Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is Florida’s only spring-fed waterpark. The nostalgic Weeki Wachee Water Park was built in 1947 and has thrilled locals and vacationers ever since.
Weeki Wachee is perhaps best known, for its Jimmy Buffett “Fins” song worthy mermaid show. These fully tailed mermaids have been putting on an amazing underwater scuba show for decades.
Going to the show had been on my bucket list since we moved to Florida, so when I was looking for an economical staycation option for my daughter’s first birthday the alarm bells went off in my head. After all her favorite book is “That’s Not My Mermaid.”
Find out all of the must-know tips for Weeki Wachee Water Park I discovered on baby girl’s special day.
Go On a Weekday
My daughter’s birthday was on a Thursday this year. And in the heat of the busy summer season, Weeki Wachee Water Park is known for reaching capacity by 10 a.m. or earlier. The weekends are even busier, so we lucked out to go on her actual birthday on a weekday.
It is important to know that during the school year many amenities are NOT open on weekdays. The water slides, kiddie pool, and lazy river float will only be open on Saturday and Sundays, but the swimming and mermaid shows will run during the week. This still makes Weeki Wachee Water Park a wonderful visit for vacationers.
Pro-tip: You can receive text alert messages about park capacity and weather delays by texting WEEKI to 82149
Arrive Early to Weeki Wachee Water Park
People will arrive even before the doors open. If you want a prime spot on the Buccaneer Bay be among those early few. With the three kids, we always wake up with good intentions but tend to get out the door later than intended. We arrived in line, yes there was a long line, by 10 a.m. and we were able to get in (remember it was a weekday).
The line moves along fairly quickly, but it’s hot in the sun and you will want to have your sunscreen available to put on the kiddos while you are standing there.
Divide and concur if you can. I recommend sending someone off to the left, opposite of Buccaneer Bay, to get your River Boat tickets. There is a limited number of seats per timeslot, and once they are gone that’s it. If you would like a particular time get there early to get your choice.
Pro-tip: If you miss out on a River Boat reservation all together you can do standby on the dock and see if someone doesn’t show up. We were able to get on with our family of five without any problem.
Bring Shade and Beach Items
I don’t know what I was thinking, but I didn’t bring my usual beach sheet and extra towels. You WILL want to bring everything you would normally bring to the beach, yet there are some restricted items.
Glassware, inner tubes and other flotation devices, alcohol, pets, and costumes are not allowed in the Weeki Wachee Water Park. But puddle jumpers, water wings, and life vest are permitted. The park does rent inner tubes for the lazy river ride.
You will want to create a home base for your family to regroup at. There are some picnic tables, umbrella tables, and pavilions for shade but unless you are among the first people in line for the day you aren’t likely to get one of those. Umbrellas and tents aren’t allowed on the beach but they are allowed on the grassy area behind the walkway. That is as long as it doesn’t impede the lifeguard’s view.
Pack a Lunch for Weeki Wachee Water Park
To save money on our low key family birthday party I packed lunch and snacks for the family. You are allowed to bring in a cooler, but it will be checked along with your bags when entering. So be sure not to bring any contraband alcohol or glass.
Technically coolers are only allowed in the Buccaneer Bay section of Weeki Wachee Water Park, but we got away with carrying our with us. The cooler we used was a smaller fabric style that fit nicely in the bottom storage of our stroller.
Be Prepared for All Weather
Weeki Wachee Water Park tickets are nonrefundable. That goes for rainy days too, so if you are in the park and it begins to rain you will have to make the hard decision to wait it out or go home.
It does tend to rain in the afternoon in Florida in general. We decided our rain shower was the perfect moment for our picnic lunch break.
You may want to pack umbrellas, rain jackets, and changes of clothes. It can be unpleasant being wet when it is windy and clouds cover the sun.
Pro-tip: There is a great shelter full of picnic tables, which is a not only a great place for lunch, but also the perfect place to hide from the rain. It is located at the far end of Buccaneer Bay behind the restrooms and concessions.
Best Mermaid Show Hacks
First you must have on a shirt and shoes to be able to enter the ampletheatre. And if you are soaking wet they reserve the right to decline you entrance.
There are several shows throughout the day, but the earlier shows will be the fullest due to families with small children leaving early as the day goes on.
Although I think it is technically prohibited we used waiting in line as a good moment for a snack from our stroller and a drink of water. We also had the kids’ kindles in the diaper bag and that helped entertain them during the long wait.
We made it into line for “The Little Mermaid” show about 30-40 minutes early. We probably should have gotten there even a bit earlier than that. The theatre filled up rather quickly so we were a bit left of center.
Thank goodness we were on the left (vs. the right), also know as Stage Right for you theatre buffs, as many of the scenes were played toward this side.
Due to the nature of the giant water tank there are large metal beams that may impair your view. In general the show is like a low budget community theatre production. But the underwater mermaid aspect made it fun for all of us to see.
My daughters were enchanted—including the baby. My rather active son hit a wall and lost interest toward the end. Thank goodness my husband was with me to help manage him.
Know When to Call it Quits
A day of hot sun and swimming can take a lot out of your littles.
Your kiddos will need to be 42 inches tall to ride on 2 of the three water slides and 48 inches tall to ride the third. The large slide can be quite a dramatic ride and splash into the water.
And though they have a lifeguard at the bottom I saw even adults get disoriented. I would be cautious to allow tired children to ride this one at the end of your day.
Also be aware that the Weeki Wachee Water Park is a natural spring. This means that the water is much colder than we are used to in Florida. If you are a Northerner I would compare it to swimming in Lake Michigan in early summer. So be sure to pull out your littles before they show signs of hypothermia.
Weeki Wachee Water Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30p.m., but don’t feel like you need to close out the park to get your value for the day. We swam, road the River Boat, watched the mermaid show, and some of us went on the waterslides. We had a full day and left the park a bit early.
I’m so glad we did. By the time we made it to the car the kids were hungry again and tired. It’s best to leave on a happy note vs. over staying until you have meltdown while you are still in the park.
Plans for Another Day at Weeki Wachee Water Park
Did you know Weeki Wachee Water Park has the deepest known freshwater cave system in the United States? There are a lot of cool features at Weeki Wachee you may not think about experiencing on your first visit.
We are looking forward to going back when our youngest is old enough to enjoy a paddle ride down the river. You can get a rental boat between 8a.m. and 12p.m. for $40. This rental includes the boat for the day, life vest, and transportation back to the park.
If you are looking for a Florida vacation that is away from the mainstream tourist area of Orlando then Weeki Wachee Water Park will be a special day or two for your family. For more fun travel ideas check out the Travel section of the blog.