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2013 Toronto Auto Show: How to make the most of your visit

Published February 15, 2013

There’s an essential rule for the Canadian International AutoShow: Wear comfortable shoes. If you’ve never visited the show before, you won’t believe how big it is.

How big? Try 55,742 square metres, spread over two main halls, with lots of exhibits in between. There were 316,751 visitors to last year’s event, making it the largest consumer show in Canada. If you’re going to do it right, do some planning.

The show opens at noon on February, February 15, and runs until 10:00 p.m. All other days it’s open from 10:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. On the final day, Sunday, February 24, it closes at 6:00 p.m.

Click the map below to enlarge

It’s held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, at 255 Front Street West, primarily because it’s the only place big enough to hold it all. Underground parking is available on-site, either from Front Street or Bremner Blvd., but you’ll have to pay. If possible, the TTC or GO Transit are better choices. Once you reach Union Station, head for the Skywalk, which will take you into the show with no need to step outside.

It’s fastest and cheapest to buy tickets through the show’s website at AutoShow.ca. Online, it’s $19.80 for adults ($22 at the door); $6.30 for children age 7 to 12 ($7 at the door); a two-day adult pass is $28.80 ($32); and a family pass for two adults and two children is $39.60 ($44).

Those supporting disabled visitors get in for free, provided they go to the Disabled/Family ticket booth first.

If you’re bringing small children, you can drop them off at the Volkswagen Children’s Playcare Centre on the 600 Level. Daycare professionals will watch and entertain your youngsters at no charge while you wander the show.

Understanding the layout helps with planning your visit. The Convention Centre consists of two venues, the North and South Buildings, and there are manufacturers’ new-car displays in both. Maps are available that show the location of each display. (If it’s been a long time since your last visit, be aware that the Rogers Centre is no longer part of it.)

There’s a free shuttle that runs continuously between the two buildings (plus a wheelchair-accessible one) if you don’t want to travel the seemingly endless banks of escalators from one to the other. If you ride, though, you’ll miss the numerous displays and features between the buildings.

The floors are numbered and they get higher as you go south, from the 200 Level at the Front Street entrance, to the 800 Level that is the South Building’s main floor.

The 100 Level is accessible via downward escalators just inside the doors facing Front Street. Don’t miss this one: It’s where you’ll find the antique cars and hot rods entered in the Cruise Nationals competition, as well as the Auto Exotica display, where you can drool over cars made by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, Bentley, Fisker, Bugatti and Rolls-Royce.

Up the main escalator from the Front Street entrance, you’ll find manufacturer displays on Level 300, as well as the walkway to the South Building. On Level 600, there’s a vendor area where you can buy auto accessories, memorabilia, and aftermarket vehicle parts.

Level 700 features the Hot Rod Canadian Builders Showcase, with 30 hot rods and custom cars created by some of the country’s best fabricators, and the Sport Compact Evolution, a display of “tuner” cars — and it’s hard to believe they’ve been around for some 30 years now.

Finally, on Level 800 outside the new-car displays, you can visit the Eco-Drive Showcase, featuring a variety of alternative vehicles that includes hybrids and electric cars.

Don’t forget to bring a bag for collecting brochures, and some rubber bands for rolling up giveaway posters. Pack a pen for filling out contest forms — there are a few cars up for grabs, along with a cross-Canada Via Rail trip — and of course your camera. And did we mention the comfortable shoes? They’re the most important of all.

There is an essential rule for the Canadian International AutoShow: Wear comfortable shoes.

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