Space Coast, Florida

Whether your vacation is to see a launch, soak up sun, or for education, you'll find it along the 72 miles of Florida's Space Coast.

It is known as Florida's Space Coast and it stretches for 72 miles along the state's Atlantic coastline. There are many things to see and do, including the Kennedy Space Center if you would like to see a launch or just visit the complex.

The complex covers 140,000 acres and will provide a day of fun and education. Your admission gives you a maximum access badge to restricted areas. Those areas are reached by boarding a bus that will drop you off at the restricted sites, and a bus can be re-boarded at your leisure.

In the visitor center complex itself, see the replica of the space shuttle and the rocket garden. There are IMAX theaters that will make you feel as if you are visiting outer space, and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat. There are also shops for all of your space related and souvenir needs.

One of the most unique programs at the visitor complex is called "Astronaut Encounter." NASA astronauts are present to answer questions daily. Another part of the complex to visit is the Space Mirror, a memorial to honor the 16 astronauts who sacrificed their lives for the exploration of space.

As part of the Space Center, you will find Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. On these 140,000 acres, you will find marshes, dunes, forests, and much wildlife. Over 300 species of birds, more than 100 fish, 65 kinds of reptiles/ amphibians, and many mammals have been documented as being spotted at the refuge. Some of them are currently on the endangered list.

Near to Kennedy Space Center, and on land owned by them, is the Canaveral National Seashore. It is 24 miles of undeveloped beach and covers 57,000 acres. You might see some of the endangered species that make their home here, but you will not see food vendors or picnic areas. Only at the visitor center near New Smyrna Beach will you find running water, so be sure to take your waterbottles with you if you are planning a day at this beach. Canaveral National Seashore is one of only ten seashores protected by the National Park Service.

If you have an interest in horseback riding, the town of Cocoa offers the Ace of Hearts Ranch. Beautiful scenery and gentle horses will provide a serene getaway from the hectic world for a few hours.

If you wish to return to a faster pace, try Andretti Thrill Park in Melbourne. Enjoy Go-Kart tracks, bumper boats, miniature golf, laser tag, slot cars, and a game room at Andretti's.

The Astronaut Hall of Fame is found near the Space Center in Titusville. Here you will learn all about the astronauts who first ventured into the unknown. You will also find interactive simulators there such as the G-Force Trainer. The Hall of Fame houses the world's largest collection of astronaut artifacts, and many mementos from Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights and the astronauts who made those flights.

Another educational experience to add to your itinerary is a stop at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science in Cocoa. The exhibits will transport you into the past where you will learn about Indian tribes and archaeological history.

The museum offers a fossil display and the history of Brevard County at the turn of the century circa the year 1900. Learn about the Seminole tribe and the Cape Canaveral lighthouse at this exhibit.

An exhibition named The Windover Story takes you walking through a simulated archaeological dig. Over 200 Native Americans were found near Windover Pond in Brevard County, which was discovered in 1984. They occupied this area of Florida around 7,000 years ago. It was the foremost of finds of the archaeological world.

For another museum option, try The Brevard Museum of Art and Science in Melbourne. The museum is comprised of seven galleries. The complex includes an educational wing, auditorium, and science center.

Eight to ten exhibitions are presented each year in addition to the 3,000 pieces that are permanently housed here. You will see collections of varied artwork including those from Egypt, Japan, Africa, China, Tibet, and contemporary work from artists in America.

Also in Melbourne, you may choose to spend some time at the Brevard Zoo. Learn about animals here through their hands-on approach to exhibits (they call this "paws-on"). This zoo is home to over 400 native animals as well as animals from Latin America and Australia.

From Latin America, see a jaguar, anteater, llama, monkeys, and many more species. Animals to see that are native to Florida are the alligator, bald eagle, red wolf, otters, and others. Finally, watch kangaroos, wallabies, dingo, emu, and more that are native animals to Australia.

The Brevard Zoo also offers a train ride that will take you around Lemur Island and the Australian Aviary.

Still another site to visit in Melbourne is the Henegar Center for the Arts. This building has been recently renovated and the Center can be found on the National Register of Historical Buildings. Contact the Center for information on upcoming performances and exhibits.

If you choose a relaxing cruise while spending time at the space coast, you will find it at Space Coast Nature Tours. This cruise leaves the Titusville Municipal Marina, near the Kennedy Space Center. Cruise on the Indian River Lagoon and see dolphins, alligators, and NASA's space shuttle building as well as some of the launch pads. The cruise is narrated and lasts 90 minutes. Sunset and Moonrise cruises are also available and can be reserved by request only for groups of ten or more guests.

Last but certainly not least, you may enjoy a stop at the Valiant Air Command War Bird Museum, also in Titusville. The museum is home to hundreds of vintage warplanes dating from pre WWI to the present.

The museum sits on ten acres at the Space Center Executive Airport. Planes are restored here as well as displayed. The major display area covers about 30,000 square feet. An area that houses a display of pilot/flyer memorabilia is on site as well.

Whether your trip to Florida's Space Coast is for educational purposes, space or launch related, or just a stay at some fabulous beaches, you will find much to do in this area. There are many live theaters scattered throughout the various towns, as well as art galleries. Take your choice of many nightclubs, movies, cruises, and museums.

For sports enthusiasts, there is fishing, boating, golfing, horseback riding, and surfing.

When it comes to lodging, hundreds of hotels are located along the Space Coast, as well as countless shopping and dining opportunities. From burgers to seafood to fine dining, you will be able to find a restaurant to suit your tastes.

© High Speed Ventures 2011