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Alexander College Student Gabriel poses in front of the Vancouver Aquarium

Tour the Vancouver Aquarium: A Quick Guide

Written by Alexander College in Vancouver on July 7, 2023

Opened on June 15, 1956, the Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s first and largest aquarium with over 65,000 animals. The Vancouver Aquarium is also one of the five largest aquariums in North America – an impressive feat!

Not only is the aquarium a major tourist attraction in Vancouver, the aquarium also serves as a marine research and conservation centre.

With such an amazing facility in the heart of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, we asked our fellow Associate of Science Degree student, Gabriel, to take us on a journey through the aquarium and show us why the aquarium is such a beloved part of Vancouver through various fun facts about the sea life we’ll see throughout our journey!

Follow along on our journey through the Vancouver Aquarium as we learn about the aquatic creatures that live in the river, lakes, and oceans around the world and see why the aquarium is a worthwhile contender on any Vancouver attraction list!

Jump to a Section of the Blog!

Looking at aquatic life
Follow our tour of the aquarium!
Looking at turtles
Important information to know before you go!

Connecting with Aquatic Life

Aquatic fun fact #1: Seals are one of the only mammals that can sleep underwater!

Our first stop was at B.C’s Wild Coast and Steller’s Bay where we observed some seals and sea lions.

Our host, Gabriel, also found an interesting scale with a chart so visitors could compare their weight to various sea creatures. To his surprise, he only weighed about half of a sea lion!

Aquatic fun fact #2: Penguins huddle together to stay warm (humans can do this too)

While Vancouver is not quite cold enough to house the kind of penguins that commonly comes to mind, the Vancouver Aquarium houses African penguins – penguins that are native to the waters of southern Africa and live in above freezing temperatures.

Gabriel reveals that penguins usually huddle to stay warm but they have a rotation system penguins closer to the outside will rotate in and vice-versa. This ensures the entire huddle keeps warm in cold weather.

As of May 2023, the African penguins residing in the aquarium have moved to join a larger colony in Alberta in an effort to address the declining population of the species.


Aquatic fun fact #3: Otters are one of the few mammals that know how to use tools!

As one of the most popular animals at the aquarium, if not the most popular, the sea otter exhibit is a must-see! Gabriel describes how these smart and playful creatures learned to use rocks to break open shells so they can feed on the meat.

All the otters living at the aquarium are deemed non-releasable by government agencies since they were were rescued as pups and were too young to learn the necessary life skills needed to survive in the wild. Rest assured, the staff at the Vancouver Aquarium make sure the otters are taken care of and live fulfilling lives.

The aquarium offers livestreams of the sea otter exhibit so potential visitors can watch the otters swim and play at home.


Aquatic fun fact #4: Some frogs are brightly coloured to warn predators – even when they’re not dangerous!

Our next major stop is the Frogs Forever? exhibit.

Many species of poisonous frogs are brightly coloured to warn predators that they are dangerous but, as Gabriel reveals, some frogs have learned to emulate this colourful warning despite being harmless to predators. Quite the clever adaptation!

Gabriel looking at the display from inside a dome

Aquatic fun fact #5: Corals are actually living creatures!

The Tropics exhibit is home to beautiful coral reefs and colourful tropical fish. The exhibit also features a shark!

Did you know? Corals, despite their rocky and lifeless appearance, are actually living creatures. Aside from being pretty to look at, coral contributes to ecosystems that are home to over 4000 species of fish and other animals.

Aquatic fun fact #6: Sloths can be green from the algae growing on their fur!

Our last stop is the Graham Amazon Gallery. This special exhibit features a mini rainforest where creatures from the Amazon, such as snakes, sloths, and caimans, are housed.

Gabriel, noticing sloths up in the tree, reveals that sloths are green because of algae and other organisms are growing in its fur. This strange fact also has an additional benefit – due to this unique relationship, sloths are not prone to diseases like cancer or neurodegenerative diseases.

Studies are being done to see what we can learn from this symbiotic relationship.

Gabriel looking up at the trees

What Happened to the Orcas, Dolphins, and Beluga Whales?

In 1996, the Vancouver Park Board passed a bylaw that prevents the Vancouver Aquarium from capturing wild whales, dolphins, and other cetaceans for display purposes. Since then, the aquarium has only had cetaceans that were either born in captivity or deemed un-releasable.

In 2019 the government of Canada passed a federal law that prevents any Canadian aquarium from keeping or breeding any cetacean in captivity. Any cetacean already at the aquariums would be exempt due to a grandfather clause.

Since April 2021 where the Vancouver Aquarium’s last cetacean (a dolphin named Helen) was transferred to SeaWorld San Antonio, the aquarium has not housed any beluga whales, dolphins or orcas due to this law.

Gabriel looking at jellyfish

Visiting Information & Things to Know Before You Go

Located within Stanley park, the Vancouver Aquarium is easily accessible by car or by bus. There are three parking lots located within 10 minutes’ walk from the aquarium.

For those who want to take public transportation, the #19 bus stops just five minutes away by foot from the aquarium.

Since 2020, the Vancouver Aquarium now limits capacity by the hour. The aquarium strongly recommends visitors book tickets in advance for not only the best prices but also to ensure visitors are able to tour the aquarium at their desired time.

There are two types of tickets: General Admission tickets and Memberships. General Admission tickets are for single use entry and the pricing varies depending on age discounts and peak hours while Memberships allow unlimited entry to the aquarium for one full year.

As of time of writing (July 2023), regular admission is around $40 each while tickets for children cost a bit less at $25 each. Seniors and students (post-secondary with valid ID) can enjoy a small discount on regular admission prices (about a 12% discount).

Memberships are $75 each but you can still receive discounts if you’re a senior or a student. Having a membership not only gives you unlimited access to the aquarium for one year from date of purchase, but also gives you access to discounts and member-only events held throughout the year.

Once you enter the aquarium, there’s no need to rush! Visitors can stay as long as they’d like but typically visitors spend around 90 minutes to two hours to see everything.

Gabriel looking at a turtle

Unsure where to go? The Vancouver Aquarium website has a colour-coded map that is also available as a PDF!

The aquarium also has various food and beverage options so visitors don’t have to worry about food or drink while exploring the aquarium.

Once you are finished with your visit, you can stop by the aquarium Gift Shop and browse through the sustainable products made right at home by Canadian artists. The Gift Shop is accessible even to those without a ticket so feel free to drop by any time to shop for aquatic-themed merchandise.

Fun fact: the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has its own aquarium exhibit! This 114,000-litre exhibit located in the International Departures wing contains more than 20,000 plants and animals.

If you’re lucky, you may catch the Vancouver Aquarium staff doing a routine tank cleaning and they are more than willing to give curious travellers a brief presentation on the marine species housed in the tank!


Saving the Ocean, One Step at a Time

British Columbia is home to many natural ecosystems from our mountains and forests to our bordering oceans. Vancouver is home to many conservation efforts including the Ocean Wise Conservation Association who creates programs such as the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

We hope by introducing students to aquatic life and everything else Canada has to offer, we give them the knowledge and curiosity to help preserve these ecosystems for generations to come.

If you’re a current student at AC who loves to explore Vancouver, contact us at and you may have a chance to be featured in a future blog and video.

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Alexander College acknowledges that the land on which we usually gather is the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work in this territory.

Alexander College acknowledges that the land on which we usually gather is the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work in this territory.