So much of how we enjoy an experience is predicated on our expectations. One of the first things we did when Dave and I arrived for our two-month stay in central Florida was head for Disneyworld. The American Express card whimpered a little when we dumped nearly $200 each on it for two-day passes. I arched an eyebrow as the gate attendant ever so perkily asked me to place my index finger on a scanner so they could gather my fingerprint (To prevent me from sharing my access card.)
There’s still a lot of magic in the Magic Kingdom, and we loved the new “retro-future” look of Tomorrowland, as well as the newish Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor there, where you can text in a joke and if it’s good enough an animated monster will deliver it to the crowd. We stood in back with big grins on our faces at the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction in Fantasyland, where an animated Lumiere and a lovely young lady portraying Belle, did indeed enchant every child in the room. The Hall of Presidents is still a rousing romp through American history made even more entertaining by an extraordinary a cappella group that performed before the show.
Epcot isn’t aging so well though. It’s tough to stay ahead of the future. The animatronics used in many of the rides are so last century. Many attractions feature nicely produced films, but the projection quality was often poor by today’s standards. And several of the rides we were on broke down, albeit briefly.
“Was it worth it?” we wondered aloud at the end of our visit. Just barely, we concluded. There remains a lot to love about Disneyworld, but when you’re paying nearly a $100 a day you expect a flawless experience.
Mermaids train for up to a year for these performances, often accompanied by the original inhabitants of the springs.
Flash forward to a warm and sunny Florida day last weekend, just down the road at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. In 2008 he state took over operation of the venerable Florida attraction, which staged its first underwater mermaid show in 1947.
I was expecting the equivalent of a dog-eared vintage postcard: A sweet but faded glimpse into a colorful past.
Dave agrees to yet another of my silly photo op requests.
What we found was a beautifully maintained state park, where we first boarded a pontoon boat for a float down the crystal clear Weeki Wachee River (fed by the 117 gallons the springs pump out every day). Our half-hour journey took us past a manatee mama and her calf, a gigantic eagle’s nest, a deer wading near the shore, an alligator and several kayakers.
On the other side of the park you can swim in the spring where the water is a constant 74 degrees. We waded in, wishing we’d brought our suits on that 80 degree afternoon.
But we were really here for the mermaid show. And what a show it was. The underwater ballerinas that perform here, slender air hoses in hand, train for up to a year. They can hold their breath for two and a half minutes. (Try it.) For half an hour they dived, and twirled, and blew bubbles—to the delight of young and old alike.
But the fun was not quite over. For $2 we watched our mermaid souvenir being injection molded before our very eyes, delivering the result into our hands still warm. A delightful afternoon indeed. All for $13 each.