Friday, August 30, 2013

CNE - Great for a Fun Girls' Night on the Town

Do we look excited? Well, we are. Because we escaped our families and are out for a fun Friday night at The Ex!
I have to admit, when I think of the CNE, my first thought is family fun. But a couple of years ago my wine night girls suggested we spend our Friday night get-together at the CNE rather than at one of our homes. This Girls' Night Out at The Ex has now become an annual tradition for our group.

The evening usually starts with some shopping. Because there is lots of shopping to be had, and it's just too hard to convince the kids that spending 2 hours in the Direct Energy Centre is the best way to use their time at CNE. Whether it's the warehouse outlets, international pavilion, the jewellery, clothes, or electronics, there's something for everyone. And don't forget the outdoor marketplace, spread throughout the grounds, and the Arts. Crafts and Hobbies pavilion. I particularly like some of the gourmet food products sold in there - dips and spreads, fudge and organic snacks. Yum!

If nightlife is more your style, there is plenty of musical entertainment to be had, not just at the Bandshell, but throughout the grounds. Our favourite spot is Strikers Bar & Grill. We head in there after the games to have a beverage and listen to whatever live band is playing that night. This year we saw The Nomads, who were just excellent. Great musicians with a huge and eclectic repertoire. There's beer wine and coolers, and it's a great place to relax and let a little loose for a change. For me, this is my favourite part of our evening.

Are you a gambler? It's not for me, so I haven't visited, but you can't forget the CNE Casino. With 86 table games, and a private Texas Hold'Em Poker room, the Casino is open 12:00 noon - 6:00AM (8:00PM on Labour Day Monday).

A couple of my girlfriends really enjoy the rides. Not me. I'm the official holder of purses and packages while they go scream their heads off. More power to them I say! The rides are pretty spectacular after dark, with all their glittering lights. It's a gorgeous sight, and I'm sure it adds to the thrill of the ride. These are the rides you don't do with your little kids - mom's night adventure.

I'll bet you're asking yourself, why isn't she talking about the food?? The CNE is well-known as a showcase of crazy and decadent food offerings. Every year seems to bring a new headline dish. And the food is definitely a highlight of our annual visit. When you go with a group of friends, a perk is that you can each buy a different meal and then everyone can share, getting a chance to try way more possibilities. Bacon Nation is my first stop. Pulled pork with bacon and green apple on a bacon bun, cheesy bacon fries, bacon-wrapped corn dogs, and the list goes on. The pulled pork was awesome. They also make a burger with a ground bacon patty. It's a bit much for me, but my big boys like it. Bacon isn't the only option though, and the Food Building is just filled with international fare, as well as the usual pizza, burgers and fries. There's even a booth dedicated to mac and cheese - the Mac & Cheesery. And the grounds are filled with vendors selling roasted corn, butterfly chips, funnel cakes and Tiny Tom's doughnuts.

Whatever your pleasure, see if you can sneak away over this last weekend of the Ex and enjoy these grown-up ideas with a few good friends. The CNE runs through Monday, September 2. The gates and buildings close at 10PM, but the grounds and the Midway are open until midnight. Hours are shorter on Monday, so please check out the website for the full operating schedule.

Have you been to the CNE this year? What was your favourite part?

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