What if I told you that mermaids are real? And that they perform in an underwater theater in the crystal-clear waters of a natural Florida spring?

If your family enjoys vacationing in the Sunshine State, or if you are stationed at one of Florida’s 21 military bases, you MUST see the world-famous mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs! Even better? Active duty and retired military receive 25% off an annual pass through the State of Florida.

Photo courtesy of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

Discovering the Mermaids

I’m an Army wife, a native Floridian, and I remember the moment I first learned about the Weeki Wachee mermaids. I was just 7 or 8 years old and attended a party at the home of my soccer coach, Cathy Davis. I noticed a beautiful photograph of her as a mermaid with a shimmering silver tail, and I couldn’t believe that I knew I real mermaid! From that moment on, I promised myself that I would one day visit Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

When I told Mrs. Davis that I was writing this piece, she shared, “I have fond memories of Weeki Wachee. It was a lot of work back then because we did dance moves to music and choreography.” She swam in 1975 and was one of two mermaids from Japan. “My fame was that the Mermaids were from all over the United States, and my participation helped make it from all over the world.”

Cathy Davis as a mermaid in 1975. Photo by her husband, Richard Davis.

Mermaids, Military and Magic

Since 1947, tourists have taken in the park’s natural beauty and have been entertained by the breathtakingly beautiful underwater mermaid shows. Even Elvis Presley has seen the show!

My military family was recently guests of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. We arrived prior to the park’s opening at 9 a.m. and there was already a line! We then immediately lined up at the Newton Perry Underwater Mermaid Theater to guarantee a seat during the show. My childhood dream was coming to fruition!

While waiting for the show to start, we enjoyed black and white film clips of the mermaids over the years. Then the curtain rose, the glass windows were showered with bubbles, and as they cleared, we witnessed three beautiful mermaids. They weren’t alone — some fish and a turtle decided to join in the performance that day!

We were blown away by the mermaids who gracefully swam, flipped, sang, ate (you read that right), and maneuvered with true agility and grace. Their performance was beautiful, inspiring, entertaining and magical.

Fun in the Florida Sun

After the show, my family made our way to Buccaneer Bay. We laid our towels by the white sandy beach, enjoyed snacks and drinks that we brought into the park, and swam in the brisk spring water. My husband and sons braved one of the water slides, and we then relaxed on inner tubes while floating down the lazy river.

We planned to take in the Wildlife Show and the River Boat Cruise, but the Florida afternoon thunderstorm had other plans. The kids and I found our way into a gift shop and purchased mermaid and pirate-related souvenirs.  I found a gorgeous abalone necklace, a mermaid magnet, and a Weeki Wachee Springs coffee mug.

A Navy Veteran With a Vision

Fun fact? The mermaid show was started in 1946 by Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II. He scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business, which, at the time was in such a remote location, that there were more alligators and black bears in the area than humans!

Newt invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen. He sought out pretty girls and taught them to breathe through the hose and smile while swimming, doing underwater ballet, eating and drinking. And just like true Sirens, when they heard a car coming down the highway, the girls would run out to the road, smile and wave the car in to see the show.

Take a look at this historical clip of this incredible Florida destination.

Weeki Wachee Pro-Tips:

My military family had an incredible day at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park! There was something special about taking part in a Florida tradition, watching the spectacle of the mermaids, splashing and laughing together, playing on the playground, scouring the gift shops, and soaking in some rays. We would love a subsequent trip to enjoy more park offerings to include renting a canoe or kayak to explore the river. Now that we have successfully navigated this treasure of a Florida State Park, we’d love to share these tips with your military family:

  • Take advantage of the 25% military discount for annual passes, because one visit isn’t enough!
  • Sign up for text alerts sent directly to your smartphone by texting the keyword WEEKI to 82149.
  • The park is open 365 days a year, but be aware of changes in performances and amenities, by checking their website.
  • Arrive early if attending on a weekend or in the summer. This doubles for a weekend during the summer! As it is a state park and not an amusement park, Weeki Wachee often reaches capacity early in the day.
  • Bring a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, but dress appropriately for the theater shows. For questions, look at their FAQ on their site. Outside food and drink are allowed. They also offer dining options if you work up an appetite.
  • Check the weather forecast in advance before planning an all-day visit. Refunds aren’t issued for inclement weather.
  • Bring souvenir money because there are many great finds! Forget goggles or other important swim gear? Their gift shops have you covered.
  • Plean for more than one visit — this natural gem packs an incredible value and is worth repeat visits.
Photo courtesy of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Keep the Mermaid Magic Going

Keep the magic alive after your visit with their Tail Mail literacy program. Children up to age 17 can write a letter and each child will receive an autographed picture of their favorite mermaid. The mermaids will read each letter, and their videoed response will get posted on Weeki Wachee’s Facebook page, Twitter page and YouTube channel. For more, please visit https://weekiwachee.com/.

A special thanks to John Athanason, Marketing & PR Manager with Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, for providing our military family with an experience we’ll never forget!

 

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A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops enjoys exploring the various facets of her personality by chronicling military life, world travels, family, her love of the arts and more. Her academic background is in the fields of Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and she has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. Jackie’s articles have been featured on Army Wife 101, Wall Street International Magazine, SoFluential, HomeAway, Military Biz Connection and FamiliesGo. While stationed in Germany, she regularly discussed her articles on-air with the Armed Forces Network in Wiesbaden. A mother of two, Jackie enjoys coffee, freelance writing, languages and discovering new ways to express herself. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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