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One of North America’s largest and best marine facilities, the Vancouver Aquarium houses more than 70,000 critters, including white beluga whales, sea otters, Steller sea lions, and Pacific white-sided dolphins. During regularly scheduled shows, aquarium staff explain marine-mammal behavior while working with these impressive creatures. The Wild Coast area features a fascinating assortment of fish and sea creatures found in local waters, and there’s always an interesting temporary exhibit or two.

For a substantial extra fee (C$160 adults, C$240 one adult and one child age 8–12), you can have a behind-the-scenes Beluga Encounter, helping to feed these giant white cetaceans, then head up to the Marine Mammal deck to take part in the belugas’ regular training session. Other Animal Encounter tours take visitors behind the scenes to interact with dolphins, or help feed the Steller sea lions, sea turtles, and sea otters. Call [tel] 800/931-1186 to reserve these programs ahead of time. Children must be 8 or older to participate.

There are other programs as well, including the popular sleepovers, treasure hunts, and, of course, all the various exhibits, including the new Penguin Point and the exotic Amazon Critter Corner.