Top 14 Must-Visit Car Shows in Ontario

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 10 Jul 2023

Car enthusiasts, rev your engines! Ontario hosts some of the best car shows in Canada. From classic cars to high-end imports, these events showcase incredible automotive beauty and engineering.  If you’re a car lover, you won’t want to miss these top 14 must-visit car shows in Ontario.

A Brief History of Car Shows in Ontario

Ontario has a rich car show history, with events dating back to the 1960s. Many of these early shows focused on hot rods, custom cars, and classic autos, reflecting the culture and style of the era. Over time, the types of cars on display have expanded to include everything from antique vehicles to high-end supercars. Today, the variety and scale of car shows in the province continue to impress, with an option for every automotive fan. 

For example, Motorama started celebrating custom and classic cars in 1950 and, after a hiatus, returned in 2015 to remain a Toronto institution. Every March, it inspires a new generation of car enthusiasts with hot rods and modified cars.

Meanwhile, the Canadian International Auto Show has roared into Toronto annually since 1974. This February show attracts car enthusiasts from across the country and features the latest models, concept cars and vintage vehicles. After that, the Importfest show, held in Toronto in July, highlights the best in import tuning and aftermarket modifications.

Why Ontario is a Car Enthusiast’s Paradise

Ontario’s diverse population and geography make it an ideal location for car enthusiasts. With major cities like Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton, you have plenty of opportunities for large-scale car shows. At the same time, small towns and rural areas offer unique events showcasing classic cars and antique vehicles.

For instance, Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, held annually in Owen Sound, features rare and exotic cars from around the world. All this gets displayed against the backdrop of Georgian Bay. Meanwhile, the popular Storm the Falls show in Niagara showcases classic cars, hot rods, tuner cars and race cars in September.

Get out there and explore some of the best driving roads in North America. The Niagara Escarpment offers winding roads and scenic views perfect for a weekend drive. The Bruce Peninsula, north of Owen Sound, creates another popular destination for drivers with its winding roads and stunning vistas.

Whether you have an interest in high-end sports cars, vintage autos or custom hot rods, Ontario has something for you. With a rich history of car shows and a diverse range of destinations, Ontario triumphs as a car enthusiast’s paradise. After all, they host some of the best car shows in Canada.

1. Canadian International AutoShow

The Canadian International AutoShow stands out as one of the largest and most significant automotive events in the country. As such, it attracted more than 350,000 visitors in 2023. This show takes place in the heart of downtown Toronto and showcases the latest in automotive technology, design and engineering.

The AutoShow has run for more than 40 years and has become a staple in the automotive industry. Since the show takes over the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, visitors can easily get there by public transportation or car.

Show Highlights and Features

The Canadian International AutoShow features hundreds of exhibitors, including major car manufacturers and custom car shops. With more than 650,000 square feet of space, you’ll find plenty to see and do at this 10-day event. Visitors can check out the most current models from major car makers like Honda, Toyota and Ford.  or explore custom cars, high-end luxury vehicles, and vintage autos.

At the Canadian International AutoShow, manufacturers unveil their new models and showcase their new designs and innovations. As a result, visitors can be among the first to see these new models up close and personal. In addition, the show also features concept cars that offer a glimpse into the future of the automotive industry.

This show isn’t just about cars. It also features interactive displays and exhibits that allow visitors to learn about the new automotive technology. You can participate in virtual reality experiences and test drive simulators. Further, you can hear about the latest advancements in electric and hybrid vehicles and plan to buy your next car in Ontario.

Tips for Attending the Canadian International AutoShow

If you plan to attend the Canadian International AutoShow, purchase tickets in advance, as this event can get very crowded. To fully experience the show, set aside at least a full day or two. Bring comfortable shoes, as you’ll be doing plenty of walking, and consider packing a few snacks to keep up your energy.

Ideally, try to attend this show on a weekday, as crowds tend to flood it on weekends. If you want to see a particular car or exhibit, check the schedule in advance. For instance, some exhibits may only open at certain times. Finally, don’t forget to bring a camera to capture all the amazing cars and exhibits on display.

Who is the Canadian International AutoShow for: Enthusiasts who want to see the latest models and technologies

How much does it cost to attend the Canadian International AutoShow: $26 for adults, $17 for seniors, $16.50 for youths 

When does the Canadian International AutoShow typically occur: 10 days in February

Where does the Canadian International AutoShow take place: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

2. ImportFest

ImportFest celebrates unique and customized car culture at an annual event in Toronto. This show features some of the most impressive custom cars in North America, including modified imports, lowriders and high-performance racers.

Celebrating the Import Car Culture

ImportFest calls its “Canada’s biggest and baddest car show” with a unique style and attitude of modified car culture. Visitors can expect to see an eclectic mix of cars based on the hottest trends in performance, tuning and lifestyle. The show brings together car enthusiasts to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into creating these amazing vehicles.

What sets ImportFest apart from other car shows is its vibrant culture. Since 2001, it has embraced a festival vibe that reverberates a subculture with its own style and attitude; and ImportFest is the perfect place to experience it. Visitors can expect to see cars that have been modified in all sorts of ways. Prepare for amazement at custom paint jobs and body kits to high-performance engines and suspension systems.

In addition to the cars, the 185-000-square-foot show features live music, dance performances and vendors selling car parts and accessories. It creates a great opportunity to meet other car enthusiasts and to learn about the latest customization trends and technologies.

Notable Events and Activities at ImportFest

At ImportFest, you’ll find plenty of activities to keep you entertained. One of the most exciting parts of the show is the competition for the “Top Tuner Car” prize. This highly coveted award recognizes the car that best embodies the spirit of the modified car culture. Judges evaluate cars on factors like design, performance, and creativity during a fierce competition.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy DJ sets, and even arcade racing and basketball games. In previous years, this show has welcomed NBA players and actor/drag racer R.J. de Vera of The Fast and the Furious films.

Overall, ImportFest is a must-see event for anyone who loves cars and customized car culture. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just starting, you’ll have a great time at this exciting and unique show.

Who is Importfest show for: Fans of modified cars, typically men between 15 and 40

How much does it cost to attend Importfest: $35.56 plus parking

When does Importfest typically occur: One day in July

Where does Importfest take place: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

3. Autofest Nationals in Oshawa

Autofest Nationals hosts a family-friendly car show that takes place at Lakeview Park in Oshawa. This two-day event features a variety of cars, from classics to high-performance imports, as well as a show and shine, “old skool reunion,” vendors’ row and kids zone. In all, expect to see more than 1,500 classic cars, hot rods, custom cars, trucks and speedy tuners.

A Weekend of Fun for the Whole Family

This event welcomes car enthusiasts of all ages. In addition to the cars on display, the event includes a variety of family activities. It begins on Friday afternoon and evening with Kars on King on Friday afternoon in downtown Oshawa. This opener has classic cars, live entertainment and a family zone. Register your car ahead of time to get a free parking pass.

Meanwhile, Tunerfest runs its own “show within a show” beachfront on Lake Ontario. It complements Autofest Nationals with a two-day celebration of cars spanning decades, alongside food, vendors and music.

Separate events include a poker run and Classy Classics Fashion Show. While in Lakeview Park, check out the silent auction of automotive collectibles. Organizers welcome all vehicles pre-dating 1991, muscle cars and tuners to compete for $5,000 in prizes.

Who is the AutoFest Nationals show for: Car enthusiasts who want a relaxed event where they can bring their families and their own show cars

How much does it cost to attend AutoFest Nationals: $15 for adults, kids under 12 free

When does AutoFest Nationals typically occur: Two days in late August

Where does AutoFest Nationals take place: Lakeview Park, downtown Oshawa and the shore of Lake Ontario

4. Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Expo

The Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Expo taps into do-it-yourselfers’ drive to create their own masterpiece. This show dedicates its exhibits to 200-plus custom hotrods and classic cars across 225,000 square feet of display space. This event takes place in Toronto and features sessions where people chop and rebuild high-performance machines.

A Show for Custom Car Enthusiasts

If you love custom cars and high-speed racing, Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Expo makes for a must-visit event. You’ll find all types of custom cars on display, with modifications ranging from mild to wild. There are also plenty of vendors selling car parts, racing gear, and other accessories.

Don’t expect a quiet day. Between the DJs pumping out the beats, you’ll hear the sound of saws and tools. The Mayhem Room hosts rebuilds that mesmerize visitors.

Highlights and Special Guests

The weekend offers tons of highlights from fun to fabulous. Meet and talk with podcasters, YouTube stars and custom builders after a series of panels and Q-and-A sessions. Overall, this event aims to draw you in and get your hands dirty – here or at home.

Check out the Miss Motorama Pinup Pageant, then a ceremony to honour 80 racing champs. Next, enjoy the Racing Zone Race Car Awards and Spring Fever Car Awards. The grand finale announces the $5,000 prize presented to the Motorama Grand Champion.

Who is the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo for: Fans of hot rods and short-track racing

How much does it cost to attend the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo: $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $17 for youths

When does the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo typically occur: Every year in March

Where does the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo take place: The International Centre in Toronto

5. Storm the Falls

Niagara’s biggest, most diverse car show unfolds in Niagara Falls over three days in September. Storm the Falls brings together hundreds of hot rods, classic cars, tuners and race cars, plus a variety of vendors. The fun begins on Friday night with a Pre-Meet ‘N’ Wash at Canadian Tire with food trucks, vendors, a DJ and a free car wash. 

Over the next two days, visitors will see a showcase of top-quality show cars then an after-party at Fireman’s Park. Bring your own to participate in an open competition with all makes and models welcome — no matter the build! 

Car owners can win various prizes, including best interior, wheels, bike, paint, wrap and stance. Additional trophies reward the best in show, best in class for 17 different models and other categories. For fans without fancy cars, you can join into contests for car limbo, exhaust and the two-step. 

Who is Storm the Falls for: Passionate and fun car enthusiasts of all ages

How much does it cost to attend Storm the Falls: $20 for general admission

When does Storm the Falls typically occur: A weekend in September

Where does Storm the Falls take place: Niagara Falls Convention Centre 

6. Ottawa Gatineau International Auto Show

The Ottawa Gatineau International Auto Show fills four levels in a convention centre with cars, vans, SUVs and motorcycles. This spectacular show welcomes more than 60,000 car enthusiasts from all over Canada every year. 

Brace yourself for the sight of more than 350 cars on display, including rare and collectable luxury cars. After all, 33 of the world’s leading auto manufacturers show up with their flashiest models. 

Show Highlights

Don’t miss Millionaire Mile with millions of dollars of exotic cars on the second level. You can get close enough to sniff the new car smell of Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Lotus. You can dream of buying one, let alone getting car insurance for your preferred model. Next, head to level four for the custom motorcycle exhibit then the bar and food stands.

Past shows have featured Hollywood star cars like the Batmobile from Brampton and the restored 1957 Plymouth from the Stephen King classic film Christine. It also showcased the Ferrari 360 Spider from The Fast and the Furious

The show opens with a VIP soiree featuring a wide range of luxury and electric vehicles, plus so much more. Due to the crush of car enthusiasts, buy your tickets early and try to visit during the weekdays to make the most of its special attractions. You can buy your tickets online or at the venue for individuals, school classes and large groups.

Who is the Ottawa Gatineau International Auto Show for: Car enthusiasts with a special interest in high-end cars and motorcycles

How much does it cost to attend the Ottawa Gatineau International Auto Show: To be announced

When does the Ottawa Gatineau International Auto Show typically occur: Every year in March, returning in 2024

Where does the Ottawa Gatineau International Auto Show take place: The Shaw Centre in Ottawa

7. Wheels on the Danforth

Wheels on the Danforth prides itself as Toronto’s only street-judged car show. Spectators can see hundreds of classics, hot rod, tuners, muscle cars and racers for free at this street festival. Watch for some movie cars as well.

Organizers invite everyday car restorers to register their cars to the show. “If it has wheels, bring it,” it invites. “New or old, we want to see your ride!” The event features two classic car shows, one in the morning and another late afternoon.

A Colourful Car Show Experience

If you’re looking for an outdoor car show with great food, Wheels on the Danforth makes the perfect choice. The show takes place next to endless restaurant patios with a range of international cuisine. In addition to the cars, visitors can enjoy live music, DJs, food vendors, artisans and buskers all day.

Activities and Attractions for All Ages

At Wheels on the Danforth, visitors also celebrate women’s fashions with Glamour Girls and Garage Gals. This contest invites women to doll themselves up in the styles of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. They express their femininity with vintage skirts and jewelry or channel their inner mechanic by tying up their hair and dressing down. Either way, they add a fun flare to the day.

Who is Wheels on the Danforth for: Car fans looking for a fun, free outing

How much does it cost to attend Wheels on the Danforth: Free to attend, $25 to $30 to enter its competitions

When does Wheels on the Danforth typically occur: One day in August

Where does Wheels on the Danforth take place: At the junction of Danforth Avenue and Danforth Road in Toronto 

8. Vintage Wheels and Wings

The Vintage Wheels and Wings show combines older cars and war planes in an admiration of classic styles. Anyone owning a car older than 20 years old can pose with it for a photo in front of an airplane. The $5 fee goes to support your host – the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton. You must pre-register for this honour and pay $10 to bring your car in.

Meanwhile, visitors can stroll the grounds to see hundreds of classic cars and airplanes. The day aims to celebrate the history of both types of machines. Since this all happens outside, the event thrives on good weather.

Who is Vintage Wheels and Wings for: Fans of vintage cars and airplanes

How much does it cost to attend Vintage Wheels and Wings: $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 15, free for younger children

When does Vintage Wheels and Wings typically occur: One Sunday in July

Where does Vintage Wheels and Wings take place: The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope, part of Hamilton 

9. Bothwell Car Show

The Bothwell Car Show delivers an intimate, small-town automotive experience that takes place in Bothwell, partway between Chatham and London. This event features impressive antique cars in the province, with everything from pre-war models to 1950s classics on display. In all, make time to view 1,600 vehicles all worthy of a good look. That’s more than three times the population of this hamlet of 500 people.

A Unique Automotive Experience

If you identify as a fan of vintage and collector cars, you won’t want to miss the Bothwell Car Show. This show features some of the rarest and most well-preserved classic cars in the country. Additionally, owners of restored trucks and hot rods come from all over North America to showcase their vehicles.

On Friday night, the cars parade from the arena to the park so you can see how they ride. Also, get your 50-50 ticket early since this has paid out more than $45,000 in past years. 

Tips for Enjoying the Bothwell Car Show

If you’re planning to attend the Bothwell Car Show, plan to arrive early to beat the crowds of 19,000. You’ll need plenty of time to take in all the cars on display and live music. Don’t forget to bring a camera – you’ll want to document the incredible automotive beauty on display.

Run by the Optimist Club and Auto News publication, this show definitely has a down-home feeling. Beside 250 vendors, you find food and drink stands run by church groups and service clubs. 

Who is the Bothwell Car Show for: Fans of vintage cars in a friendly setting

How much does it cost to attend the Bothwell Car Show: $5 on Friday, $10 on Saturday, children under 12 get in free with an adult

When does the Bothwell Car Show typically occur: One mid-August weekend

Where does the Bothwell Car Show take place: Victoria Park in Bothwell 

10. Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance

The Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance showcases the best in automotive excellence. This event takes place on the shores of Georgian Bay, offering a beautiful backdrop for some of the most impressive high-end and vintage cars in the province.

Showcasing Automotive Excellence

The Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance features some of the most breathtaking automotive artistry in the province. From classic Bentleys to vintage Ferraris, the cars on display at this event are truly extraordinary. In addition to the cars, visitors can enjoy live music, food and drink vendors, and even a fashion show.

Events include full-day participant tours, a free seminar with Porsche and Cars and Coffee in downtown Orillia. For fun, the show also has a Concours d’Lemons show with the finest in oddball, mundane, and truly awful designs from the automotive world. You can watch it for free but most register to include your vehicle.

How to Make the Most of Your Visit

If you’re planning to attend the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, dress comfortably and wear comfortable shoes. After all, you’ll be doing plenty of walking. You may also want to bring a hat and sunscreen, as much of the event takes place outdoors. Finally, be sure to indulge in some of the local cuisine; Georgian Bay is famous for fresh seafood and other delicacies.

Who is the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance for: High-end car enthusiasts with a sense of adventure and humour

How much does it cost to attend the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance: $59 for adults, $35 for youths, $150 for a family, $375 for a VIP adult, $187.50 for a VIP youth, $50 for the After Glow Cocktail Reception (not included in other pricing)

When does the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance typically occur: Each year in mid-September

Where does the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance take place: Cobble Beach Golf Resort near Owen Sound 

11. Burlington Car Show

The Burlington Car Show proudly displays vehicles from every decade in its annual street festival. This incredibly popular summer show parks more than 200 cars along downtown streets as visitors stroll by. 

On top of the cars’ entertainment value, visitors also get live music, local food and unique items from vendors’ booths. The day raises money for the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation and other causes.

Who is the Burlington Car Show for: Fans of classic, exotic sports and muscle cars seeking a relaxed setting

How much does it cost to attend the Burlington Car Show: Free to attend but expect to get asked to buy a 50-50 ticket

When does the Burlington Car Show typically occur: Each year in July

Where does the Burlington Car Show take place: Downtown Burlington, Brant Street between Caroline and Lakeshore 

12. Steering for Steer Friends Car Show

The Steering for Steer Friends Car Show features more than 500 vehicles and 2,500 spectators. However, it mainly draws fans for its star power. Fans of renowned car designers Dave Kindig and Kev Dogg from Bitchin’ Rides had a chance to meet them here two years in a row. Organizers also welcomed legendary entertainer Mitch Markowitz, performer Bill Nadeau and MC/DJ Angelo.

The show also highlights skills in working with cars hands on. It runs competitions on swirling and finishing paint and cleaning then polishing wheels and tires. For engines, contestants degrease, wire and polish to win. Rat Rods also compete using paint, decals and lettering to the highest level of craftsmanship.

Who is the Steering for Steer Friends Car Show for: Fans of hands-on car work and Kindig It Designers 

How much does it cost to attend the Steering for Steer Friends Car Show: $10 for adults, free for kids

When does the Steering for Steer Friends Car Show: Each year in June

Where does the Steering for Steer Friends Car Show take place: Markham Fairgrounds 

13. Drive Festival in Bowmanville

Now, we may have saved the best for last! This comparatively new show offers exciting rides over “three days of automotive nirvana.” Drive Festival lights up Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport Park) for a thrilling outdoor show each June. Fans describe it as an extravaganza with an electric atmosphere.

It highlights the best in new car technology while offering test drives on three high-speed tracks. Fans get to see and hear the best collections of exotic, current and classic cars roar along The Mobil 1 Dream Car Speed Run. They can also join ride alongs after viewing a vast selection of  cars and motorcycles.

The event draws car clubs and collectors for networking. And finally, trendy food trucks keep everyone fueled to the hilt. Overall, it offers a premier car experience with a mix of entertainment and automotive excellence. Its interactive experiences engage all ages.

Who is the Drive Festival in Bowmanville for: Car enthusiasts who want to get behind the wheel of their dream car 

How much does it cost to attend the Drive Festival in Bowmanville: Day pass: $21 for adults, $13 for youths; Three-day pass: $32 for adults, $23 for youths; kids under 12 get in free when with an adult

When does the Drive Festival in Bowmanville: Each year in September

Where does the Drive Festival in Bowmanville take place: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville

14. Classics on Kent

Classics on Kent is a charming small-town car show that takes place in Lindsay, Ontario. This event features classic cars of all makes and models, as well as food vendors, live music and a sidewalk sale.

A Charming Small-Town Car Show

Classics on Kent is a great opportunity to experience the unique charm of small-town Ontario. The show takes place on Lindsay’s main street, with classic cars lining the road and local merchants offering special deals and sidewalk sales.

What to Expect at Classics on Kent

At Classics on Kent, visitors can check out some of the finest classic cars in the province, including vintage autos and muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to the cars, discover food vendors offering everything from hamburgers to ice cream, as well as live music and other entertainment.

The Bottom Line

There you have it – the top 14 must-visit car shows in Ontario. Whether you’re a classic car lover, import enthusiast, or just a fan of automotive beauty, you’ll find something for you on this list. 

So, rev up your engines and start planning your next road trip. The open road and the beauty of Ontario’s car show scene await you!

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications