Florida’s Space Coast is home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, and the cities of Cocoa Beach, Titusville, Melbourne, and Merritt Island. A thriving beach life, pop culture favorites, and a booming cruise industry invigorate the Space Coast. Last month, my daughter, Peyton, and I visited these areas and we had the best time! The Space Coast is an ideal location for your next family vacation, girlfriends’ getaway, or road trip adventure.
Known as America’s Beach, Cocoa Beach is an ideal location for your next family-friendly vacation destination. The beach itself is wide, providing lots of space for sunbathers and builders of sand castles, while the waves are perfect for surfers. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and nature tours are popular outdoor activities that await you in Cocoa Beach.
The historic Cocoa Beach Pier is a great place for entertaining the family, offering multiple restaurants, arcade games, pier fishing, sand volleyball, and shopping. Chairs and umbrellas available for rent during your beach days. The pier was full of families and was walking distance from our hotel.
Dinner at Cocoa Beach
Peyton and I opted to have dinner on the Pier, at Pelican’s Bar & Grill. Pelican’s offered both indoor and outdoor dining with exceptional views of the beach. We tried their Sea Salt and Vinegar Sidewinders (a fun version of fries) for starters and then ordered the Wham Bam Shrimp Tacos to share for dinner. Both items were delicious! The sauce with the Sidewinders is so tangy that you will want extra.
Pelican’s also had several dishes to satisfy your seafood cravings such as Steamed Clams, Snow Crab Legs, and Old Bay Spiced Seafood Blue Crabs. The Castaway Rum Punch and Cocoa Set Sail (a piña colada with spiced rum and blue curacao) cocktails were a big hit, plus they can be ordered in a souvenir coconut or tiki cup.
Pop culture lovers will remember that Cocoa Beach was the setting for the popular TV series, I Dream of Jeannie. There is even a lane named after Jeannie at Lori Wilson Park, a popular spot for tourists and locals, plus the town’s shops and cafes pay homage, too.
Another pop culture favorite on Florida’s Space Coast is the world-famous, one-of-a-kind, Ron Jon Surf Shop, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This flagship store contains 2,000 square feet of surfer gear and everything pertaining to the beach, swimming, and skating.
The Inn at Cocoa Beach
During our Space Coast journey, Peyton and I chose to stay at the Inn at Cocoa Beach. This European style inn, overlooking the beach, was delightful and offering super close parking. Our room was decorated with a beach-chic decor and had a wicker rocking chair that gave me a place to relax and watch the ocean. The Queen beds were comfortable and had ultra-soft linens while the balcony offered great views of the sunrise over the ocean.
The night that we arrived, a space shuttle launch was taking place at Kennedy Space Center. The inn’s guests gathered on a rooftop patio and we watched the incredible nighttime launch together. Someone was even so kind as to bring a radio so that we could hear the countdown.
Peyton and I were extremely pleased with our accommodations during our Space Coast visit and best of all, the air-conditioned rooms rocked! The best cooling I have ever had in a hotel environment.
One of my favorite places to visit on Florida’s Space Coast, and in the United States, is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSC for short). Peyton and I had “Lunch with an Astronaut,” which was a unique experience. Our lunch started at noon and lasted 90 minutes. Guests arrived to a huge banquet style room for a chef-inspired buffet style meal including entrees, salads, side dishes, breads, and a plethora of desserts to choose from. Soda, bottled water, tea, and Tang (yes, you read that right) were the drink choices. It was a hot commodity.
Our host astronaut for the luncheon was Veteran and first cosmonaut Norm Thagard. He showed us a personal slideshow of his career, life, and five space missions while we enjoyed our lunch. At the end, he fielded questions, then directly followed with a photo line. I thoroughly enjoyed this activity and will definitely schedule it for my future visits.
Peyton and I explored the rocket garden, Journey to Mars, Space Shuttle Atlantis, and watched the “Journey to Space:3D” IMAX movie before we called it a day. As always, our trip to KSC was a good one and we learned new things, including many of the future visits to Mars that will take place in the 2030’s. We stopped in the gift shop on our way out for souvenir t-shirts, postcards, and trinkets. Do not forget your dehydrated space ice cream, something that I have enjoyed since I was a child. It is so tasty!
Other Fun Cape Canaveral Opportunities
Another fun option at Cape Canaveral is to visit the newly erected Exploration Tower, which is stunning at nighttime. The tower is in the Jetty Park at Port Canaveral and has 7 stories of things to explore. This cove is also where cruise ships dock. An array of unique restaurants and tiki bars lined the waterfront, offering spectacular views. The Cove at Port Canaveral also featured karaoke, live music, DJ’s, and dancing.
Is gambling an option for your entertainment needs? The Victory Casino Cruises, at Port Canaveral, is a fun option indeed. The boat offered popular games such as Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, and Poker as well as 600 slot machines. The slots use the TITO (ticket-in, ticket-out) cashless technology. There are also sports lounges, bars, and the Atlantic Cafe, serving up classic comfort foods and favorites. Victory Casino Cruises are offered daily. Guests must be 18 to board and 21 to consume alcohol. You may also opt to charter a boat from this location. Peyton and I were supposed to go on this cruise but got tied up in traffic due to bad weather and we missed it. Definitely next time!
I am no stranger to Melbourne since I live 45 minutes south of this area. On this visit, we chose to embrace our adventurous spirit. Melbourne is no longer just another Florida beach town.
Fun at the Andretti Thrill Park
First up was a trip to the Andretti Thrill Park. This entertainment complex was a delight for both Peyton and I. The activities included batting cages, laser tag, a huge arcade, bowling, kiddie rides, paddle boats, mini-golf, a ropes course, and our favorite, go-carts. There were several options for go-cart tracks and our pick was the Formula 1 Extreme. I had not done anything like this in well over 20 years and it was so much fun!
Step out of your comfort zone and be a kid again; this is the place for it. Kudos to Andretti Thrill Park for having my 2 favorite games: Ms. Pac-Man (can you guess my age by this?) and Guitar Hero. The Andretti Thrill Park had prizes that can be purchased with arcade game tickets. An onsite restaurant served basic concessions and the pizza looked good. Parking and thrills were free.
Melbourne’s Premier Arts District
A hidden gem in Melbourne is the Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD). This area is located between two busy state roads, right before crossing the bridge that takes you to A1A. I had no idea that it was even there. This art district is comprised of antique stores, art galleries, a ballet studio, coffee, beer, and food, as well as a few surprises. Their mantra is to eat, drink, and buy local.
Peyton loved wandering around the unique antique stores and I preferred visiting Joan’s Perfect Pie, where we took home personal size favorites. The Key Lime lived up to all its hype. I did not have time to visit San Remo Italian Restaurant, but the garlic smell around the whole block had me convinced that I would love it.
On the first Friday of the month, come out to EGAD for free fun and live music as local vendors stay open from 5:30-8:30 PM to host this event. Pets are welcome. EGAD is also a Florida Main Street community.
Delicious Dining in Melbourne
For lunch, Peyton and I visited Squid Lips Overwater Grill, a fun, beachy-themed restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway. The restaurant is casual and has both indoor and outdoor seating, including a sandy beach option with brightly colored tables.
For lunch, we opted for Queso Cheese Dip as an appetizer, Teriyaki Garlic Boneless Wings, and Rustic Chicken, Shrimp, and Sausage Jambalaya. All of our food was enjoyable and the servings plentiful. We even had enough to bring home for dinner.
Florida’s Space Coast
Florida’s Space Coast was a blast and we will definitely be back in the future. The beaches are less crowded than more touristy areas of Florida and the prices are affordable for family visits. I think that these factors alone make traveling to this region of the sunshine state a highly viable option. Throw in the dozens of outdoor activities, historic offerings, and cultural opportunities and the Space Coast has everything that you could want. You will want to get familiar with Florida’s Space Coast.
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Thanks to Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism for our hosted trip. This included meals, attractions, lodging, and activities. We were not otherwise compensated for this post. As always, all opinions and suggestions are uniquely mine.