Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A taste of kitschy cool Florida . . . Weeki Wachee Springs

WOW! I never thought I’d get a request for a post . . . but . . . this post is by request for one of Florida’s oldest and natural attractions . . . 

Weeki Wachee Springs

The attraction was a childhood favorite of mine and I remember visiting the attraction many times.  In fact, somewhere in my mom’s archives are photos from the visits.  I’ll include them in the future if she can find them.

Pre-Disney World tourist attraction days of the 1950s/60s were the glory days of Weeki Wachee Springs, boasting attendance of 500,000 people per year.  It is said that Elvis Presley and Esther Williams were among those who visited and/or made films and television shows there . . . naturally . . . it was owned by ABC, the American Broadcast Company, who heavily promoted the attraction. 

The feature attraction?  Live underwater mermaid shows!  The ladies came from all over the world for a chance to audition for the role of a Weeki Wachee Mermaid, who were dressed in fancy outfits complete with fins . . . and considered celebrities throughout Florida.  They perform in an aquarium-like setting set in the spring of the Weeki Wachee River.  The current theater was built in 1959, embeded in the side of the spring 16 feet below the surface . . . it seats 500 people.

The show was originally based on underwater air hose breathing techniques created by a former Navy man, Newton Perry, who trained SEALS to swim underwater in World War II.   

Weeki Wachee Springs, known as the City of Live Mermaids, is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida at the crossroads of US 19 and State Road 50, about an hour north of Tampa.  It is currently owned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a part of the Florida State Park System.

The spring is the only one of its kind in the world with the deepest fresh water cave system in the United States.  The park itself is 538 acres . . . the only water park that is completely fed by freshwater springs.

Along with the mermaid show, they offer canoe and kayak rentals, volleyball and swimming at Buccaneer Bay which is a water slide attraction with a beach-like setting of white sands and relaxing covered picnic areas. You can also have your picture taken with the mermaids or take a riverboat ride down the Weeki Wachee River and enjoy a taste of untouched Florida.  They even offer a summer Mermaid Camp for the kids. Visitors can join the Sea Diver Program and swim in the springs

Hours of operation vary by season . . . check their website for the schedule.

A quote from the Weeki Wachee website . . . The City of Live Mermaids is more than just mermaids . . . it’s a truly original piece of Florida’s rich heritage.


teecup said...

Interesting! I was immediately attracted to the mermaid in the photo. I wonder how long the show lasts and how long the "mermaids" stay underwater.

Gina Alfani said...

I have not been there since I was a little girl, but from what I can remember, it was an amazing show. I don't remember how long the show lasts.

Maybe someone will comment who knows.

Thanks for visiting teecup :)

teecup said...

It's my pleasure, Gina. I'm a fan of the retro feel of your blog... plus I like mermaids! :)