Prehistoric shark at Dinosaur Land, White Post, Virginia.
Prehistoric shark at Dinosaur Land, White Post, Virginia.

America's Shark Attractions

Take something that's terrifying and a media-favored pop culture superstar, build it big and conveniently situate it near parking, and the public won't be able to drive by. That seems to be the premise behind America's feeding frenzy of shark attractions. Sharks gobble gift shops, explode out of sidewalks, or appear as if flung from the sky into buildings.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At night it basks in the glow of bargain neon.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At night it basks in the glow of bargain neon.

Strung up in Myrtle Beach, near a giant crab.
Strung up in Myrtle Beach, near a giant crab.

Even before summer 2013, we were living in a post-Sharknado world.

Hollywood big budget animations regularly attempt to endear audiences to smiling Great Whites, documentaries promote the natural virtues of sharkness, playgrounds add a "cute cartoon shark" bought from a catalog. But it's a waste of time. We know a relentless killing machine when we see one.

A giant roadside shark is usually posed to maximize its bulging eyes and ripsaw teeth. Sharks are the only animals whose corpses are hung from strip mall signs as eye-grabbers -- and instead of conjuring discomfort over mistreated animals, we think, "Funny, a dead shark; let's take a picture!"

For some attractions even that's not enough -- perfectly appropriate behavior in a world where "jumping the shark" no longer has a bad connotation. For years, seaside gift shops have been luring customers through the mouths of mega-sharks big enough to swallow a bus full of tourists looking for discount shell necklaces.

Swim with Manatees (and, uh, this guy?). Homosassa, Florida.
Swim with Manatees (and, uh, this guy?). Homosassa, Florida.

They pose beneath their multiple rows of teeth; gaze at displays of their shellacked bodies; then drive to the aquarium and stroll through their habitats in transparent tubes that could deflect a howitzer shell.

[Note: Our Shark Attractions List is a work in progress, since there are so many goofy manifestations of sharks turning up. Let us know if we missed a really huge or amusing shark seen in your travels!]

Sharks

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January 23, 2018

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