Florida has a long and storied association with aquatic life. It is, after all, one of the few U.S. states almost entirely surrounded by water. For decades, people have flocked to Florida’s shores looking for magic in one form or another. And many of them have their sights set on something greater than your average aquarium. For those visitors, there’s Weeki Wachee—a throwback resort featuring, among other things, performing mermaids.
Described as “quintessential roadside kitsch,” Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is home to more than just an expansive green landscape. The unique attraction, first opened in 1947, is still one of Florida’s most legendary family destinations. Although some say many of its elements now rely too heavily on cheesy nostalgia, others maintain that the curious site has lost none of its original luster. Either way, visitors are all but guaranteed a magical time.
The site was conceived by Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy officer who arrived in Weeki Wachee just after WWII. Perry bought the land with the intent of using it as a training ground for sailors—specifically, to teach them how to use underwater air hose breathing techniques effectively. Eventually, he realized that the trick could be turned into a show. And the underwater mermaid theater was born.
Today, admission to the park includes an informative riverboat cruise, a wildlife show, and, most importantly, access to the 400-seat underwater auditorium that features an out-of-this-world mermaid show. In it, mermaids, dressed in traditional costume, perform a medley of songs underwater, sustained by a unique air hose apparatus that allows them to stay submerged longer than usual. The shows are legendary, and the performers have become local superstars.
Weeki Wachee is a weird destination, but for anyone hoping to get caught up in the magic and truly experience an underwater musical fantasy, there is nowhere else to visit.