If you’re heading to Florida, then the Space Coast, on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state, should be on your must-visit list. There is plenty to do and see there, and we’re happy that we can share unique things to do near Cape Canaveral with you.
You’ll have a blast as you enjoy a fun-filled weekend or weekdays as you spend the day at a space complex, dine at waterfront restaurants, browse the items for sale at the largest surf shop in the world, and do things like see Space Coast monuments and unusual museums.
Disclosure: This post has affiliate links, meaning we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase at no cost to you. We thank the Space Coast for hosting our visit. We truly only recommend experiences, hotels, products, and services we personally use and believe in. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Unique Space and Air Travel Things to Do Near Cape Canaveral
➜ 1. Visit Kennedy Space Center
No vacation in the area is complete without a visit to the famous Kennedy Space Center (KSC). If you’ve been in the past, it’s worth another trip there as new things to do and experience periodically emerge. I hadn’t been to KSC in over a decade, and wow, it blew me away! Dan had never been, and he was in awe of it too.
You need an entire day to see all that Kennedy Space Center offers, if not two. (But if you only have a few days in the area, be sure you leave time for all the other unique things to do on the Space Coast that we mention here and opt for the one-day pass to KSC.)
You can learn about the space missions (past and present), see IMAX films about space, take a tour of the Kennedy Space Center property on coach buses that also educate visitors about the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge (the island area where KSC is located), and even sign up for additional experiences like meeting an astronaut.
➜ 2. Stop by the American Space Museum and Walk of Fame
In a little dwelling that looks like someone’s renovated home is a museum worthy of a visit. The American Space Museum and Walk of Fame supplement Kennedy Space Center greatly. (To clarify, they are not owned by the same companies or people.)
We recommend going to Kennedy Space Center first, then visiting the American Space Museum. If you can’t get to Kennedy Space Center at all or beforehand, it’s still worth visiting this small museum that shares so much about space travel.
What’s different about the American Space Museum?
While Kennedy Space Center provides an overarching view for visitors to understand the purpose of various space missions, we felt that this museum in nearby Titusville really gave those missions a human connection. It tells the story of the people behind the missions and delves deeper into the physical items that supported them all.
One example is some Florida license plates on display, which have a graphic of the Challenger space shuttle on them. Fees from these license plates went towards benefitting the Astronaut Memorial Fund after the disastrous accident that cost the Challenger astronauts their lives.
Another example is a small Snoopy doll on display. This museum explains how Snoopy became a temporary mascot for NASA during its early years, which is something we did not learn about at KSC.
What Else You’ll See and Learn at American Space Museum
As we alluded to, we learned different things here than we did at KSC. For example, at KSC we learned that the first living being sent to space was a Chimpanzee named Ham. (Ham survived the Mercury space flight and lived out the rest of his life at the North Carolina Zoo after a few years at the Washington DC Zoo!)
But we didn’t learn what his name, “HAM” stood for until we read about it at the American Space Museum, or learn that he was rewarded with banana pellets for successfully accomplishing tasks in space training. This Space Coast museum even has one of Ham’s banana pellet treats on display!
There are several rooms to explore here. Interesting things we saw and interacted with handprints in bronze of six of the original seven astronauts were (including Neil Armstrong), one of the original space command center station setups, the huge computers used to record data in the 1960s, and a Women in Space gallery.
There, we learned about Wally Funk, a former astronaut during the 1960s who helped our minds bridge the gap between space travel back then and present-day missions.
In 2021 she bought a $200,000 ticket to space with Blue Origin. She crossed the 100km Karman line, the internationally recognized line at the edge of space, making her the record holder for the oldest woman in space at age 82.
American Space Museum Founding
As the “legend” goes (also known as: the story told to us by one of the employees at the museum), in 2001, a local Space Coast area physician went to California. Here, like many visitors to the west coast, he saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This gave him the idea to create something similar for the space missions closer to home.
He called for people who worked on the missions to come forward so he could add their names to the monuments and memorials that would make up the Space Walk of Fame and Space View Park. When these people came forward, they also brought him memorabilia from their space jobs.
He wanted to display these things for the public to see – and that’s how the museum started! Everything in the museum was donated.
There’s also a beautiful mural in the parking lot next to the museum that’s worth a photo stop!
Plan to spend approximately one hour at this museum.
Gift Shop at the Museum
If you are interested to purchase some space-themed gifts while you’re in town, this is a good place to do it. They sell NASA calendars, t-shirts, hats, patches, and dehydrated space ice cream!
Perusing the gift shop does not require museum entry.
➜ 3. Stroll Along Space View Park and See the Space Mission Monuments
Space View Park is just a few blocks from the American Space Museum. Monuments tower above the ground into the horizon commemorating several missions to space: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the shuttle launches.
There is also an “In the Line of Duty” monument that remembers workers and astronauts who lost their lives during the space program.
We parked in Veterans Memorial Park off of Broad Street and easily walked to the monuments. The first monument we visited was Mercury. When we viewed it, we were facing the Indian River, looking out to the launch pads on Merritt Island.
➜ 4. Visit the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum
Speaking of transportation, whether to outer space or the skies above, if you like air travel, consider visiting the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum.
The museum is mostly run by volunteers and veterans. Inside, you’ll find 53 planes from various wars and missions (including WWI, WWII, and the Korean War) that are in pristine condition. This is because many are restored onsite.
A lot of these airplanes still fly and are taken out a couple of times a month.
There are three categories of planes in the Warbird Museum:
- Airplanes on loan (one example is a jet on display that is on loan from the Air Force)
- Some have been purchased by the museum and they own them. For these planes, if it can fly, they fly it, and if not, it’s a static display.
- Privately owned airplanes that park at the museum hangars and allow the museum to show them off.
We’ve been to similar museums around the United States but didn’t know several things that our guide, veteran Ron, informed us about until we visited. One such thing is that all planes for the Navy have wings that fold for storage purposes.
Another thing was that you can know the purpose of a plane from the letter before its numbers. For example, “F” is for a fighter plane, and “C” is for combat. You may even have a plane with “FA” meaning it’s a dual-purpose fighter and attack plane.
There was a great tie into the space program at the Warbird Museum when we saw a shuttle chase plane on display.
Unique Planes You’ll See at the Museum
You’ll see so many interesting airplanes at the museum spanning decades of history.
Some especially unique planes on display include:
- C-47, which flew in Normandy and Berlin. It is still flown three times a month.
- The only flyable P-82 in the world. (Only two were ever built!) This incredibly rare “Twin Mustang” plane from 1949 is one of the most unique airplanes we’ve ever seen. (It’s also for sale if you have $12M to spend on it!)
- Nose cone of a B-52 that you’re allowed to go in with a museum guide.
Set aside at least an hour and a half for the museum.
What’s Unique about the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in Titusville
Not only can you see the planes here but you can touch them. There are no stanchions partitioning off the planes from a visitor’s touch.
It was cool to be able to feel the cloth around cloth-clad planes, for example, to understand what our guide told us about how bullet holes don’t affect them during combat because of the material. If you’re a tactile person like me, this is a valuable part of the experience.
Another unique thing about the museum is that you can watch the planes being restored and repaired. One of the three hangars is dedicated to this purpose. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see a plane take off or land there.
We noticed that there was a disco ball hanging from the ceiling in one of the three hangars on the property and learned that you can rent space for events here too. They’ve hosted everything from graduations to weddings!
➜ 5. Watch a Space Launch
If you are on the Space Coast, it’s worth looking to see if there’s a space launch while you’re there. There are many areas where you can easily see across the river onto Merritt Island, where the Kennedy Space Center launches take place.
We first saw the launch schedule when we checked into our awesome space hotel at the Courtyard Marriott in Titusville. Then the bartender clued us into a very useful free app that shares space launch information called “Next Spaceflight” (they have a website too).
You’d be surprised by how many mini launches surround the “bigger” ones that are more likely to make the news.
Here are three great places to watch space launches along the Space Coast:
The Space Bar
This is the best place to watch a launch if you ask us. It’s located on the top floor of the Courtyard Marriott in Titusville, which is also the best place to stay in the Space Coast.
You’ll be close to the comforts of things like a bar with food (including appetizers, entrees, and desserts), near bathrooms, enjoy free parking, and not have to wrestle with crowds. It’s also inland, which means you won’t have to deal with driving over bridges and such to get there and subsequent traffic to leave after the launch is over.
What’s more is the cool space-themed cocktails they have!
If you stop by the front desk, you’ll be able to pick up a free piece of paper that shows you a diagram of the location of various launch pads in the distance, including who they belong to (like if it’s one of NASA’s versus SpaceX).
Veterans Memorial Park
Another great place to watch shuttle launches with free parking is Veterans Memorial Park. This is where the monuments to space missions are located in Titusville, which we mentioned above.
Here, at the waterfront park, you’ll find clear views across the river towards Merritt Island, where the launches occur.
When we walked onto the beach by downtown Cocoa Beach, we noticed that it’s an excellent place to watch a space launch! There is a clear view across the shore, over the water towards the Kennedy Space Center’s launch pads.
Kennedy Space Center
If you can get tickets to a launch event at Kennedy Space Center, it’s sure to be amazing. Sometimes they specially sell tickets to launches, like for Artemis I, and have different tiers of tickets to purchase.
The tiers vary based on the viewing location (the closer it is to the launch pad, the more expensive the tickets are) and include things like commentary on what’s happening during the launch prep and liftoff.
Other times, you might get lucky with a daytime launch that you can see from within the complex, which is already included in your Kennedy Space Center tickets.
While seeing a launch from Kennedy Space Center will get you closest to the launch site, if many people are expected to drive there to see the same launch, you’ll want to consider traffic into/out of the island.
If you don’t want to deal with traffic, then we recommend one of the other three launch viewing areas we’ve recommended above.
Unique Waterfront and Ocean Things to Do Near Cape Canaveral
➜ 6. Watch the Cruise Ships Sail Away as you Dine at Port Canaveral Restaurants
We happened to have gone to Rising Tide Tap & Table at around 5:15pm in Port Canaveral. Not only was it happy hour time (who doesn’t love happy hour?), but it was the perfect time to hear the horn of a nearby cruise ship sound before it slowly sailed away a few minutes later.
We were so glad we were sitting on the restaurant’s outside deck, where we had a perfect view of MSC Divina as she sailed out from Port Canaveral.
The food, beer selection, and drinks are great at Rising Tide. Expect to spend about $20 to $30 per entree, depending on your order. They have large portions so if you’re game to split one dish between two people you may want to consider it.
We very much liked what we got, which was Ahi tuna entree and their version of fish and chips! Try the local beer on draft too.
➜ 7. Go Deep Sea Fishing
If you like to be out on the water, not just looking at it, on a small boat that you can fish from, signing up for a deep sea fishing experience is a must on the Space Coast.
➜ 8. Go Kayaking By Day to See Marinelife
If kayaking is more your style, and you want a chance to see more dolphins and manatees than deep sea fishing, sign up for a guided kayak tour.
By day, you can paddle out to see the manatees and dolphins that live in Florida’s warm waters, depending on the season. These two-hour afternoon tours leave from just north of Kennedy Space Center.
➜ 9. Kayak by Night to See the Water Glow
You’ll get a totally different kayaking experience at night if you sign up for a bioluminescence kayaking tour, one of the most unique things to do in Cape Canaveral on the Space Coast.
If you’ve never done this before, you’ll be in awe of the glowing water as you paddle and “excite” the microbes that illuminate the water in the dark. It’s really fascinating!
The tour lasts approximately two hours and starts in the evening, around 8:00 pm, from Banana River Park.
➜ Head to Cocoa Beach
There are several things to do and see near Cape Canaveral in Cocoa Beach, a well-known area of Florida’s Space Coast.
➜ 10. See the Impressive Murals in Downtown Cocoa Beach
We recommend getting breakfast or lunch downtown and walking around before or after. It’s fun to do this before sunset at the end of the day too.
Walk around to see the murals near Minutemen Causeway (a main street downtown), many of which are painted during the annual Space Coast Mural Festival. Afterward, grab a drink and some food at one of the local establishments, like The Tiny Turtle, or nearby Long Doggers, just a short drive away.
There is also easy beach access by Coconuts on the Beach in downtown Cocoa Beach.
Downtown Cocoa Beach has limited street parking without meters and additional street parking with meters.
➜ 11. Visit Cocoa Beach Pier
Another fun area in Cocoa Beach is its pier. It’s currently owned by Westgate Resorts but has a long history dating back to the 1960s.
The pier opens at 11:00 am every day. You can have a drink at one of the bars here, shop at the little gift shops, and head to the end of the pier for a view above the ocean. There’s a cute little bar at the end of the pier too.
Parking is either $15 cash at a monitored lot, or you can find metered parking on either side of that lot for $3.50 an hour. With some patience, we were able to grab a spot there.
You don’t have to visit the pier to sit on the public beach, though walking on the pier is a fun thing to do. It’s an entertaining spot to people-watch and enjoy a sunny day on the Space Coast. (Don’t forget your sunscreen!)
➜ 12. See the Space Coast from Up Above on a Helicopter Tour
If you want to view the area from above, looking down, book a helicopter tour with Cocoa Beach Helicopters. The reviews are great, and pricing starts at just $19.99, with options to upgrade from there.
➜ 13. Learn about Surfing History at the Florida Surf Museum at Ron Jon Surf Shop
If you want to get to know a little bit about how the area, including Cocoa Beach and Sebastian Inlet, tie into the history of Florida’s Space Coast, head into the rental building of Ron Jon Surf Shop. Inside, you’ll find a small free museum explaining the area’s surf culture.
The space isn’t more than 1,000 square feet, but various photos and news clippings are displayed and you’ll certainly learn a thing or two.
You can even see Kelly Slater’s first big paycheck from a competition in Treatles, CA, decades ago. The oversized check (likely used for a photo opp) was for $39,600 and “signed” by Body Glove, back in September of 1990.
Slater’s first big win trophy that was awarded at Pipeline is also on display. It’s a large clay vessel that was glued back together after it broke during shipping and was thrown to the curb for trash. Slater’s neighbor, Sean O’Hare, put it back together. He also founded the museum.
We learned that the Space Coast used to be known as the “Platinum Coast,” thanks to an enlarged hand-drawn map that ran in Surfing Illustrated magazine that is on display, with a date of 1965.
The Florida Surf Museum is free to enter when the building is open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, every day.
Set aside around twenty to thirty minutes to go through the small museum. There are restrooms inside the building.
➜ 14. Shop at the Surf Shops
If you like to shop or you’re a surfer or someone who likes water sports, you must stop by two famous shops in Cocoa Beach: Ron Jon Surf Shop and Cocoa Beach Surf Company.
Ron Jon Surf Shop: The Largest Surf Shop in the World
Ron Jon is currently the largest surf store in the world at 52,000 square feet. Here, you’ll find anything you can imagine for surfing. We also saw the biggest and best selection of sandals we’ve ever seen for brands like Havaianas, Reef, Van, BillaBong, Toms, Teva, Under Armour, Rainbow, and more.
They also have a ton of sunblock (including a whole “Baby Bum” section for baby suncare), boogie boards, and surfboards. They have an entire section for children’s apparel and kids’ sunglasses, areas for adult shopping, and towels. You will even find a limited amount of NASA-themed space gifts.
There is a restroom on the second floor of the shop.
Cocoa Beach Surf Shop
This store is next to Ron Jon Surf Shop. The two share a free parking garage behind the shops.
Cocoa Beach Surf Shop has some of what Ron Jon carries (not all of it – the store isn’t as big even though it’s also two levels) but we noticed they also have a lot of Cocoa Beach-themed gifts, like what you might find in gift shops on boardwalks.
Additionally, perhaps because Four Points Sheraton Hotel is connected to the shop, there is a bar inside with happy hour specials on food and drinks from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Other Unique Things to Do On Near Cape Canaveral on the Space Coast
➜ 15. Visit the Wizard of Oz Museum
A somewhat unassuming museum stands out in green paint with a blue roof and a yellow-painted, glittery “brick road” leading to its entrance as you view it from the road on N. Atlantic Avenue.
But once you’re inside, you’ll realize there is more to The Wizard of Oz than you ever knew (unless you’re an uber fan, of course). You may not know all the treasures inside the museum firsthand, but you will certainly understand it more after you leave.
One of the goals of the museum, as described to us by the founder and owner, Fred, is to educate people about The Wizard Oz beyond the movies.
We didn’t realize there are approximately 40 books about the Wizard of Oz until we visited the museum! And the memorabilia inside supports the books, including first edition prints, signed copies on display from the original author, Frank L. Baum, and things like Wizard of Oz puppets and figurines.
Be sure to take a photo with the famous flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch, like Dan did!
There is also a Wizard of Oz immersive experience inside and an artist experience (currently Van Gogh) that will bring you into scenes from the books, like when the Tin Man proposed to the Munchkin girl. (Again, this is a story from one of the 40 books of the Wizard of Oz, not necessarily the movie from 1939 though you’ll recognize the famous characters.)
This is an especially wonderful thing to do on a rainy day in Cape Canaveral, Titusville, or Cocoa Beach.
➜ 16. See the Kelly Slater Statue, an Homage to the Greatest Surfer of All Time
Did you know Kelly Slater, considered the greatest surfer of all time, is from Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Space Coast?
There is a monument of him on a surfboard in the city, welcoming you into town just after you officially enter.
Though not impossible, getting to the monument is a little difficult if you want to stop and get out of your vehicle. We parked nearby at the Chevron gas station, filled our car, played the Florida lottery, got some cold drinks, and walked the few steps from the gas station to the brick area where the monument is to see it.
We learned that as of 2010, he was the youngest and oldest person ever to win world titles in 1992 and 2010 at ages 20 and 38.
➜ 17. Go On a Cruise
While you’re planning your trip, why not book a cruise from Port Canaveral? You can book a cruise on various cruise lines, from MSC to Royal Caribbean, Disney to Norwegian. Choose from cruises anywhere from three days to more than 8 days.
Conclusion for Unique Things to Do Near Cape Canaveral on Florida’s Space Coast
With so much to do and see near Cape Canaveral, we hope that this article expanded your knowledge of what there is to experience in various cities on the east coast of Florida in Titusville, Cape Canaveral, Merritt Island, and Cocoa Beach.
Plan to stay a while, book a space-themed hotel, look up the launch schedule and enjoy the area’s extensive options day and night.