Things to Do in Crystal River
If you've ever dreamt of swimming with manatees in their natural habitat, Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is where to go. Established in 1983, the 177-acre (71-hectare) refuge is home to America’s largest concentration of the 1,000-pound gentle giants. West Indian Manatees flock to the more than 70 turquoise-colored springs in Crystal River for warmth during winter. With hundreds of manatees in a small area, sightings are frequent.
A relic of a bygone era when family road trips were still coming into vogue, Weeki Wachee Springs has been luring visitors off US 19 for 70 years. Why? This clear, cold and deep natural spring has real mermaids.
Young women, outfitted with shimmering tails and an oxygen lifeline to the surface, perform synchronized dances in the currents of the steadily flowing Weeki Watchee Springs State Park.Occasionally accompanied by the unsuspecting wandering manatee, otter or fish, the mermaid shows are themed and involved—like underwater musicals—for onlookers to peer through the site's 16-foot, glass-fronted basin from their seats in the 500-person amphitheater (For the best view, higher levels are recommended).
In addition to the shows, admission also includes riverboat rides, native Florida wildlife shows featuring alligators and snakes and access to picnic areas and Buccaneer Bay—a small beach with a kiddie pool and three waterslides dumping into the spring. With spring water always hovering at 75°F (24°C), it can be chilly to swim in on overcast days or in the winter months, given that a typical indoor pool is heated to 82°F (28°C) or so. Those visiting in summer can easily spend a full day or more—young mermaid enthusiasts ages 7 to 14 can join two-day camps to learn the underwater ballet moves of the Weeki Wachee mermaids.
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