Crystal River, FL – October, 2017 I have wanted to come to this area of Florida for many years. I certainly expected to make it part of our travel plans last season. When it didn’t work out that way, it shot to the top of the list of places to see this season.
The area is known for freshwater springs, manatee, and the famous and historic Weeki Wachee Mermaids. Since mermaids trump everything we made seeing them the number one priority our first full day there. They perform at what is now the Weeki Wachee Spring State Park, 28 miles south of our Crystal River campsite.
The attraction was created in 1947 by Newt Perry, a famous swimmer. He invented a method of breathing underwater from a free flowing air hose. He then trained pretty girls to perform underwater ballets.
Business was slow in the beginning but soon took off and in the 1950’s it became one of the country’s top tourist attractions. It was purchased by the American Broadcasting Company in 1959 and the business thrived for many years. It became a Florida State Park in 2008.
The entrance to the park is surrounded by statuary.
We arrived about an hour before the mermaid’s 11 am show and walked the entire park. Here is what the spring and underwater theater look like from above.
In the background are water slides which are open all summer and on weekends after school starts. There is also a swim lagoon which had half a dozen bathers during our visit. The theater doors opened about 10 minutes before show time and we wandered in and found a seat on the stadium like benches.
The performance began right on time.
I kept my expectations low. So I was pleasantly surprised what a great show they put on.
I wondered how they would tell the tale of The Little Mermaid in under an hour. But they did, quite effectively. Ariel meets a prince.
She innocently involves an evil sea witch in order to get some legs and join her beloved on land.
All seems well and the pair dance.
Then that darn sea witch actually demands payment, via the forfeiture of Ariel’s beautiful voice.
Everyone returns to the sea to fight this threat and save their world. The badly out-numbered witch is defeated and forced back to her underwater cave.
But not before she pops out of a trap door above the stage and scares the bajeezis out of everyone causing several youngsters to start wailing.
The show was something short of 45 minutes but they squeezed all the plot twists in quite effectively. I was very impressed with the performers’ swimming ability all while holding their breath for long periods between puffs on the air hoses that they sometimes held but were usually floating below them.
I loved how they used air bubbles for a curtain. They would release a massive amount of air below the glass and then when the scene was ready they would stop it and the “curtain” of air would rise on the next act.
It was a fun show but I can’t believe the performers get in that cold spring water for 2 shows a day (three on the weekends) every single day of the year. After the show we wandered to the back of the park for the animal show.
It was your basic talk about the local wildlife but the park ranger was engaging and funny. The park usually has a boat ride down the river included with your admission but that was shut down while we were there as they were waiting on their annual safety inspection.
This was our first Florida State Park this season and we chose to buy state park pass this year. They are $60 per person, or $120 for a family, so the same either way for us. It seemed a little steep but we can visit this attraction, and another I’ll tell you about next week, as often as we like. If we only visited them once, which is likely, we still have to visit almost 20 more state parks before the day use fees surpass the cost of the park pass. Challenge accepted!
While in Crystal River we stayed at Crystal Isle RV Resort. It is an Encore Resort, so it was pretty nice with a fitness room, pool, and hot tub. We got a sight for $25 per night through Passport America which is only available April through October.