My youngest daughter loves mermaids. So much so that she wants to be a mermaid when she grows up (after she finishes college and gets married, of course.) She turned 5 a few days ago, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the occasion than to go see some real live mermaids at Weeki Wachee!
Since I had never been there I really had no idea what to expect, and was wishing there was a “Know Before You Go” Guide. Well, now there is! ;o)
If you have a mermaid lover and want to take a day trip to Weeki Wachee Springs, here are some tips and tricks that I learned from our experience.
Get there early
The park sells tickets on a first come, first served basis, and when they reach capacity they close the ticket sales. There are no advanced ticket sales, and the only way to find out if Weeki Wachee is closed ahead of time is to sign up for their text alerts. I read all these Trip Advisor reviews about people showing up at 7:30am to wait in line, or being turned away in the parking lot at 9:05am, so I was convinced that we would drive an hour and 40 minutes to get there, only to be turned away at the ticket window. Talk about a stressful drive! I was anxious the whole way there, and had a mini heart attack each time my phone buzzed, convinced it was the dreaded “we have reached capacity” text. I will put your minds at ease – we got in! The park opens at 9:00, and we pulled into the parking lot at 9:30 on a Friday.
Be prepared to wait in line
Since there are no advanced ticket sales, the line to get in was crazy long. I was still experiencing some anxiety convinced that we would wait in this line and then when it was our turn they would turn us away. They did keep letting people park though, so I was hopeful that as long as they had parking spots they would have room in the park. We used our time in line to put sunscreen on everyone and to climb on the slightly risqué anatomically correct mermaid sculptures lining the sidewalk.
Be prepared: there is no awning or covering over the line, and it gets hot!!! We waited about 45 minutes in line to get in. According to the people in line around us, if you arrive before 9:00 the line isn’t quite as bad.
Bring tubes or rent some right away
One of the attractions at the Buccaneer Bay water park is the lazy river. There are single, double and triple tubes available for rent, but just like the park entrance, it’s first come, first served.
When we first arrived in the park we looked for a shady area to put our things, and by the time we got organized the tubes were already sold out! You are allowed to bring your own tubes into the park, so I would do that or go to the tube rental counter right away.
Pack a picnic lunch
There are several places to buy food, but I find it easier to pack a lunch. You are only allowed to have coolers in the Buccaneer Bay section of the park, so if you only want to see the mermaid or animal show, this may not be the best option for you. When we arrived we found a shaded picnic table toward the back of the park and claimed it for the day with our coolers and towels.
Find or create some shade
There are several large umbrellas with chairs in the beach area, some tables with umbrellas in the kiddie pool section, a few shaded picnic tables, and a large shaded pavilion toward the back of the park. Obviously if you don’t get there when it opens many of these areas will be taken. We were able to find a shaded table by walking straight to the back of the water park area. Another option is to bring a beach umbrella or pop up tent. These can be set up in any grass area, but they are not allowed on the sand.
Get the Best Show Experience
I know this may shock you, but the mermaid shows are also available on a first come, first served basis!
The doors to the theater open 30 minutes before each show. I thought that arriving at the theater 30 minutes before the show would be sufficient, but apparently the line starts much earlier. We were able to get in, but had to find seats way off to the right. I was hopeful that it wouldn’t matter since the theater is kind of rounded. Unfortunately, it did. Much of The Little Mermaid show took place near a statue on the left side of the theater or in the center. We could see, but not great. There are also large bars separating the sections of glass that blocked some of the action as well. My recommendation is to get there at least 30 minutes early and try to sit in the center section.
As an adult watching the show, I found it to be a bit hokey. The sound over the speakers was difficult to understand at times as well. My 5-year-old mermaid lover didn’t seem to mind, though. She was just enchanted to see mermaids swimming right in front of her.
Go on a week day
We visited Weeki Wachee on a Friday, and I would definitely recommend a weekday trip if you can. We were able to get in with a 9:30 arrival, but I’m pretty sure that would not have happened on a weekend. I would imagine that the lines for the shows and slides would also be shorter on a weekday.
Other things to note:
- The water is cold! My kids got used to it, but it definitely took some time.
- There are 3 water slides, and the line for all three is in the same place.
- You must be at least 42” tall to ride two of the slides, and 48” to ride the third.
- There is a shallow pool for kids 6 and under to swim in. No one minded that my 8-year-old was in there too.
- If you can go with another adult, I would highly recommend it! My friend and I were able to split up and supervise water slides, bathroom trips, and mermaid shows without all the kids tagging along.
- You must wear a shirt and shoes in the mermaid show, or at least wrap a towel around yourself. If you don’t they will not let you in!
- The ticket price is $13 for adults, $8 for kids 6-12, and free for kids under 5
- There is a 20 minute riverboat ride included with your entry fee. We did not do this, because it started to rain when we were on our way over.
- The park will reopen when it is no longer at capacity, and text alerts will inform you of this.
- If there is lightning in the area everything closes for 30 minutes.
Final Thoughts on Weeki Wachee
If you have a tiny person who is obsessed with mermaids, Weeki Wachee is probably worth the visit. If not, then I would not make the trip. It’s alright for the price, but maybe not worth the long drive and all the long lines. The mermaid show is ok but not great. The meet and greet with the mermaid after the show was probably my daughter’s favorite part. I’m glad that we made the trip and tried it out, but we will most likely not be going again. Unless, of course, she one day realizes her dream of becoming a mermaid when she grows up and works there…