a peek inside the fishbowl

31 May, 2016

A peek inside Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto (and a bit about Canada’s Wonderland)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|travel talk

We were in Toronto this past weekend to support our youngest daughter at a cheer competition at Canada’s Wonderland. I haven’t written much about her foray into the world of competitive cheerleading because that’s her own story to share. I will say this: I was quite surprised when she first tried out for cheer. I admit I had a bias to overcome. All I really knew about cheer was from TV and movies where it’s often portrayed as the domain of vain mean girls. BUT after a year of hearing all about their practices and finally seeing it in person, my attitude has undergone an 180-degree change. Newsflash! Competitive cheer incorporates elements of gymnastics and dance. It’s high-pressure performance that is physically demanding. I was so impressed with what I saw (although I still find the hair bows a little odd, but that’s just me).

Afterwards, she went off with teammates and the three of us did the rounds. It was sweltering, so we took it easy, and spent the latter half of the day in Wonderland’s water park. It was opening weekend of the water park and I don’t think they were quite ready for the sweaty masses to attend.

The eldest and I rode The Beast, one of Wonderland’s original roller coasters. I am too old to ride those things anymore. I thought my head was going to disconnect from my neck, it was so jarring. The water rides were very good, although our enjoyment was diminished by a few kinks including some unexplained – not to mention sudden – closures of the water rides, including one that two members of our party waited over 30 minutes to ride.

My favourite ride was this one:

At Canada's Wonderland

I boarded with trepidation in the company of my eldest. It started slow and it gained speed as it rose higher in the sky. The view was spectacular. Clearly, this is how it felt to be a bird.

This ride is called the WindSeeker. According to the Wonderland website, it ascends 301 feet (91.7M) and swings riders at a 45-degree angle at speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour. (!)

The highlight of our trip (other than our youngest’s amazing performance of course) was an impromptu visit to the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. We’ve been meaning to check it out since they opened, but it’s been a challenge since we don’t get down to Toronto very often. We had to grab this opportunity, even though it meant driving into the downtown core on the day of a much-anticipated Blue Jays game.

Driving and parking was surprisingly easy, only a few minutes away from the aquarium. We were there in no time flat:

En route to Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

Upon entry, it looked VERY busy. Visitors can buy tickets at the counter, at kiosks, or ahead of time online (which is a few bucks cheaper if you opt for timed entry). We opted for the self-serve kiosks and the line went quickly.

My first view was this, looking down into one of the touch tanks:

View of the crowd around the horseshoe crab touch tank: at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

Have I mentioned I don’t enjoy crowds? Well, I need not have worried too much because that was about the worst of it. (That, and the cafeteria. I wouldn’t eat there as it was PACKED.) The good thing about Ripley’s Aquarium is that it’s BIG, and the crowd spreads out. Within a very short time, we were deeply immersed (see what I did there?) in underwater life. We were not disappointed:

FIsh. At Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

One of the most amazing things at Ripley’s is a moving sidewalk that passes through a clear underwater tunnel in a giant aquarium, which is full of all kinds of sea creatures:

Tunnel of underwater life. At Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun. At Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

Tortoise overhead at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

There was much laughter, exclamations of surprise and cameras snapping. Very cool.

Surprisingly – or maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised – it was an opportunity for all of us to see and learn about creatures we have never even heard of before. (For example, the Sea Pen. WHO KNEW. Go look it up.) Also: cool and interesting versions of creatures we already know and love, like seahorses. This one gets bonus points for Extreme Camo:

Crazy horse! Sea horse, that is. Camo expert!

Waving hello

Then there are these dudes:

Funny faces at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

Creatures of the deep are so fascinating. This is a cuttlefish. It is like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s real:

Aliens probably resemble cuttlefish. At Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

And the rays! Wow. We happened to be walking by this part of the exhibit just as feeding time was about to begin:

Ray feeding time at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

As it turned out, one member of our party was The Ray Whisperer, unbeknownst to us. She waved, they came to say hi:

Meet the ray whisperer

And of course, there are the jellyfish. Honestly, they are magical. I could have stayed in this part all day:

Jellies! At Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

Yes, totally real. At Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto

It wasn’t all just eye candy though! There is a lot to learn here as well. One small example: they did a great job explaining a jellyfish’s metamorphosis. It was demonstrated with live specimens too.

Anyway, I can’t say enough about Ripley’s. In fact, I am already looking forward to another visit. Have you been? What was your favourite part?


2 Responses to "A peek inside Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto (and a bit about Canada’s Wonderland)"

1 | Misty Pratt

June 1st, 2016 at 1:26 pm

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Haven’t been to Ripley’s although definitely want to check it out when we’re in T.O. one day. But I will say I was a high school cheerleader, and it was freakin’ hard work!!! And also scary to be hoisting people up to great heights. Definitely a sport that deserves more positive attention!!

2 | andrea tomkins

June 1st, 2016 at 1:34 pm

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I guess I had an image of it being a very antiquated and anti-feminist activity. A bunch of girls, probably dressed provocatively, cheering the boy’s football team? No thanks! I was very happy to see that this is something completely different!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. 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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