Everything you should know about the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow
Here’s how to save money on admission, get there with the least aggravation, and make the most of your visit.
Whether you’re an unabashed enthusiast or you’re actively seeking out your next new car, the Canadian International AutoShow, held each February, is an exciting time of year.
You can cross-shop multiple brands on the same piece of real estate – in this case the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front St. in downtown Toronto – see supercars and classics on the same visit, and observe that motorsport and tuner culture are both alive and well.
But before you can dig into all of that, you have to get to the show in the first place. And this can lead to all sorts of questions. Whether you’re wondering about ticket prices, parking and transit, or what the heck to do with your kids while you explore, here’s our attempt to answer your most pressing questions.
How can I save money on tickets? For 2020, general admission ticket prices are unchanged from last year: $25 for adults, $16 for youth aged 13 to 16, $7 for children aged 7 to 12, and free for kids 6 and under.
However, there are plenty of ways to score deals. For example, if you’re able to plan ahead, you can get a discount when you buy your tickets online.
“There’s a 10 percent discount right up until the opening hour of the show,” said David McClean, director of marketing services for the AutoShow, which opens at noon on Friday, Feb. 14 – Valentine’s Day.
There’s also a family pass available for $50, which is valid any day for two adults and two children aged 7 to 12. Seniors’ tickets for those 60 and over are available for $16 on Feb. 14 and Feb. 19 to 21. They can be purchased only at the gate, and photo ID with proof of age is required.
People with flexible schedules can benefit from even deeper discounts. $6 after 6 p.m. returns after a successful debut last year, which can be used both on weekdays and on weekends. Just take note that it’s not valid on the last day of the show, Sun., Feb. 23, when the convention centre closes for good at 6 p.m.
And then there’s Super Tuesday, which offers full-day admission for $14. This year, Super Tuesday falls on Feb. 18, the day after the Family Day holiday.
“Super Tuesday was (an idea) that came out of the old movie days,” McClean said, when theatres would only charge people a toonie to get in. “Tuesday has gone from our lowest attendance from a weekday perspective now to second only behind Friday.”
How can I avoid the busiest times? It goes without saying that the Family Day weekend draws the highest attendance. Those who prefer quieter environs can consider attending on the second weekend or during the week.
“I always say it’s tough to beat the energy of the show on a Saturday afternoon when the manufacturers are fully fired up, there’s so much activity, and special features just seem to come out of nowhere,” McClean said. “But the smallest audiences are always during weekdays.”
Interestingly, opening day falls this year on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, and McClean concedes that it’s hard to predict what effect this will have on crowds. Perhaps some open-minded couples will add the auto show to their romantic outings, or unattached people might go in higher numbers in the hope that crowds will be even lighter than usual. Typically, opening day is relatively quiet.
“It’s not that we don’t have attendance,” McClean says. “We do very well. But the opening Friday doesn’t compare to the closing Friday in terms of attendance.
“(We) don’t know if (Valentine’s Day is) going to be a positive or a negative effect on attendance. But we do find that a lot of people, when they’re coming downtown, they’ve got a number of different things on their agenda in terms of going to the auto show, going out for dinner or maybe lunch depending on what time they get down there. It always seems to be a day out for people that are coming into the city.”
How can I get there with the least aggravation? If easy arrival is your goal, driving might not be the best plan. Between downtown congestion and the tendency for parking lots around the show to reach capacity, driving can be a costly and time-consuming proposition.
“We have no control over parking,” McClean said. “When the auto show is on, parking rates are at a premium around the location.”
Instead, show-goers can opt to take the TTC or GO Transit. The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is a short indoor walk from Union Station via the SkyWalk. With GO, a combination ticket for round-trip travel and show admission is available for purchase online through the AutoShow website.
How can I take care of my kids or keep them busy while I look around? Strollers are permitted at the show, though it can be tough to get them around on the most crowded days.
If your infant is still small enough for a carrier, it’s a far easier way to get around. And if this applies to you, then you’ll want to note the location of the nursing room, which provides a quiet and private space for mothers and babies on the 600 level in the convention centre’s South Building.
For those with kids between 2 and 10 years old, the PlayCare Centre returns this year on the 600 level with a new presenting partner, Toys R Us.
“They really like to consider it a play zone, and they’ll be bringing in all of their assets to entertain and provide a positive experience for children while mom and dad roam the show,” McClean said.
By Stephanie Wallcraft / Special to wheels.ca