Friday, October 17, 2014

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada - Toronto

Girl in Edith Widder tshirt
If you are the first person to see a live squid you are going to get
 your face emblazoned on a kid's tshirt!
Ripley's Aquarium is one of my kids' favourite places.  This is largely due to it being an awesome place with lots to see and do and partly because both my kids love aquatic animals.  You know those kids who try to teach themselves how to speak dolphin?  Yeah, I have one of those.   My oldest daughter has a tshirt with Dr. Edith Widder on it.  We're talking hard core sea life fans here.  So it will come as no surprise that my kids had been anxiously awaiting the opening of Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto ever since they saw the sign announcing construction would commence about two years ago.  Even for kids who do not have a favourite marine biologist it will prove to be a fun and exciting day.  
My daughter's favourite creature at the Aquarium, the octopus.
But be warned - the place is packed!  We went on a P.D. day in our city which happened to not be a P.D. day in Toronto so we figured the place would be pretty dead. Wrong!  Wall to wall people.  It worked out fine though, the crowd moves in a pretty orderly fashion through the Aquarium and the tanks and displays are big enough that you can see everything even if there are people in front of you.  I had four kids with me ranging in ages from 6 - 9 and they were all able to see everything fine.
For reasons I can't fully explain these guys cracked me up to no end.
They were in the Canadian Waters section. 
There are several galleries in the Aquarium.  The first one is Candian Waters which lacks some of the colour and excitement of some of the other galleries but still features some pretty funny and interesting creatures including giant lobsters which were very popular with the kids I took to the Aquarium.  I can also say that I had never seen most of the creatures in this section and I've lived in Canada almost my whole life, albeit not under water.
The Dangerous Lagoon was my younger daughter's favourite part.
Next up was the Rainbow Reef  gallery which was bright and colourful and featured most of the fish kids know from Finding Nemo.  So, be prepared to hear shouts of "There's Dory! There's Gill!"  From the Rainbow Reef you head into the Dangerous Lagoon which I feel should have spooky music with a name like that but alas.  What it lacks in atmospheric music it makes up for in conveyor belts.  They have a moving sidewalk thingie that allows you to stand and look up at the ceiling and all around (the tank forms a tunnel that you move through) without having to worry about banging into people since you aren't looking where you are going.  As someone who fairly routinely walks into things, I have to ask myself why we don't have more of these.  This area has various sharks which are a big hit with kids, especially the Green Sawfish which is not at all ironically named.
Petting the wee sea creatures in the Discover Centre.
When you are done with the Dangerous Lagoon you come out in a play area and snack bar area called Discovery Centre.  They have some tunnels and tubes for the kids to climb through, a water activity and an area to pet crabs and I believe rays.  This was a big hit with the kids.  This is the one area where the crowds are a problem.  There is nowhere near enough seating for everyone to sit and have lunch and the line ups at the snack bar are crazy long.  We found a spot on the floor and ate the sandwiches we had brought from home.  Your kids may have to wait their turn to pet the critters.
Thanks to my friend Vicki Murray-Moore for taking some great pictures of
the jellies and other creatures.  
Next up is Planet Jellies, my favourite.   This area features all kinds of weird and wonderful jellies (not jellyfish!)  It is also quite dark so that you can get a better view of some of the flourescent creatures.  Some little ones might find the dark a bit disconcerting so keep that in mind.
A Weedy Sea Dragon.  Come on, that guy is freaky!
From Planet Jelly you go into The Gallery which is host to a wide variety of creatures most of them very weird.  The focus here is on the surprising and amazing ways that many creatures find to adapt to their environments.  From The Gallery you go into the Ray Bay which houses, you guessed it, Rays.  After that you walk through the Life Support Systems which is the heating and cooling equipment.  My kids found that more interesting than you might expect but it isn't exactly the highlight of the tour.

More jellies by Vicki Murray-Moore.
The final gallery is the Shoreline Gallery which my kids loved.  You can pet different sea creatures including Southern Stingrays.  The only way I could get my kids out of this area when it was time to go was by promising them something from the gift shop which is right next to the Shoreline Gallery.  

Some things to keep in mind:
  • Tickets are $30 per adult and $20 per child.  You can buy them online and in fact I would recommend doing so as they have timed entry so if you show up and want to buy tickets you may have to wait until the next available time slot.  
  • They are pretty accommodating with the times.  If you run into problems and are late they will just reissue your ticket for the next time.  That is a bit of a hassle though so I recommend showing up during the window on your ticket.  
  • They are right downtown so parking can be a problem.  Check out this map for the nearest parking lots.  None of them will be free. If you are on the GO train line, it is probably easier to take that since it is walking distance from Union Station.
  • They do sometimes offer discounts for going in the evening but then you only have 2 hours to spend there.  If you have little ones who won't last more than that anyway it is probably worth doing.  You don't need much more time than that to do the whole thing at a normal pace.  They also offer military discounts.  
  • There is a snack bar with a fair number of offerings but the line up was huge when we were there and there are not many tables.  You can find their full menu here.
  • The gift shop features the usual assortment of stuff at the usual prices.  I did manage to find baseball hats that were reasonably priced so that's what we bought as our souvenirs/summer hats.
  • You can rent strollers for $3 if little ones get tired and you want to keep looking at the creatures.
  • It is right next to the CN Tower so if you're coming from out of town you might want to combine the two attractions.  


  1. Watch video of the Aquarium at:

    1. Thanks, the video gives you a good sense of what it is like. I will say though that it was more crowded than that when I went.