Toronto Family Fun Trifecta: Ripley’s Aquarium, Canada’s Wonderland, and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

Our family needed a quick getaway to celebrate the end of the school year, and we headed to our northern neighbor in Canada.  Toronto is only a three hour drive from our home in Rochester, New York and there are so many activities in the cosmopolitan city.  Towards the end of 2013 two new family attractions opened including the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre.  Combined with Canada’s Wonderland amusement park, we were able to cram a trifecta of Toronto family fun into one weekend.  Continue reading for more thoughts and photos recapping our family adventure.

Canada's Wonderland

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Nestled beneath Toronto’s Iconic CN Tower is one of the city’s newest attractions – Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the largest indoor aquarium in the country (opened in October 2013).

Ripley's Aquarium of CanadaRipley's Aquarium of Canada

The Ripley’s Aquarium features thousands upon thousands examples of underwater wildlife including one of the largest shark collections in North America (even sharks you can touch), 65+ year old giant lobsters and electric blue lobsters, jelly fish, eels, rays, and, of course, fish.  However, the true star of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is the Dangerous Lagoon with its clear-glass viewing tunnel that zigs and zags through the football-field sized tank.

Ripley's Aquarium of CanadaRipley's Aquarium of Canada

“I don’t know how many times I’ve said cool; it’s not a strong enough word to describe it.  I felt like I was going to cry multiple times because it was so beautiful.”  That was the reaction of our 16 year old daughter Maggie going through the Dangerous Lagoon.  The tank walls seem to disappear, and fish hover unobstructed above your head.  Your brain struggles to process the stimuli coming in – are you flying? Are you swimming? You lose sense of yourself and surroundings and become one with this Oceanic world.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Photos don’t do justice to this must-see attraction that’s jam packed with wonders.  Every turn elicits an oooh or aaah, and you eventually need to put the camera down and just enjoy the moment.  Families can easily spend the entire day in the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.  So savor the experience, and discover all the details and creatures inside the tanks.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Canada’s Wonderland

It wouldn’t be summer without a trip to the local amusement park, and Canada’s Wonderland with its 60+ rides and 16 roller coasters is the largest and most popular theme park in the country.  Canada’s Wonderland is located just north of the Toronto boundary in Vaughn, Ontario.

Canada's Wonderland

Owned by the parent company for Cedar Point, the roller coaster mecca of the world, Canada’s Wonderland is known for its scream machines.  However, those mega-attractions don’t appeal to everyone in our family, but we still had plenty to do.  Standout attractions for us included the Vortex suspended coaster, Dimensions: A Cirque Experience and British Invasion shows, and the brand new Wonder Mountain’s Guardian.

Canada's Wonderland

Wonder Mountain’s Guardian was my personal favorite – part roller coaster, part dark ride, part interactive shoot ‘em up.  Wonder Mountain’s Guardian was the perfect ride for our family with just enough thrill, excitement, and interactive fun of an epic battle with a dragon.  We rode it twice, and wished it could have been longer.

Canada's Wonderland - Wonder Mountain's Guardian

Wonder Mountain’s Guardian © 2013 CFEC Cedar Fair Parks


In addition to Wonder Mountain’s Guardian, we enjoyed the entertainment of Canada’s Wonderland – particularly the Dimensions: A Cirque Experience and British Invasion shows, both performances lasted approximately 30 minutes.  The Cirque show had wonderful clowns leading us through various acts/dimensions to feats of gymnastics, balancing, jumps, and tricks.  British Invasion was a musical revue through the decades of British Rock from the Beatles to modern acts like One Direction.  The show had fantastic energy and surprising, fun musical selections – parents will be grooving to the earlier acts while kids can bebop to later songs.

Canada's Wonderland

Finally, we loved strolling through the Planet Snoopy area of the park.  Sure this section is meant for little kids, but the shady grove was a great place to find a bench, people watch, and cool off.  Plus, the Peanuts characters are always good for a smile.

Canada's WonderlandCanada's Wonderland

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

Last stop on our Toronto Family Fun trifecta was the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre.  Like the Ripley’s Aquarium, the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto opened in October 2013.  It’s a large indoor attraction that anchors one corner of the Vaughan Mills shopping mall.  Like the LEGOLAND theme parks, the Discover Centre is aimed for younger families with kids ages 3-12, but our teens still had fun zapping skeletons and trolls on the Kingdom Quest laser ride and gawking at the LEGO model of the Toronto skyline (and beyond).

LEGOLAND Discovery CentreLEGOLAND Discovery Centre

The LEGOLAND Discovery Centre also features build your own race cars, a karaoke stage, climbing zone, Ninjago laser training, and multiple 4D films.  If you have a young child who’s into LEGO, this would be a great place to stop, and an even better place to hold a birthday party.

Looking for more places for Toronto family fun?  Check out this post from our friend Debra Peterson spotlighting the Royal Ontario Museum and Ontario Science Centre, or see Visiting Toronto for even more suggestions.

DISCLOSURE: Dave Parfitt and family were provided with complimentary admission to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Canada’s Wonderland, and the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre for the purposes of this post.  However, all opinions are those of the author.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.