TORONTO – Visitors to Toronto may not be able to swim with the sharks on Bay Street but they’ll have an up-close view of the ocean predators in a new indoor aquarium.

After two years of construction, delays and $130 million in costs, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada opened to the public Wednesday.

“The first time I came to Toronto to talk about an aquarium was in the mid-90s,” said Ripley Entertainment President Jim Pattison Jr.

“We always knew when we lived here and believed that the city was something that deserved an aquarium and would support an aquarium.”

More

The attraction, billed as the largest of its kind in the country, is home to more than 15,000 aquatic animals and 450 different species held in nearly six million litres of water.

Attractions include areas to touch crabs and stingrays, behind-the-scenes tours and an opportunity to “sleep with the sharks” during an overnight stay beneath a shark tank.

The aquarium also boasts a football-field length glass viewing tunnel with a moving sidewalk that will take visitors past sharks, sea turtles, sawfish and moray eels.

Mayor Rob Ford and Coun. Adam Vaughan were among the guests at the ribbon-cutting in downtown Toronto near the CN Tower.

Construction on the three-level, 12,500-square-metre facility began in August 2011. But the aquarium’s initial debut was postponed in June to ensure the proper installation of the 50 tanks housing the animals. The opening was again delayed in September.

The facility was funded in part by Ripley’s Entertainment Inc., Canada Lands Company and all three levels of government. It’s expected to draw more than two million visitors a year.

“Today is a great partnership among friends, among different levels of government — the federal, the provincial and also the local government,” said Tourism Minister Michael Chan.

“It shows that when governments work together we actually can achieve a lot of great things in Toronto and GTA.”

Chan said it’s the first new tourist attraction in the GTA in more than 30 years.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for youth (6-13) and seniors, and $10 for children (3-5). Children two and under are free.

Will you visit? Let us know in the comments and have your say in our poll.

Click here for ticket information and hours of operation.