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 Florida State Park, 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.
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 Little 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.