On a recent trip to Toronto my husband and I were looking for something to do with the kids. “What about that aquarium at the bottom of the CN Tower?” friends asked. Aquarium at the bottom of the CN Tower? It had been a while since I’ve lived in Toronto but I didn’t remember anything being at the bottom of the CN Tower, let alone enough space for a proper aquarium. My T.O. friends all assured me that the area around the Tower and the Rogers Centre had changed considerably since I’d last been in the area and that I was in for a surprise.
And I was. What had been a bit of a waterfront wasteland several years before is now a fairly pleasant public plaza and its newest attraction is the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. It is indeed located at the base of the CN Tower, but snakes several levels underground, making for an impossibly vast network of tanks that house all kinds of sea creatures. Another note: I was also thrown off a little bit by the Ripley’s branding — while this is from the same people behind the Ripley’s Believe it or Not franchise, there are no bearded ladies or two-headed boys here. Rather, it’s one of the most extensive and impressive aquariums I’ve ever seen, and as someone who often travels with small sea creature-loving children, I’ve seen quite a few.
When we went to the aquarium it was very busy — just a few months after it had opened, we found ourselves waiting in line for almost an hour just to get in and once we were admitted people were packed in pretty tight. Which meant that getting close to any of the sea life galleries required a certain amount of patience, but we had plenty of time and our kids patiently waited their turns to get close up to tank after back-lit tank of fish from both Canada and more tropical climes. There’s something mesmerizing about looking at glowing tanks of fish and even our five-year-old felt the calming effect of the displays.
While all of the galleries at Ripley’s are world class, the absolute highlight is the massive “Dangerous Lagoon” exhibit. I’ve seen similar aquarium galleries before, where patrons walk through a tunnel while sharks and other fish swim around and over top of you, but this one was particularly outstanding. This one part of the aquarium holds 2.5 million litres of water and features the longest moving sidewalk of its kind in North America. The moving sidewalk is key here — as you move through the tunnel (and it takes quite some time, it really is long!) everyone is arranged single file so there is no need to strain your neck to see around other people.
The Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada isn’t cheap to get into, with adult admissions set at $29.98 and kids priced at $19.98 (ages 6-13) and $9.98 (ages 3-5), but if you’re into sea life, it really is worth it. And, if you’re doing the tourist thing in Toronto, you can always cap off your day by taking a trip up the CN Tower or stroll around the waterfront area once you’re done.