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Travel Guide and Information about Toronto

Poutine

Poutine is a dish originating from the Canadian province of Quebec consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. The dish emerged in the late 1950s in the Centre-du-Québec area and has long been associated with the cuisine of Quebec. For many years it was negatively perceived and mocked, and even used as a means of stigmatization against Quebec society. However, since the mid-2000s poutine has been celebrated as a symbol of Québécois cultural pride, and its rise in prominence led to popularity outside the province, especially in central Canada and the northeast United States. Annual poutine celebrations occur in Montreal, Quebec City, and Drummondville, as well as Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, and Manchester, New Hampshire. Today it is often identified as quintessential Canadian food and has been called "Canada's national dish", though some have commented that this labelling represents misappropriation of Québécois culture. Many variations on the original recipe are popular, leading some to suggest that poutine has emerged as a new dish classification in its own right, just like sandwiches, dumplings, soups, and flatbreads.

The dish originated in the Centre-du-Québec area in the late 1950s. Several restaurants from the area claim to be the inventor of the dish but no consensus exists. Poutine was originally consumed in small "greasy spoon" type diners (commonly known as cantines or casse-croûtes in Quebec) and pubs, as well as by roadside chip wagons (commonly known as cabanes à patates, literally "potato shacks") and in hockey arenas. Today, poutine is found in all types of restaurants.

The Dictionnaire historique du français québécois lists 15 different meanings of poutine in Quebec and Acadian French, most of which are for kinds of food; the word poutine in the meaning "fries with cheese and gravy" is dated to 1982. Other senses of the word have been in use since at least 1810.

While the exact provenance of the word "poutine" is uncertain, some attribute it to the English word pudding. Among its various culinary senses, that of "a dessert made from flour or bread crumbs" most clearly shows this influence; the word pouding, borrowed from the English pudding, is in fact a synonym in this sense. The pejorative meaning "fat person" of poutine is believed to derive from the English pudding "a person or thing resembling a pudding" or "stout, thick-set person".

The Dictionnaire historique mentions the possibility that the form poutine is simply a gallicization of the word pudding. However, it considers it more likely that it was inherited from regional languages spoken in France, and that some of its meanings resulted from the later influence of the similar-sounding English word pudding. It cites the Provençal forms poutingo "bad stew" and poutité "hodgepodge" or "crushed fruit or foods"; poutringo "mixture of various things" in Languedocien; and poutringue, potringa "bad stew" in Franche-Comté as possibly related to poutine. The meaning "fries with cheese and gravy" of poutine is among those held as probably unrelated to pudding provided the latter view is correct.

According to Merriam-Webster, a popular etymology is that poutine is from a Québécois slang word meaning "mess".

In the basic recipe for poutine, French fries are covered with fresh cheese curds, and topped with brown gravy. In a traditional Quebec poutine:

  • French fries: Usually of medium thickness, and fried such that the inside stays soft, while the outside is crispy.
  • Cheese curds: Fresh cheese curds are used to give the desired texture. The curd size varies as does the amount used.
  • Brown gravy: Traditionally a light and thin chicken, veal, or turkey gravy, somewhat salty and mildly spiced with a hint of pepper, or a sauce brune which is a combination of beef and chicken stock, a variant originating in Quebec. The gravy should be substantial, but still thin enough to easily filter down into the mass of fries and cheese curds. These sauces typically also contain vinegar or a sour flavouring to balance the richness of the cheese and fries.Traditional poutine sauces (mélange à sauce poutine) are sold in Quebec, Ontario, and Maritime grocery stores in jars or cans and in powdered mix packets; some grocery chains like Sobeys even offer their own house brand versions. Many places also offer vegetarian gravy as an option to cater to vegetarians.

Heavy beef- or pork-based brown gravies are rarely used. To maintain the texture of the fries, the cheese curd and gravy are added immediately prior to serving the dish. The hot gravy is usually poured over the room-temperature cheese curds, so that the cheese is warmed without completely melting. It is important to control the temperature, timing and the order in which the ingredients are added, so as to obtain the right food textures which is an essential part of the experience of eating poutine.

A cultural marker, poutine has long been Quebec's adored junk food before spreading out across the rest of Canada and the USA. It is said to be "the perfect thing after a night of drinking".

Poutine served as a comfort food for the local community after the Lac-Megantic derailment. Three varieties are offered at the Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot Center's Canada pavilion.

In May 2014, the word "poutine" was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary of the English language.

In 2007, the CBC declared the outcome of an online survey on the greatest Canadian inventions of all time. Poutine arrived at No. 10, beating, among other items, the electron microscope, the BlackBerry, and the paint roller.

Poutine has been a highlight of the London, UK, "Canada Day" celebrations in Trafalgar Square for several years.

However, poutine has since made inroads into proper culinary circles, challenging its junk food status. Thus in 2011, well-known chef Chuck Hughes won on Iron Chef America (episode 2 of season 9) by beating out his heavyweight competitor Bobby Flay with a plate of lobster poutine.

In 2013, Jones Soda Co., originally a Canadian company but now based in the USA, created a poutine-flavored limited-edition soft drink, which got international pop culture attention.

In 2014, bacon-poutine was one of four flavours selected as a finalist in the Lay's Canada 'Do Us A Flavour' potato chip contest, although it did not win that competition. However, Lay's has since added a bacon-poutine variety in its 'Canada' entry for the 'World Flavourites', and Loblaws' President's Choice and Ruffles brands offer poutine-flavored potato chips in Canada.

Smoke's Poutinerie sponsors a world poutine eating championship, and also a cross-Canada poutine eating tour.

Montreal hosts a competitive "La Poutine Week" every year in February. Members of the public can download an app in order to rate the poutines they have tried. Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto, Calgary, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and others similarly hold their own weeks. Some United States cities such as Manchester, NH (NH PoutineFest), Chicago, IL, and Knoxville, TN, have festivals also.

Activities

Toronto has ample opportunities for shopping, and nearly any section of the city has unique places to shop:

  • Toronto Eaton Centre. At Yonge-Dundas Square. Over 285 shops and services, including most of North America's most popular brands, and two food courts catering for every taste.
  • The 'PATH' System. Linking 1,200 stores and 50 buildings, The PATH is an underground shopping mall has been created for all the commuters to get from Union Station to their offices and back without ever going outside. In a city of Toronto's summer heat and winter cold, this is essential.
  • Mink Mile. If you head west from the corner of Yonge and Bloor, you are in the most upscale of Toronto's shopping districts, easily accessible from the Bloor-Yonge or Bay subway station.
  • Yorkville. This high-end shopping district just north of Bloor Street and west of Bay Street is home to many designer boutiques. It also has many galleries selling art.
  • Kensington Market provides a bohemian shopping experience especially along the southern end of Kensington Avenue. There houses lining both sides of the street have been turned into shops with racks of clothes displayed in the front yard.
  • There are many local, neighbourhood shopping districts in the inner city. These are mostly located along major throughfares lined on one or both sides with shops in low-rise buildings. A few examples are Queen Street West Uptown Yonge north of Eglinton Avenue on Yonge Street, and Roncesvalles Village. There are many more areas with store-lined streets within the inner city but few in suburban districts such as Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough which tend to prefer malls. Consult the district articles.
  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre. A shopping centre located in the north of the city, accessible from Yorkdale subway station. This is a full-service, upscale mall with hundreds of stores, but which is also rife with packs of roving teenagers who use the facilities as a social scene. Make use of the subway if possible on weekends, as locals pack the parking areas to capacity.

Toronto is represented in six major league sports, with teams in the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer and Canadian Women's Hockey League. It was formerly represented in a seventh, the USL W-League, until that announced on November 6, 2015 that it would cease operation ahead of 2016 season. The city's major sports venues include the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre Ricoh Coliseum, and BMO Field.

Toronto is trying very hard to become a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes being added all the time. There are many casual cyclists out all the time. And it is fast: door to door, in all of downtown Toronto, a bike beats a car or transit nearly every time.

There is a lack of clear understanding about regulations regarding bicycles and as a result, there can be hostility between automobiles and cyclists. Generally speaking, if you are on the road, you are expected to obey the same laws as cars, and you are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk.

The city is predominantly flat, aside from a general climb away from Lake Ontario and the deeply indented, forested Don Valley and Humber River Valley, and post-and-ring locking posts are present throughout the city. There are many bike-only lanes on major roads and threading through various neighbourhoods and parks. The city publishes a cycling map, available on the city website.

Bike Share Toronto provides a public bike system with 1,000 bikes available at 80 stations throughout downtown. Subscriptions start at $5 for 24 hours and allow you to use a bike for 30 minutes or less, as much as you like . It operates 24 hours a day, all year long (but see the warning below about winter biking). Several businesses also offer bicycle rentals.

It is a provincial law that cyclists under 18 must wear a helmet, and all riders must have a bike with reflectors and a bell. This tends to only be enforced when the police go on their annual "cycling blitz".

Some dangers:

  • Beware of parked cars - often accidents are not caused by moving cars, but rather by careless drivers or passengers who unexpectedly open their driver's side door. Here, at least, cyclists are often expected and respected by drivers.

  • Be cautious of streetcar tracks as bike wheels can be easily caught and cause a spill.

  • Although you will certainly see many locals riding the streets year-round, biking in the winter months is enjoyable only with proper equipment and reasonable skills; winter weather is cold, it can be quite windy, and snow removal is often imperfect.

Some recommended cycling routes:

  • By far one of the most popular bike paths is the Martin Goodman Trail, the east-west route that hugs Lake Ontario, spanning the city from Etobicoke to the eastern ends of the city. This path is also often used by pedestrians and rollerbladers.

  • The Don River trail system begins at the lake (near Queen and Broadview) and travels very far north and east. During or after heavy rains, avoid lower sections of the trails.

  • A special treat for bikers of all levels is a tour through Tommy Thompson Park (Leslie St Spit) to the lighthouse and bird sanctuaries (no cars!), which is open on weekends only. Start at Queen and Leslie and head south.

  • A visit to Toronto Islands from the ferry docks at the southern end of Bay Street is a great way to spend a bike-friendly, relaxed afternoon by bike. There are no private cars on the Toronto Islands.

Eat and drink

Toronto is generally considered to be one of North America's top food cities. It has the same variety as New York or San Francisco and the compact and safe downtown keeps them closer together. As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has authentic ethnic cuisine like no other city in North America. It is easy to eat out in Toronto and have a superb meal for cheap.

Sightseeing

Downtown East

Here are some of the neighbourhoods in Downtown East: Church-Wellesley Village is affectionately known as the "Gay Village" and is one of Toronto's biggest tourist attractions. There are a number of restaurants and pubs in the area centred at its namesake intersection. Cabbagetown gets its name from the large cabbages said to be planted in front lawns by Irish immigrants in the 19th century. It was once one of Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods, but is now a distinctive neighbourhood populated with elegantly renovated Victorian homes. The commercial heart of Cabbagetown is at Parliament and Carlton Streets with stores and restaurants catering to the local residents. Old Town Toronto is an area with many preserved Victorian-era commercial buildings. The area is roughly south of Queen Street East between Yonge Street and Parliament Street. The St Lawrence Market neighbourhood is south of King Street and is essentially the southern portion of Old Town Toronto. Included in this area are St Lawrence Hall and St Lawtrence Market. Corktown and the West Don Lands are neighbourhoods south of Queen Street East between Parliament Street and the Don River. This area includes the Distillery District, a complex of preserved Victorian-era industrial buildings.

Corn on the cob

Corn on the cob is a culinary term used for a cooked ear of freshly picked maize from a cultivar of sweet corn. Sweet corn is the most common variety of maize eaten directly off the cob. The ear is picked while the endosperm is in the "milk stage" so that the kernels are still tender. Ears of corn are steamed or boiled, usually without their green husks, or roasted with them. The husk leaves are in any case removed before serving.

Corn on the cob is normally eaten while still warm. It is often seasoned with salt and buttered before serving. Some diners use specialized skewers, thrust into the ends of the cob, to hold the ear while eating without touching the hot and sticky kernels.

The most common methods for cooking corn on the cob are frying, boiling, roasting, and grilling. Corn on the cob can be grilled directly in its husk, or it can be husked first and then wrapped in aluminum foil. When oven roasting, cooking the corn in the husk directly on the rack is recommended. When roasting or grilling corn on the cob, the cook can first peel the husk back to rub the corn with oil or melted butter, then re-secure the husk around the corn with a string.

Common condiments and seasonings for corn on the cob include butter, salt, and black pepper.

Lillian Eichler Watson, in a 1921 etiquette book, described corn on the cob as "without a doubt one of the most difficult foods to eat gracefully." She added that "it is entirely permissible to use the fingers in eating corn, holding it lightly at each end; sometimes a napkin is used in holding it." Sometimes, however, a short sharp knife would be provided that each diner could use to cut or scrape the kernels from the cob for later eating. She described this as "by far the most satisfactory method" of eating corn on the cob.

Some etiquette books recommend salting and buttering the corn a section at a time just before eating that section, which helps to minimize the mess on the diner's face and hands. Butter dripping down the diner's chin and kernels getting stuck in-between teeth may be a source of embarrassment for the diner.

Cob Shanks are eating utensils used to hold corn on the cob. Cob Shanks have been used since ancient times, ranging from articles made of wood found in ethnographic museums to precious tableware made of silver.

Other utensils for eating corn on the cob include specialty knives from removing the kernels, brushes for removing the silk and knives for buttering.

Corn was eaten by Native American tribes before European settlers arrived in the Americas. The Maya ate corn as a staple food crop and ate it off the cob, either roasting or boiling it. Aboriginal Canadians in southern parts of Canada also eat corn.

Nightlife

The majority of nightlife in Toronto is centred on the appropriately named Clubland and in the fashion district on Queen Street West. Nearly everywhere is packed to the brim with pubs and bars, but none so much as Adelaide and Queen Street in those districts. Clubs tend to operate on Richmond and Adelaide streets ; names change frequently, but the district keeps on going. Three other clubs of note outside this district: The mega club/ultra lounge Muzik Nightclub (by Exhibition Place), and The (long-lasting) Phoenix (on Sherbourne) and the Docks (literally operating on part of Toronto's commercial port, but this place has an outstanding view of the city on warm summer nights, and boasts an extensive entertainment complex).

Some of Toronto's newest and hottest nightclubs have opened up in the King Street West/Liberty Village area. This area tends to attract a more mature (25+ years old) crowd; however this comes at a cost as drinks and admission into the venues are typically a bit more expensive here than in Clubland.

Hip art and music oriented crowds tend to gravitate towards Parkdale (Queen West past Bellwoods Park). The hipsters hangout in the wide array of bars, galleries and clubs that dot the area - in particular Stones Place (mostly Indians and sometimes gay crowds), The Social (a mixed bag), and the Drake and its poor cousin Gladstone Hotels. The same folks also frequent the Annex and Kensington Market areas of the city at night for club nights, casual drinks and art and music events. One of the main "corsos" of the city is Little Italy: College Street, between Bathurst and Ossington flows over with music, sidewalk cafes and excellent food and a crowd that enjoys the summer heat and the offerings. College Street, east of Bathurst, is home to many student hangouts, including Sneaky Dee's which is famous among locals for its nachos. The legal minimum drinking age is 19.

Toronto has over a dozen microbreweries. One popular microbrewery is Steam Whistle Brewing (south of the CN Tower in the Entertainment District) which offers tours of its brewery located in a former locomotive roundhouse. Unlike Steam Whistle, most microbreweries in Toronto are brewpubs serving in-house brews with pub fare. About half of the brewpubs are in the West End district. Other districts having a brewpub are Harbourfront (Amsterdam BrewHouse), Distillery District (Mill St. Brew Pub), Midtown (Granite Brewery) and East End (Left Field Brewery).

Shopping

Toronto has ample opportunities for shopping, and nearly any section of the city has unique places to shop:

  • Toronto Eaton Centre. At Yonge-Dundas Square. Over 285 shops and services, including most of North America's most popular brands, and two food courts catering for every taste.
  • The 'PATH' System. Linking 1,200 stores and 50 buildings, The PATH is an underground shopping mall has been created for all the commuters to get from Union Station to their offices and back without ever going outside. In a city of Toronto's summer heat and winter cold, this is essential.
  • Mink Mile. If you head west from the corner of Yonge and Bloor, you are in the most upscale of Toronto's shopping districts, easily accessible from the Bloor-Yonge or Bay subway station.
  • Yorkville. This high-end shopping district just north of Bloor Street and west of Bay Street is home to many designer boutiques. It also has many galleries selling art.
  • Kensington Market provides a bohemian shopping experience especially along the southern end of Kensington Avenue. There houses lining both sides of the street have been turned into shops with racks of clothes displayed in the front yard.
  • There are many local, neighbourhood shopping districts in the inner city. These are mostly located along major throughfares lined on one or both sides with shops in low-rise buildings. A few examples are Queen Street West Uptown Yonge north of Eglinton Avenue on Yonge Street, and Roncesvalles Village. There are many more areas with store-lined streets within the inner city but few in suburban districts such as Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough which tend to prefer malls. Consult the district articles.
  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre. A shopping centre located in the north of the city, accessible from Yorkdale subway station. This is a full-service, upscale mall with hundreds of stores, but which is also rife with packs of roving teenagers who use the facilities as a social scene. Make use of the subway if possible on weekends, as locals pack the parking areas to capacity.

Tourtière

Tourtière (, Quebec French: is a Canadian meat pie dish originating from the province of Quebec, usually made with minced pork, veal or beef and potatoes. Wild game is often added to enhance the taste of the pie. A traditional part of the Christmas réveillon and New Year's Eve meal in Quebec, it is also popular in New Brunswick, and is sold in grocery stores across the rest of Canada, all year long.

Tourtière is not exclusive to Quebec. It is a traditional French-Canadian dish served by generations of French-Canadian families throughout Canada and the bordering areas of the United States. In the New England region of the U.S., especially in Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts (e.g., Chicopee and Attleboro), late 19th and early 20th century immigrants from Quebec introduced the dish.

There is no one correct filling; the meat depends on what is regionally available. In coastal areas, fish such as salmon is commonly used, whereas pork, beef, rabbit and game are often included inland. The name derives from the vessel in which it was originally cooked, a tourtière.

Tourtière has become the traditional and iconic dish of the region of Saguenay, Quebec since the Second World War, and It has undergone several metamorphoses according to the culinary history. The first recipe for what we consider today as pies was documented back to 1600 BC. After that around 400 AD, some evidence proved the existence of patina (the prototype of tourtière ), which was slightly different from the pie we have today in terms of the pie crust and composition. In the Middle Ages, patina and artocreas reappeared in some European countries. In Italy, the pie was named as “pasticcio”, “timballo” or “timpano de macaroni”. Something similar also occurred in England which was named “battle pies” and also the“tourte parmenienne” in France. During the 18th Century, a dish named “sea pie” became popular among French and British colonists. Jean-Pierre Lemasson (2009) described sea pie as “the direct forerunner of the tourtière of Lac-Saint-Jean”(p.109)

Canadian National Exhibition

The Canadian National Exhibition also known as The Ex, is an annual event that takes place at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, during the 18 days leading up to and including Canadian Labour Day, the first Monday in September. With approximately 1.5 million visitors each year, the CNE is Canada’s largest annual fair and the fifth largest in North America. The first Canadian National Exhibition took place in 1879, largely to promote agriculture and technology in Canada. Agriculturists, engineers, and scientists exhibited their discoveries and inventions at the CNE to showcase the work and talent of the nation. As Canada has grown as a nation, the CNE has also changed over time, reflecting the growth in diversity and innovation, though agriculture and technology remain a large part of the CNE today. To many people in the Greater Toronto Area and the surrounding communities, the CNE is an annual family tradition.

The CNE is held at Exhibition Place, which is a 192acre site located along Toronto’s waterfront on the shores of Lake Ontario and just west of downtown Toronto. The site features several buildings and structures, many of which have been named as significant under the Ontario Heritage Act. There are several outdoor live music venues on-site including the permanent CNE Bandshell. All of the roads are named after the Canadian provinces and territories. The site includes a football stadium, parks, fountains, plazas, a rose garden, statues and parking lots.

The site was formerly reserve lands for British and later Canadian military and was the site of an 18th century French fort. The area was cleared of forest in the early 19th century for use by the Toronto Garrison of Fort York. The Exhibition received permission to use part of the site in the 1870s and expanded to use the whole site by the 1920s. In the 1950s, the site was expanded south of Lake Shore Boulevard by landfill, and reduced in size on its northern boundary by the construction of the Gardiner Expressway.

Parade of cattle at CNE, 1916

In September 1846, a fair sponsored by the Provincial Agricultural Association and the Board of Agriculture for Canada West, was held in Toronto in the area near present-day King and Simcoe Streets. While primarily an agricultural event, it also displayed manufactured goods and decorative arts and crafts. The fair was a success and it was proposed that future fairs be held in different locations each year. In 1847, the fair was held in Hamilton and thereafter travelled to such cities as Cobourg, Kingston, Niagara and Brockville.

In 1852, the fair returned to the west side of University Avenue (see Grange Park (neighbourhood)), stretching from a bit north of Dundas Street to a bit south of College Street. It lasted four days. The Horse Park, on the west side of the grounds, was loaned to the fair by Mrs. Boulton, who lived in the Grange and it was bounded on the north by the Caer Howell Pleasure Grounds (in a way a forerunner of the midway). The Fair was a success, attracting more than 30,000 visitors.

In 1853, the fair moved on to another city and didn’t return to Toronto until 1858 and then again in 1878. After the 1878 fair, Toronto City Council and the local Exhibition Committee approached the Provincial Agriculture Association with a proposition: that the fair remain permanently in Toronto. The Association thanked City Council and the Exhibition Committee for their work in delivering a successful fair in 1878 but informed them that a decision had already been made to move the fair to another city in 1879.

Undeterred, Toronto City Council, along with local businessmen, moved ahead with plans to establish a permanent fair in Toronto. That fair would be called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition. It opened on September 3, 1879, and lasted for three weeks. An attendance in excess of 100,000 paid admissions and 8,234 exhibits, spelled success for the new exhibition. The fair continued to grow and prosper and soon came to be known as the "Show Window of the Nation." Starting with just over 50 acres in 1879, the fair, situated on a parcel of land which has become known as Exhibition Place, now stretching from the Gardiner Expressway (north end), to Lake Shore Boulevard and Lake Ontario to the south, and from Strachan Avenue (east end), to the Dominion Gates (west end), covering 196.6 acres (0.796 km2) of land.

In 1912, the Toronto Industrial Exhibition changed its name to the Canadian National Exhibition to better reflect the scope and reach of the fair. In fulfilling its mandate, the CNE has featured exhibits on the latest technological advances in industry and agriculture. CNE patrons were introduced to electric railway transportation in 1883, to Edison's phonograph in 1888, to the wireless telephone in the 1890s, to radio in 1922, to television in 1939, to plastics and synthetics in the 1940s. The Government of Canada is not affiliated with the fair, however, it has often exhibited at the CNE.

In 1937, Conklin Shows was awarded the contract to provide amusement rides and games for the CNE midway. The company built the "Flyer" wooden roller-coaster on site as well as delivering rides and games each year during the CNE duration. The company continued to provide this service until 2004, at which point it merged with other leading midway operators to form North American Midway Entertainment, which continues to supply the CNE.

During the Second World War, as during the First World War, the CNE grounds became home to detachments of the Canadian military. In 1939, the Royal Canadian Air Force moved into the Coliseum. The Canadian Army took over the Horse Palace and the Royal Canadian Navy converted the Automotive Building into HMCS York. During the summers of 1940 and 1941, most of the troops stationed at the CNE were re-located. Those troops remaining either continued their regular administrative duties or participated in CNE displays and events aimed at promoting the Canadian war effort. CNE officials had hoped to continue the annual fair throughout the years of the war. In the spring of 1942, however, the CNE agreed to turn the grounds over to the Canadian military for use year-round. During the military occupation of the grounds, virtually every CNE building, large or small, was put to use by the Canadian armed forces. The CNE grounds remained closed and under the control of the Canadian military until 1946. Between 1945 and 1946, Exhibition Park acted as a demobilization centre for returning soldiers.

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