Tag Archives: tourist attraction

Ripley’s Aquarium aims for September opening

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: Construction work continues on the building exterior as Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada gears up for its September opening. Below is an artistic rendering that shows how the building will look once complete.


Ripley's Canada Aquarium rendering



Buy now: The wait to see Toronto’s newest tourist attraction is nearly over.

With its public opening set for September, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is now selling advance admission tickets on its website. The “pre-opening” passes, which cost $29.98 for adults and $19.98 for seniors over 65 and kids aged 4 to 13, will be valid for entry to the aquarium for up to one year after date of purchase.

The aquarium, which has been under construction since August 2011, has long targeted a “summer of 2013” opening. Thousands of Canadians eager to view sharks from the Dangerous Reef’s underwater tunnel had been hoping they could visit the aquarium during the summer school break, but construction didn’t finish in time. The precise opening date in September still hasn’t been announced.

Extensive information about the attraction is available on the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada website.

I posted construction photos in reports published on August 18 2011, August 17 2012, and October 14 2012.  Pictures showing how the aquarium site (on Bremner Boulevard at the base of the CN Tower) looked prior to construction can be viewed in my February 3 2011 report about the project.

More than 200 photos showing the various stages of construction during the past two years can be viewed in the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada album on TheTorontoBlog’s Facebook page.


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: Work continues on the aquarium’s main entrance as well as the new pedestrian plaza it will share with the CN Tower.



Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: A view of the aquarium from the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the nearby Rogers Centre.



Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

August 19 2013: “Pre-sale” tickets are available from the aquarium’s website


Construction starts on $130M Ripley’s Aquarium

Artistic rendering of Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

This artistic illustration shows how the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will appear when viewed from the east on Bremner Boulevard …


Ripley's Aquarium construction in Toronto

… while this photo from August 17 2011 shows hoarding around the aquarium site below the CN Tower, where construction has commenced


New tourist attraction: Construction of the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada officially kicked off yesterday when government and corporate officials gathered at the Bremner Boulevard building site beneath the CN Tower to announce details of the $130 million project.

Scheduled to open in 2013 with 135,000 square feet of space, a capacity of 1.5 million gallons, and 13,500 sea creatures, the facility — Toronto’s newest tourist attraction in years — will be one of the largest aquariums in North America.

Designed by Toronto’s B+ H Architects, the 3-storey facility will feature a 750,000-gallon shark lagoon which visitors will be able to observe through an acrylic tunnel with a 315-foot moving walkway.  The aquarium will also have a tropical reef, exhibits for Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific habitats, a Marine and Freshwater Education Centre with classroom space, a restaurant and a gift shop.

Construction actually commenced several weeks ago when crews began clearing the site, a large grass- and tree-covered knoll situated between the CN Tower to the west and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre‘s south building to the east.

The aquarium has been in planning and discussion stages for quite some time, but a summer construction start appeared imminent when city news media reported last winter that various levels of government were negotiating financial incentives in a bid to land the Ripley’s project for certain.  The City of Toronto is providing 12 years’ worth of property tax incentives (an estimated $8- to $12 million) under its Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology (IMIT) program, while the Ontario government is kicking in more than $11 million towards the construction costs. Canada Lands Company, the federal Crown corporation that owns the land on which the aquarium is being built, is also a partner in the project.  According to its president & CEO Mark Laroche, Canada Lands will spend “more than $10 million to redevelop the John Street corridor with new signage and other improvements that will increase and improve the flow of pedestrian traffic from Front Street to the site,” improving the entryway to the aquarium, CN Tower and Rogers Centre.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is a division of Ripley Entertainment Inc., which already operates two other aquariums — one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the other in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ripley Entertainment is owned by the Jim Pattison Group, Canada’s third-largest privately-held company. Extensive information about the Toronto project is available on the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada website.

Below are several artistic renderings and illustrations that the aquarium released to the media in connection with the official building launch ceremony, along with several photos I shot yesterday of construction activity at the site. Additional photos of the project site can be viewed in my February 23 2011 post, my first report on the Ripley’s Aquarium.


Ripley's Aquarium Shark Lagoon

 An artistic illustration of the 315-foot observation tunnel in the aquarium’s 750,000 gallon shark lagoon


Ripley's Aquarium main lobby

Artistic rendering of the Toronto aquarium’s main lobby


Ripley's Aquarium Tropical Reef

Artistic illustration of the aquarium’s tropical reef. In total, the facility will feature more than 13,500 marine creatures from 450 species


plaza view of Ripley's Aquarium

Artistic rendering of how the Ripley’s Aquarium will appear when viewed from the entrance plaza off Bremner Boulevard near the CN Tower …


Ripley's Aquarium construction in Toronto

… and a view from yesterday of construction trailers and hoarding on the site of what will become the entrance plaza depicted above


Ripley's Aquarium Toronto promotional hoarding

Promotional posters adorn the security fence around the construction site


Ripley's Aquarium Toronto construction site

Aquarium construction site viewed from the entrance plaza to the CN Tower


Drilling and excavating equipment on the aquarium site

Excavation machines and foundation building equipment in action on the site


Drilling machines on the aquarium construction site

Two red and black machines drilling near the Convention Centre south building


Ripley's Aquarium construction entrance

The construction entrance on Bremner Boulevard. The beige building to the immediate north of the work site is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada artistic illustration

… and here’s an artistic illustration of Ripley’s Aquarium viewed from a similar perspective from Bremner Boulevard


Toronto finally gets a “wow factor” attraction with CN Tower’s EdgeWalk for extreme thrillseekers

EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

CN Tower’s new EdgeWalk thrill attraction opens August 1


EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

Harnessed to overhead safety rails, thrill seekers will be able to lean over the edge of the CN Tower roof for the ultimate bird’s eye view of Toronto — from 116 stories (1,168 feet) above the ground


EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

May 8 2011: EdgeWalk safety structure being installed on CN Tower


On the edge: I knew something big was in the works when I saw something I had never noticed before on the roof the main CN Tower observation deck pod last weekend. I was walking along Wellington Street West when a glint of sunshine off dozens of white metal posts protruding from the pod roof caught my eye. My camera’s zoom lens confirmed that something was being constructed on the roof, but what was it? A new window cleaning platform? Probably not. A new addition to the tower’s night-time exterior light show? I doubted that, too. Roof repairs? Perhaps — I could see what appeared to be blue tarps hanging over the edge of the pod. When I got back home, I double-checked other CN Tower photos I had taken recently to see how long the posts had been up there. They didn’t appear in any of my pics from late March, so I figured that construction had started during April so whatever was being done could be finished before Toronto’s summer tourist season gets into full swing. The CN Tower website didn’t mention anything new, so on Monday morning I emailed the tower one of my pics to ask what was going on. I got my answer when I returned home a few hours later and logged into facebook, where my news feed was filled with links friends had provided to an online Toronto Star report about the CN Tower’s new EdgeWalk extreme thrill attraction.

Opening August 1, EdgeWalk at the CN Tower will offer Toronto adventure seekers the ultimate adrenaline rush. Securely harnessed to an overhead safety rail, groups of six to eight daredevils will get to spend nearly half an hour taking a “hands-free” walk along a 5-foot-wide, 492-foot-long ledge circling the roof of the tower’s revolving restaurant, the 360.The harness system will let them lean perilously over the roof edge to see how far they can push their personal thrill boundaries while testing the limits of their anxious loved ones (It puts a whole new spin on the expression, “Look ma, no hands!”).

Though I noticed the EdgeWalk support structure only this past weekend, the project has been in the works for nearly 10 months. Design took four months, while fabrication took another three. Installation is expected to take around two months.  Comprised of 36,000 pounds of steelwork, the EdgeWalk structure includes 112 pieces of 5-by-4-foot galvanized steel grated floor and 36 support arms. These arms are linked to two side-by-side 450-foot rails plus two 50-foot rails leading outside; one will be used for the tour group leader, while the other is for each group of EdgeWalkers.

The walks will last 20 to 30 minutes, but with pre-walk safety briefing, the whole EdgeWalk experience will take about 1.5 hours. The tower will offer two to three walks per hour, with up to 30 walks per day. The attraction will operate roughly from May or Otober, and the number of actual walks conducted will vary depending upon weather and sunrise/sunset times. Tickets will cost $175 and will go on sale beginning June 1.

Though this is an adventure I don’t have the guts to try myself, I think it’s a great new feature for the 35-year-old CN Tower — and a long-overdue new tourist attraction for Toronto.  For years, I’ve seen newspaper and international travel magazine articles raving about Sydney, Australia’s famous Harbour Bridge Climb, and last year I saw a television program that profiled the SkyWalk and SkyJump at the Sky Tower in Aukland, New Zealand. Toronto didn’t have anything even remotely comparable, and I thought the city needed a new drawing-card with a tremendous “wow factor” to put itself on the map. The best “wows” the city had to offer were already at the CN Tower — the Glass Floor, which was installed in 1994, and the world’s highest glass floor-panelled elevator, which opened in 2008. I checked out the TripAdvisor.com Toronto forums to see what local residents were recommending to visiting tourists, and thought the list was pretty sad. It included the Eaton Centre and the St. Lawrence Market, both of which might wow shopping enthusiasts and foodies, along with Casa Loma, Harbourfront and the Toronto Islands. The only attractions I’ve seen mentioned favourably in international travel publications have been the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Though the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal was named as one of “The new seven wonders of the world” in the April 2008 issue of Condé Nast Traveler magazine, I thought the city still needed something more — something really big and exciting — to catch international attention. EdgeWalk ought to do it.

Below is a CN Tower ad for EdgeWalk, along with some of my recent pics of the tower.

CN Tower EdgeWalk ad

From the CN Tower website, an advertisement for EdgeWalk at the CN Tower


CN Tower

March 29 2011: Installation of the EdgeWalk structure hasn’t yet started, as this photo of the CN Tower — shot from Concord CityPlace to its west — indicates


CN Tower and the Ritz-Carlton Toronto

March 29 2011: No signs of any EdgeWalk structure on the northeast side of the CN Tower, either, seen here peeking from behind The Ritz-Carlton Toronto


CN Tower

May 8 2011: EdgeWalk’s newly-installed steel support arms caught my attention


EdgeWalk steel support arms on the CN Tower pod roof

May 8 2011: A closer look at the EdgeWalk steel support arms


CN Tower viewed from corner of King & Bay Streets

May 8 2011: CN Tower viewed from the corner of King & Bay Streets

Go, fish! Governments believed ready to splash some cash to lure aquarium to base of CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium

Ripley aquarium

Architectural renderings of the proposed Toronto Ripley Aquarium

Shore thing?: Toronto may finally get a much-needed new tourist attraction now that various levels of government are prepared to pump millions of dollars into the project — a Ripley Aquarium that will sit at the base of the CN Tower off Bremner Blvd.

In a story posted on its website last night, the Toronto Star reports that governments are prepared to take the plunge and invest taxpayer dollars in the aquarium project because of the obvious spin-off economic benefits such a major attraction would provide to the city. Ripley’s had applied to the city in November 2009 for zoning approval to build the three-storey entertainment complex which would include the aquarium as well as retail and restaurant facilities. The City gave approval last summer, but negotiations have continued to work out project details. Now the project is even closer to fruition, with sources telling the Star that construction is on the horizon since contracts could be signed as early as this summer. If so, the 150,000-square-foot attraction could be ready in time for the Pan Am Games in July 2015. 

One of the aquarium’s top tourist draws will be “the largest underwater tunnel in North America,” Ripley’s Entertainment president Jim Pattison Jr. told the Star. “There will be tens of thousands of different (marine) animals,  and some features that will be unique to Toronto,” he said. Further details about potential government investment in the aquarium are outlined in the Star story available at this link. Additional information about the Ripley’s Aquarium and its location beneath the CN Tower is provided in a public art plan that was submitted to the city’s Public Art Commission last July.

Building the aquarium beneath the CN Tower is a brilliant idea, I think, since the Tower draws nearly 2 million visitors a year to the area, and the Rogers Centre and convention centre are both right next door. Other nearby tourist draws include the Air Canada Centre just a five-minute walk away on Bremner Blvd., and Harbourfront just a 10-minute walk to the south. Toronto desperately needs more tourist attractions; as the Star points out, the Hockey Hall of Fame was the last major tourist attraction to open in the city, and that was 20 years ago.

It’s almost embarrassing to read the Toronto forum on TripAdvisor.com and see how short the list of city tourist attractions actually is (besides recommending visits to the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Eaton Centre, Hockey Hall of Fame and CN Tower, locals usually recommend tourists leave the city for day trips to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake instead.)

Personally, I’ll be thrilled to see construction commence since I have heard talk about bringing an aquarium to Toronto since I moved here nearly 30 years ago. That’s been more than enough time for talk and wishful thinking. It’s high time now to finally get this project going!

Below are some photos I’ve taken of the proposed aquarium site — presently a grassy knoll between the CN Tower and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Aquarium development proposal sign

Aquarium development proposal sign near the CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium site

CN Tower observation deck view of proposed Ripley Aquarium site Nov. 2 2010

Ripley Aquarium site

View towards the Ripley Aquarium site from the base of the CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium site

Aquarium site viewed from walkway along the east side of the Rogers Centre

Ripley Aquarium site

The aquarium would be built on this grassy hillside beneath the CN Tower

Ripley Aquarium site

View toward the Ripley Aquarium site from the south side of Bremner Blvd.