When you think of Toronto, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? For some, it’s the zoo; for others, the abundance of all-you-can-eat sushi. But for most, it’s the CN Tower standing at a staggering 1,800 feet over the city’s skyline—the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere. It has become a symbol for the city and receives thousands of visitors every day. Recently, the tower has been upgraded, with the addition of Ripley’s Aquarium at its base. Coupling these two attractions will make for a great day out and is just as enjoyable for parents too. Even better, they require minimal planning; you can turn up at any time, purchase your tickets and head straight on up.
Toronto is the capital of Ontario and is Canada’s largest city. Situated in Eastern Canada, it is home to nearly three million people, with the metropolitan area housing nearly six million. With its proximity to locations such as Niagara Falls, it is a hub of activity for locals and visitors alike.
CN Tower Observation Deck
The observation deck, referred to as the LookOut, sits at 1,136 feet, offering 360-degree views for one hundred miles in every direction. When it is clear, you may even see the plume of mist rising from Niagara Falls to the south. Your kids will be thrilled at the thought of being higher than everyone else and will squeal with delight when they discover what lurks just one floor below: the Glass Floor.
The name is pretty self-explanatory; a dozen panels of thick, reinforced glass have been placed into the floor at the edge of the deck, allowing both kids and adults to run, jump, lay down or do headstands whilst observing ant-sized pedestrians below. It goes without saying that there are tons of photo opportunities at the tower (including a professional green-screen photo of your family that can be purchased with a choice of backgrounds at the end of your visit), so be sure to take your camera up with you.
The SkyPod is accessible by a separate elevator that will whisk you and your little ones up another 300 feet to a smaller, more intimate viewing platform. Still indoors, you will see as far as New York State on a clear day and the view will have the kids gaping open-mouthed. For $12 extra, it can be worth the experience.
If your child is over 42 inches tall and you don’t mind watching them dangle over the abyss, why not book them in for the EdgeWalk, the CN Tower’s newest attraction? It will have them (and you, if you can handle it) leaning back over the edge of 116 stories, adrenaline pumping through their veins and giving them enough to talk about for weeks to come.
4D Simulation Ride
Once you have enough photos to fill three albums, why not head to the simulation ride before leaving the tower? Located in the basement and included in your admission price, the pre-ride film tells the story of the harvest of Super-Trees in “Himalamazon,” before visitors enter the simulator and experience what it’s like to be one of those trees during the growing process.
Although it has the ability to make some adults feel a little motion sick, the kids will love the twists and turns, the falling sensation and the blasts of air and misty water as the on-screen logs plunge down twisting tubes and drop into jungle lakes.
An Informational Movie
The last port of call before you head out to explore the aquarium will be the Maple Leaf Cinema, also included in the admission price, which will show you and your kids how the CN Tower was constructed from base to tip. They’ll look on in awe as they watch the Olga helicopter place the final topping on the tower in a precisely perfect exercise.
Before you leave, be sure to check out your family photo taken at the beginning of your visit – It may just be the perfect memento of your time as the most elevated people in Canada!
Less than a minute’s walk from the base of the CN Tower is Ripley’s Aquarium. Opened in October 2013, the site gives your family the chance to wander the corridors and see more than 13,500 different species of marine life, from jellyfish to sea stars, octopi to sharks.
A favorite for guests is the glass tunnels that will take you “under the sea,” where multiple varieties of sharks and stingrays will pass within inches of your outstretched fingertips. A slow-moving people mover will ensure that you see everything the exhibition has to offer and give you the chance to take photos of your kids grinning in front of these magnificent sea giants.
You’ll hear “oohs” and “aahs” emanating from mouths everywhere as the vertical jellyfish display changes color, lighting up the graceful movements of animals that are made up of 99% water.
Every few hours, the stingrays are fed in front of an enraptured audience of adults and children. Divers descend into the massive tank and hand-feed rays greater in length than the average grown-up. If you’re lucky, the rays can even “fly” up the glass, pressing their bodies against it and smiling at the crowd.
At the end of the aquarium is a “touch-and-play” pool, where your kids can reach into the water and run their hands along the backs of stingrays and small sharks, as well as crabs and other scary looking arthropods. The animals are, of course, completely harmless and used to being played with. Your young ones will relish being able to boast to their friends about having touched real-life sharks!
Why not try…?
To round the day off, why not get tickets to a game? The Rogers Centre borders the CN Tower and regularly hosts Blue Jays (baseball) and Argonauts (Canadian football) games and the Air Canada Centre is the place to go to see the Maple Leafs (ice hockey) and the Raptors (basketball) in action.
No game playing but still in a sporty mood? Toronto is known for being a sporty city, and local restaurants are not ones to miss out on any of the action. Head down to Shoeless Joe’s on King Street and your family can enjoy food ranging from beef sliders to peanut butter sundaes, all whilst watching a selection of sports matches from around North America.
At the end of a tiring day, what could be better than hearing that your kids could sleep and eat for free? If that sounds appealing, then look no further than Holiday Inn Express’ downtown location. Rates are reasonable, rooms are comfortable and you’ll sleep easily knowing that you’ve saved a few pennies!
Zulu Irminger is passionate about seeing new places and experiencing cultures that put him out of his comfort zone. A native of the United Kingdom, Zulu currently spends his time traveling the world. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with his adventures @ZuluTravels