It’s T minus two days from the event I don’t know is happening yet and my wife and I are talking while the kids are eating dinner. “Oh!” she says, with that tone which means she almost forgot to tell me something. Now I know that there will be an information steam roller coming down on me and I have to step out of the way. It’s happening, I just need to know what it is. “I almost forgot to tell you,” (yup) “we’re going to the Ripley’s Aquarium on Saturday. My mom is coming, and so’s my brother and his family.”
Cool. That’s cool. I can roll with that.
I’ve got three kids and there are a limited number of times I can plug them into the television to distract them and give me some breathing space before I cross over the bad parent line. I don’t want to cross that line. That means I am always on the lookout for wonderful, fun, distracting, educational (if possible) things to do with the family. Family time is very important. Family or not, I’ve got something that will scratch a lot of itches for you and yours, whether that means a family, friends, or just trying to find something wonderful to do with your afternoon.
Ripley’s Aquarium is right near the highway (Gardiner Expressway) right there with the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, and Union Station. Which, if you’re noticing, means it slots right in to a busy day (or couple of days) spent downtown, allowing you to see the Aquarium as well as several other major Torontonian attractions. It’s also such a convenient spot whether you’re coming in by bus, subway, car, or just staying at one of several high-quality hotels within walking distance of Ripley’s Aquarium.
So what’s inside?
It’s an aquarium.
But, just in case that didn’t sell you, let me tell you a bit about that trip I made with the family…
We decide to take the GO train in because the kids (especially my son) love trains and it’ll be a treat to ride one. We meet the in-laws at the station and board the train and the kids are definitely into it. But not as much as they will get into the aquarium itself.
The first room inside is a balcony overlooking a massive pool, and the pool is teeming with marine life. Turtles languorously drift about. Schools of fish, some multi-coloured, some camouflaged in beige and grey, go to and fro in search of food. Sharks lance through the water, calm, ever-moving, and even in an aquarium they feel as sharky as they should; part of the joy of discovering the ocean and its denizens is the threat and the danger of that watery world.
I point out the many, many fish to the kids and wonder to myself what happens if the caretakers don’t feed those sharks enough. I mean, I know what happens, I just wonder if that’s all part of the life-cycle of fish in an aquarium just as it is for fish in the wild…
Below the balcony we can see people, too, under the water, traveling through a long tube. They look up while we look down, and once we penetrate into the depths of the aquarium, we too will walk this transparent corridor and gaze around at the spectacular life hidden beneath the surface of the waters of the world.
Every room subsequent to the first one has its own surprises, its own treasures, its own experiences. You can touch a pair of buttons by one tank to experience a mild electrical charge. The tank next to the buttons is full of electric eels. Of course, you’re not being shocked, it’s not dangerous or anything, but once again you get to have that sense of the treachery of underwater life. It’s a struggle down there (not that it isn’t up here).
If you want to go through Ripley’s Aquarium and learn about marine life, there is plenty to learn. Panels, videos, and print-outs tell you all about the lives of the fish and the plants and even the ocean itself. If you crave knowledge, this is a great trip. I mean, if you’re a marine biologist it’s probably not new information, but for a guy like me, it’s plenty fascinating.
If you just want to go and bask in the awesome wonder of the sea, you can do that. You don’t have to “learn”. This doesn’t have to be bland and “educational”. But for goodness’ sakes, just looking is majestic. To see the way a sea creature moves, hides, or blinks is fascinating. To look at the colours and the terrain (is it terrain when it’s no longer earthen?) is inspirational.
But I got something else that day…
See, my oldest child is in kindergarten. I see her off to school in the morning, and in the afternoon I pick her up. In between I have the other two. I play, I read, I feed, and I try to get some freakin’ work done (!) with them all day, but my oldest, well…I don’t see her as much as I did before school. I almost never get one-on-one time with her as I did before her siblings came along.
My youngest loves her grandma and stayed with my wife’s mom the whole time. My son stayed with my wife. My oldest girl stuck with me. Not clingy, not afraid to explore, but just present with me. Talking to me about the fish, holding my hand, wanting “up” to see something better. I got a day with her in a way that I haven’t had in a year and a half. I’d tell you the price of the ticket, but for that day, who cares? What price wouldn’t I pay to spend that amount of bonding time with my daughter?
I mean, we’ll have a link around here to tell you the price, but you see my point.
Whatever you’re going for: a spark of knowledge, a flicker of awe, or family time long-craved, what can I say? Try Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown TO.
288 Bremner Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3L9