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Auto Show Survival Guide: Five tips for getting the most out of it

Plan ahead to save time and money

Published February 13, 2014

Going to the Toronto auto show? Planning your visit in advance will make everything run more smoothly, get you onto the show floor faster and guide you to the displays you really want to see.

The show runs Friday, Feb. 14 to Sunday, Feb. 23. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., with the exception of the first day, when it opens at noon, and the last day, when it closes at 6 p.m.

1. Do some online recon: Start with the website AutoShow.ca, where you’ll find maps, information on contests and promotions, WebTV episodes, and a free email newsletter.

You’ll also find a link for online ticket sales, where you can bypass the lines and pay 10 per cent less than buying at the door. The regular adult price of $23 drops to $20.70 online, while a family pass (two adults and two children 7 to 12) falls from $45 to $40.50.

2. Go on a Friday or a weekday: On the two Fridays of the show, Feb. 14 and 21, visitors 60 and over can get in for $11 at the door.

Plan your visit for a weekday, if possible, when the crowds are usually smaller, especially over the dinner hours. It’s also best to avoid Family Day, Feb. 17, when it will feel like every resident of Toronto is crammed inside.

3. Check your supplies: Before you head out, make sure you have your camera and a fully charged battery. Bring a pen for filling out contest forms, and a bag for collecting any promotional stuff (Armor All is handing out free air fresheners, for example). Throw in a couple of elastic bands for rolling up promotional posters.

4. It’s a big place, get on top of it: First of all, check out the exhibit map, below. The show is spread throughout the North and South Halls of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Transit is the best way to get there. Take the TTC or GO to Union Station, and then look for the SkyWalk. It will take you to the 400 Level, about halfway between the two halls.

Drivers can park under the Convention Centre, accessible via Bremner Blvd., but the garage tends to fill up before noon. Otherwise, look for private lots or municipal Green P parking nearby.

If you want to check your coat, there are facilities near the entrances to the north and south buildings. And if you want to check your child while you’re looking at the cars, there’s free child care courtesy of Volkswagen on the 600 Level, staffed by certified child-care providers.

There are new-car exhibits in both halls, which are connected by walkways and escalators. There are also free shuttles, including a wheelchair-accessible one, that continually run between the North Hall’s Front Street entrance, the South Hall’s Bremner Blvd. entrance (near the giant woodpecker statue), and a stop inside the South Hall, accessible only by the shuttle, at the far end of the auto exhibits.

There are also several vendors on the 600 Level, offering everything from diecast cars and car-care products to wheels and custom exhausts. Tuner-car fans should visit the Sport Compact Evolution on the 700 Level.

Also on the 700 Level, you’ll find Muscle Car Alley and the Cruise Nationals, which showcases vehicles from various weekly old-car events in the GTA.

Head to the 800 Level for yet another episode of classic-car heaven, this time celebrating MG’s 90th anniversary. While you’re there, stop in to the AutoConnect Showcase, which highlights some of the connectivity features currently available on cars, using interactive displays and simulations, as well as a look at the future of self-driving cars.

5. Know where the food is: Fittingly, even the food is on wheels. Instead of a traditional restaurant court, there are food trucks parked on the 800 Level, where you can get everything from BBQ to smoothies.

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