Weeki Wachee Springs State Park | 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill | weekiwachee.com
Just 45 minutes north of Tampa, Weeki Wachee is best known for its mermaid show, but you came to cool off, and they don’t let you swim with the mermaids no matter how long you plead. This spring is unlike the others because it’s more water park than lazy river. While the spring is large and the park is enormous, tubing is limited to a 20-minute float on Buccaneer Bay, which is great for those of us with a short attention span.
What Weeki Wachee offers tubers that can’t be beat are three slides—the Thunderbolt, Pirate’s Revenge and Cannonball—that are nearly three stories tall and shoot swimmers into the clear water of Buccaneer Bay. Bigger and faster slides exist at nearby theme parks, but Weeki Wachee uses its natural spring water so you don’t have to worry about contracting giardia or swimming in recycled, chlorinated water chock-full of little kid pee.
And unlike Ginnie Springs, Weeki Wachee has safety rules, so it’s an ideal spring to bring the kiddos. Get there early (7 a.m. on the weekend and before 10 a.m. on the weekday), because once the park hits capacity you’ll have to wait outside on the asphalt in the sun. When you do get in, cool water never feels better.
Weeki Wachee also employs lifeguards, and they’ll yell at you if you abandon your tube on the lazy river. You can’t bring your own alcoholic beverages, but there is a bar where you can get a little tipsy. (Remember, though, that alcohol dehydrates you, and you’re here to cool off.). A section of the spring is roped off with a sign that designates the area as a Manatee Zone, but some curious manatees have been known to wander into the swimming area and interact with guests.
$13 for adults, $8 for children 6-12, 5 and under free
Distance from Sarasota
Under 2 hours
Gallons flowing per day