One of the Top 10 Reasons to Love Summer in Vancouver, The Fair at the PNE is the city's end-of-summer send-off. For the last two weeks of August (through Labour Day Weekend), the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) and Playland Amusement Park host an enormous summer fair, with more than 50 rides and attractions, nightly concerts, live performances, agricultural and animal displays, games, and food, that's fun for everyone, regardless of age.
The Fair at the PNE began in 1910 as an agricultural fair (it still has a huge range of animal displays and shows) and slowly grew to be one of the biggest fairs in North America. Each summer, the Fair draws over one million people from all over Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Now it also attracts adventurous foodies who flock to the Fair to try crazy combinations such as milkshake burgers or deep-fried cheesecake.
Weekends and long weekends get insanely busy in the afternoons so head there early on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Purchase tickets online in advance to save time at the gate.
Where: The Fair at the PNE is located on Hastings Street and Renfrew Street, in East Vancouver. (There are multiple entrances to the fairgrounds; see map below for details). The Playland main entrance is probably one of the busiest gates to try to enter, so head for an alternative one if possible.
Getting to The Fair at the PNE: There is paid parking available in lots around the fairgrounds, but it is pricey. Lots are located at gate six (off Renfrew Street) and gate nine (off Bridgeway Street). Additional parking is also available at Playland's lot at Hastings and Windermere. Disabled parking spaces are available at gate two (off Renfrew Street) as well as gates six and nine. Parking is $20 including tax (cash, debit, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express accepted). Limited VIP Reserved Parking is available at gate six for $25 including tax (reserve in advance).
Get there cheaply on public transit: Translink offers additional bus service during The Fair. Buses include the #16 PNE Special from 29th Avenue Station stopping at Renfrew Skytrain Station; #210 PNE Special from Phibbs exchange in North Vancouver; and the West Vancouver Blue Bus Special from Horseshoe Bay. Use the Translink site to plan your trip.
You could also cycle and leave your bike at the free bicycle valet service available inside gate one (corner of Hastings & Renfrew St.) or in the bike racks outside gates five and 13.
Highlights of the Fair at the PNE
There is so much to do at the Fair at the PNE that it's almost impossible to take it fit it into only one day. Favorites include:
- The food! From fair classics like corn dogs and cotton candy to mini donuts, waffles, Chinese fare, Mexican food, Indian food, and more, the Fair is loaded with tasty treats.The Fair has become known for its more outlandish food offerings from deep-fried tequila shots to 1lb meatballs, smoking charcoal soft serve ice cream, milkshake burgers, Kit Kat fries, and deep-fried cheesecake.
- 50+ Playland Amusement Park Rides, including the famous Wooden Roller Coaster and the AtmosFEAR. (Note: Ride passes must be purchased separately from gate entrance fees.) Allow extra time for lining up for the rides, especially on a weekend. You might want to explore Playland before you indulge in many of the deep-fried delights on offering from the food vendors.
- Midway Games, including classic fairground games like "Wac-a-Mole."
- Summer Night Concerts, which are free with admission (though you can reserve seats for $25). Look out for big names from the 70s, 80s, 90s and the contemporary music scene.
- Live Shows and Performances, which are also free with admission, including the famous SuperDogs. Watch the talented pooches perform an incredible show of agility as they delight the crowds. New shows for 2018 include the Knights of Valour horseback dueling and Action Sports World Tour, which features the world’s best professional skateboarders and BMX riders performing aerial stunts on a state-of-the-art half-pipe.
- Agricultural Shows, including the 4-H Festival, Safeway Farm Country (where kids can pet the animals), and the Pacific Spirit Horse Show.