a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Aug, 2016

Brockville or Toronto Aquarium? This might help

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

Earlier this summer we visited the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. I wrote a bit about it right here. Before our trip I did some research online about the exhibits and ticket prices. At some point – it might have been on Facebook – someone asked the same thing I was wondering: If you could only go to one aquarium – Brockville or Toronto – which would you choose? 

One person commented saying that the aquarium in Brockville is exactly the same as Toronto so it’s best to save some coin and just to go Brockville. Now that I have been to both I can honestly say, they are not the same. At all.

Last week, the four of us had tickets to visit the Kingston Penitentiary so we decided to stop in Brockville to check out the Aquatarium and grab lunch afterwards.

The Aquatarium is in a new building called Tall Ships Landing. It’s essentially a waterfront condo complex (although in their marketing they call it a resort) and the aquarium is on the bottom floors of the condo.

Parking was easy – there’s plenty of free street parking – and there was a minimal line up to get in and pay. We were given a map, some tips about an upcoming feeding of the river otters, and we went on our way into an elevator cleverly modelled to look like a bathysphere.

Here’s where I have to confess that I had pretty high expectations after having visited the aquarium in Toronto. I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly, although I knew the focus here was supposed to be a little closer to  home. (In other words, a greater emphasis on local marine life as opposed to tropical fish.)

There is certainly enough to see and do at the Brockville Aquatarium if you’re under 10. There is a large-scale ship climber with ladders and ropes, a hands-on educational display about the power of water (read: water tables for little kids who can dabble and experiment), and of course, aquariums with local marine life and a supervised touch tank with sea creatures like crabs and mussels, among a few other things.

Brockville Aquatarium

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Wee crab

Other parts of the building looked unfinished or temporary. A herpetology exhibit had empty tanks, a matching game, and a few items kids can touch, like turtle shells.

The part I was most looking forward to was the river otters. There are three living in a large enclosure. We camped out here until feeding time.

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I expected the staff to enter the enclosure to feed the otters, but they just slid their food over a glass wall. It was nearly impossible to see, so visitors were directed to watch the live cam in the theatre, which was a few steps away. I was disappointed until the crowds dispersed after feeding time. Most people left but this is when the otters really became active and got busy playing and wrestling in the water.

I gave up trying to snap a photo because it was just a mass of brown and grey and it was more fun to watch:

Roiling mess of river otters

What else? There is a ropes course and a “drop zone” that would be of interest to kids younger than ours. There is an extra charge for these.

There were some adults walking around without children. To be honest, I was wondering what they were doing there. Ripley’s in Toronto is much better geared to older age groups. That being said, if you have younger kids you’ll surely find a way to spend a couple of hours here. Teens would find it a little dull.

This map of the inside of the Aquatarium will give you an idea of what you’ll find there. It isn’t cheap (here’s the page with admission prices), so plan to stay awhile (at least for an otter feeding) to get your money’s worth.

We left the Aquatarium eager for lunch. I had done a little bit of research beforehand and we had a place in mind. We were not to be disappointed! More on that later.


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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