A relic of a bygone era when family road trips were still coming into vogue, Weeki Wachee Springs has been luring visitors off US 19 for 70 years. Why? This clear, cold and deep natural spring has real mermaids.
Young women, outfitted with shimmering tails and an oxygen lifeline to the surface, perform synchronized dances in the currents of the steadily flowing Weeki Watchee Springs State Park. Occasionally accompanied by the unsuspecting wandering manatee, otter or fish, the mermaid shows are themed and involved—like underwater musicals—for onlookers to peer through the site's 16-foot, glass-fronted basin from their seats in the 500-person amphitheater (For the best view, higher levels are recommended).
In addition to the shows, admission also includes riverboat rides, native Florida wildlife shows featuring alligators and snakes and access to picnic areas and Buccaneer Bay—a small beach with a kiddie pool and three waterslides dumping into the spring. With spring water always hovering at 75°F (24°C), it can be chilly to swim in on overcast days or in the winter months, given that a typical indoor pool is heated to 82°F (28°C) or so. Those visiting in summer can easily spend a full day or more—young mermaid enthusiasts ages 7 to 14 can join two-day camps to learn the underwater ballet moves of the Weeki Wachee mermaids.
Weeki Wachee Springs is open from 9am until 5:30pm daily with mermaid shows running at 11am, 1:30pm and 3 pm on weekdays and at 10am, noon, 1:30 and 3pm on weekends. While the swimming area is open year-round, the waterslides are only open on weekends until daily summer hours begin in early June. The continuously running riverboats first depart at 10am and the last boarding is at 4:30pm—seating is first-come, first-serve and does fill up (especially when it's too chilly to swim). Tickets to the park are $13 for adults and $8 for children ages 5 and up.