Ripley’s Aquarium (Toronto)

by Kevin Andrade (Festival Nomad Correspondent)

It’s Toronto’s newest and currently most popular attraction in a part of the city that’s already chock full of worthwhile destinations.

Since opening in late 2013 right beside the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors on a daily basis, not only through tours but by offering overnight stays, day camps and even yoga classes. As Canada’s largest indoor aquarium, it consists of 1.5 million gallons of water housing over 16,000 marine and freshwater species from around the world.

From where we got off the train at Union Station, it was less than ten minutes to walk to the aquarium entrance. The atmosphere of being one amongst the underwater life is created once you enter with dimly lit areas along the lit up tanks. The tours are mostly self-guided although occasional dive presentations are made during the day highlighting specific areas.

We began on the lower level which was home to inhabitants of Canadian waters. You can get very up close and personal with the species as you make your way along.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the setup is the Rainbow Reef where water is on either side but also above. At one point you can even rest your feet as the moving sidewalk gently moves you through the tunnel of underwater life. We got some very good shots of stingrays, turtles and sawfish among them.

Following that was the Discovery Centre, featuring a few “pop up” tanks that further create the feeling of actually being one with the fish. The submarine offers a unique view of life in the Dangerous Lagoon as well as a very different view of those on the outside.

There are also a couple of children’s “crawl-throughs” which, to those outside, also make them appear to be swimming among the aquatic life.  All provide ideal photo opportunities.

A natural source of interest for those of all ages is the shark area. One can see a convincing replica shark actually pop up while reading about just how a shark consumes its prey. Other interactive exhibits allow one to see the inside of a shark’s stomach, and how a shark sees its surroundings.

Want to “feel” a jellyfish’s tentacles? That’s available too along with a chance to see the real thing in the eight nearby tanks that are a part of Planet Jellies.

Adding to the natural attraction of the jellyfish is the backlit and colour-changing displays. For an actual up close and personal encounter, the aquarium offers a number of touch tanks where one can pet stingrays and other species.

As Ripley’s Aquarium is a place for all ages I am including a few thoughts from the two youngsters who accompanied me on this visit. Their comments are as follows. I think Ripley’s Aquarium was amazing! Some of my favourites were the star fish, sea horses and the sharks. I love Ripley’s Aquarium and give it five out of five stars.

One of my favourites was the Dangerous Lagoon where the moving sidewalk is. Walking is faster but you can save your energy if you go on the moving sidewalk. All around you there are sea creatures.

Some of them are endangered some are threatened and the rest are just ordinary fish. In the Dangerous Lagoon overlook, you can look down at the people on the moving sidewalk and it looks as though they are actually under the water.

You’re not allowed to pet the sharks there but you can pet the stingrays. One of them must have liked me because I got to pet him twice when he swam near me.

To avoid the largest crowds, it is recommended that you visit weekdays between 11:00am and 4:00pm. For an even more in-depth experience, Ripley’s Aquarium also offers birthday parties, sleepovers and day camps. Check their website