6131 Commercial Way
Spring Hill, FL 34606
An hour north of Tampa, Florida and a favorite of offbeat traveler specials (see also the dinosaur gas station) Weeki Wachee Springs is a day trip and is a classic example of Old Florida. Think pink motels, wood shacks and alligator wrestling. Don’t come expecting a Disney performance, although the mermaids of Weeki Wachee often perform renditions of Ariel and Prince Eric’s epic romance. In fact, when we visited poor Prince Eric was so overwhelmed by his feelings for his mermaid bride he was taken away by a very real worldy ambulance.
The mermaid’s perform using underwater free-floating breathing hoses developed by a World War II vet in 1946. The mermaid’s theater was carved into the limestone, what you are watching is a performance in an authentic spring. While the mermaids and their spring isn’t exactly experiencing their heyday (in the 60’s it was so hot to be a weeki wachee mermaid), it’s a fun side trip. For more on the mermaids, read Virginia Sole-Smith’s excellent piece for the New York Times magazine in 2013: The Last Mermaid Show.
Eat: Becky Jack’s Food Shack
8070 Cortez Blvd. Weeki Wachee, Florida
Don’t balk at the appearance of this great spot right near the park, the food is excellent and the Shack has a great craft beer list. For the princess set, consider a stop in our runner up, the well-reviewed Magnolia Terrace Tea Room.
Play: Buccaneer Bay Water Park, Animal Encounters, The MERMAIDS (obviously) the options abound.
Your $13 admission fee gets you a trip on the River Boat Cruise (see below), admission to the small waterpark, visits with the mermaids of Weeki Wachee and tickets to the wildlife show with up close and personal encounters with native Floridians (that means alligators and panthers. Real panthers- that’s not a euphemism for a cougar from New York).
Learn: Rent a kayak or hop aboard the River Boat Cruise
Not being the up close and personal type with alligators and water moccasins, we’d recommend the River Boat Cruise with narrated tour provided by knowledgable local guides. It’s just like the ride at Disney with real animals, wildlife, fewer corny jokes and more algae.