Words by Jennifer Sharp, photos by Parm Parmar
Steeped in tradition, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has become an autumn mainstay in Toronto since 1918. Long known as a showcase for Canadian agriculture, the Fair continues to delight visitors young and old with its country-to-city charm.
Most will remember the Fair from elementary school visits; youngsters astonished by the gigantic pumpkins and incredible butter sculptures. Now, like then, the Fair provides visitors with a view to Canada’s agricultural heritage: a vision that is all but lost in this era of electronics, social media, and speed-to-market trends. Think it’s all about livestock and cowboy boots? Think again. After almost 100 years, the Royal continues to offer the traditional sights and many more innovative crowd-pleasers.
Here are our top 5 choices for your visit to the Fair:
They are everywhere at the Fair! Over 5000 incredibly beautiful specimens from all over the country are on display and competing for excellence. A perennial highlight is the international horse-jumping competition, where the crowd falls silent as these equestrian masters take to the arena.
Horse competitions extend through dressage, horse-and-buggy, and rodeo. Watch them compete for an astounding $800,000 in prize money. Not into horses? Superdogs, Turbo the goat, rabbit jumping, Jack Russell races… The Royal has it all.
Forget the mall; shopping at the Fair is beyond compare! Tack and other horse-gear figure prominently and less predictable choices abound. Cute toques with matching mittens, animal kitsch, endless home-ware and more. Bestie picked up a most unique and adorable “sock monkey” sweater made from 100% New Zealand wool. The vendors show competitive pricing and negotiation is welcome.
Food is the heart of the Fair. On offer is a limitless array of local produce, artisan wines and cheese, craft beer and other delicious choices, most hand-crafted before your eyes. Dare to be tempted by the awesome apple dumplings or enjoy an authentic high tea, delivered with style. The Royal features six bars and restaurants that will delight even the most discriminating foodie. Samples abound, so arrive with an
The dark days of winter may be upon us, but one can’t help happily anticipating the holiday season when inspired by the breathtaking displays of winter décor, featured at the Royal. Sandhill Nurseries is highlighted, showing a beautiful array of wreaths, outdoor garden ideas and more. Prepare to celebrate the glorious Canadian winter!
In case the agricultural showcase isn’t enough, the Royal offers more entertainment on its featured stages. Boots and Hearts present ever-popular musical acts that will definitely drive home the country to the city. Countless culinary competitions include the Royal Chef Challenge, featuring local and international talent, each competing for the coveted Royal title!
This annual Toronto showcase never disappoints. Get there early, and bring your appetite for food, unique shopping, and endless animals!
Royal tip: skip the hefty parking prices and take the GO to the Exhibition stop. More dollars for dumplings!!
You can visit The Royal Agricultural Fair website for details, schedules, and more details.
Jennifer Sharp is a life-long Torontonian and avid traveller, Jenn lives in the Beaches with her two teenage sons and fat black cat. She loves dining well, creative cocktailing and everything and anything vintage, especially wine.