Rain, rain. Go away! Now what can help turn your family’s collective frown upside down? A getaway to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, of course. With a bounty of seabirds, marine mammals, fishes, invertebrates and plants on exhibit, you can’t help but smile.

You Don’t Say
We’re known, coastally speaking, as the Graveyard of the Pacific. What would we do without our 350+ miles of (gorgeous and albeit) stormy Oregon coastline? The aquarium puts tremendous emphasis on our native sea life inhabitants; over 250 different types of animals and 15,000 species – from shoreline to the deep sea – are right there before your eyes and under your fingertips. Graveyard? Nah.

Wow Factor
Feel the sea stars and anemones in the Rocky Shores touch pool, get mesmerized by the different types of jelly fish bopping along in the Coastal Waters exhibit, then walk amongst the 3500 creatures of the darkest ocean in the Passages of the Deep underwater walkway (aka the shark tunnel). There you are nestled eight feet below the water’s surface and eight feet above the bottom. It’s nothing short of awesome. Next head outside for more marine life madness. Laugh out loud watching the sea lions or puffins gobble up lunch, duck and cover by the wave crashing tide pool, and shake a big eight-armed hello to the resident octopus.  It’s not just any old octopus. It’s a Giant Pacific Octopus. That’s how they roll here!

Kids Will Adore
Opening last May, The Sea and Me hands-on interactive exhibit drew big crowds for months. Aiming to engage the four to ten year old set, littler kiddos will have a grand time as well. It’s similar to our children’s museum in that the kids can get right in, on and under to discover. Magnetic fishing poles reap wonderfully reliable rewards. The submarine exploration area is spacious enough to allow for a handful of simultaneous adventurers. The theater has been converted to a free-play area rocking dress up and art projects. And yet another fabulous touch pool awaits with…drumroll please; rays! Yup. Those rays. The scary ones. Spoiler alert: the stingers have been removed.

Keep Things Rolling
It’s far. Three hours-ish from Portland each way makes for a very long day. Why not make an overnight or weekend of it? The aquarium is in Newport, a very cool town with its legendary fishing harbor and the Hatfield Marine Science Center is right next door. The lovely and family-friendly Salishan Resort is down the road in Nehalem (about 20 minutes) and sports an 18 hole mini golf course and kid-sized clubs; a par 71 golf course designed by PGA Pro Peter Jacobsen and a ridiculously relaxing spa. Or check out your own weekend home rental, perhaps beachside, from Oregon Beach Vacations or VRBO. Lincoln City is about 30 minutes away and serves up D River Wayside Park for amazing kite flying and a heated indoor pool with water slide at the community center.  Rain? Who cares!

Dues and Don’ts
The Aquarium is open everyday except December 25 and winter hours (Labor Day to Memorial Day) are 10:00 aam – 5:00pm. Adult admission is (18-64) $18.95, kids (3–12) are $12.95 and the under two are free. There is a coffee shop, gift store and onsite restaurant serving lunch. On weekends it’s best to get there early to avoid a line and crowds.

About a third of the aquarium’s exhibits are outside so dress the wee ones for the weather. Gum is not allowed inside their hallowed walls since it could really hurt the animals if it fell out of a mouth and into a tank, pool or display. Every family’s photo is snapped upon arrival so prepare for the option of a photographic souvenir.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium truly is a fantastic way to explore, play and smile your way through a rainy weekend. That shark tunnel alone makes it WELL worth the trip!

Do you have any tips or tricks for a memorable visit to the museum? Let us know below! 

–Liz Overson

Thank you for the photos Taylor Morrell and Oregon Coast Aquarium.