electrifying attendees, 2023 promises to be another exhilarating edition! The Canadian National Exhibition returns this year from August 18 to September 4. And to ensure that you don’t miss anything or get caught in traffic, UP Express and GO Transit provide the best way to travel to this incredible annual Toronto event. If you’re coming from out of town, just hop on UP Express from Pearson Airport to Union Station in downtown Toronto, then take the short GO Train ride to Exhibition Station or hop on the local streetcar, and you’re there!

Since kids 12 and under ride UP Express for free, you can really make the most out of your experience at the Ex! Get your PRESTO card ahead of time and take advantage of PRESTO Perks! Why? Because PRESTO cardholders can get up to 43% off advance sale admission and ride tickets! Be ahead of the crowds and plan your Canadian National Exhibition visit now!

So, with UP Express’ fast, affordable, safe, clean, and convenient transportation, it’s the ideal choice! You and your family can board, relax, and arrive at the CNE in no time. With so many things to do once you’re at the Canadian National Exhibition, this guide will help you plan ahead. It will detail the rides, the entertainment, the exhibits, and some of the whacky food that you won’t want to miss!

When and what is the CNE

Canadian National Exhibition view from Sky Ride above the Midway

The CNE is Canada’s largest community event. It’s also one of the most popular agricultural fairs in all of North America, first launching in 1879. The Ex welcomes 1.4 million visitors every year, who represent the diversity of the city of Toronto and the surrounding region. The CNE is also a non-profit organization that continues as one of Ontario’s great yearly traditions, offering unparalleled entertainment value over the 18 days before Labour Day.

Group of people marching in Warriors' Day Parade at the CNE.

This year, the Ex runs from August 18 to September 4 at the Exhibition fairgrounds. On the second day of the Ex, Aug. 19th is the Warriors' Day Parade – the longest-running veterans’ parade in the free world, having launched in 1921.

UP Express is honoured to offer veterans free travel to and from the CNE on the day of the parade. This applies to both serving and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and one companion ride is also included in this offer.

What is there to do at the CNE 2023?

Some of the exhibits at this year’s Canadian National Exhibition include an interactive Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations experience. Featuring authentic arts and crafts in an artisan market, you’ll want to check out the rich history and culture on display. If you enter Heritage Court, you’ll find the Nook of Gnomes and their mystical garden. But these aren’t just any gnomes, as these fabled gnomes range in size from 5 to 13 feet high!

The National Geographic Society is also at the Ex this year, presenting its travelling presentation: Pristine Seas Bringing the Ocean Back. Visit this exhibition and you’ll see more than a decade’s worth of global expeditions compiled by the National Geographic Pristine Seas project. This project highlights marine protected areas and their significance to planet Earth.

What’s new at the Ex

The CNE is introducing new activities and education exhibits this year, including agriCULTURE. Make sure your children take part in the seed planting workshop, as they’ll be able to take their newly planted seeds home to watch them germinate and grow! There are also Indigenous healing plants, and vertical and indoor gardens to see. 

After a long break, the Acrobatic and Skating Show, Time Flies, makes its return to the Ex. Featuring special guest and Olympian Elvis Stojko, this high-energy event will take you through the last 120 years of popular music with mesmerizing performances from world-class ice skaters.

And prepare to be dazzled by the CNE’s new waterfront attraction, The Sparkling Symphony! This astonishing show, which takes place on the waterfront south of the Rose Garden, features a timed laser and water propulsion display that will leave you incredulous.


CNE Entertainment

The Ex has even more entertainment to offer the whole family! Stop by the Monster Compound to watch the Monster Energy Skateboard team show their moves on a custom halfpipe. They’ll be powered by music from the Monster DJ booth, which you can also listen to while enjoying your complimentary haircut at the Monster Barber Shop, or while experiencing the racing simulators. Check it all out from Monday to Sunday, 12 pm to 7 pm.  

You can also make your way just south of the Enercare Centre’s Hall B and you’ll find the Cirque-Tacular Spectacular! There you’ll discover a Tramp Wall and Aerial Acrobatics.

Kids' World amusement park at the CNE

For your children, there is, of course, Kids’ World! Designed specifically for youth, Kids’ World is packed with a playground, rides, onstage entertainment, and a park filled with crazy creatures. There is so much programming to choose from, so plan your visit!

For evening events, gaze into the skies above the Ex’s Food Building for the Nightly Drone Show! The start time for this display of vast lights and colours will vary depending on weather conditions, so stay tuned for updates during your visit.

The Canadian National Exhibition Casino, running since July 19, is open from noon to 6 am every day at the northeast corner of the Better Living Centre. This PokerStars presentation has a game for everyone of the age of majority, including Blackjack, Omaha Poker, 3-card poker, No Commission Mini Baccarat, Roulette, Lucky Ladies, Spanish 21, Hold’Em Bonus Poker, and for the Texas Hold’Em players, a private, air-conditioned Poker Room! Interested in a tournament? The Hold’Em Poker tournament returns this year.

For something completely different, head to the Festival Plaza. Put on some headphones and dance however you want, to music that only you can hear! The Silent Disco, which is run on a first-come, first-served basis, will be animated by talented DJs. With different theme nights such as Kids Night, Emo Night, a Y2K Party, and a Disco Showdown, guests of all ages can participate!

Row of glow-up over-the-head headphones for silent disco

Are you big on animals? The CNE Farm has an interactive exhibit that gives visitors a chance to meet over 100 animals! Kids can also sign up for the Kids’ AGventure to be a farmer for a day, dig for potatoes, milk a cow, collect chicken eggs, or pick apples from a tree. There’s also a corn maze, a 100-ton sand sculpture, and so much more!

Speaking of animals, don’t miss the SuperDogs! This show has entertained millions of people for more than 40 years, with this year’s iteration of a new show, called Barkade! Find the east side of Hall D at the Enercare Centre Hall thirty minutes before each show from August 18 to September 4, and you and your family can cheer on your favourite dog!

Outside of the CNE Farm, also known as the Better Living Centre

CNE Food and Culinary Experiences

Food Products Day also returns, this time on Wednesday, August 23. Spin the wheel and play games at the Toronto Star Food Building for your chance to win prizes!

The Ex is known for its whacky foods, and this year will be no different with plenty of food vendors. Stay tuned closer to opening for this year’s foods, which have yet to be released. If you’re not feeling adventurous with your food choices, classic fair food is a no-brainer. Indulge in corn dogs, fried mini donuts, cotton candy, roast corn, and more from vendors all over the CNE. We know that the Ex will have plenty of food trucks and a Craft Beerfest. Hungry? It’s not called a “Food Truck Frenzy” for no reason! Visit Princes’ Boulevard just inside the gates and you’ll find loads of fantastic food and live music!

Must-Try Things to Do

Planes in the sky for a performance at the Air Show for the CNE.

The Air Show is in its 74th year, and 2023 is headlined by the beloved Canadian Forces Snowbirds, and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. But that’s not all you’ll see, as the Canadian Forces will demonstrate their CF-18s and the United States Air Force will showcase the F-16 Viper. And not to be outdone, 81-year-old Gord Price will be flying his Yak50. And many more performers will be announced closer to the launch of the Canadian National Exhibition.

While many of the rides have yet to be announced, there are always the CNE Midway Rides, both for adults and children. Save on ride tickets with PRESTO Perks! Additionally, there is the Gaming Garage and HorseCapades. And don’t forget the Opening Ceremonies! This year, the theme of the Ex is “Celebrating Our Recovery” and it takes place on Friday, August 18 at 10 am at the Princes’ Gates.

Travel Tips

Getting to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto is easy and affordable with UP Express and GO Transit.

UP Express cares about your safety, and we want you to enjoy your time at the Ex. Be mindful of large crowds, and plan ahead by reviewing your ticket and accessibility options. If you still have questions about the Ex, read the Canadian National Exhibition’s FAQs.

Begin your Canadian National Exhibition experience the right way by connecting easily through UP Express. Take in Farmer’s Markets, explore biking trails, and other beautiful summer spots and events while you’re in the area. The Canadian National Exhibition only comes once a year, so don’t miss a minute by choosing UP Express to get you there, and then take you home!