Space Coast Florida: Must-See for Families

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Wondering what to do in Space Coast Florida? World-class beaches, restaurants and unparalleled history will keep the whole family delightfully engaged.

I had some preconceptions when we added Space Coast Florida to our list of Florida destinations on our recent road trip. After jaw-dropping shorelines in Pensacola and a myriad of sightseeing in Jacksonville, I figured Space Coast Florida would be all about… well… outer space.

Nothin wrong with that at all! There are lots of places with certain schticks, and the whole galaxy is a pretty awesome one to have.

Our family streamed Inside SpaceX again before we left, and prepared the kids to learn a lot more about space. They did, indeed, learn a ton. The experience, however, went so far beyond my expectations.

Alligator in water at space coast florida

Aside from the obvious marvels at Kennedy Space Center, Space Coast Florida took us outdoors through wild scenery we couldn't have imagined. We got up-close and personal with alligators, strolled calm beaches next to iconic piers, tried world-famous restaurants, and met friendly people in adorable towns. The list of things to do in this expansive region is dang near endless.

Honestly, if I had to pick just one region to focus a Florida vacation on? I'd say this would be the winner.

St. John's River Airboat Tours

St. John's River is the longest river in the state of Florida, and our airboat guide at St. John's River Airboat Tours was as knowledgeable as anyone could possibly be about it! We expected to see tons of Florida gators – and we did! Beyond that, though, we also spotted a bald eagle, turtles, herons, pelicans and cows and bulls ranging freely throughout the area. Captain Mike took the time to share tons of history about the unique ecosystem, and he offered tons of personal insights as a local native.

Space coast florida alligator air boat tour

If you haven't been on an airboat before, you'll be shocked at how fast they can go! Their powerful engines help guide a number of different tours that the company operates, from private couple-only experiences to family-friendly jaunts. They have moonlit night tours and daytime options as well.

Brevard Zoo

Families can find the perfect outing at Brevard Zoo. This zoo is home to a variety of animals from all over the world, giving visitors a chance to see animals up close in their natural habitats. They also offer quite a few hands-on opportunities, including a petting zoo and a lorikeet section. It wasn’t feeding time when we visited the lorikeets, but we found the birds to be really sweet and curious (just watch your step!).

Lorikeets at brevard zoo

It's not often that I rave about zoo or amusement park food, but I was completely impressed with the dining at Brevard Zoo's showcase restaurant, Nourish 321. On a hot day, our family truly enjoyed ducking under the shaded patio for decadently-adorned salads and gourmet burgers. It was a much needed break after a slew of adventure. I always love carving out those quiet moments in the midst of a busy itinerary and giving the kids some time to decompress! We spent an absurd amount of time laughing at the funny-looking pink-billed birds that kept swooping in for people's fries when they weren't looking.

Apparently, native Floridians are used to this behavior because nobody else batted an eye.

If you're looking for an extra-special viewpoint, you can actually kayak right through the exhibits here. Voted top 5 best zoos by USA Today, this is absolutely a must-see spot.

Kennedy Space Center

Space Coast Florida was the first space port in the United States, and has SO many great stories to tell! From the early history of the Apollo missions to the first moon landing and the current space programs, it's hard to fully explain the groundbreaking things that have happened here.

Kennedy Space Center in Titusville operated for 30 years and launched 135 shuttle missions for NASA until the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, concluding with the landing of Atlantis. A visit here offers a wholly immersive educational (and fun!) experience. It brings the space program to life in a way that makes distant, complicated concepts very personal and tangible.

I was a bit concerned about how historical tragedies like Challenger and Columbia might be handled. We've watched all the documentaries and read all the books to try to help our littler kids understand history, but there's nothing quite like seeing it in-person. I was impressed to find every single sight impeccably preserved and presented in a way that respected its reality. Our entire family was humbled at the Forever Remembered exhibit.

The sheer size and scope of each and every display throughout the complex is astonishing.

Challenger piece at kennedy space coast

To make sure you get a chance to enjoy everything at Kennedy Space Center, make bus transportation reservations to Apollo/Saturn V Center as early as possible. Timed departures are included with your ticket, but depending on capacity, seats may run out! Take the bus over and experience the thrilling countdown for Apollo 8 on the actual consoles used during the Apollo launches. Next you'll walk beneath a real, jaw-dropping Saturn V rocket that's longer than a football field.

Yeah, longer than a football field. It's mind-boggling.

Back at the main complex, Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Shuttle Launch Experience were special highlights that the kids really loved. Nate and I really appreciated the historical insights at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and the giant rockets in the Rocket Garden. Orbit Cafe had lots of delicious options and was the perfect spot for a late lunch and a quiet break in-between exhibits. It does get pretty busy, so try to avoid peak dining hours if you can.

Watching spacex satellites launch at kennedy space coast

There happened to be a SpaceX launch the day we visited, but we were too late to nab spots for the seprately-ticketed on-site observation seats. There's a LOT of information online about where to watch rocket launches, ranging from Palm Bay to Merritt Island, Port Canaveral and Cape Canaveral and pretty much any and every surrounding area. With miles of coastline, there are tons of spots to pull up a chair and watch history being made.

We got to chatting with some locals at Kennedy Space Center, and they recommended Shiloh's Steaks and Seafood as the must-visit rocket launch spot. It's worth noting that you need to get here early! We arrived a full hour and a half before launch, and nabbed one of the last window tables in the restaurant section. There are two sides to Shiloh's: the more formal, sit down spot and then the seat-yourself bar side, which features a large patio and a fun crowd.

Key lime cheesecake at shiloh s steaks and seafood

Whichever side you pick, ask about happy hour specials and definitely get the key lime cheesecake!

The Ocean at the Space Coast

Want to put the “coast” in “Space Coast”? Head on out toward Cocoa Beach Pier! When friends in Florida heard we were headed to Space Coast, they absolutely insisted that we go see Ron Jon Surf Shop. The Cocoa Beach Ron Jon Surf Shop is the world's largest surf shop at 52,000 square feet.

Ron jon surf shop cocoa beach flagship store

While you're in the area, you also MUST go to the ultra-touristy (and ultra-adorable) Key Lime Pie shop, and nearby Cocoa Beach Pier. Cocoa Beach Pier is such a fun place to have fun, let the kids run loose, and get some fresh air! Constructed in 1962, it's now one of the most popular places for visitors to spend their vacation. Head to the right side of the pier for classic beach vibes, complete with rentable beach chairs and umbrellas.

One thing's for sure: at Florida's Space Coast you will learn how to get your beach bum vibe on. Hang loose!

Where to Stay in Space Coast Florida

Definitely try to book your hotel early: we learned that there are a fair amount of conferences and events in the region, and it can be challenging to get rooms – especially if you need adjoining rooms – at the last minute. We landed in a suite at TownePlace Suites by Marriott Titusville Kennedy Space Center, and it was absolutely perfect. It's situated in an ideal spot to easily navigate the large region, and they have amenities like continental complementary breakfast, a saltwater pool and an outdoor fire pit.

Dixie crossroads foor at space coast

World Famous Dixie Crossroads is a short drive from the hotel, and is totally worth going to try their Rock Shrimp! Family owned and operated since 1983 and dedicated to local conservation efforts, you can't go wrong with their souvenir glasses and famous corn fritters.

Also nearby, for a more casual grab-and-go vibe, Heroes Grill serves up mouthwatering cheesesteak and wings. Opened by a Navy vet couple, the restaurant serves as a tribute to first responders. They offer veterans, police, fire and EMT a 10 percent discount on any order. Their already-low prices and community mindset have helped make this a cherished local spot.

While you're in Titusville, you can also enjoy some cycling! Titusville is one of a few trail towns in Florida, and three major cycling trails meet right here. BK Adventures rents bicycles – and SUP boards or kayaks, if you're feeling extra adventurous. Downtown Titusville also has a great welcome center and downtown murals.

Other Space Coast Sights

Merritt Island is a destination unto itself with lots to do beyond the obvious launch-observations. Merritt Island is the perfect spot for a day of fun in the sun! The island has plenty of restaurants, museums, and surf spots to explore. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the largest undeveloped mangrove forests in North America, providing important habitat for migratory birds and an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to observe the local wildlife!

If you're doin' it for the ‘gram, you definitely won't want to miss the murals in Eau Gallie Arts District or Downtown Melbourne. As I said, Space Coast Florida is an extremely expansive region, and it's a good idea to browse everything available and plan ahead!

Ready to find your space? Head over to Florida's Space Coast to discover what makes up Florida and its fascinating history.

What are your favorite sights in Space Coast Florida?


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