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Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition and PNE WinterLights

Pacific National Exhibition

The Pacific National Exhibition, or PNE, has been an annual Vancouver fair for over 100 years with rides, shows, farm animals, midway games and concerts.

Lots of other events also take place at the PNE at other times of the year, including Playland, but also concerts and trade shows. At Christmas in 2020 there was also an all-new PNE WinterLights drive-thru event.

For a list of what’s happening and when throughout the year, click Vancouver Events at the PNE. To learn about the fair at the end of the summer though, see below.

 


This article contains details about the following:

General PNE Information | PNE in 2020 | Admission | Ways to Save | Summer Concerts | Special Features | PNE Rides | PNE Ride Tips | General Tips & Advice | PNE Video | PNE at Christmas | Other Information

Click on any of the above links to jump to specific information, or continue reading to learn all about the Pacific National Exhibition.


 

Vancouver’s PNE Fair

Taking place the last three weeks of the summer and finishing on the Labour Day Long Weekend, most years at least, the PNE is when Vancouver’s Playland turns into a first-class fair.

In 2019 the fair ran from August 17th to September 2nd. This past year, because of COVID-19, it ran for only eight days, from Saturday, August 22nd, until Sunday, August 30th (but closed on the Monday).

Most years the PNE has all of Playland‘s usual midway and various amusement rides, including the famous wooden roller coaster. What’s more though are all the tantalizing food stalls, the live entertainment and the excitement of a carnival. 2020 was different than usual, but still lots of fun.

If you’ve never been to the Pacific National Exhibition, or you haven’t been for many years, you should go! It’s a Vancouver tradition and you’ll have a great time!

 

Dinosaurs at the PNE
Dinosaurs at the PNE in 2020

 

The PNE in 2020

In 2020 the fair was originally scheduled to run from August 22nd until September 7th. Because of the coronavirus, however, it wasn’t business as usual.

The new revised dates for the PNE in 2020 were August 22nd until August 30th (so not until the September Long Weekend).  Also, if you planned to visit the fair this last year you had to do so from inside your car as the event took place in a drive-thru format. They did something similar on Canada Day in July and it was very popular!

The PNE fair itself still happened in 2020, although in a “drive-thru experience” format. It featured SuperDogs, other animals, festival foods and entertainment.

See below for information about Vancouver’s annual PNE summer fair in normal years. Or, for PNE events and activities at other times of the year, click Playland or Halloween Fright Nights.

For information just about the music lineup in 2019, click PNE Night Concerts.

Playland still operated this year. It ran from July 10th until September 26th, but with only around 20 or so rides and only on weekends.

 

Admission to the PNE

For 2019 admission to the fair at the gate was $18 for visitors ages 14-64, $9 for seniors, $5 for folk ages 6-13, and free for children ages 5 and under. 2021 prices will likely be similar. In 2020, because it was a “drive-thru experience,” the cost was $25 per carload.

2019 Fair Ride passes for all-day access to the amusement rides were $46.75 for most folk, but for those people shorter than 48 inches tall they cost $35.75. Both of these prices were when buying your tickets at the gate. A way to save time in line-ups was to purchase the Ride Rapid Pass, which cost an additional $25 at the gate.

A good way to save a few dollars on admission is to purchase your tickets on-line.  See below for admission discounts in typical years.

 

Pacific National Exhibition
The PNE in a non-COVID-19 Year

 

Ways to Save at the PNE

In years when there isn’t a global pandemic, there are several ways to save money at the PNE. Below is how people could save in 2019, which was similar to most previous years. 2020 just had one standard per-carload price.

  • Purchase Tickets Online – buy your admission tickets and ride passes in advance online and save a few dollars. Admission rates are also discounted at the gate after dark.
  • Go on Special Savings Days including the following:
    • August 17th & 18th, 2019: free admission for First Responders (including current and retired ambulance attendants, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military, Search & Rescue and Coast Guard). Show your First Responders service card at the gate and one friend gets in free too!
    • August 20th & 27th, 2019: free admission for everyone arriving between 11 am and 1 pm on both Tuesdays of the fair. Arrive early, get your hand stamped after 1 pm, and then go and return later in the day as you like.
    • August 21st & 28th, 2019: Wild Ride Wednesdays lets people arriving between 11 am and 1 pm get 2-for-1 ride passes (so make sure to go with an even number of friends).
    • August 21st, 2019: Library Day means that people who show their BC library card and photo ID pay only $6 for gate admission!
    • August 22nd, 2019: seniors age 65+ get free admission and Ferris Wheel rides all day.
    • August 29th, 2019: Out at the Fair Day has free entry for those wearing Pride socks purchased from the Vancouver Pride Society.  If you don’t already have any, you can purchase a pair at the Hastings & Renfrew entrance with proceeds going to the Vancouver Pride Society.
  • Show Your BCAA Membership Card – BCAA members get 30% off admission and ride passes. See the BCAA website for details.
  • Show Your Vancity Membership Card – members of Vancity Credit Union pay just $8 for general admission between 11 am and 1 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and the Labour Day Monday.
  • Go Late and Buy a Twilight Ride Pass – ride passes purchased at the gate after 5 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays cost just $30.75 instead of the full price of $46.75.
  • Buy Your Passes at Special Retailers – tickets purchased at 7-11, Safeway, Save-on-Foods, PriceSmart Foods and Urban Fare stores are discounted, including by as much as $12 for ride passes. (Note: Tickets at Lower Mainland retailers are usually available starting in August.)
  • Download the PNE Fair App – download the app and show it on your mobile phone at the ticket gate and pay just $2 for admission on August 17th and 18th in 2019.
  • Savings Coupon Book – if you plan to spend lots of time at the PNE eating, drinking and doing stuff that costs money, then pay $2 for a Pinwheel Deals coupon book at any Guest Services location at the Fair. You’ll find over $350 in potential savings inside (although you’d have to spend a crazy amount of money to save that much!).

TIP: Don’t buy your ticket online or at a store and then show up on a discounted day during eligible discounted hours. If you do you’ll end up saving a few dollars off the regular full price of a ticket, but still pay more than you have to.

 

ZZ Top at PNE Night Concert
ZZ Top in Concert at the PNE

 

PNE Summer Night Concerts

Every year (except in 2020) the PNE hosts live outdoor concerts by rock bands of yesteryear, as well as the occasional country and rock groups still big in the present day. What’s amazing about these performances is that they are all included in the price of regular admission to the PNE, which is a fabulous deal.

For an idea of what to expect in a typical year, 2019 PNE concert bands are listed below. There weren’t any concerts in 2020 because of COVID-19. Hopefully big name performers will return in 2021.

 


Click PNE Summer Concerts for more details!


 

Admission to all of the above concerts last year was included with regular admission to the PNE, although seating was limited. Reserved seating was available, however, for a cost of between about $37.50 and $71.40. 2021 will likely be similar.

A minimum of between 2000 and 4000 tickets are usually available for free for attendees of the PNE (who need to still pay for their regular gate admission). These were available on the day of each concert last year starting at 11 am.

For the more popular bands especially, paying extra and booking your tickets in advance was recommended.

For a more comprehensive list of the concert lineup, click PNE Night Concerts.

 

Superdogs Ninja Dog
SuperDogs in the Pacific Coliseum

 

Special PNE Features

In 2019 the Pacific National Exhibition featured some of the fair’s traditional exhibits including its free SuperDogs shows, Kidz Discovery Farm, Duelling Pianos performances and the vendor marketplace. Except for the SuperDogs, these activities did not take place in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

PNE attractions for 2019 included the following:

  • The Superconscious Experience of Reveen – like his father before him, Tyrone Reveen entertained audiences with his powers of persuasion involving audience members. The show was daily at 7:30 pm in the Pacific Coliseum.
  • Snap Happy:  A Do-It-Your-Selfie Experience – this free pavilion exhibit offered interactive displays and exhibits. It offered an immersive experience with colourful and playful art installations to take selfies in. Located in the Rollerland building near the Pacific Coliseum and open daily from 11 am to 11 pm.
  • Game Changer Exhibit:  Discover the Evolution of Video Games – a free exhibit showcasing the innovative journey of the video game industry. You could explore the past, present and future of gaming through written displays. Located in the Garden Auditorium, the exhibit was open daily from 11 am until 10:30 pm.
  • Super Action Academy – let your little ones don their superhero costumes and join the fun as real superheroes in this new exhibit involving music and action.
  • Blue’s Dance Party – enjoy singing and dancing with Blue the Bear and his friends at the Toon City Stage.
  • Family Flix – new for 2019, the PNE hosted a nightly movie on a large outdoor screen in the Toon City zone.
  • For the Love of Drag – join various “queens” as they perform favorite Pop songs in full drag.
  • Mike Wood Comedy Show – laugh and be entertained by this Canadian performer.
  • Mama Lou, Strong Woman – if you thought you were tough, wait until you meet Mama Lou! She crushes fruit in her armpit and can bend a frying pan.
  • Pyro-Musical Finales – watch the skies illuminate with rockets, explosions and high-voltage power along with live performers at the end of the night.

 

Knights of Valour Jousting at the PNE
Knights of Valour at the PNE

 

Other entertainment also took place at the PNE in 2019 including live performances in the Festival Park at noon, 2, 5, 7 and 8:30 pm each day.

The Knights of Valour were also back again for another year. The live jousting took place in the Agrodome.

If you like crowds, rides, stalls selling all kinds of ware, farm animals and fairly high quality entertainment all for a very reasonable admission price, then the PNE is a great place to go.

In 2020, the SuperDogs performed and there were also agricultural exhibits. Everything was on display for people who drove around the venue in their cars.

 

PNE Amusement Rides

The PNE features close to three dozen amusement rides. Some are for kids and others only for extreme thrill seekers. Many of the rides spin, some drop and others just go around and around.

In 2020 most (but not all) of the rides were operating, but as part of Playland, not the PNE. On weekends in August of 2020 more than 20 out of Playland’s usual 30 or so rides were operating, and they continued until the last weekend in September. The PNE itself, however, didn’t have any rides – just things to see and enjoy from your vehicle.

 

Playland
Rides at Playland and the PNE

 

PNE Amusement Ride Prices

For a list of some of the rides at the PNE, and descriptions of each, see our article about Playland Rides.

At Playland, in a typical year, people buy a day pass and can enjoy the rides all day. During the PNE, on the other hand, some people buy day passes for the rides, some folk just buy tickets for individual rides, and some people don’t go on the rides at all – they enjoy all the other activities instead.

During the PNE most years, ride ticket coupons usually cost less than $2 each. Each ride then takes a varying number of tickets.

In 2019, all-day ride passes cost $46.75 at the gate for individuals who were at least 4 feet tall (i.e., 120 cm). Folk shorter than that cost $35.75, but they were restricted to certain rides. All-day ride passes purchased online were $3 cheaper at $43.75 and $32.75 respectively.

Below we have categorized the different rides. Every person is different though, so what’s a tame ride for some can be terrifying for others. It all depends on your comfort with heights, drops, speed and spinning around.

 

PNE Kids Rides

PNE rides for little kids in a typical year include Balloon Explorers, Bug Whirled, Cool Cruzers, Choppers, Cap’n KC, Dizzy Drop, The Flutterbye, Honeybee Express, Merry-Go-Round, Teacups and the Super Slide. All of these rides are pretty tame.

There are also amusement rides that are good for almost everyone, like the Ferris Wheel, Wave Swinger and Rock-n-Cars (i.e., bumper cars).

Most of the above attractions require riders be at least 3 feet tall, although, with a few, smaller children can still ride with a parent. With a couple of the rides there is a maximum height restriction of 5 feet, and, with a few others, smaller children taller than 36 inches still have to ride with an adult.

 

Medium-Level Rides at the PNE

Medium-level rides at the PNE include the Alien Abduction, Kettle Creek Mine Coaster, Flume, Octopus, Scrambler and Tilt-A-Whirl. Unless you suffer from motion sickness, most of these rides are pretty fun and not too over the top.

Some people also consider the Pirate Ship a medium-level ride, although it’s definitely on the more extreme end of this category’s spectrum. We list Kettle Creek Mine Coaster above as medium-level, but on the other hand it is also arguably at the high edge of the little kid-range.

 

Wooden Roller Coaster at PNE Playland
The PNE’s Wooden Roller Coaster

 

Serious PNE Rides

Some of the more serious rides at the PNE include the Wooden Roller Coaster, the Atmosfear, Breakdance, the Crazy Beach Party, Gladiator and Music Express. They all rip around pretty fast!

The most serious rides at the PNE are, arguably, the Beast, Enterprise, Hell’s Gate and Hellevator.

The other two most extreme rides at the fair are the Drop Zone and Revelation, both of which cost extra. With the former you are shot up into the air bungy-style, and with the other you are spun around and around from ground level way up into the sky.

Note that the Corkscrew Roller Coaster is no longer operational. Playland and the PNE are redeveloping that part of the fairgrounds to bring us something more exciting in the coming years.  Wait for it!

For more information about the various rides click Playland Rides Descriptions.

 

PNE Ride Tips

Below are some tips and advice to help you enjoy your PNE rides as much as possible.

TIP #1: If you don’t want to get wet, don’t go on the Flume. If it’s a hot sunny day though, and you do want to cool down, then head to the Flume early before the lineup gets really long. It’s an especially popular ride when the weather is hot.

TIP #2: If you don’t like spinning around and getting dizzy, some of the rides you’ll want to avoid include the Tilt-A-Whirl, Octopus, Breakdance, Gladiator, Scrambler and possibly even the Tea Cups.

TIP #3: If you’ve never been on a roller coaster and want to test one out, go on the Kettle Creek Mine Coaster first.

TIP #4: In our opinion, the ride most likely to give you a heart attack is the Hellevator, followed by the Wooden Roller Coaster. Rides most likely to make you queasy are the Enterprise, Revelation, Hell’s Gate, Octopus and Crazy Beach Party. Everyone is different though, so actual results may vary!

TIP #5: If you have neck or back problems, stick to the tamest rides (like the Ferris Wheel) and don’t even think about going on the roller coaster or even the bumper cars.

TIP #6: Proper footwear is required on some rides. For example, flip-flops and slip-on shoes are not allowed on the Beast or Hell’s Gate.

 

The PNE Fairgrounds

 

General Tips and Advice

Here are some more tips and suggestions on how to make the most out of your experience at the PNE:

TIP #1: You don’t have to go on rides to enjoy the PNE – you can easily spend the whole day just taking in the sights and entertainment. If you just want the rides, then you can go to Playland when the PNE isn’t taking place. If you do want to go on the rides, however, then don’t forget that ride passes are 2-for-1 on Wednesdays if purchased at the gate between 11 am and 1 pm.

TIP #2:  If you want to attend a free concert with one of the more famous bands, either get in line for early ticket registration in the afternoon or pay an extra $30 to $70 in advance for reserved seating as sometimes the viewing area fills up and PNE officials have to turn away disappointed fans (and no, the PNE doesn’t let you hold seats for your friends).

TIP #3: If you don’t like crowds, then the Pacific National Exhibition might not be the best place to go as it is such a popular place. Good times to avoid the masses though include rainy days and in the evenings from about 7:30 until 9:30 while everyone is at the concerts.

 

PNE Video

For a look at some of the many great things to see and do at the Pacific National Exhibition, check out the video below.

 

 

PNE Christmas and Other Winter Events

The PNE is most famous for its end-of-summer Fair and Playland rides. The place hosts major events at other times of the year too though, including at Christmas. A couple of years ago it was the host venue for the Aurora Winter Festival. Before that it hosted the Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival. In 2020 the Pacific National Exhibition hosted the PNE WinterLights drive-thru event.

PNE WinterLights happened on select dates between December 12th and January 3rd. At the 2020 event people could pile into their cars and drive around a 2 km-long route filled with holiday illuminations, Christmas-y scenes and live entertainment.

People who attended PNE WinterLights in 2020 got to explore 9 magical lands from the comfort of their cars. On their journey they saw all kinds of beautiful scenes. There was a Merry & Bright Forest full of holiday music, a Polar North land with snowy scenes and arctic animals, and a Dreamland area featuring a Teddy Bear Brigade and magical creatures. There was also a giant purple Christmas tree, a Candy Cane Lane, Santa Claus to find, and elves.

Admission to PNE WinterLights cost $39 for vehicles with 3 or fewer passengers (plus the driver), or $49 for carloads of 5 or more people. Online fees were extra and tickets needed to be purchased in advance for specific time slots.

To learn more see our article about PNE WinterLights.


 

PNE WinterLights Swans Light Sculpture
Swans Light Sculpture in 2020

 

Other Information

For more information about Playland and the PNE, check out the following:

For information on the PNE in October, click PNE Fright Nights at Halloween.

Other articles that may be of interest include the following: