Of the more than 350 known natural springs in Florida (the most of any state or country), none has spent more time in the spotlight than Weeki Wachee. While it’s natural beauty and constant 72 degree temperatures put it in the same league as other Florida springs, one thing does set Weeki Wachee apart: live mermaids.
In 1946 a trainer of Navy Seals named Newton Perry cleared abandoned refridgerators and cars out of Weeki Wachee Springs to start a new business. He had perfected a way of breathing underwater without a tank by using a long tube and an air compressor, and on October 13, 1947 he opened his 18-seat underwater theater embedded in the limestone side of the spring itself. Women, breathing using his new method, ate underwater and performed ballet for curious spectators flagged down on US Route 19. The show’s popularity exploded in the 1950s, which eventually led the ABC network to purchase the spring in 1959 and expand the original theater to 500 seats. Though the spring’s popularity has waned over the years, it is now a Florida State Park and was quite busy the day that the Fives visited to experience Weeki Wachee’s unique blend of natural and theatrical beauty.
The Little Mermaid
Item #1 on our list of things to do was see a mermaid performance in the underwater theater. We can say without hesitation that there’s nothing quite like it. The performers acted out Hans Christian Anderson’s tale to the narrated story coming through the speakers perched just above the thick viewing glass (all while fighting against the steady 5 MPH current coming out of of the spring). The limestone walls of the spring itself were the perfect backdrop,and the bubbles cascading aganst the glass for curtains between scenes was a nice touch.
Five of Hearts’ Thoughts: I really liked the whole play even though parts of it were unusual. I thought it was really scary when the evil witch came out of the tank. I also liked when the prince and little mermaid came together. Her costume was really different from what I expected. There was no green on her tail. I thought the air tube was really unusual- it looked like plugs, but it was a really cool way to get air. The music was really secretive. You could see their lips move but they weren’t really singing. It was coming from the speaker above. Even though it was a little mermaid show different from the Disney version, it was great anyway.
Live Animal Demonstration
In addition to the performing mermaids the park also offers an interactive animal presentation at a small theater on the banks of the Weeki Wachee. We got to see live animals such as the Florida pine snake and American alligator. Mixed in with the Ranger’s many jokes were some good information about the animals and their importance to the larger ecosystem.
Five Balls’ Thoughts: I liked touching the alligator. Its tail was sharp. The ranger said the big snake was a sweetheart. It wasn’t really poisonous. The other ones he talked about were poisonous. I recognized the coral snake and the cottonmouth.
After a morning of spectating, we were ready to take the plunge into the spring itself. In addition to a large swimming area with diving dock, the park has several water slides and a warm, shallow swimming area for younger children. While the Younger Fives did swim out to the dock and jump off, they much preferred the bath-like water of the kiddy pool area.
The Older Fives’ Thoughts: If the kids think the 72 degree spring is “too cold”, they are in for a rude awakening when they return to Maine soon and want to swim.
We’ll leave you with this music video shot at Weeki Wachee from one of Five String’s favorite bands. And Five of Hearts would like to add, “Pretty much all the stuff was cool at Weeki Wachee. That’s all I have to say for now. Bye!”