Ripley’s Aquarium Canada is a public aquarium in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is owned and operated by Ripley Entertainment.
It is located on Bremner Boulevard, to the east of the Rogers Centre, just southeast of the CN Tower, and across the street from the Roundhouse Railway Museum. It is accessible from the Union subway station using the SkyWalk pedestrian pathway.
The building does not have parking of its own, but parking is available in several underground parking garages, and surface parking lots nearby. The nearest highway access is the Gardiner Expressway through the York Street exit.
It is open daily from 9AM till 11PM. It features 4-5 live diving shows daily, with a diver who feeds sea animals, while visitors watch through a glass wall and a specialist talks over a sound system about some “fin-teresting” facts!
Here are the ticket prices* (in CAD):
|Senior (65+)||Adult (14+)||Youth (6-13)||Child (3-5)|
|Express Anytime Tickets||
|Sharks After Dark||21||32||21||8|
NOTE: Yes, dearest Filipino seniors, you need to be 65 years old to avail of the senior discounts in Canada. Use 1CAD = 40PHP to approximately convert to PHP. *HST1 is not included.
This aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Museums and Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA). It is also designated as a Certified Autism Center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
Here are 7 trivia about Ripley’s Aquarium Canada:
1. It has 7 million liters (1.25 million gallons) of marine and freshwater habitats from across the world.
2. It holds more than 16,000 exotic sea and freshwater specimens from more than 450 species.
3. Construction started in August 2011 with a cost of almost $130 million, and opened to the public in October 16, 2013, with a floor space of 12,500 m2 (135,000 sq. ft.).
This was a joint project of the federal government’s Canada Lands Company (which contributed $10 million to develop the John Street Corridor to link Front Street with the Aquarium, CN Tower and the Rogers Centre), the Government of Ontario (contributing $11 million), and the City of Toronto government (which provided property-tax incentives of $8-12 million for the first 12 years of operation).
4. The building: (a) features a multi-faceted shell clad in large aluminum panels, with the roof of the main entrance giving the illusion of the earth’s crust peeling away to reveal a window into the aquatic world; (b) was designed with special shielding so that sharks would not be disturbed by its electrical systems; and, (c) has colored surfaces that juxtapose reflective aluminum soffits.
5. It has 9 galleries:
a. Canadian Waters – This gallery features animals from all the bodies of water surrounding Canada.
It has 17 habitats with 665,000 liters of water. Its Great Lakes Exhibit has over 100,000 liters, and the Pacific Kelp has almost 360,000 liters.
It features, among others: alewife, American lobster, china rockfish, cod, giant pacific octopus, paddlefish, largemouth bass, lump fish, sturgeon, and wolf eel.
b. Dangerous Lagoon – The largest tank in the Aquarium with 2.9 million liters of water, the Dangerous Lagoon features a breathtaking underwater tunnel with a moving conveyor belt (the longest moving sidewalk in North America). Visitors will be amazed by all the sea animals swimming overhead and on each side. You will take non-stop videos and photos, for sure!
Some of the featured animals are green moray eel, green sea turtle, green sawfish, longcomb sawfish, lookdown, Queensland grouper, roughtail stingray, sandbar shark, and sand tiger shark.
c. Discovery Centre – This gallery features various interactive exhibits and hands-on activities like the two unique, cylindrical underwater viewing bubbles, a pop-up research submarine (where you can enjoy the sensation of a deep-sea dive without getting wet), and a touch pool which allows visitors to touch living fossils.
The touch pool allows visitors to touch the skins of various animals like sharks and stingrays, with the expert assistance and guidance of aquarium employees. In fact, it holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest horseshoe crab touch tank, covering 37.9 m2 (407.9 sq. ft.).
Young visitors can have fun with a trip down the iconic clownfish slide, or play with a water table that replicates the complex lock system of the Great Lakes.
It is home to the blacktip reef shark, brown banded bamboo sharks, clownfish, cownose rays, horseshoe crab, palette surgeonfish, southern stingray, white spotted bamboo shark, wobbegong, and zebra shark.
d. Planet Jellies – This gallery offers a colorful display of 5 species of jellyfish, like the moon jelly, pacific sea nettle, spotted jelly, and upside-down jelly, exhibited in backlit kreisel tanks2 and color-changing displays.
It is one of the largest of this kind of gallery and one of the largest kreisel tanks2 in the world. It also has a ceiling exhibit so visitors can get another angle to view the jellyfish.
Our Life Cycles Exhibit showcases moon jellies at all stages of their life, from “polyp” (the stalked phase, when, as tubular shapes, they are attached to coastal reefs) to “medusa” (the reproductive phase, when they are adults and umbrella-shaped — called a “bell” — with tentacles hanging down, and floating among the planktons).3
e. Rainbow Reef – This is the most colorful gallery, and features animals from the Indo-Pacific water regions, with 200,000 liters of water, and over 100 species of fish, making it the most bio-diverse exhibit at this Aquarium. It also offers daily interactive dive shows.
Examples of species in this gallery are emperor angelfish, humbug dascyllus, pajama cardinalfish, Picasso triggerfish, and unicorn surgeonfish.
f. Ray Bay – This gallery exhibits 4 distinct species of stingrays and one species of shark.
If you get to visit during the daily interactive dive shows, you can witness aquarium divers feeding the stingrays, including the cownose ray, ocellate river stingray, roughtail ray, southern stingray, and spotted eagle ray, plus the bonnethead shark.
g. Shoreline Gallery – This gallery is located at the top of the Ray Bay gallery (see above). Visitors get to closely observe, interact and gently touch four species of stingrays – cownose stingray, roughtail ray, southern stingray, and spotted eagle ray.
It also features real shark eggs in the egg case, to allow guests to witness baby sharks swimming around within the “mermaid purse”4.
The adventuresome visitor can use the stingray barb interactive to learn more about how their stings work.
h. The Gallery – Also called Mother Nature’s Art Gallery, this gallery features 6 saltwater and 3 freshwater exhibits, with 50,000 liters of water, and some of the most delicate underwater species worldwide like the archerfish, electric eel, lined seahorse, lionfish, mudskipper, pipefish, piranha, and red lionfish.
It contains only live coral, grown on site.
You can feel the shock of an electric eel at the Electric Eel Interactive Exhibit.
i. Life Support Systems – This exhibit gives the visitors a behind the scenes look at the Aquarium’s life support systems room, especially the equipment for the Dangerous Reef and Ray Bay.
A significant number of pumping and filtration equipment is intentionally displayed in the public areas so that visitors can have a unique opportunity to see the complex environment of the Aquarium.
Sixty-eight thousand liters of water are pumped every minute in the Aquarium, using 10 pumps to deliver water to all the larger exhibits. Gosh, that is approximately 98 million liters of water every day!
Can you imagine that 95% of the water used throughout the building is recycled? Furthermore, the Aquarium has 5.2 million liters of Toronto municipal water running through carbon filters to remove the impurities. After this process is complete, the water is either circulated through the building for the Aquarium’s freshwater systems, or moved to a holding basin where salt and minerals are mixed in to create saltwater. Once mixed, the water must pass through water chemistry testing before it can be moved to any exhibit in the Aquarium.
Hmmm, you might ask, where did the 5% water loss go? Well, this loss is due to evaporation and human use in the washrooms and kitchens!
The foam fractionators use ozone gas to kill all of the microscopic bacteria. The clean water is then recycled out the bottom of the fractionator.
6. The Aquarium also features limited time exhibits like:
- Curious Creatures, from the travels of Robert Ripley – showcasing, among others, the frogfish, giant isopod, goldfish, polka-dot batfish, peacock mantis shrimp, and sarcastic fringehead; and,
- Swarm: Nature by Numbers– highlighting, among others, the blue bladder jellyfish, coral catfish, flashlight fish, and Halloween crab.
7. It offers 11 regular/seasonal programs: https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/programs/
a. Aquarist for a Day
b. Day Camps
c. Discovery Dive, a 30-minute guided dive so you can swim with the sharks!
d. Dive Shows + Aquarist Talks
e. Morning Yoga, in front of the colorful Rainbow Reef
f. Paint Nite
g. PD Day Camp
h. Photography Classes
i. Sea Squirts
j. Sleep with the Sharks
k. Stingray Experience
For more information, ticket pricing and annual passes, promotions, hours of operation and events calendar, weekly Aquarist Talks, galleries, programs, groups and events (group sales for more than 10 persons, request for an event, birthday parties, and Friday night jazz), field trips, sea scholars, teacher resources, meet our team, conservation, Deep Sea Diary blog, FAQs, parking and directions, hotel packages, dine and shop, accessibility bill of rights, tips for the best visit, preferred partner program, etc., visit https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/.
You can also: (1) download and print sensory guides, and (2) sign up for the “Scales & Tales” email newsletter with exclusive offers, news and behind-the-scenes information, in the said website.
Other contact information are: telephone – (647) 351-FISH (3474); toll free – 1 (877) 773-1497; TGServices@ripleysaquariumofcanada.com
The information was obtained from the following sites: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripley’s_Aquarium_of_Canada, https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/ as well as the brochure given upon admission.
First, here are some tips before you visit this Aquarium during summertime:
1. Schedule your visit during weekdays.
2. Check the official website for tickets and promotions, especially for groups of more than 10 persons.
3. Fully charge your cell phones, power banks and GoPros.
4. Bring only essential things since you will do a lot of walking and might easily get tired.
If you have kids in the group who tend to be excited seeing all the wonderful creatures, be sure to assign an adult for each of them, especially in the interactive sites.
An adult can bring a foldable chair, just in case a senior might need to rest somewhere where there are no seating provisions.
5. Bring water, drinks, snacks, and special food/drinks for kids, although there is a café within the building.
6. Bring CAD (cash) or your credit card for souvenir photos and shopping for souvenir items.
7. Educate kids before the visit to respect all sea creatures, not to tap on glass surfaces, to gently touch sea creatures, and observe silence so all visitors will have a memorable experience.
8. Encourage kids to actively participate in all interactive sites to maximize their learning experience. Bring 2 sets of extra clothing, just in case they get wet.
9. Check beforehand special events like the live dive shows (there are 4-5 daily) so you can time your visit to a particular gallery during such schedules to maximize your viewing experience. You can see the gallery-live dive schedule flashed on the wide screen at the lobby upon arrival.
Now for my July 2019 experience at Ripley’s Aquarium Canada: (I will insert pics in between)
The facade is so impressive.
My group just walked in to buy admission tickets. We did not avail of the online offer. However, this was not a problem since we easily got tickets.
It was a weekday during summertime but there were still so many groups and families all over the place. I was with my family, including a 7-yo grandchild so we definitely had to visit this attraction in downtown Toronto.
The lobby was spacious, despite the number of visitors that day. The ventilation was very comfortable, and we found ourselves going from one exhibit to another.
All exhibits were captivating, but I enjoyed the Dangerous Lagoon the most. As a senior, I appreciated the moving conveyor belt and the underwater tunnel. I could not have enough of the manta rays and sharks overhead, and the varied sea life all around!
I also got to admire the creative presentation of the different species of jellyfish in the Planet Jellies gallery, enhanced with the use of backlit kreisel tanks2 and color-changing displays.
My 7-year-old grandchild availed of almost all the interactive features of the Aquarium.
He patiently fell in line to touch baby sharks and sting rays at the Discovery Centre and Shoreline Gallery.
He got wet in the Great Lakes Locks while playing with other kids.
People tend to simply pass through the Life Support Systems exhibit but I shortly stayed there to know its importance to this Aquarium. Then, I looked up and saw a very unique and interesting work of art using plastics. It is called “Over Our Heads”, a sculpture using over 12,000 used plastic bottles from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)5, symbolizing the same number of plastic bottles thrown away every 4 minutes in Ontario!6 The artist is Rebecca Jane Houston7.
My group watched a diver feed manta rays while a specialist talked about these sea creatures. We learned a lot, and every time the rays opened their mouths to feed, the kids and kids-at-heart always shouted.
The seniors in my group were tired so we went to the café, and had coffee and fries.
The last stop was the souvenir shop, with various items, all so tempting to buy.
Overall, this Aquarium is definitely a place to visit in downtown Toronto for the whole family with kids who are curious and science-oriented.
Why not proceed to the CN Tower for dinner? Watch out for my post re this attraction.
I paid for my visit to this Aquarium and all comments are personal, based on my personal experience as of July 2019.
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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Canadians, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:
1The harmonized sales tax (HST) is a consumption tax in Canada. It is used in provinces where both the federal goods and services tax (GST) and the regional provincial sales tax (PST) have been combined into a single value added sales tax. This tax is in effect in five of the ten Canadian provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island. The HST is 13% in Ontario.8 & 9
2A kreisel tank is a special horizontal cylindrical tank designed specifically to keep jellyfish. It was created to eliminate elements in a regular tank that could compromise the life of a jellyfish, like corners and bubbles. You see, jellyfish are poor swimmers and they can easily be trapped in corners and bubbles which can tear through their bells.
4A mermaid purse is an egg case or egg capsule (the casing that surrounds the eggs of oviparous sharks), and typically contains one embryo.
5The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is the most populous metropolitan area in Canada. It consists of the central city, Toronto, along with 25 surrounding municipalities distributed among four regional municipalities: Durham, Halton, Peel and York.
6Over 1 billion plastic bottles are not recycled in Ontario and end up in landfills or the environment every year.10
7Rebecca Jane Houston is a Toronto-based artist who works on sculpture, installation, metal work, wood work, and oil painting. She is a faculty member of the Toronto School of Art.11