Vancouver Aquarium

What to See at the Vancouver Aquarium

Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Kelly

The Vancouver Aquarium has been a primary attraction in Vancouver BC since 1956. It was Canada’s first public aquarium. Each year, over one million people visit the Vancouver Aquarium. The Vancouver Aquarium has over 30 exhibits and 65,000 animals, so there is a lot to see! We have visited the Vancouver Aquarium on several occasions, and we’re excited to share with you some of our favorite things to see at the Vancouver Aquarium. We include our photos and recommendations to make the most of your experience!

Kelly from Our Adventure Journal at the Vancouver Aquarium
Baby’s first trip to the aquarium!

Our Experience at the Vancouver Aquarium

We spent a weekend in Vancouver with our baby, and it was her first international trip! The highlight of this trip to Vancouver was definitely the Vancouver Aquarium. It was the first time we took our baby to a place where she seemed to really “get into” the experience. She couldn’t stop looking at the bright tanks and colorful fish! For that reason, the Vancouver Aquarium will always be a special place for us.


Tickets to the Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium‘s hours shift depending on the season. See their ticketing page for more information. 

Currently, tickets must be reserved online in advance of your visit. Tickets prices vary depending on the date and time you choose to visit. There are discounts for seniors, students, and children. (Children 2 years old and under are admitted for free.) 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

If you are particularly interested in nature, you can book a private tour of the Vancouver Aquarium and the Bloedel Conservatory.


What to See at the Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium has a number of interesting exhibits:

  • Steller’s Bay: This exhibit is dedicated to Steller sea lions. The exhibit features an active research station and large glass windows to watch the sea lions swim. 
  • Sea Otters: The sea otters that you see at the Vancouver Aquarium were all rescued as orphaned pups. They aren’t able to be released back into the wild because they were orphaned so young. Thankfully, the Vancouver Aquarium has a lovely home for them. We learned that sea otters are pretty high maintenance… they spend 30% of their day grooming! Otters are one of my favorite animals. They are so fun to watch!
  • Pacific Canada Pavilion: This exhibit focuses on the marine life native to the Vancouver area. At the Strait of Georgia exhibit, you can get an above level view and a “deep dive view”. The exhibit contains crabs, rockfishes, and sturgeon. 
  • Penguin Point: Penguins from South Africa are the stars of this exhibit. The exhibit has an upper viewing area, or you can get up close and see the penguins in action. African penguins are now an endangered species, so it’s important that we protect them. These penguins were bred as part of a Species Survival Plan. 
  • Canada’s Arctic: In the far north of Canada, there is a large marine habitat beneath the arctic ice. This exhibit shows you what’s beneath the ice and how climate change is altering the habitat. 
  • Teck Connections and Engagement Galleries: At the entrance of the aquarium, there is a 360 degree uninterrupted screen that provides an introduction to what you will see at the aquarium. 
  • Frogs Forever?: This exhibit focuses on the future of frogs, as many of the species are in peril of extinction. Amphibians represent the single largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs. This exhibit will show you what needs to change to protect these species.
  • Chief of the Undersea World: The large bronze statue of a killer whale outside of the aquarium’s entrance was created by artist Bill Reid. The statue is of “Skaana”, the chief of the world underneath the waves.
  • Clownfish Cove: This is a children’s area designed for kids 8 years old and under. There is a dock, “underwater” tunnels, an animal rescue center, and a touch table.
  • Touch Pools: You’ll be able to touch giant sea cucumbers and anemones. There is typically a staff member or a volunteer present to teach you about the various animals.
  • Wet Lab: When this space is not being used by students, it’s open to the public. You’ll get to see a variety of sea animals up close and personal.
  • Graham Amazon Gallery: You’ll notice a definite departure as you leave the local marine life area to the exhibit dedicated to the rainforest and the Amazon. 
  • Marine Mammal Rescue: This new exhibit features animals that have found sanctuary at the aquarium. The animals in this exhibit have been assessed as non-releasable by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. You’ll see lots of sea lions and seals.
  • The Tropics: You’ll see jellyfish, colorful fish, and a rescued turtle.  
  • 4D Experience: This theater will have you immersed underwater. The theater utilizes the following effects: sound, smell, touch, lights, and weather effects in addition to the screen. 
  • Treasures of the BC Coast: Wonder what’s beneath the waters of British Columbia? This exhibit is for you. There’s seastars and a giant Pacific Octupus, which is the largest octopus species in the world. 
  • Jellies: Definitely not something you want to run into while swimming, but amazing to watch in a tank! You’ll see a variety of different species in this exhibit.

Vancouver Aquarium


Dining at the Vancouver Aquarium

There are three places to dine at the Vancouver Aquarium. The first is the Courtyard Cafe & Coffee Bar. They sell burgers, sandwiches, salads, and pastries. The second is the Upstream Bar + Grill. The last is the Bicycle Bistro, which is open seasonally.

All of the seafood sold at the Vancouver Aquarium is from Ocean Wise, which is a program that emphasizes sustainability practices.

We had lunch at the aquarium and had an okay experience. It wasn’t our favorite place to eat in Vancouver, but it definitely hit the spot!

Looking for a hotel in Vancouver? Check out the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver! You can read all about our experience at JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, where we share more photos of the hotel.


How to Get to the Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is located within Stanley Park. The Vancouver Aquarium is just a 5-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. (You can also walk or bike from downtown. It’s about a 20-minute walk and a 10-minute bike ride.) There are paid parking lots near the aquarium.

There are some outdoor exhibits at the aquarium, so bringing a rain jacket is a good idea! It drizzled a little bit while we were visiting, so it’s good to have a jacket handy.


Activities Near the Vancouver Aquarium

  • Stanley Park: The Vancouver Aquarium is located within Stanley Park, so you should definitely see the rest of the park when you are finished at the aquarium. If you only have time to do a couple of things at the park, we recommend walking some of the Seawall (the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path) and visiting the Brockton Point Totem Poles. 
  • Granville Island Public Market: One of our favorite things to do while traveling is eat, and Vancouver has one incredible food scene. We recommend that you visit Granville Island Public Market and try some of the city’s most famous foods. Make sure you stop at Lee’s Donuts! Be sure to see our recommendations for Granville Island Public Market.
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge: Just a bit north of Stanley Park is Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. You’ll be just outside of the city, but it feels like a world away because you are so immersed in the forest. The super long suspension bridge crosses a river. The park also contains the Treetop Adventure (a series of rope bridges and platforms in the forest canopy) and the Cliffwalk (a bridge jutting out of the cliff face). To see lots of photos of Capilano Suspension Bridge, check out our blog post!
If you’re planning to visit Vancouver, be sure to check out our post on how to spend a weekend in Vancouver. We share the must-see attractions, the best places to eat, and where to stay to make the most of your trip to Vancouver BC. You’ll also want to check out our guide on the best places to eat in Vancouver

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Vancouver Aquarium ethical?

The Vancouver Aquarium works with independent professional organizations for regular accreditation inspections. Some of its partnerships include the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, American Humane Conservation Initiative, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Vancouver Aquarium decided not to keep whales and dolphins in captivity. 

The aquarium participates in a number of research and conservation efforts, including Ocean Wise Seafood (focused on sustainable seafood), the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (focused on picking up garbage at beaches), the Marine Mammal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program (focusing on rescuing injured animals), and the Cetacean Sightings Network (focused on documenting sightings of whales and turtles).

Are there whales at the Vancouver Aquarium?

Whales are no longer kept at the aquarium.The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation decided in 2017 that it would ban cetaceans from being kept in aquariums. Historically, they had an orca whale show. 

Are there belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium?

Belugas are no longer kept at the aquarium. The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation decided in 2017 that it would ban cetaceans from being kept in aquariums. 

Are there sharks at the Vancouver Aquarium?

Yes, in the Tropics exhibit there is the Shark Talk show. 

Are there dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium?

Dolphins are no longer kept at the aquarium. The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation decided in 2017 that it would ban cetaceans from being kept in aquariums. 

How long should you spend visiting the Vancouver Aquarium?

We spent about two hours at the Vancouver Aquarium and we got a good feel for most of the exhibits. The aquarium’s website states that most guests spend about 90 minutes there. That leaves plenty of time to go out and explore Stanley Park too. 


Summary: The Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park

We hope you enjoyed this post on things to do at the Vancouver Aquarium! We thought it was a fun activity to do while in Stanley Park, and it’s also a perfect place to visit on a rainy day in Vancouver. We thought the exhibits were both beautiful and educational. We hope this post inspired you to visit the Vancouver Aquarium!

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Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.

Hi, I’m Kelly!

After studying abroad in Spain, I became passionate about international travel. Since then, I’ve traveled to 6 continents and 36 states within the United States. When I’m not travel blogging, you can find me hiking, reading books in Spanish, or playing cribbage. I hope my blog inspires you to see the world!