I was recently in Toronto with my boys and had the opportunity to visit the latest downtown attraction: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the facility. Over the past few years, we’ve visited several excellent aquariums, including the New England Aquarium in Boston and the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. How would an attraction run by a private company in the tourism business — Ripley Entertainment — compare? We were pleasantly surprised by the experience. If you find yourself in Toronto and in the area of the CN Tower, I highly recommend a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.
The exterior of the building (located at the foot of the CN Tower) doesn’t give its purpose away, other than the signage. Once inside, it’s all about the sea and the Great Lakes (this is Canada, after all).
We went after dinner, so crowds weren’t too bad. In fact the aquarium seems to be open until 11pm most nights, and the box office is advertising a $5 discount after 7pm for summer nights, so late might be the way to go.
There are a huge variety of exhibits to view, including multi-floor tanks with some 15,000 animals on the premises. The exhibits are very kid-friendly, with low glass viewing areas, crawl tubes that extend through tanks, activity and educational stations, multiple hands-on tanks for touching horseshoe crabs, rays and other creatures and a play area. Conservation is emphasized, and at various times through the day there are feedings in the tanks with a staff member outside to discuss what’s going on with visitors.
Food is available, the washrooms were clean and free drinking fountains are provided. There are multiple sitting areas for tired parents.
Even the infrastructure supporting the aquarium’s many environments is part of the display.
The main attraction so far as the boys were concerned was the Dangerous Lagoon on the lower level. If you came to see sharks, this is where you’ll find them. A lot of them — 14 different species.
Dangerous Lagoon is the largest tank at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, holding over 660,000 gallons. What makes it special is that guests circle the winding perimeter of the tank through massive clear glass tunnels that allow the sharks and other tank inhabitants to pass overhead. We spotted a sea turtle, rays and a sawfish among the many sharks.
Even better, the tour is on a moving sidewalk – Ripley’s says it’s the longest of its kind in North America — that’s slow enough to ensure you get a great look at the exhibit, but prevents people from clustering up in front of the display for photos.
As far as I’m concerned, Dangerous Lagoon alone is worth the price of admission, but there’s still plenty more to see after that. And a gift shop.
In all we spent an hour and a half, but could easily have gone through Dangerous Lagoon a second time and spent a few hours.
Admission is $29.98 for adults, $19.98 for youth and $9.98 for kids — but that is in Canadian dollars, so if you’re visiting from the U.S. you’ll save a few bucks on conversion.
Disclosure: Ripley’s provided media passes for my visit.