Mariner Square

    I’ve been to the Oregon Coast more times than I can count. I mean, when it’s a clear and warm sunny day, there is nowhere else on earth more breathtaking, more jaw dropping, more (enter cliché here. You get it) than the Oregon Coast. But, even with all of these visits, I haven’t seen everything that there is to see. Not by a long shot.

    In Newport, for example, there is Mariner Square and it’s trio of otherworldly attractions.

    Newport, Oregon lies about two hours south west of downtown Portland. In addition to stunning Oregon Coast lines, delicious, fresh seafood, the smell of fresh ocean air, Portland’s weirdness permeates—even this far south, with the three strange attractions found here.

    One three day weekend, we piled into the family Subaru and made the trek south. We checked into our beach front hotel and listened to the waves caress the shoreline.  We made our way to Mariner Square and attraction number one: Ripley’s Believe it or Not!.

    I think most of us are familiar with Ripley’s, or at least the concept of Ripley’s. Oddities. Strangeness and general weirdness, all combining into one delightfully creepy museum. Beginning nearly 100 years ago as a cartoon strip penned by Robert Ripley, Ripley began collecting oddities from all over the world. As the product of this strange hobby, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! at Mariner Square features a plethora of oddities, from shrunken heads to a magic harp. After touring through the museum, we entered into the deep-space hall of mirrors and a live stage performance filled with little-known facts and bizarre sights. My son and I were enthralled. My daughter gave the exhibit a rating of “Gross.” And, thus, we moved on to attraction number two.

    Celebrity sightings galore, Madame Tussaud style at the Wax Works Wax Museum. Who knew that these wax figures, which start out as shapeless clay blobs, could produce such eerily lifelike results. The ensemble—which includes Marilyn Monroe and sci-fi legends including Frankenstein and Mr. Spock—are created with such skill that on more than one occasion, I had to do a double take. I hope no one saw me. That would make me feel quite silly.

    We all loved it, but, we were hungry and tired so, it was off to dinner at Mo’s and back to the hotel where the waves would lull us to sleep.

    I was sure to sleep well because I knew the second day in Mariner Square would be a big one. This was the day where my daughter, the future marine biologist, would get her big treat with the Oregon Undersea Gardens.

    After enjoying a continental breakfast and a quick frolic on the beach, we made our way back to the square. The Oregon Undersea Gardens is housed within a 150-foot-long ship. From this ship, we saw collections of luminous alabaster and ruby sea anemones. An enormous coral octopus puffed its way through schools of rainbow colored fish while a scary looking, grey wolf eel lay in wait for his next meal. More than just a display, though, my daughter got her first glimpse of marine biology school during the live show, which featured a diver displaying and pointing out undersea creatures and a narrator who detailed how starfish move, helped tocoax the octopus out from hiding. My daughter dubbed this attraction: “Awesome.”

    Mariner Square in Newport, Oregon is a super cool way to spend a weekend. And, if you purchase all three attractions together, you can catch a discount, which makes this happy Portlander even happier.

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