Looking for a novel way to spend a night in Toronto? Many of the city’s top family attractions offer sleepover options you (and the kids) won’t soon forget.
Sleep with the fishes
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada offers an overnight adventure called “Sleep with Sharks,” where families can spread their sleeping bags out in a 315-foot-long acrylic tunnel under the Dangerous Lagoon.
Little campers can nod off with dreamy visions of Nemo swimming in their heads. The 750,248-gallon lagoon tank is home to three different shark species, green sea turtles and moray eels, gigantic grouper and thousands of colorful tropical fish.
There’s plenty to enjoy while you’re there. The $130-million aquarium has nine viewing areas that display more than 16,000 exotic sea and freshwater creatures. The Gallery is like a living mural, featuring rippling electric eels, lined seahorses, red lionfish, archerfish, sea dragons and piranhas in six salt water and three freshwater exhibits.
Planet Jellies offers a mesmerizing habitat for five kinds of jellyfish in a special kreisel tank with no sharp edges. As soothing music plays, the backlit gallery changes color and the translucent jellies swirl and dip in a hypnotic ballet.
In the Ray Bay exhibit, stingrays glide gracefully through the water and peer out at visitors.
The aquarium offers 100 interactive opportunities, including three Touch Tanks featuring rays, sharks and horseshoe crabs.
Located next door to the iconic CN Tower, the family sleepovers cost $99 per person. The price includes admission fee, a take-home activity, evening snack and breakfast, plus a crowd-free tour.
Panda pajama party
Doze off with the not-so-distant roar of lions and wake up with a morning visit to the giant pandas; there are two sleepover options at the 700-acre Toronto Zoo.
The Serengeti Bush Camp program provides cots in African tents, behind-the-scenes tours, a buffet dinner and breakfast, campfire with S’mores and Zoomobile rides to and from camp along the African Savanna. The cost — $109 for those over 12 and $99 for ages 6 to 11 — includes a zoo pass that can be used the next day.
The Panda Pajama Party provides a cot inside the Education Auditorium, an evening tour of Tundra Trek’s polar bears and arctic wolves, an early viewing of Giant Pandas and an interactive tour of the Panda Interpretive Centre.
Admission is $65 for ages 3 and up. A bedtime snack and light breakfast are served. (Visitors might also want to sample a “beavertail,” a zoo specialty that’s a deep-fried pastry with tasty toppings.)
Moth broth and bats
Whipping up moth broth, making raccoon masks and going on a nocturnal bat hunt are some of the “Night Critter” activities at the Toronto Botanical Garden.
Families with kids over 5 pay $75 to pitch a tent, munch pizza and toast marshmallows in the attraction’s Teaching Garden. The sleepover is planned for July 12-13.
The Botanical Garden offers 12 award-winning themed gardens and programs for all ages on horticulture. Topics include vegetables and herbs, container gardens, beautiful edibles and ornamental grasses.
Night at the museum
To set the mood, the movie “Night at the Museum” is often screened as part of the ROM Sleepover at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Visitors can roll out their bunks beneath a giant skeleton and find out if the dinosaurs really do come to life like the ones in the Ben Stiller movie.
Before bedtime, visitors get exclusive access to hands-on artifact galleries, speak with ROM experts, make crafty souvenirs and have a karaoke party.
The museum romp takes place from October to April, with time off in the summer. The cost is $75 per person for guests over age 5 and $67.50 per person for groups of ten or more.
If you favor a sleepover in a real hotel, Eaton Chelsea is centrally located and loaded with family amenities and package deals.
The Family Fun Zone includes Camp Chelsea day camp, a Kid Centre with arts and crafts and Club 33 Teen Lounge.
Canada’s largest hotel also has an indoor pool with a 130-foot corkscrew water slide that actually loops outside the building and comes back in.