Every November the country comes to the city. Horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs and a host of other barnyard residents pack up and make the trek to downtown Toronto. For ten days urbanites like myself get a chance to intermix with the farmers we depend on for our food.
Toronto can boast that The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, known to locals as The Royal, is the world’s largest indoor agricultural and equestrian competition. Since 1922, farmers and breeders from all over the globe meet in Toronto annually to share unique breeds (the miniature horses are always a favourite), showcase one-of-a-kind vegetables and discuss emerging trends in agriculture (like using canola oil to power automobiles).
We have attended six consecutive fairs and this year has shaped up to be the best! The many improvements to the layout and an increase in family-friendly events made this year’s fair better than any before.
- The President’s Choice Superdogs Show
- Dogs of all breeds perform tricks; zoom through an obstacle course and parade around an arena. Seats fill-up fast and once you have taken your place, you are not able to leave. Make sure everyone has used the washroom before settling in to watch the show. Strollers must be left in the “stroller parking lot” and be warned, there are close to a hundred Bugaboos, Mountain Buggies and Gracos, which makes exiting the arena seem like rush hour on the 401.
- The Royal Horse Show
- This year The Royal has added a unique twist to the show. In addition to the usual dressage competitions, spectators can watch professional NHL legends play hockey upon horseback! Be sure to check the schedule and purchase your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
- The Pizza Pizza Petting Farm
- My favourite exhibit at the fair is the petting farm. Watching the kids feed llamas, goats, calves, sheep and lambs make the trek downtown worth it. Five dollars will buy three Dixie cups worth of pellets to hand feed the animals. Make sure that your little one holds their hand out flat to avoid getting their fingers nipped.
- Thank you to Dyson for sponsoring the hand washing station. All of us germaphobes are able to better enjoy our lunch knowing that goat saliva is no longer caked on our hands.
- Improved! In previous years strollers had to be carried up a long flight of stairs and this year the exhibit is located on the main floor.
- University of Guelph’s Equimania
- An exhibit all about horses. Children have the opportunity to ride mechanical horses, pet live horses, braid a horsetail, and complete a series of horse-themed crafts.
- Family Fun Stage
- A variety of children’s entertainers are scheduled to perform and provide the perfect break from roaming the fair.
- Kubota Tractors
- My boys love this exhibit! Kubota allows kids to climb in and pretend to operate a plethora of tractors. Great photo ops but be warned that you may have to drag your little farmer away with the promise of ice cream.
- November 14th is the final day of The Royal and Santa makes an appearance. His elves dish out shortbread cookies and candy canes while the man in red listens to children’s Christmas wishes.
- Seriously yummy treats of the fare one would expect to see at a fair (ice cream, cotton candy, fried foods, etc.) to fresh vegetables and fruits, homemade fudge, kettle corn made on premise, freshly made donuts, gourmet lollipops, churned before your eyes butter . . . Oh the list goes on and on!
General admission for a family pass is $46. Each adult ticket is $20 and each youth ticket (5-17 years) is $16.
Tickets to the horse show and horse hockey are additional.
Parking is $15.
Petting Farm pellets are $2 for one cup, $5 for 3 cups.
Riding the mechanical horse is $5.
Various food stations and artisanal vendors with goods ranging in price.
MY INSIDER TIPS:
- It is actually cheaper to buy your tickets at the fair compared to on-line.
- Get to the fair either right at entry time or wait until the afternoon. The line-up for tickets can be long on the weekends.
- There are two entrances. Scope out which line up is shorter. It was worth our while to walk to the main entrance to The Royal as opposed to using the Direct Energy Centre entrance.
- Parking underground is the same price as parking above ground but by parking indoors jackets can be left in the car. The fair is entirely indoors making coats cumbersome.
- Consider using a carrier for infants or babies and using a compact umbrella stroller for toddlers.
- Bathrooms are few and far between so use them when you come across them.
LOOKING TO SAVE MONEY:
- Go after 5 pm for the reduce rate. We did this one-year and changed the kids into their pajamas for the ride home.
- Many of the food stands offer free samples for you to enjoy.
- Take public transit or look for parking away from the Direct Energy Centre.
photo credit: http://royalfair.org/home