Florida State Parks: #2 Weeki Wachee Springs

I’ve always loved a mermaid. And manatees. Did you know that originally sailors thought that manatees were mermaids? Kind of amusing since manatees weight about 650 lbs : )  I’m not sure why I have a love for both. It could be because I’m a Pisces who loves being near the water. I’m lucky enough to live near a place where I can see mermaids AND manatees – what better place to see my water mates together than at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park?

 

A little more than an hour drive north of Clearwater, Weeki Wachee Park opened in 1947. The vision of a former Navy man, it is located at natural springs that pushes out about 117 million gallons of fresh water each day.  Weeki Wachee, which is a part of the Florida State Park system, can be so crowded in the summer that they close the park down soon after they open because of capacity levels. During the winter months though, the on-site water park Buccaneer Bay is closed which, along with school being in session, means smaller crowds and short or no lines.

We had a some time until the first mermaid show started so we went to the animals show. They featured animals of Florida so since we live here my daughter wasn’t too into it as she’d seen them all at camp. But it’s a great show for people visiting or who don’t get a chance to see a lot of small Florida wildlife

After the animal show we hopped on the river cruise. This was included in the price of admission and takes you 1 mile down the Weeki Wachee River. Crystal clear, you can see fish swimming and, if you’re lucky enough, also glimpse manatees. The captain gives a great synopsis about the flora and fauna that inhabit the park along with little anecdotes about the area.Peacock at Weeki Wachee State Park | My Cornacopia

There are a few places in the park to grab a bite to eat. They’re all quick service style but the food is good and the prices aren’t bad. Beware the peacocks roaming around though – they’ll try to steal your fries!

We caught two mermaid shows that day – Fish Tails and (of course) The Little Mermaid. Fish Tails was a great synopsis of the shows that used to be performed when the park was first opened, including eating apples and drinking from a bottle. We were even treated during The Mermaids at Weeki Wachee State Park performing The Little MermaidLittle Mermaid show to have a special appearance by a manatee who swam behind the mermaids as if it was a totally normal thing. I had thought that the breathing tubes the laides use to stay underwater longer would distract me from the mermaid’s performances. However they didn’t! The ballet that they do underwater was spectacular and you’re really transported to another place.

The theater where you watch the show is located 16 feet below the spring’s surface and the water the mermaids (and the manatees!) swim in is always 74.2 degree Fahrenheit. It can take up to a year for a mermaid to get trained fully. The mermaid auditions take place very few years and the audition process is facinating. Of course my swimming obsessed daughter now has her sights set on working as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee when she turns 18. I can’t really blame her – I’m planning on going to applying for the Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp next year!

But Weeki Wachee isn’t only mermaids. There are several locations along the river where you can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore the springs. We chose to do a kayak trip another time but my husband tasked me with heading to Marker 48 Brewing to get a growler filled. They had some great brews with Florida themes so if you’re a beer lover be sure to stop by.

Old school Florida attractions aren’t as popular as they once were with all the big theme parks around now. Weeki Wachee is an attraction that isn’t wild and crazy and doesn’t have a ton of attractions. However it’s a treasure that thankfully the state of Florida has saved so if you have a chance and a few hours to spare, make sure you visit. The mermaids (and the manatees) will greet you with a smile and make you feel at home.

Cost

The cost to enter Weeki Wachee Springs is $13 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12 (children 5 and under are Free).

With a Florida Individual Annual Pass, park entry is good for one person to Weeki Wachee. With a Florida Family Annual Pass, park entry is good for two people.

Hours

Weeki Wachee Spring State Park is open from 9am to 5:30pm

Note: Weeki Wachee Spring State Park is undergoing renovations – the mermaid show, river boat ride and animal show are closed and scheduled to reopen mid June, 2019. To stay up to date as to when they’ll reopen, follow their Facebook page.  Buccaneer Bay will reopen in mid-March, 2019.

Getting There

Weeki Wachee Springs is located off US Hwy 19 N at 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, FL 34606

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5 Things Not To Do On Amtrak

Recently my daughter and I took the Amtrak Silver Star from Tampa to Washington D.C. for a weekend visit. It was my mom’s birthday and we were all going to the National Museum of African-American History & Culture so she took the train from New York to meet us.

Riding the train is a wonderful way to see the United States. Not only do you get to not have to deal with the security lines at the airport (worth the price of the ticket right there), but you have people coming and going throughout your trip and you can see the landscape pass you by.

While it can be fun to ‘ride the rails’, there are some rules you need to adhere to before you go. Okay they’re not Amtrak’s rules. They’re my rules. And they’re common courtesy. So listen up and take note. I beg you! Your train mates will appreciate it, I promise!

Phone Calls: Don’t talk on your cell phone for extended periods of time while sitting in your seat. And my extended periods I mean for more than 5 minutes. No one wants to hear the story of you and your friend going to the mall, losing your car, having to call security because you thought it was stolen and then hear about the meal you ate 3 days ago. If you need to make more than a 5 minute phone call go into the club car. That’s what it’s there for. And don’t me started on phone calls in the Quiet Car . . .

Cursing: I love cursing as much as the next person. The correctly placed curse word can really emphasize the point you’re trying to get across IMO. What I don’t like, and no one else does either, is to hear cursing in public settings and even worse – repeated cursing. It’s vulgar sounding. There are children, older people and even younger people who don’t want to hear it. Have courtesy for the people around you and don’t do it.

Litter: Have you heard the story of how the 1960’s tv show Gilligan’s Island is a representation of the 7 Deadly Sins? It’s a pretty interesting theory, especially after you watch an episode after hearing about it. Gillian is supposed to represent ‘sloth’. He’s lazy, doesn’t care about much and wants people to rectify his mistakes and pickup after him. Well on Amtrak, the conductors are there to collect trash and clean the bathrooms but they’re not there to pick up the wrappers and cans you leave on the floor in front of your seat when you leave the train. Most times once you get off the train, someone else gets on at the same spot and takes your seat. They don’t want to sit there with trash on the floor and in the seat pocket. No one does. So don’t be Gilligan. Carry a small plastic bag to hold your trash for the ride or just get up and throw it in the trash bins at either end of the car.

Sleeping: Of course you’re going to sleep on the train. Believe it or not there are some rules about sleeping in your seat.  Don’t sneak into another seat and stretch out. Especially at night. People are getting on at all spots and being assigned a seat. When you’re sleeping across two chairs that aren’t yours, it’s awkward (for you) to have the conductor wake you up and tell you to move. Also don’t encroach on your seatmate’s space. About 6 years ago, my husband and I and our daughter took the train to New York. I sat with our daughter and he sat with a woman who fell asleep on his shoulder. All. Night. Long. And not in a good Lionel Richie way. On our trip to DC, two men behind us got into a verbal altercation because one kept falling asleep on the other and after asking a few times, the guy who was acting as the pillow got really mad. If you are one of those people who kind of falls over when you sleep sitting up, think about getting a small sleeper room. If you can handle sleeping mostly upright without disturbing your seatmate, Amtrak seats have plenty of leg room and recline far back without interfering with the person behind you. I take my earplugs, a small travel pillow and a face mask to help me sleep a little better. And my daughter changes into pajamas to help her get comfortable. Besides the argument that happened behind us (which the conductors quickly deescalated) we slept very well.

Listening to Music/Watching Movies Without Headphones: See Phone Calls. Same general idea. No one wants to hear your favorite movie or song blasting. Cheap earbuds are available at the dollar store. Grab a pair before your trip.

These rules are super simple (don’t ya think?) and boil down to common courtesy. Be respectful to the other passengers and the crew. You’ll have a more enjoyable trip!

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