Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto is Canada’s largest indoor aquarium. It’s a happy place and I think most kids who enter it will leave wearing a big smile. There are moments when it can be a little spooky though. Some species of fish are nocturnal and only swim around when their tank is shaded and the lights kept low. And it’s not everyday that you find yourself walking though a tunnel with big sharks floating by so be forewarned!
It has to be one of the top attractions in Canada and a must-see on the Bucket List for Kids. Everyone I know who has been there raves about it. That’s young and old alike. It’s so well done and the staff we met seemed happy too, and who wouldn’t be when you get to work with 16,000 marine animals including the biggest shark collection in North America and the most extensive jellyfish collection in the world.
When you enter you’re in Canada’s own backyard with 17 tanks of aquatic animals found off its Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in its lakes and cold streams. In tank #6, for instance, there are Sea Pins, named that because they look like an old fashion quill pen; in tank #10 you’ll find lumpfish with suction cups on their stomachs so they can attach to rocks; tank #12 has wolf eels that are a burnt orange colour when young, #15 has an anemone wall that includes 7 different varieties. There are also extremely rare electric blue lobsters from the Atlantic Ocean and other lobsters that are almost 70 years old.
Next you enter the tropical waters of the Rainbow Reef where you find beautiful fish with the weirdest names. There’s the Picasso Triggerfish that looks like it belongs in a Picasso painting; the black and white striped Humbug Dascyllus that just as easily could have been called the zebra fish; the Emperor Angelfish whose body is covered with horizontal blue and yellow lines; the Pajama Cardinalfish with big orange polka dots on its body; and many more.
The Dangerous Lagoon has the largest tank in the aquarium and is without doubt the most thrilling display because there are sharks as long as 3 m swimming around you as you make your way through a tunnel on a moving walkway. Little wonder if you’re a little nervous after you read that sharks – the perfect predator – have ruled the seas for 400 million years (that’s 200 million years before dinosaurs arrived!) and will eat just about anything.
We stopped for quite a while at the Discovery Centre because my young grandkids really liked the hands-on displays, particularly one imitating the 16 locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
They also had fun popping up in one of the underwater viewing bubbles—you never know what will float by—and placing their fingers on a horseshoe crab in the touch pool.
Then it was on to The Gallery featuring species that had to make big adaptations in order to survive. There’s the very pretty Red Lionfish that so happens to be one of the most poisonous fish in the world; the Electric Eel, which is actually not an eel but a fish and able to send powerful electric shocks; and the Weedy Sea Dragon that has small leaf-like add-ons so it can blend into its surroundings. There’s also a live coral exhibit here.
At Ray Bay, stingrays glide through the waters and then it’s on to Planet Jellies dedicated to jellyfish such as the Pacific Sea Nettle with paralyzing toxins, Moon Jellies with hundreds of short tentacles, and Upside Down Jellies.
At the end you’ll come to the Life Support System that pipes thousands of litres of water every minute to the tanks.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is open 365 days a year, 7 days a week. It’s located at 288 Bremner Blvd. in downtown Toronto next to the CN Tower.
We purchased a “timed ticket” online and our entrance was quick and orderly.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses™ 2015
I recently visited four Toronto attractions with my young grandkids: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the CN Tower, the Ontario Science Centre, and the Toronto Zoo. I wanted to avoid Toronto traffic as much as possible so opted to stay at a hotel in Scarborough, just off the 401, and from there it was an easy drive to the zoo and Science Centre. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool complex, which was a big hit.
We took a bus and subway to get downtown, which was straightforward and an adventure in itself. Locals were keen to help us when we seemed a little lost. We got off the subway at Union Station and took the skywalk—a new feature in the city—to the CN Tower and the aquarium.
I bought, online, timed tickets for the aquarium and City Passes for the other attractions, which meant there was no standing around in lines. (Sylvia Fanjoy)