We decided to extend our Family Day weekend this year and make the trip to the big city for a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto.
We’ve heard horror stories about long lines wrapping around the building and crowds of people fighting for a view of the tanks. We’re not ones for dealing with crowded places, but the desire to expose our three- year-old son to some new experiences pushed us to take the chance. On that note, I thought it might be helpful to share our experience, and provide 5 tips for visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada to make your family trip memorable and enjoyable.
1. Purchase your tickets online and go early in the morning or late afternoon.
If you purchase your tickets online, you bypass the ticket counter completely (lineups here can be super long!) and head straight inside the aquarium. When purchasing your tickets online, you have to choose an entry time. Try to pick a time as early in the day as possible to avoid the crowd as it builds up through the day or an entry after 3 p.m. to avoid all the school trips. There is no time limit on your visit — you can spend the entire day at the aquarium if you choose — and if you miss your entry time, don’t worry, you will still be allowed inside as soon as you arrive.
2. Take public transit.
We all know that driving into downtown Toronto is not fun on the best of days, and parking is costly and sometimes hard to find. We took the Go Train and enjoyed a relaxing ride to Union Station. From there, it’s a short walk along the Skywalk to the Aquarium. You don’t even have to step outside until you are almost at the front doors! This is perfect if it’s a cold winter day, or if it’s raining. The train can often be part of the adventure for the little ones as well.
3. Pack lightly and eat before you go.
Bring only the bare essentials. There is a coat check at the aquarium, but it had a long line to drop off and pick up. If you can, leave the stroller at home as it can make navigating through the aquarium more cumbersome. We managed to pack everything we needed in our good-size diaper bag. Outside food is not allowed, but we did pack a few small snacks for our little guy (a box of raisins and granola bar). Try to have a big breakfast or lunch at home before you go — if you plan to eat a meal at the aquarium, be prepared to purchase from the rather small cafeteria, which offers few healthy options and very limited seating.
4. Bring your camera.
This may seem obvious, but with cell phone cameras so handy it can often slip your mind. Parts of the aquarium are kept dark in order to see the fish clearly in the tanks and a DSLR will allow you to adjust settings much easier. Most compact cameras also allow for some manual controls. Pro Tip: Turn off your flash (increase your ISO to compensate) to avoid glare off the glass.
5. Have fun!
Don’t forget to have fun. The aquarium may be busy, but there is a nice flow to the facility that allows you to still get a good look at all the tanks. My favourite exhibit was the Jellyfish display. It was almost like a piece of art. Also, be prepared to exit through the gift shop. A clever bit of marketing that resulted in us purchasing a stuffed Nemo!