Ten Glamorous Mermaid Destinations
by Carolyn Turgeon
With the summer months approaching, you’re no doubt trying to plan a fabulous vacation while simultaneously facing a familiar conundrum: How on earth can you incorporate mermaids? Luckily there are plenty of mermaidly destinations to choose from, so I’ve helpfully compiled the following list (although, honestly, most of you only need to look as far as your own hearts).
You can consider going to…
Kiryat Yam, Israel!
In 2009, some local fishermen claimed to have seen a mermaid in the bay — a mermaid who’s part of local legend — and reported said sighting to City Hall. Kiryat Yam’s mayor then generously offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could provide evidence of an actual mermaid swimming in its bay, and tourists and media flocked to the town with cameras and binoculars, hoping to catch a glimpse of her and make some cash. What could be more alluring than mermaids and cash? Astonishingly, no one has yet claimed those million smackers, which sit there in a golden, gleaming pile of gold bars with your name written all over it.
Last October, one Mermaid Shelly (a professional mermaid whose job is probably cooler than yours) opened an actual brick-and-mortar storefront that sells glittery, swimmable mermaid tails; leggings with scales painted on them; sparkly, gauzy mermaid dresses; fishnet tops; and everything else a modern-day mermaid could ever need — and it’s all handmade by Shelly and other mermaids. The store is called Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto and is located just north of San Diego in South Oceanside, California, so you can visit an actual city and a beach or two while getting your mermaidly fix. Plus you’re close enough to LA, where you can crash a celebrity party featuring a pro mermaid like Linden Wolbert.
So a double-tailed warrior mermaid, armed with a sword and shield, has been the symbol of Warsaw since the 14th century, and she is everywhere. She’s in Warsaw’s coat of arms, in the “Fall in Love with Warsaw” posters scattered throughout the city, and in famous statues like the “Syrenka” in the very center of Old Town square and the massive “Syrena” on the bank of the Vistula River. The latter was created in 1939 and is one of the few city monuments not destroyed by the Nazis, who didn’t realize the mermaid was so badass. She can also be seen posing shamelessly on almost all Warsaw municipal buildings, trams, buses, taxis, and lampposts.
Well you might have to enroll in college and so on, which might be kind of a lame vacation, BUT at Wellesley you can actually take a class on mermaids (technically called Narrative Identity) with Jonathan Cheek, a psychology professor and a sirenologist, i.e. an expert on Haitian Voudou’s La Sirene and all things mermaid. Read the course description here:
Narrative psychology explores the human propensity to create and use stories about significant figures and events in the process of identity formation. Topics will include an exploration of mermaids and related figures as cultural images, metaphors for personal transformation, and archetypal symbols of the collective unconscious. The Little Mermaid and La Sirene of Haitian Vodou will be examined as representations of men’s fear of, and attempts to control, women’s spirituality and sexuality. The personality theories of Jung and Reich provide the framework for the seminar.
Great Falls, Montana!
If you head to Montana, you can visit some ranches, pick up some cowboys, and visit The Sip n Dip Lounge, which is a classic tiki bar that features mermaids every Wednesday through Saturday nights swimming in an outdoor pool visible through the bar windows. The bar itself has been around since the ’60s, but it wasn’t until New Year’s Eve 1994 that its first mermaid showed up, after owner Sandra Thares joked with her mother that it’d be funny to have a mermaid appear for the holiday. In one of the more inspiring mermaid transformation stories out there, they rounded up one of the housekeepers, duct-taped a green tablecloth to her legs, and a mermaid was born. Now there are five mermaids on staff and Sandy sews all the mermaid tails herself. In 2003, GQ named this place the #1 bar on earth worth flying for; they do serve a 64-ounce nine-shot cocktail in an actual fish bowl.
Bonus tip: for more live mermaids, you can also visit Dive Bar in Sacramento, The Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale, the Silverton Hotel and Casino in Vegas, and aquariums like Denver’s Downtown Aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium, and Ripley’s Aquarium.
Since the spring of 2000, which saw the debut of the Mermaids on Parade arts campaign, Norfolk has been home to dozens of themed mermaid sculptures scattered alluringly throughout town — in bank lobbies and shopping centers and schools, on the sides of buildings and on street corners. A Norfolk attorney introduced the idea in 1999, after seeing how effective Chicago’s Cows on Parade campaign was in promoting civic pride and generating tourism. And who doesn’t like mermaids better than cows?
You’ll probably want to visit Copenhagen and the Little Mermaid statue and maybe stop in to the The Wonderful World of Hans Christian Andersen — full of questionable tableaux from his tales, including the little mermaid staring up at the faraway prince in a massive penis-shaped castle — as well as the famous statue of Hans outside of City Hall and his grave at Assistens Cemetery. BUT a 90-minute train ride away is Hans’ hometown of Odense, where you can visit the very awesome Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which has a basement full of Hans curiosities like the actual rope that he carried around with him at all times in case he had to escape from a fire. If Denmark is too much of a hike, and/or you’re too unhealthy to be around so many glowing Danes, you can see copies of the little mermaid statue (like the one above) in alternative glamorous locales like Salt Lake City, Utah; Solvang, California; Kimballton, Iowa; Piatra Neamt, Romania; and Weihai, China.
Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida!
I’ve written about my experience at Weeki’s Sirens of the Deep mermaid camp, and obviously you should probably go to that camp and learn to swim in a tail and pretend to eat a banana underwater as (hot) Elvis himself sits in the theater watching you and all the mermaids behind the glass, the way he did in 1961. But even if you don’t get in the water yourself, you can visit Weeki and its underwater theater, which was built into the limestone of a natural spring in the late ’40s, and watch a bunch of present-day mermaids perform in two different underwater shows, dancing in synch with one another and somehow managing to breathe through tubes and not get water in their noses.
Coney Island, Brooklyn!
Every summer since 1983, on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice, a zillion New Yorkers cover themselves in scales and glitter and body paint and take to the streets of Coney Island to march in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Founder Dick Zigun, who has himself marched in the parade every year since its launch, says he was inspired by turn-of-the-century Mardis Gras parades in Coney Island and Atlantic City. Every year a King Neptune and Queen Mermaid are featured; past kings and queens have included Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Queen Latifah, and Harvey Keitel. And the best part is that if you’re lazy, you can pay to be a judge and sit in bleachers the whole time while paraders ply you with bribes for your vote.
In case the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is too dinky for you, and/or you like your mermaids on the zaftig side, you can always head to Thiruvananthapuram, a district of Kerala in south India, where a massive 75-foot-long cement mermaid created by award-winning sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman languishes on the beach (top picture). Plus, there’s a restaurant shaped like a starfish close by. You’re welcome.