Mermaids have long captured the imaginations of humans, first appearing in Greek mythology more than 3,000 years ago. Although humans haven’t necessarily visited Weeki Wachee Springs, Fla., for that long, performing mermaids have captivated audiences since the park opened in 1947.
Weeki Wachee Springs is one of Florida’s oldest roadside attractions. In 1946, Navy veteran Newton Perry, who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater, saw a business opportunity and bought the land surrounding the spring.
He invented an air hose method for breathing underwater and enlisted attractive women to train as mermaids. Perry built a theater submerged 6 feet below the water’s surface, and in October 1947, the first mermaid show was held.
For more than 70 years, the Weeki Wachee mermaids have continued to entertain audiences, performing with athletic prowess while battling a 5 mph current directly above the spring boil. Modern-day mermaids currently perform “The Little Mermaid” and “Wonders of Weeki,” which showcases the history of the park and mermaid feats of yesteryear.
The underwater theater was closed in November 2018 for renovations and reopened Memorial Day weekend. In that time, the theater’s benches were refinished, walls received a fresh coat of paint, electrical was fixed and new ceiling tiles were placed.
Many dream of becoming a mermaid, though few actually achieve that status. Auditions are held once or twice a year. As many as 60 young women show up with the hopes of donning a tail for Weeki Wachee visitors.
The park also offers mermaid camps for children ages 7-14 and another for adults ages 30 and older. The camps frequently sell out, so be sure to check the Weeki Wachee website for the latest information.
When visitors aren’t enjoying the mermaids, they can splash around in Florida’s only spring-fed water park, Buccaneer Bay. Featuring four waterslides, a lazy river and a floating dock, it gives everyone a chance to cool off in the 74-degree water. Water park renovations are planned after it closes for the season at the end of September.
Other than renting tubes for the lazy river, all Buccaneer Bay features are included in the price of admission.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park also offers wildlife animal shows, although they’re currently taking place in the underwater theater before the mermaid show while the wildlife area is under renovation.
For those wanting to explore boating opportunities, the park has 25-minute River Boat Cruises (included with admission) beginning at 10 a.m., and guests are encouraged to reserve their spots early. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are also available.
When Weeki Wachee visitors grow hungry, they can visit one of several snack stands for food and drinks. Bonus: There’s a Tiki Bar next to Buccaneer Bay.
IF YOU GO
Location: Weeki Wachee Springs, 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, Fla.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. The mermaid shows run at 10 a.m., noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m. Each show runs twice daily, and weather could affect performances.
Admission: $13 adults, $8 ages 6-12, free for kids 5 and younger; 1-352-592-5656 or weekiwachee.com.