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The Space Coast: The "Other" Florida

By Maureen Austin, PassPorter Guide and Co-Owner of Grand Getaways Travel

Looking for a day-long break and something different from Disney or Universal? Believe it or not, a whole new world awaits you at the end of a quick 45 minute drive towards the east coast of the Sunshine State. Florida's Space Coast welcomes visitors who are on a mission of a different sort without ever leaving the ground!

The most popular spot on the coast is the John F. Kennedy Space Center, often referred to as KSC. NASA's launch center doubles as a wildlife refuge, and its size is impressive. The space center's Visitor Complex offers a variety of walk-through attractions including a rocket garden as well as Space Shuttle Plaza, where you can get up close and personal with the most well known space vehicle outside of a Star Wars TIE fighter. "Mad Mission to Mars" is an attraction that puts guests into the role of astronaut trainees, led by a wacky professor. KSC is also home to not one but two IMAX theaters showing two different yet equally exciting and pulse-pounding IMAX films. You surely will also want to visit the Astronaut Memorial - a moving tribute to our fallen heroes who bravely soared into space but could not return home. KSC also offers opportunities to meet astronauts at live Q and A sessions- bring your questions, autograph books and a camera! Be sure to take time out to visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame a few miles down the road towards Titusville, featuring incredible artifacts and information on these amazing pioneers (you can get combination tickets that get you into both attractions). Kennedy Space Center is open most days throughout the year. Admission prices vary, based on the type of access you desire - you can visit for more detailed information. 

If you time your visit really well, you might be able to catch a shuttle launch. Currently, the next mission is scheduled for May of 2005. If you are interested, you can sign up for automatic email information updates at the KSC website. Launches are a gamble - they often are rescheduled. In the event this occurs, in most cases, tickets to one launch are not transferable to another launch. If you do decide to plan a day around a launch you can purchase a complete ticket package -- that will provide bus transportation out to the launch site as well as an all day admission to the KSC visitor complex. To get as close as possible, this is the best option. My family and I trekked out to KSC several years ago at 4:30 am for a morning launch - the bus was efficient and the viewing site excellent. While the launch did not go off as planned (the engines shut down almost immediately after the countdown began) we still made a great day at the KSC and we got an excellent view of the Space Shuttle on the launch pad from a vantage point most KSC guests don't get to see. 

There's more to see and do once you return to earth. Check out some of the wonderful beaches the Space Coast has to offer. Cocoa Beach is just one of many beach-front resort areas offering the warm sands, blue water and relaxation found only on the coast. A variety of public access stretches offer grills, showers, rest rooms, playgrounds and much more. You can pick out an ideal spot by visiting the Space Coast's tourism website at

Eco-tourists and nature lovers will feel very much at home on the Space Coast. People aren't the only residents on the Space Coast beaches - each year between May and August, sea turtles lay eggs along this golden surf. You can see this amazing natural attraction on a Sea Turtle walk. Conducted by a professional guide, these walks are overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. You can call 321-676-1701 or 321-589-2147 for more information on this incredible experience.

If you've got a fisherman in the family, they will flip over the great variety of species and places to reel in the "big one." Pier and deep sea fishing are extremely popular but river fishers will find plenty of offerings throughout this area as well. 

Sports lovers will also find paradise on the Space Coast! Baseball fans can get their fix by visiting Space Coast Stadium, a new facility home to the Montreal Expos during spring training season. Golf enthusiasts can tee off at some of the best courses in Florida, including Baytree National -- designed by Gary Player.

A wide variety of accommodations are available for every budget and taste. You'll find hotels, resorts and motels as well as vacation home/condo rentals. Visit the Space Coast website for helpful links and offers.

No matter what kind of adventure each member of the family is looking for, the Space Coast has something to offer everyone. Blast off and plan your next mission!  

This article appeared in our January 28, 2005 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!

Related Articles:

  • Key Largo and Islamorada
  • Miami, Florida
  • Pensacola, Florida
  • St. Augustine
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida

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    Updated 01/22/07 

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