8 Simple Things Not To Do In Florida

Florida is a very large state. From Pensacola Beach (in the upper left hand corner of the state) to Key West (the teeny tiny dot waaay at the bottom of the state) it would take about 12.5 hours to drive. To say that Florida isn’t monolithic is an understatement. In fact it’s so diverse in different areas, there aren’t many rules to how to visit the state. But there are some things that you don’t do when in Florida:

  • Don’t swim in lakes or canals or sit on their edges – A lot of visitors from the north think that a lake is a great place to cool off in or walk the dog in. Don’t. Because alligators. Alligators live in many body of waters in Florida. Some like springs where people can and do swim are monitored, usually by the state. And springs are crystal clear so you can see around you. Florida lakes are shallow and murky which is exactly the hunting ground that alligators enjoy and they’re not monitored on a regular basis. So you don’t know what’s out there. There has been a slight uptick in alligator attacks recently but that’s because more people are moving to the state which means more interaction with the reptiles and people, not because alligators love attacking humans.  Also do not let your pets play near lakes because alligators do like to feed on small animals. All that said it’s not uncommon to see locals water skiing and doing standup paddle board on lakes. It’s being aware that’s the key (and probably not falling off!) Oh and you should also never swim in any body of water in Florida at dawn or dusk. That’s when alligators and sharks tend to feed.

 

  • Since we’re talking about reptiles – don’t be afraid of lizards! Lizards are a big part of the Florida lifestyle. They’re really all over the place and while they can seem creepy most of them are an important part of the Florida eco-system (some, like iguanas, are an invasive species). We recently visited New York and there were house flies both indoors and outdoors. We couldn’t figure out why we don’t see a lot of house flies where we live in Florida and then we thought “lizards!”. So thanks to all the lizards not only for entertaining our cat but also for eating all those flies and other pesky bugs.

 

  • Don’t forget to drink a LOT of water. It’s hot here. And humid. That heat and humidity can be very surprising to people who are visiting and it can hit them in dangerous ways. So drink more than your normal amounts of water while you’re here. The easiest thing to do is bring a reusable water bottle for each family member when you come down. All the amusement parks and state parks have water fountains for you to fill up.

 

  • Don’t be vain. Wear a hat! Sure it might mess up your hair. But Ft. Myers on average has 114 days of temperatures over 85 and Orlando has 106. Some parts of the state don’t have a lot of trees which makes it even harder to find a little shade. So bring along a hat to help you avoid a bad sunburn on your face or heat stroke. For women who need to be stylish there are lots of options out there for great travel hats. For guys, lucky you – they sell baseball caps at every beach store in the state.

 

  • And speaking of sunburn – don’t forget to wear sunscreen. No matter what your skin type or color, you need to wear sunscreen and reapply it on a regular basis all over your face and body. As an African-American woman I wear sunscreen to help not only prevent skin cancer but also to help minimize damage to my skin that can cause wrinkles. Even people with a lot of melanin can get a sunburn and even get skin cancer. Did you know that skin cancer is what killed Bob Marley? No one should take a chance so put on that sunscreen. A bad sunscreen can lead to sun poisoning so a combo of the hat, lots of water and sunscreen will help minimize your chances of spending your Florida vacation stuck inside due to sunburn or even worse in the hospital.

 

  • Don’t miss the local breweries in the area you’re visiting. As of late 2017, there were 195 breweries throughout the state. Beer at JDubs Sarasota, FLThat’s a lot of local beer businesses giving you, literally, the local flavor of where you are. One thing we love to do when we go to a new city is find a craft brewery. Why? Because not only will you meet local people who can give you great hints of things to do in the area but also because craft breweries are generally family and pet friendly. They’ve become a bit like the corner store was 100 years ago. Even if you don’t like beer more craft breweries have wine choices and sodas. And if they don’t the majority don’t mind if you bring a can of soda in with you so you can sit with your friends and family while they’re sipping on their brew.

 

  • If you see a manatee out in the wild, don’t play with it, tease it with a water hose (they seem to like spinning in them), touch it or try to ride it. You will go to jail. If Manatee in Floridayou just have to swim with a manatee you’ll need to visit Citrus County on the state’s west coast. It’s the only place in the US where it’s legal to swim with them. But you still can’t touch them. We know – they’re adorable and slow and you could really catch up to one if you tried. However manatees, being slow, get injured and sometimes killed by boats which makes them a threatened species. There are lots of opportunities to observe them in the wild or while being rehabilitated so you can enjoy them without putting them in danger.

 

  • Don’t think that Florida is only about mouse ears and wizard wands. As I said earlier Florida is extremely diverse. If you’re a book lover, visit the homes of Zora Neele Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings or Ernest Hemingway.  If you’re a lover of camping and the outdoors visit one of the 175 Florida State Parks. Enjoy shopping or eating – there are local restaurants and stores in every corner of the state. Music? Theater? Art? Sports? Historical sites? Whatever you want to do Florida has it. So even though we love our amusement parks there’s more to Florida than Mickey.

If you remember these don’ts when you visit the Sunshine State you’re sure to have a great experience and hopefully remember your visit with a smile!

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Food, Drinks and History In Ybor City

Living in the Tampa Bay Area gives me the ability to visit a lot of places. One of my favorite places to take a staycation is Ybor City. Located just outside of downtown Tampa, Ybor City was founded in 1885 by cigar manufacturer  Vicente Martinez-Ybor and was the premier place for cigar making outside of Cuba in the early 20th century.

Literally a city inside a city, you can easily see the sites of Ybor in one day if you choose. Here are some things to do while you’re there.

History

Ybor City Museum State Park – The Ybor City Museum State Park was created to help preserve the cultural history of the area. Consisting of a garden, a walk-through museum and a tour of an authentic Ybor City cigar worker’s house, the museum Ybor City Museumprovides a picture of what it was like to live in the area during i’s heyday. Exhibits about cigar rolling, Jim Crow laws and the local businesses help explain how Ybor City thrived for so long. Something new I learned – Ybor City didn’t just consist of Cuban immigrants brought over to roll cigars. There were also Jewish, Italian, Spanish and African-American merchants and workers who help the city succeed. Tip: cost to enter the museum is $4 but if you have a Florida State Park annual pass you get in for free!

Tampa Bay History CenterTechnically not located in Ybor City, the Tampa Bay History Center is easily accessible from Ybor via the trolley and worth the trip. With permanent exhibits on Tampa history (did you know that Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough RIders came to Tampa on his way to fight the Spanish-American War in Cuba?) and rotating exhibits that touch a variety of historical events, if you have a love of learning then this is the place for you.

Take a Walk – Walking around Ybor City is a lesson in history. Although there is a lot of construction in the area, there is plenty of old architecture still in place including the Cuban and Italian cultural clubs that were the backbone of the area. There are also lots of tours offered at various places. A word of warning though – some of these places charge a high price to see how their alcohol or cigars are made. If that interests you, that’s fine, but there are plenty of places that will explain their processes without charging $15 to see a couple of vats in the back of house. Be sure to ask what you’re getting and how much it costs before you commit because several places will advertise they have a tour and not tell you the price until you’re ready to start.

Tampa StreetcarRide The Trolley – Tampa’s streetcar system takes you almost 3 miles from Ybor City to the Channelside area to downtown Tampa. Riding the trolley on a sunny day is a great way to get around the area without getting in your car. There are several streetcar stops in Ybor, including at Centro Ybor. The streetcars come about every 20 minutes and rides on Saturdays are free!

Drinks

Beer

Coppertail BreweryLocated on the edge of Ybor, Coppertail Brewery offers a wide selection of beers brewed right in Tampa. Free Dive and Talk To Me Goose are two my favorites there. The brewery is 2 stories and filled with eclectic Beer menu Coppertailmurals and art. They also offer food if you’re hungry. Note: their tour is worth it – for $7 you get to see their warehouse and production area, a beer and a pint glass to take home.

Rock Brothers Brewing – Located in the heart of Ybor near Centro Ybor, Rock Brothers Brewing creates beers based on musicians both locally and nationally known (try the Hooties Homegown Ale named after Hootie and the Blowfish). The day we went they were out of quite a few selections because they were moving their brewing location. However the variety was still good and I can understand special circumstances. There’s also a concert venue upstairs called The Attic that has some great shows if you get a chance to go.

The Brass Tap – With over 70 taps and a great pub menu the Ybor City location of The Brass Tap is a great place to relax and hang out. We went to watch the end of the first playoff game for the Tampa Bay Lightning game and their staff was very friendly and welcoming. We grabbed some wings and mac & cheese to nosh on and had some Florida beers we hadn’t sampled yet (mine was a hardwater from MIA Beer Company).

Spirits

Florida CANE Distillery – You might miss this one if you weren’t looking for it. Located on a side street in a small storefront, Florida CANE Distillery is a micro-distillery that produces vodka, gin, whiskey and moonshine. The day we went we were greeted by the owner who gave us a few (okay more than a few) samples to taste. Due to Florida laws you can’t order a drink at any of the distilleries – you can only have samples. I’m not a straight liquor drinker so that doesn’t necessarily appeal much to me. However Florida CANE Distillery has a great thing after 8pm called Distillery After Dark. For a set price you get all of the items you need to make a drink on a tray and you mix it up yourself. A smart way to adhere to the laws and still be able to have that mixed drink. The atmosphere for Distillery After Dark was great – be sure to give it a try!

FishHawk Spirits – Located on the south side of Centro Ybor, FishHawk Spirits has a storefront where you can get 2 samples of their Florida made absinthia, vodka and brandy. FishHawk Spirits actually brews in Ocala so this is just a storefront but it’s a good way to taste some more Florida produced liquor.

Cafe con Leche

Tabanero Cigars – Yes I know that this is a cigar shop (that has some pretty nice cigars) but if you head all the way to the back of the store on E. 7th Ave x 16th St, there’s a little stand that sells Cuban coffees. The cafe con leche is excellent and tastes just like the ones I had in Cuba. We went there first thing in the morning while the streets of Ybor were still quiet and sat on their outside patio to enjoy our coffee.

Food

Columbia Restaurant – The oldest restaurant in Florida, the Columbia Restaurant opened in Ybor City in 1905 and has been in continuous operation under the same family ever since. With authentic Spanish and Cuban food and to die for sangria, the Columbia is a great place to go for an authentic Ybor experience. They even have a flamenco dancer show!

Tip: The Columbia Restaurant is very large but also requires reservations, as does the flamenco show. If you want to get a taste of the Columbia in a more casual setting, go to the Columbia Cafe which is on Riverwalk. It’s located underneath the Tampa Bay History Center so you can grab some food and drinks after you’re done there.

Blue Samurai – I worked in Tampa Heights for a few years and would go to the Blue Samurai in Centro Ybor for their lunch specials. During our staycation we went for dinner and while they didn’t have my lunchtime favorite, bento boxes, they did have a full menu that even my husband, who doesn’t eat sushi, could find something from. Their food is very fresh and doesn’t take long to serve, which is a plus if you’re looking to eat before going out for a night on the town.

 

Where To Stay

The Hampton Inn & Suites Ybor City, where we stayed, is located on the main thoroughfare of Ybor City, 7th Avenue. The staff is very friendly, the rooms (which have a microwave and mini fridge) have plenty of space and are quiet and they offer a free breakfast, which isn’t spectacular but will help you save a few dollars. The hotel offers a pool and exercise room and has a mini-mart if you need it. The hotel is a block from a streetcar stop and is close to the Port of Tampa if you’re going on a cruise. There’s also a hotel shuttle that will take you to locations within 3 miles of the hotel.

Ybor City is a wealth of history and fun. Have you visited yet? What’s your favorite part?

 

 

 

 

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Sarasota – 5 Things You Shouldn’t Miss

I was recently selected to receive tickets to have two items appraised on Antiques Roadshow. The show was filming in Sarasota at the Ringling Museum. This was a perfect excuse for an overnight trip – I had never been to Sarasota so I decided to explore the area and make it an overnight trip. I was excited to see what the city had to offer!

Located on the west coast of Florida, Sarasota is easily accessible by car or plane. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport has flights from cities such as Atlanta, Newark NJ and Toronto and is located about 7 miles north of Sarasota beaches. I-75 and I-275 allow easy automobile access from St. Petersburg, Tampa and Naples. With an average temperature of 73 degrees, it’s a great location for family, couples or even solo visits. In the 30 hours I spent there, I found 5 things you shouldn’t miss while you are in the area.

Ringling Museum

Originally the home of John and Mable Ringling of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame,  The Ringling Museum is located on a massive 66-acre campus. Home to 4 museums, gardens, the Historic Asolo Theater and an educational center it’s a wonderful place to spend a day or two.

I had heard great things about The Ringling (as they call themselves) so couldn’t wait to get there. I was lucky that ticket holders for The Roadshow (as I call them) got to explore the grounds and museums for free that day. The admission price is very reasonable however because there is so much to do there. If you’re there on a Thursday head over between 5pm and 8pm and the price to get in the circus and art museums is only $5. On Mondays, entrance to the art museum is FREE.

The four museums on site are the Circus Museum, the Circus Museum Tibbals Learning Center, the Museum of Art and Ca’ d’Zan. The cost to enter the first three museums is included in the price of your ticket. To do a tour of Ca’ d’Zan, which is the Ringling’s 56 room mansion, is an additional cost.

The items in circus museums were fascinating. There are old circus and train cars used by the circus at various periods,  costumes, historical posters and miniature carvings of circus life. I’m not much of a circus fan (I have a slight fear of clowns) but I was still very interested in learning how they moved what were effectively small cities from place to place in times where it wasn’t very easy to do such a thing. The Tibbals Learning Center had a miniature circus model that had to have taken me 15 minutes to go through. Built by Howard C. Tibbals, it replicates circus life in the 1920’s and was so fascinating. There was also a section where you could try to walk a ‘tightrope’, watch videos of old performances and try to balance yourself on top of model of a trick horse.

Ca’ d’Zan was opulence at its highest. I didn’t get a tour of the house because that is part of where appraisals for Antiques Roadshow was happening but I did get to view the kitchen, ceiling murals and the wall decor. I will be returning to do the docent tour that they have.

The Museum of Art originally began because of the Ringling’s love of European art. John Ringling had the first museum built on site in the 1920’s to house their collection. Now the State Art Museum of Florida, the Museum of Art has both permanent exhibits and traveling exhibits and includes Asian art, contemporary art and a learning center.

If you need a break between all the museums be sure to tour the grounds. The Bayfront Gardens include Mable Ringling’s rose garden, quiet areas where you can sketch or read a book, the stone statues of the Dwarf Garden, huge banyan trees that must be hundreds of years old and even a playground for little ones to run some energy off. There are also a couple of eating places on the grounds. Which makes it a perfect way to spend the day.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Once the home of William and Marie Selby, 15 acres of land in Sarasota is dedicated to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The Selbys were nature lovers and Marie (who was the first woman to cross the USA in a car!) planted many of the plants in the gardens, including the bamboo that’s on Sarasota Bay. When Marie passed away about 15 years after Bill, she left the estate to the Sarasota community to promote nature.

Buddha at Selby GardensWhile I was there I learned a new word – epiphytic. Having lived in Florida for the majority of my life I had seen epiphytic plants such as air plants and Spanish moss. I just never knew the word. Well epiphytic means that the plant grows on the surface of another plant and gets it food from the air and water. One of the great things about Selby Gardens is the educational value you gain from going. There’s an orchid program (did you know some orchids are epiphytic?), bromeliad program, plants from the rainforest, plants from desserts and even bonsai.

The grounds are so beautiful and large it took me about 2.5 hours to look around and I could have spent even more time if I had wanted. In addition to walking through the gardens and stopping to sit and relax while looking at Sarasota Bay, I also stopped at the cafe for a snack. The cafe is located in the Selby’s house which is much more modest than one would expect of people who were wealthy.  The cafe had indoor and outdoor seating – I chose to sit under a huge banyan tree and watched everyone enjoying the expansive lawn.

The day I was there they had an Andy Warhol exhibit on his plant paintings and they were setting up for Shakespeare In The Garden. There’s also Bromeliads at Selby Gardensa Garden Music Series and wine dinners on site. Be sure to check out the Selby Gardens events calendar while you’re planning your trip. You might be able to take a class on yoga, watercolors or photography.

Make sure you bring your camera, a stroller if you have small children, bug spray (try not to bring it in an aerosol can, which can damage the environment), sunscreen and a poncho in case a Florida 15 minute rain storm pops up. Wheelchairs are available onsite and parking is free

Beaches of Sarasota

The white sand beaches of the west coast of Florida are always a must see. Lido Beach is the beach closest to Sarasota and doesn’t disappoint. While some portions of the beaches are closed off for hotels and homes, the public beach is very clean and has parking both in lots and on the street. If you get there at the right time you might even be able to find some great shells.

Breweries

One thing I always try to do when traveling is visit a local brewery. Breweries in Florida are still a bit of a new thing because in years past the laws of the state hindered small breweries. Those laws have changed which has made the brewery industry explode in the state.

There are 3 breweries in Sarasota: Big Top Brewing, Calusa Brewing and JDubs Brewing. Note that there are quite a few bars in the area to go have some crafts beers; I just enjoy a brewery since they are the actual producers of the beer.

Beer at JDubs Sarasota, FLI chose to go to JDubs since it was the one closest to where I was staying. While the beer was great the atmosphere left something to be desired. I enjoy breweries not only because they’re child and pet friendly but also because it’s a great place to get local flavor and to learn more about the area. The night I went to JDubs the bartender, while not rude, wasn’t friendly and also stayed at the end of the bar talking to her friends. It was a little disappointing but the beer made up for it. I had a great Orange IPA that was refreshing.

Two tips when you visit a brewery:

  • If you’re driving or riding the train home, bring or buy an empty growler and get it filled. When you get home you’ll have a memory of you trip to enjoy.
  • Ask if the brewery does flights. A flight is four or five 5oz samples so you can have a little taste of what the brewery has on tap for the day.

Sunset

Sunsets on the west coast of Florida are a sight not to be missed. The skies can look like they’re on fire and it’s an event in some towns. I stopped and had dinner at the tiki bar at Lido Beach Resort which is right on the beach. The tiki bar offers those classic beach drinks like sangria and or mojitos, but also has food that they serve until 7pm (right before sunset during the spring and Sunset on Lido Beachsummer). I had a chicken quesadilla, which was surprisingly good for a small bar. After I ate I walked out onto their beach to watch the sunset. Their beach is private and on the north side has a rock jetty where people were fishing. Others were sitting in the sand and enjoying the sun as it went down. It was relaxing and just what I needed to end the day.

Have you ever visited Sarasota? What was your favorite part about the city?

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Blue Spring State Park

I love manatees. There’s something about the gentle giants that really speaks to me. Growing up in Florida I always heard about how they would get killed by speeding boats (and they still do) so, as a kid, I always wanted to see them up close in case they went into extinction.

Where I live now, I periodically will get to see a manatee in the wild during the winter which was fine.  Then I heard about Blue Spring State Park – I found out about this park by following Save the Manatees on Instagram. In January they were posting daily about seeing 300-400 manatees at Blue Spring State Park. I was determined to visit and see all those manatees!

Blue Spring State Park is a Florida State Park located in Orange City, FL which is right outside of DeLand. Located in Volusia County and not far from Daytona and Orlando, it’s an easy trip from many locations. We Gator in the marsh Blue Spring State Parkchose to spend the night since it ends up being almost a 3 hour trip from the Tampa/Clearwater area.

Located on the St. John’s River, during the summer months Blue Spring is a place to go swimming, canoeing and diving. However during the winter months any water activities in the spring itself are prohibited to protect the manatees. You can still canoe in the St. John’s River during the winter and there’s a pontoon trip you can take (more on that in a minute). You can also observe the manatees gathering in the spring from the walkway located over it.

I scheduled a trip for February as that was the only time we had available as a family that might be a little chilly. I knew I had taken a risk by waiting until February because the manatees only congregate in the spring waters when the weather is cold. It is a bit of a gamble but one I was willing to take.

Unfortunately my manatee gamble didn’t pay off. The weather that February day was closer to the weather in our area in May. There wasn’t a manatee to be seen. Did it ruin our trip though? Not at all!

Inside The Park

I had booked a tour on a pontoon boat with St. Johns River Cruises. Their dock is located inside the park and it Main Lawn at Blue Spring State Parkseemed like a perfect opportunity to see the manatees up close. If you book be sure to get inside the park with plenty of time to spare because once the park is filled to capacity (which seems to happen quite a bit), you won’t be allowed to drive in. When we got to entrance of the park, we saw a chalkboard with a spot for how many manatees had been spotted that day in the springs. On our day there was a sad face : ( The park ranger said they hadn’t observed any at all that morning.

While disappointed, we were already there and so we headed towards the docks.  Little did I know that the 2 hour tour would be so filled with wildlife even without seeing manatees.The St. John’s River is 310 miles long and the cruise takes you through the in’s and out’s of the river in the immediate area. The captain gives a great synopsis of the history and the animals on the river. Along with the Birds On a Wire (or tree) Blue Spring State Parkmate steering the pontoon, they spot things you would never see traveling the river by yourself. On our trip we saw multiple alligators, about 15 species of birds, lots of turtles, fish and flora and fauna native to the area. The flip side of not seeing manatees is that the weather was just perfect at about 79 degrees and no humidity – one of those times when the weather is amazing and makes you excited to live in Florida.

 

After our boat tour we visited the historic Thursby house which is located onsite at the park. It’s a self-guided tour of a house that is original to the location. I enjoy history so it
was a fun, quick thing to do.

In addition to walking trails, a small store, picnic areas and a playground, Blue Spring State Park also has camp grounds. While we have camped before, getting a camp site at a Florida State park can be hard less than 6 months out, so we chose to stay offsite at an Airbnb*.

Exploring DeLand

I’ve been using Airbnb since I went to Cuba and have always had a great host. We picked a place that is literally 5 minutes from the gates of the park. Located in the back of their home, this little apartment was a perfect choice for us. Our host Kathy was very helpful and stocked the small apartment with coffee, individual cereals, sodas and condiments. Usually I try to pack some items so we don’t get hungry but my days before our trip were busy and I never got a chance. Thankfully I didn’t need to because Kathy was such a gracious host!

One thing we try to do on all our trips is seek out a local brewery. Florida has really blown up with the craft beer business and we like to try something new. First we headed to Odd Elixir Meadworks. Located in downtown DeLand it was a cute establishment but they had run out of their own mead and only had visiting breweries on tap. Since we live in the state, we had already tasted most of the ones they had that day so decided we’d hang out Persimmon Hollowat Odd Elixir on another visit. So off we went to Persimmon Hollow Brewing Co. Located on a side street off the main drag, Persimmon had 8 beers on tap, not including the limited addition brews they had. Across the alleyway was Neighbors Artisan Taqueria so we got some tasty tacos (shrimp tacos with spicy aioli sauce anyone?) to enjoy while we had a flight of beers inside Persimmons. Their beer was really refreshing and the atmosphere was very family friendly. On the way out we grabbed a growler, which is always a great reusable souvenir when you travel.

I would highly recommend everyone take a trip to Blue Spring State Park at some point during the year. Manatee season would be ideal but you could really visit whenever you can and still have a great time. We plan on returning soon. And I’m booking my trip for next January very soon – because I still need to see my manatees.

*If you’ve never stayed with Airbnb and would like to give it a try, click on my reference link and you’ll get a $40 credit on your first adventure! Airbnb terms and conditions apply.

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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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