Updated: Oct 5
If you grew up in Toronto you know the CNE marks the end of the summer. Seeing as I don’t have Charlie this Labour Day weekend, I took the opportunity to hit up the CNE with him last week. We had tons of fun and as a Mom I learned a few valuable lessons so I’m sharing my experience with you all, along with HOT TIPS for surviving and having a successful CNE adventure.
You know when you have this incredible day envisioned. In your mind everything would go perfectly. The day would be flawless and full of laughter. Yea, thats exactly what I thought our trip to the CNE would look like. But since I’m all about honesty, I’ll be super real. Did we have a blast, absolutely. Were there more meltdowns then I had anticipated 100%. Did I lose my patience, YUP. So…
HOT TIP #1: Throw any expectation of what your experience with toddlers will be at the CNE. Whatever you think will go right, will probably go wrong and visa versa. Just go with a positive mindset, tons of snacks and water and let the rest roll off your shoulders.
I wanted the CNE to be special for Charlie and I. Charlie has this book called Toronto ABC and the letter X is well, you guessed it, the Exhibition. The image shows fireworks, rollercoasters, rides and so much more. We read this book at least 5 times a week. Whenever we get to the letter X Charlie gets so excited and we talk so much about how much fun the place is so I wanted this years outing to be special. I asked my friend who is also a photographer to join us and help capture our awesome adventure.
Our morning started off as most do, we read some books, had breakfast and I hit up the gym while Charlie played at the gym daycare. He’s in that interesting 3 year old stage where they start to taper off from their daytime naps. Some days he asks to sleep, some days he crashes, some days he doesn’t need one and other days he fights them. WELL, my dear friends, the day we had scheduled to visit the CNE, Charlie needed that nap, but he fought it. He fought it so much I just said screw it, and hoped he would sleep in the car on the way down. That was a big mistake.
HOT TIP #2: If your child still naps sometimes, MAKE SURE they nap before the CNE. The CNE is amazing, there is so much fun to be had, but it’s also incredibly stimulating. It can definitely become overwhelming for a toddler, even more so a toddler who hasn’t napped.
As we arrived to the CNE I still had hopes the day would go smooth as butter. We grabbed tickets, I parked the car and as we made our way to the grounds, Charlie asked to be carried. I hardly say no to Charlie when he asks for upsies since I know one day I won’t be strong enough to carry him anymore and one day he won’t want me to carry him anymore either (insert ugly mom cry here). And so, I piggybacked him onto my shoulders and off we went. (or in Charlie’s words: piggy banks)
The CNE rides are split into sections; kids and adults. I found that 3 year olds are in that in-between stage, where they can’t go alone on most rides in the kids section and therefore need to be accompanied by a parent - this means extra $$ for tickets.
After grabbing some tickets we went on one of Charlie’s favourite rides, the carousel. We both had a blast, make sure you get one of the horsies that moves up and down for maximum fun! We then hit up a ride that was somewhat like an obstacle course and here is where we ran into an issue. Charlie was too small to enter on his own, but parents where too big and therefore Charlie was S.O.L. Apparently so was I, ‘cause enter meltdown numero uno. After some deep breaths, I used the car ride as a distraction and this got Charlie smiling again, but only temporarily, you see there was more crying to be done in the near future. After the car ride we hit up the cotton candy stand and had a grand old time stuffing our faces with sugar.
HOT TIP #3: I don’t really know if this counts as a hot tip, but most of the cotton candy stands sell all their cotton candy in bags for easy carrying, it’s also a lot less cotton candy. SoOoOoOo if you want some bang for your buck and cotton candy on a stick for some cool photos, ask the person working to make you some fresh cotton candy. Not only will you have more cotton candy than you can eat - legit this is a true story - but you will have this super humungous cotton candy on a stick to share with all your friends and you’ll have a fun prop for tons of photo opportunities.
I really don’t know how we managed to consume so much cotton candy, but when in Rome…
Any who, the mini rollercoaster caught Charlie’s eye in the kid section and I thought we would have a blast on it. I.WAS.WRONG. #1. its 5 tickets for each person and toddlers can’t go alone. #2. the ride sucked, sooo much, how much is so? so much so that my 3 year old upon getting off the ride looked at me and said “mommy, that ride was really boring”.
HOT TIP #4: Unless you are filthy rich or plan on spending a kazillion dollars at the Ex, don’t waste your tickets on crappy rides. I recommend watching some of the rides before spending 10 tickets, like I did. I also noticed Charlie had far more fun on rides that we enjoyed together. A couple of those where found in the adult section of the Ex like the Ferris Wheel and the chair lift that takes you from one end of the Ex to another.
As we made our way to the games and adult section of the Ex, we had to take a few bathroom breaks.
HOT TIP #5: Bring your own T.P and hand sanitizer. SERIOUSLY, do it, you’ll thank me later.
The games section and adult section was the highlight of our CNE adventure. It’s also where we had the biggest meltdown, more on that shortly. Charlie picked a few games we could play together and this is where Charlie learned that we can’t win at everything in life. We made the most of it and Charlie ended up walking away with a blue bouncy ball and the most annoying squeaky trumpet toy. I walked away with $20 less in my wallet.
As we made our way to the chair lift located in the adult section Charlie spotted one of the food trucks selling soft serve ice cream. Some negotiating later, there was Charlie enjoying his ice cream. I had a gut feeling this ice cream would bring us some drama, maybe I manifested it, maybe I predicted it, either way I was right. I kept noticing Charlie wasn’t holding the ice cream cone straight, it kept tilting and I kept envisioning it ending up on the floor. After many “Charlie make sure you hold your ice cream cone straight up or else it’s gonna fall on the floor”, he finally started listening to me. I would say this was a BIG win for me, but alas it was not.
I wanted to get my hands on some of that charcoal ice cream so my friend and photographer Dougie sat down with Charlie to eat his ice cream at a nearby picnic table, as I waited in line for mine. As I walked back, with my ice cream in hand, I could see something had gone terribly wrong. Charlie’s eyes spoke of great sadness, Dougie's face looked traumatized and Charlie’s clothes wore what remained of that soft serve ice cream. My prediction had come true in what Dougie called a chilling chain of events. As I waited in line for my ice cream, Charlie had forgotten the golden rule of holding his ice cream cone straight up. Within moments, the entire soft serve had fallen all over Charlie and onto the ground. This caused Charlie to have a full freak out which included a screaming, crying meltdown. Dougie frantically tried cleaning Charlie up with the 2 napkins he had, while Charlie lost his shit. Thankfully a fellow mom came to the rescue and helped Dougie out by offering some wet wipes (thank you to that mom, whoever you are). After scolding Charlie for not listening to me I gave him my ice cream, quickly changed his shirt and all was well in the world of Charlie again.
HOT TIP #6: Bring a change of clothes, maybe even two. You just never know.
After one too many meltdowns, I knew our day at the Ex was coming to an end. We hit up the chair lift and enjoyed a birds eye view of the CNE grounds. I love that Charlie one of those kids who isn't afraid of anything, his biggest concern going on the lift was that I didn’t drop his blue bouncy ball, he asked me 3 times if I still had it. He got to see all the “big kid” rides and let me know exactly which ones we would go on together when he was big. It was also one of the quieter moments for us as we got to chat one on one since we were far away from the crowds. Charlie is my constant reminder that I’m pretty freaking lucky to have this little dude with the same sense of adventure and zest for life that I do. I really got lucky with him.
When we exited the chair lift we made our way to the last ride which was the Ferris Wheel. Dougie, Charlie and I got on it and it was the best 5 tickets per person ever spent. The ride went on for 10 minutes and Charlie loved every second of it. Being able to cuddle and see the CN Tower “from up high high high in the clouds”, Lake Ontario aka "The Ocean", all the rides and chat about our overall day at the CNE was the best way to end our adventure.
I hope if you visit the CNE this year its a wonderful experience for you and your little babes. I know it’s become a tradition for Charlie and I. I also hope my HOT TIPS will help you out, 'cause you can bet your butt I’ll be reminding myself of these tips next year when Charlie says “Let’s go to the Ex”. - OMG that was so cheesy, but whatevs...
Happy Labour Day weekend Friends! The summer may be winding down, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any adventures lined up for Charlie and I. We are headed over to Miami at the end of September so make sure you follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see what what we're discovering next.