I grew up in Tampa, FL and lived there until I was 22 years old. I never went to Weeki Wachee springs. I was very clearly missing out. Weeki Wachee is a small state-run park that offers swimming in the crystal clear cold springs, glass bottom boat rides, animal shows, real live mermaids, and most importantly, true Florida cheese! This place is basically a redneck riviera – where little toe headed kids have free rein (and cut you in line for the water slide), crusty old ladies run the over-priced inter tube rental stand, Mike’s Hard Lemonade is served on tap and 20-something girls get all dolled up in the thickest CVS makeup they can afford and swim to “The Little Mermaid.” It’s basically the best 13 bucks you’ll spend all summer.
I was really interested in visiting the park after reading this NY Times article earlier this month about the history and current state of the Weeki Wachee mermaid program. It is really interesting how “being a mermaid” in the 1960’s was something young girls aspired for and now it’s just a job, with considerably less prestige and sex appeal. Nevertheless, I thought the girls could really work it and there is definitely something special about swimming around under water with a tail on. If you look past the fact that you are sitting in a dingy old theater with a bunch of screaming little kids it still has a bit of a magical effect. I’d recommend this place over Disney World any day!