Weeki Wachee National State Park came on my radar when I was planning a trip through Northern Florida as a place to stop and see real mermaids swim. Wait – what? Mermaids? That was my reaction when I first heard about it. And after that all I wanted was to see the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show.
Weeki Wachee is a magical place. The mermaids have been swimming in these waters for over 60 years. We were extremely lucky to visit when the ‘Former’ mermaids all between their 50’s and 60’s, who have long retired, come once per month (voluntarily) and do a show. They start by introducing themselves and their absolute love and deep camaraderie with each other is so evident and so amazing.
You can tell how grateful they are to have been part of this park, and what they say is that Weeki Wachee Springs is their own personal Fountain of Youth. And judging by the way they look and act and perform, I’m almost compelled to get in there myself.
The Weeki Wachee Story Exposed
In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained SEALS to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business.
An 18-seat theater was built into the limestone, submerged six feet below the surface of the spring, so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring.
Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. The first mermaids were born. He also taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets.
The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947
In the 1950s, Weeki Wachee was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops.
Weeki Wachee’s heyday began in 1959, when the spring was purchased by the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) and was heavily promoted.
ABC built the current theater, which seats 500 and is embedded in the side of the spring 16 feet below the surface.
The mermaids have performed Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Little Mermaid and Peter Pan.
In 1982, Buccaneer Bay opened with water slides and a white sand beach.
In September 2003 Weeki Wachee was threatened with permanent closing if it can’t make repairs, upgrade their facilities and return to profitability.
Weeki Wachee Mayor and park manager is leading an effort to raise funds. The “Save Our Tails” campaign solicits donations from the public for improvements and encourages vigorous letter writing to Florida authorities and politicians to preserve America’s Last Live Mermaid Attraction.
In 2005, English rock band Supergrass filmed their video for their song “Low C” at the Springs. They filmed a short documentary about the spring, as well, while playing at a local bar and swimming with the mermaids.
In summer of 2006, stand up comedian Thomas J. Kelly became the park’s first ever male mermaid. His adventures were chronicled in a Web television series called “The Little Merman”.
From May 22 until August 30, 2007, the discharge level at Weeki Wachee spring dropped to a level that allowed for cave divers to gain effective entry into the cave system at the spring.
The park celebrated its 60th anniversary in august 2007.
In 2008, Weeki Wachee Springs proudly became one of Florida’s newest state parks!
Today, the tiny city of Weeki Wachee is one of the nation’s smallest cities, with a population of 12, including the mayor of Weeki Wachee who is a former mermaid
More Fun Facts
The Seminole Indians named the spring “Weeki Wachee,” which means “little spring” or “winding river.”
The Weeki Wachee River winds its way 12 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found.
Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 74-degree water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns.
Deep in the spring, the surge of the current is so strong that it can knock a scuba diver’s mask off.
The basin of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides and where the mermaids swim – 16 to 20 feet below the surface, the current runs a strong five miles an hour.
All sorts of people stopped to see the mermaids, even Elvis. Don Knotts, Esther Williams, and Arthur Godfrey all came to Weeki Wachee.
Weeki Wachee Today
When doing my research on this totally unique park my excitement grew and grew. When planning I devoted a full day for the park. With kids it’s always a good idea to focus on one activity at a time.
In reality, I also thought the park was much bigger than it was. To their credit, we were there during December and couldn’t enjoy Buccaneer Bay, which is the water park due to being closed. Without the water park, you can do the whole park within three hours (depending on how many mermaid shows you want to see).
What To Do On Your Weeki Wachee Trip
The main attraction, of course, are the Weeki Wachee mermaids. They have multiple shows during the weekdays and more on weekends. (Below is a schedule of times and shows).
However, besides the mermaid show, you can enjoy a fun playground. This is where we spent the majority of the time while we waited for the shows.
And also the River cruise, which is a twenty minute boat ride on the crystal clear spring. The guide offers interesting information about the area, the springs and the wildlife of the area. (You must go to the dock to find out the times of departure – they have several throughout the day).
Plus, a fun animal show. (Also schedule below for different times).
The Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show
Truthfully, this is the reason you come to the park. They have multiple shows during the day, and if you can, enjoy as many as possible. As for us, I knew that most likely we won’t be returning so I wanted to see what we could.
We were able to catch two shows. The first one was of the Former Mermaids. It was so impressive to see these 50’s and 60’s year old ladies doing acts that most 30 year olds would have trouble performing.
Then we saw the performance of ‘The Little Mermaid’. This was performed by the newest mermaid class.
They even take it outside the springs and on to the main stage.
Observation – Being a female I was extremely excited to visit the park. But once we arrived I noticed that 90% of the families were mainly with little girls. My kids, two young boys, still trust their mommy to show them a good time. But my husband wasn’t too thrilled to be one of the only males in the audience. Even the families were mainly comprised of mamas and grandmas with the little girls.
Personally, I think this is a place for everyone. But I can definitely see why this would be more of a draw for girls.
Information On Visiting Weeki Wachee
Address: 6131 Commercial Way Spring Hill, FL 34606
Phone: (352) 592-5656 (hours are 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.)
Child (Ages 6 – 12): $8.00;
Children 5 and under: FREE
The daily admission price above includes access to Buccaneer Bay. – The mermaid shows, reptile shows and river boat ride, are all included in the price of admission.
Yearly passes: $60 per person includes free admission to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Buccaneer Bay Waterpark. This is a Florida State Park pass, and can be purchased at any Florida state park.
Rental Items and prices:
Electric Cart: $15.00
(Buccaneer Bay Rental Items)
Single Tube: $8
Double Tube: $12
Triple Tube: $15
Regular Locker Rental: $5
Large Locker Rental: $10
Hours: Weeki Wachee Springs State park is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (*365 days a year)
The Little Mermaid – 11 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Fish Tails Mermaid Show – 1:30 p.m. (Saturday & Sunday only through Dec. 22)
Animal Show – 10 a.m., 12 p.m. & 2:15 p.m.
River Boat Cruise – First cruise departs at 10 a.m.; Last boat departs at 4:30 p.m.
Thanksgiving and Christmas Day – River Cruise 1 p.m. & 3 p.m. – Animal Show – 1:45 p.m. – Fish Tails Mermaid Show 2:30 p.m.