We love visiting Aquariums! It’s one of those things that we make a point of doing in every city we visit. That’s why we were so excited when the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada opened in Toronto a few years ago. Now, we can visit a world class Aquarium in our own city, which we try and do as often as possible. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your visit with a little one.
Tickets and Timing
Since this is a world class attraction it is always busy but there are a few ways to beat the crowds! Make sure you go online and buy your tickets ahead of time. If you know what day you plan on visiting you can even save yourself a bit of money by buying for a specific date. The line to buy tickets is always huge but if you have a ticket you can basically walk right in.
Also, make sure you arrive early on the weekends (before 11am) or try visiting on a weekday afternoon if possible. The Aquarium tends to get very busy but because of the layout if you can get in ahead of the crowds you will be able to see and do everything without a problem.
Starting your visit
Once you get in it’s probably a good idea to use the washroom (especially if you have a little one with you) because it will be a little while before you come to another one and back tracking through the aquarium isn’t very easy. You will totally feel like a salmon swimming up stream (sorry, had to do it!)
If your little one is big enough consider leaving the stroller at home. The view from a stroller is never very good and it’s pretty hard to maneuver through the crowds with one. Shoulders are the perfect place to give your little one a ride and also allow them to see as much as possible.
Navigating the Aquarium
The first section you will come to is the Canadian Waters exhibits. This area is always very busy because it’s where the walk through begins. Try and pick exhibits that aren’t as busy so that your little one can get a close up view. If you don’t see everything, don’t stress, there’s plenty more to see!
Pacific Kelp & Rainbow Reef
Once you make it through the Canadian Waters section you will notice the crowds begin to thin out a bit. This is largely due to the fact that everyone is now moving down a massive ramp and looking at the HUGE tanks in the Pacific Kelp and Rainbow Reef exhibits.
There are also benches and seating areas in these sections for both viewing the fish and taking a little break. If you’re little one is a fan of finding Dory you will probably be spending a few extra minutes enjoying the Rainbow Reef exhibit!
The Dangerous Lagoon is definitely the highlight of the entire Aquarium! This exhibit, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is full of Sharks and other predators and it’s setup as a fully immersive experience where you enter a tube with water above and on each side.
My FAVOURITE part of this exhibit is the moving sidewalk. This means that everyone gets an opportunity to be right up at the glass and everyone keeps moving! The sidewalk moves super slow so you don’t feel like you are being rushed through and you get the best front row view the entire time.
If standing on a moving sidewalk isn’t your thing (or if you or your little one has had enough) you can always step off and continue on your way).
One of the best parts of the Aquarium are the interactive activities located throughout. There are so many fun hands on exhibits and learning opportunities that your little one will remain constantly engaged.
The Discovery Centre is the ultimate in hands on fun! We spent a good 30 minutes in this area trying out all of the different activities and playing in the awesome little underwater themed playground. There are tanks you can actually get into (or crawl through), fun touch zones & even water works play tubs.
There is also a snack bar, restrooms & plenty of seating so it’s a great place for everyone to take a break and relax for a few. This area obviously gets very busy so your little one might have to exercise some patience especially around the playground.
Once we had finished with the hands on excitement of the Discovery Centre it was time to move on to the Perfect Predators exhibit. This exhibit was really interesting because it also had a land predators component as well as some pretty neat hands on exhibits. The ‘see what it feels like to touch an electric eel’ exhibit seemed to be a particularly popular one (for good reason) it was actually a really weird sensation!
Next,we were off to Ray Bay to check out all of the various Ray exhibits. There are a lot more species of Rays than I was aware of! This section was also the quietest of them all so it gave us a good opportunity to really get up close and enjoy the displays without a ton of crowds.
Planet Jellies is so cool! We had a blast with all of the interactive exhibits especially the one where you had to try and ‘sting’ like a jelly fish to catch your prey. Granted, we weren’t very good at it but it was a tons of fun. This section was also really neat because lots of different coloured lights were used to help you see the otherwise translucent Jelly Fish.
Life Support System
This is such a cool part of the Aquarium! As you make your way back up a gentle slopping ramp you actually get a birds eye view of all of the systems that keep the Aquarium running. There are even hands on spots where you can move, twist and open valves to see how water and air flow through the Aquarium. This is also a pretty quiet section so if this kind of stuff interests your little one (like it did mine) you can spend quite a bit of time without dealing with a ton of other people.
On the way out
Once you pass the life support system exhibit you will have the opportunity to pose for a picture in front of a green screen and have some final interactions with little sharks and sting rays. When we went by the Sharks were on a ‘time out’ so we only got to look but we had had so many awesome interactions on the way that my little guy wasn’t the least bit upset. We also saw that people were actually in the pool with the Stingrays which looked like an awesome add on experience (when my little guy is a bit older). Finally, it was time to wander through the gift shop on our way out before saying goodbye to the Aquarium.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada was an awesome day and my little guy had a total blast! It’s definitely a must do activity whether you live in Toronto or are just coming for a visit.