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It's the best time of year for car lovers – the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) kicks off for the 40th time on Valentine's Day. From Feb. 14-23, show organizers anticipate more than 300,000 people will revel in all things automotive.

The show unfurls through the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, occupying the 100, 200 and 300 levels of the North Building and the 600, 700 and 800 levels of the South Building. While the spaces are well suited, the connecting hallways and escalators can be a challenge, especially when crowds funnel out at peak times – when the doors open and mealtimes. Make use of the show's website (autoshow.ca) to plan your day.

GETTING THERE, AND AROUND

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Park your car, coats, and kids. If you don't use transit, expect to pay top rates for parking. Once inside, there is a coat check on the 200 level, where for a few bucks, you can ditch your heavy winter wear. Volkswagen is again sponsoring its Playcare Centre on the 600 level. Hand your child over to professionals (for free!) using a secure system of photos and wristbands (parents can keep tabs via cellphone), and your kids will be engaged with everything from face painting to DVDs.

All that walking is a good thing ... until it's not. Anticipate the limits of people in your party who might tire. No food or drink is allowed on exhibit floors, so note the food court on the 600 level. Strollers are recommended for children, and comfortable shoes are recommended. Levels with fewer exhibits are quieter, so the roads less travelled offer a break from the crowds.

CLASSICS

Canadian Tire has a tribute booth to Canadian racing great Ron Fellows. Check out his story, and his race cars. From racing to rare, Auto Exotica is back, featuring the prettiest and priciest from Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Bugatti and many more.

Ready for a history lesson? The Cruise Nationals are back for its 10th year, displaying the best Southern Ontario has to offer in pre-1975 restored trucks and cars.

DON'T MISS

With connectivity being a focus of manufacturers, it's exciting to see the CIAS, with Allstate Insurance, offer up a text-and-drive simulator. Called Don't Die Sending a Reply, it's a must-visit for everyone who thinks those statistics are about somebody else. It's on the 700 Level in the Sport Compact Evolution area. Even if there are lineups, see for yourself how deadly this can be.

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SHOPPING

The auto show is a terrific place to shop for a new vehicle, if not to actually buy one. While many manufacturers will have sales people from local dealers on the floor, they also have "product specialists", better equipped to answer questions about the vehicle than delve into costs and contracts. Any brand is happy to direct you to a dealer in your community.

DETAILS

When: Show runs from noon- 10 p.m. on Feb. 14; from 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. on Feb. 16-22; Feb. 23 from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building (255 Front Street W.) and South Building (222 Bremner Blvd.).

Cost: Online ticket orders cost 10 per cent less, but at the show, adults are $23, kids 7-12 are $7, a two-day pass is $34. The Family Pass (two adults , two kids aged 7-12) is $45. Children under 6 (with an adult) are free. All prices include HST.

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Over 60? On Fridays (Feb. 14, 21), those aged 60 and older (with I.D.) pay $11 admission.

More details: autoshow.ca

Interviews will be conducted by staff columnist Peter Cheney in the Globe and Mail Olympic lounge, South building, room 715. Public is welcome to attend.

Friday, Feb. 14

Car design: Leveraging the past while continuing to move forward

Guest: Sandy Boyes, Jaguar Land Rover, chief designer, interiors, advance design

Time: 3:15 to 3:45 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 16

The triumph of the SUV: How it became a market force

Guest: Laurance Yap, Porsche, director of marketing

Time: 11:30-noon

Monday, Feb. 17

The future of vehicle safety

Guest: Marc Engelen, CEO, Volvo Canada

Time: 11:30-noon

Saturday, Feb. 22

The connected car and the integration of technology to mitigate distraction

Guest: Fred Dixon, GM Canada, technology planning manager

Time: 1:30 to 2 p.m.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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About the Author
Drive, She Said columnist

Lorraine Sommerfeld began writing when she was about to turn 40, because it was cheaper than a red convertible. Her weekly column Drive, She Said, while existing in the automobile section, is a nod to those of us who tend to turn the key rather than pop the hood. More

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