Last week, I found myself telling a friend about unique places they might not know existed in Florida. This friend was ready to add some new places to his ‘must see’ list and I instantly thought of Lu the Hippo in Homosassa Springs, Florida. Yep. A hippo is an honorary citizen of the state of Florida.
My family and I had the opportunity to visit Lu the Hippo back in 2015 and we still talk about it today.
Stick with me on this one and I guarantee you’ll be adding Homosassa Springs State Park to your ‘must visit’ list for your next Florida vacation.
Who is Lu the Hippo?
Before its time as a state park, the land itself was owned by the Norris Development Company and used as a roadside attraction featuring both native and exotic animals in the mid-1960s. Ivan Tors Animal Actors housed their trained animals at the park for many years.
Lu the hippo was one of the animals that called the property its home when Norris sold the property in 1978. Lu continued to stay on the property as it changed ownership many times over the years.
In 1989, Governor Lawton Chiles named Lu the hippo an Honorary Citizen of the State of Florida, so that the hippo would be able to live out the rest of his life at the park without any danger of being relocated.
How Old is Lu the Hippo?
As of February 2023, Lu the hippo is an amazing 63 years old making him one of the oldest living hippos in the world. The park celebrates his birthday each year on January 27 with a festive party featuring popsicles for guests and a hippo-friendly cake for Lu.
Where Can I See Lu the Hippo?
Lu the Hippo lives at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa, Florida. As a state park, it offers fantastic, paved nature trails and educational opportunities. Go on a guided boat tour of the waterways inside the park and during the cooler months, take part in manatee programs hosted by the knowledgeable park rangers.
You’ll find Lu the hippo at the center of the park, along the elevated boardwalk offering great views of Lu and her habitat.
Plan Your Visit to Homosassa Springs State Park
Located in Homosassa, Florida just about an hour and a half north of Tampa, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is worthy of a visit and perfect for kids. Tickets for adults are $13 with kids admission at $5, children under the age of five are admitted free.
For an extra adventure, add on a visit to meet the mermaids at the legendary Weeki Wachee Springs, only 30 minutes south of Homosassa.
Hippos and mermaids – all in the same region of the state. Who knew?!