Since it opened in 2013, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has been one of the most popular attractions in the city, drawing families, first dates, school groups and friends. I’ve always enjoyed visiting, it has a calming and relaxing affect that no other attraction in Toronto has. Due to the global pandemic, Ripley’s shut down in mid-March and after 4-months of social distancing and flattening the curve in Ontario, they’ve been able to reopen to the public. I had visited the aquarium just before the shutdown in March alongside a visit to the CN Tower as part of a partnership with Attractions Ontario. But now that they’ve had to change and adapt their visitor experience to ensure a safe environment for visitors, I revisited Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada to see exactly what safety measures are now in place and how the experience has changed.
Purchase Tickets in Advance
The first major change is the requirement to purchase your tickets in advance online. Tickets now have a timed entry, to ensure an even flow of visitors throughout the day. But once you’re inside, you can stay as long as you like.
Hand Sanitizer and Face Masks
Once you enter the doors, you must sanitize your hands. Automatic hand sanitizer dispensers are also readily available throughout the aquarium. Masks or some sort of face covering is mandatory, including children 2 years and older, and must be worn throughout your duration inside. You’ll then self-scan your ticket and then you’re welcome to start exploring.
Physical Distancing and Traffic Flow
Physical distancing markers are placed throughout the space and some of the exhibits now have stanchions set up to direct the flow of traffic.
There’s a lot to see and experience in the aquarium. Covering a total of 130,000 square-feet and containing 5.7 million liters of water, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has 13,500 exotic sea and freshwater creatures, representing more than 450 species. There are interactive and educational exhibits throughout to learn all about them and their environments. Some of the exhibits include Canadian Waters, Rainbow Reef, and my favourite, Planet Jellies.
The Dangerous Lagoon
The main attraction is the Dangerous Lagoon, a moving sidewalk that guides you through an underwater tunnel while sharks and fish swim beside and overhead. They’ve now revamped the experience as a ‘ride’ with surfboards painted on the moveable walkway to keep the 6-ft physical distancing space between groups. This spacing of visitors actually created a bit of a bottle neck with a lineup of people waiting to get through. I’m hoping with time, this will improve as this was the only time in the aquarium where I felt people were not adhering to the 6-ft distancing.
It takes 15 minutes to complete the entire moving sidewalk and I found I got that same awe-inspiring feeling watching the sharks and fish glide past me as I’ve had on previous visits. You’re not encouraged to get off your board, unless you want to exit the exhibit, and if you want to ride again, there is a hallway short cut at the end that’ll let you loop back to the start. In the past, I’d easily go through this exhibit multiple times, but depending on the lineup, you may only have the patience to do this once.
Interactive and Touch Zones
In terms of their Zones, some are open and some remain closed. Interactive zones are open but you must sanitize your hands before and after. Some of the touch zones are also open but the kids play zones and the café are currently closed. The dive shows are also not running at this time, but you can still pet the sting rays and watch the shark feeding every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm.
The Clean Team
One thing I was really impressed to see was a dedicated Clean Team. These individuals were constantly walking around the aquarium cleaning surfaces – railings, glass walls, and various surfaces. We all know excited kids and even big kids can get and how challenging it can be to stop them from touching things, so you can rest assured that the surfaces are cleaned very often.
One other thing to point out is that the gift shop is currently only accepting debit and credit cards, no cash.
As I mentioned at the start, you must purchase your timed entry ticket in advance. Visitor capacity has been reduced to just 30%, so to ensure availability, purchase your tickets online ahead of time. Early mornings appear to be the best time for minimal crowds.
Overall, I was really impressed with the new safety measures Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has put in place. I didn’t feel like it impacted the overall experience greatly and I was impressed to see everyone wearing masks and keeping their physical distance as best as possible. But if you’re still unsure about a visit, you can bring part of the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada experience right into your home through 4 live cameras showing live feeds of the sharks, jelly fish, Rainbow Reef and Ray Bay.
Note: this post was sponsored by Attractions Ontario. All views and opinions remain my own.