Let’s SAVE At The Ex!

Depending on how you look at it, un/fortunately, the opening of The Ex marks the end of the Summer. It’s an unfortunate sign to me because it means that Old Man Winter, and all his nasty baggage, is just ’round the corner! 🙁

Following an annual family tradition of visiting The Ex, my sisters, nephew, and I decided to revisit that childhood memory. I was blown away at how different AND expensive everything has become. For some reason, I remember The Ex being a relatively inexpensive way to spend the day, but man was I wrong!

(General Admission is $16 which doesn’t sound bad, but since they wouldn’t honour my mom’s corporate rate, I wasn’t able to purchase tickets for $11. Already, this got my day off on the wrong foot! The run ’round that I was given by the staff also left a bad taste in my mouth.)

After spending the entire day there, here are some ways to try and save some money if you plan to visit The Ex:

1. Corporate Rate. If you or anyone in your family qualifies for a Corporate Rate, find out exactly the number of people who will be attending and purchase the tickets ONLINE. As I discovered the hard way, they do not sell discounted tickets at the event. If you are unable to pin down exact numbers, buy an extra ticket – you can always sell it to a stranger in-line.  Tickets are non-refundable.

2.  Bring Cash. I didn’t have time to stop at the bank and didn’t think it would be a problem to use debit or credit card, after all I was in the city. However, aside from the main box office, I did not see any debit machines at the concession stands. The warehouse “stores” may accept these forms of payment, but not where food is purchased and definitely not for the midway games. If you have no cash, there are a bunch of umarked ATM machines, but I avoid those at all costs!

3. Pack Some Food. Unlike more theme parks, e.g. Wild Water Kingdom, the staff at The Ex do not have a “No outside food” policy.  Actually, no one even inspected my purse.  So take advantage of this and pack some snacks or even sandwiches!

4. Bring your water bottle. My sister pointed out these handy-dandy water fountains set-up specifically to fill your water bottle! (They weren’t as rampant as the unmarked ATMs, but I did notice a couple on my rounds.) Since I brought my water bobble with me, this was really handy – not to mention saving me from shelling out upwards of $3 for a bottle of water. 🙂

5. Share, share, share at The Food Building. There is no doubt, at least in my eyes, that The Food Building is still the #1 draw at The Ex! Neither the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Burger nor the Fried Cola/Butter/Koolaid, etc. interests me, but what I do like is seeing all the variety of food that’s under one roof…the infamous, Food Building!

We didn’t pre-plan things, but my sisters and I split 1 meal for lunch! We thought that it would be a good way to try more than one thing. Aside from the 99¢ Spaghetti, most of the concession items appeared to be 2-3 portions…easily!

6. Don’t play the midway games or go on any of the rides. I realise that this tip may seem “extreme” to some of you, but this is how my mom, as the sole breadwinner, was able to take us to places like The Ex. The first time we were old enough to speak, we may have asked if we could play a game or go on the rides, but after saying “No” the first time, we never asked in subsequent years.  At $20/22 tickets, at an average of 4-6 tickets/ride, they aren’t cheap! And if you have more than one child, it’s even more expensive.

This option may not be for everyone, but if you’re really strapped for cash, it’s definitely an option! If you and your spouse can afford to, but all means, buy the ride tickets, play the midway games. However, there are other ways to have fun at The Ex without spending additional cash, e.g. Petting Zoo, The Farm, live music, people watching, just walking around, etc.

7. Skip The Ex and head to the park! Despite thinking that it’s overrated and overpriced, I still had a good time bonding with my family. However, if money is a real concern which I can totally sympathise with, especially for multi-children families, skip The Ex entirely as it does add up.

I’m sure that your family can bond by doing something less costly like a picnic at the park/beach or a day downtown or at Niagara Falls. Shopping for school supplies and clothing may not constitute as a “bonding activity”, but your money is probably better spent doing that if you had to decide between The Ex Vs. A Necessity.

If you’re set on visiting The Ex, consider going after 5pm on Monday – Thursday as admission is only $5.  And on a rare occasion, sometimes there’s a “Free Admission” day too.

16 responses to “Let’s SAVE At The Ex!”

  1. Abby1 says:

    If you do want to buy a Ride All Day Pass, purchase online (at http://www.theex.com) and enter code 316115Coke to save ‘up to $16/31%.’ 😀

  2. Abby1 says:

    Ugh, just read it closer and the code expired August 19th!

  3. MOrganmom2 says:

    Just wondering if it’s free to get into Ontario place why not enter the CNE from there and it’s free?

  4. Stephania says:

    There’s actually people set up on the bridge between Ontario Place/The Ex. If you’re leaving The Ex, one person stamps your hand. When you’re going into The Ex, from Ontario Place, a CNE employee checks your stamp. So you can’t really get into The Ex for free! 🙁

    Ontario Place was also a bit sad when I went yesterday. It really needs an overhaul!

  5. Megan says:

    There’s always – $5 after 5 PM, if you wanted to save on admission.

    Come to the CNE after 5 pm on Mondays*, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays and pay only $5 for admission. This special offer is only available on site at a CNE ticket booth. It is not available online.

    *Does not include Labour Day Monday

  6. Auntie J says:

    Thanks for the tips! Will use them next year. I didn’t know that outside food WAS allowed!!

    I wanted to only spurge $$ on the rare deep fried treats. But ended up spending over $50 on food and drinks 🙁 Even though it was a chilly day, we spent lots of money on water…I will definitely pack water bottles next time. Maybe some fruit snacks, sugarnuts, or whatnot.

    *Also there are GREAT CLOTHING DEALS (Bluenotes, Stitches, Sirens, etc)at the Direct Energy Building, good back-to-school shopping! 😀

  7. TallNFunny says:

    Very helpful Stephania, appreciate your willingness to write blogs like this to help others (very positive – no griping in this one :P). I don’t always think of these things. Keep up the good work.

  8. Susanv says:

    I don’t know if there are still any out there, but there where free kid’s passes at our local swimming pool/community center a couple of weeks ago. Picked up one for each of our kids. They are good for grounds admission only, for children aged 13 and under from Aug. 19 to Sept. 5, 2011. Sounds like would make it much more affordable.

    The free passes were over with the class listings and birthday party brochures and at the time there were quite a few of them.

  9. Diane456 says:

    I really missed the old food building where we use to walk about for hours sampling this and that. I found the ‘new’ one reminds me of a mall food court sadly.

  10. Bobaloo says:

    Stephania, Where can I find the $0.99 spaghetti you wrote about??

  11. Yuki says:

    whaaat? skipping the rides?! thats terrible…. i’m a teenager and that was one of the best parts of my childhood. going to the EX with my parents and being able to have cotton candy and ride the rides on the midway. best childhood ever!

  12. Stephania says:

    There’s a stand that’s actually called “99C Spaghetti/Pasta” in the Food Building. There are at least 2 of them. You can find it on the directory, but it looks GROSS!!!

  13. mary walsh says:

    I buy tickets by auction (LocalBidBuy). They seem to be there every year with lots up for bid. Mine where 2 grounds tickets for $16.00, so 8 each, and show up on the auction site a couple of months before it starts. Family passes are available also including the rides. If you go, be sure and see the Presidents Choice Super Dogs,a show on several times a day in the Direct Energy Centre. Wonderful for kids and adults, and free! Parking tends to be $20.00 if you drive, but if you buy stuff or take a cooler with your own food it is worth it. They don’t care if you bring your own cooler, wagon, or anything in with you. There are lots of good clothing buys but it is search and find! Same with household stuff. Simply take your time and enjoy.

  14. Emmie says:

    If you want to be frugal it’s probably better to pick a different activity rather than taking your kids to a place that is such a money grab and has opportunities to empty your pocket every 2 feet. Who wants to take their children out for a day of fun and have to tell them “no” every 30 seconds. Sounds depressing.

    If you’re not even to go on the (sketchy looking) rides, I’d suggest really planning out the shows you’re going to see when and how to get there because other than the petting zoo the only features that don’t cost extra are the shows.

    Ontario Place is terrible and not worth the price at all, especially if you don’t like water rides.

    If you’re actually looking to go on rides I’d forego the Ex/Ontario Place all together and go to Wonderland. You can find corporate discount codes online, buy cheap tickets in some retail place (used to be Pizza Pizza but I haven’t been in years) or you can buy special priced tickets where you can go twice. By the time you pay for Ex grounds admission and rides pass you’re pretty even in price. And Wonderland has a safer, better, more vast ride selection, an incredible water park, there are hardly any game stands trying to get you to play and it’s overall just a cleaner, better looking place!

  15. Stephania says:

    @Emmie – I couldn’t agree with you more! We did cross the bridge to Ontario Place, ’cause it was free, and it was TERRIBLE. In desperate need of an overhaul, absolutely nothing to see/do there.

    CNE is similar. Maybe it was how I was brought up, but I find the games/rides = not fun and expensive. So I don’t do ’em. So aside from that and lotsa walking, there isn’t a whole lot to do.

    The shopping is bad too, unless dried up nail polish is your thing.

    My only complaint about Wonderland are the line-ups for the rides, so if I can, I try to go on a weekday.

  16. Shelley says:

    I bought my tickets online 2 for $35 w/tax..its just me & my 15 yr old son..we only ride like 2 rides, ppl watch, free shows, farm animals & eat. Ill take cash & a water bottle, but eat in there..how much $$ do you suggest I take?


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