If you’ve never seen a live rocket launch, what are you really doing? Kidding, we’re not judging, it took us years before we got to engage in the spectacle that is a wonder of ingenuity and massive balls of flame. And in all honesty, we’re living in another golden age of space exploration. SpaceX, NASA, Virgin Galactic, and others are sending rockets up into the last great frontier on a fairly regular basis, so you won’t have a tough time finding a date in which you can see a launch. But where do visit to experience a send-off up close? America’s Space Coast, Cocoa Beach, Florida and the next-door Cape Canaveral, are literal ground zero for your viewing pleasure, so check out our experience below and get ready to plan your own memorable trip!
Why Cocoa Beach and SpaceX?
Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral, and SpaceX now go together like cookies, milk, and…cocoa? In fact, there aren’t many better locations in the entire world than the beaches around Cape Canaveral to watch a rocket launch. With the recent focus on space exploration by NASA and the technological developments by SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, rockets are being sent to the great beyond on a very common basis. Gone are the days of having to watch these spectacles only on TV once every couple of years. You can check a variety of SpaceX and NASA launch dates for Kennedy Space Center on their website here, and get ready to plan your next trip to the beach!
Things to Remember When Planning a Cocoa Beach Trip
If you plan on simply traveling to Cocoa Beach or the Space Coast for the beautiful beaches, bright sun, and tasty restaurants, the secret is to simply try and plan the trip when a launch could be happening. “Could” is the key word for this entire article, though. If you take any one point from this article, make it this:
“Don’t plan a trip to the area for the sole purpose of viewing a launch.”Mayflower and Mayhem
I can’t emphasize this enough. Why, you ask? Rocket launches are notoriously finicky events because the weather dictates if a launch is a go or is scrubbed. If you’ve ever visited Florida, you already know how unpredictable the skies can be, so it’s worth realizing that the date you choose may simply not work. The best workaround for this is to check into what the backup launch times could be if the first launch doesn’t go to plan. For example, the launch we viewed was originally set for around 10:00 P.M. but got scrubbed to the second window, which just so happened to be only an hour later.
They’re not always that simple, though; some secondary and tertiary launch windows are only a couple of hours later, while others are could be days away. Make sure this info is known when you start trying to settle on a date! Below are photos from the time around the launch, which was well into the night. Note the massive lights in the background, and they’re absolutely dwarfed by the actual fireball of the rocket itself.
How To Make the Most of Your Cocoa Beach Trip
The beauty of planning a trip to the Space Coast and Cocoa Beach is that, even on the worst, rainy days when you can’t hit the beach and a launch can’t happen, there are still plenty of fun activities. Take advantage of the nearby options and simply make the potential launch the cherry on top of an otherwise awesome vacation!
For example, Cocoa Beach is only about an hour drive from The Happiest Place on Earth, Disney World! A reasonable day’s itinerary could include getting up somewhat early, eating breakfast on the go, and arriving at one of Disney’s parks by the time they open. If you’re void of ideas and you happen to be heading to central Florida around one of Epcot’s festivals, be sure to check out our article on the Festival of the Arts for a quick guide on what to expect and how to make the most out of the day. Also, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has the outstanding new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and Animal Kingdom has the safari and Avatar world. Disney Springs is also an outstanding way to spend a day eating, shopping, and just hanging out by visiting places like the Coca-Cola Store, Rainforest Cafe, Pele Soccer Store, and plenty more!
Ron Jon Surf Shop flagship store
Though Ron Jon didn’t get its proper start in Florida, Cocoa Beach quickly became its home when it opened the largest surf shop in the world, all 50,000+ square feet of it. This particular shop has a bit of everything from the obvious – surfboards, boogie boards, skim boards, bathing suits, etc. – to a very large skate shop, souvenir section, and plenty more. This particular store sits right on the beach, so it also has various watersport rentals.
There are tons of restaurants in Cocoa Beach, and we could probably do a full article on local eateries. Ultimately though, just take advantage of exploring the area’s culinary pleasures. One honorable mention, if you simply must have a recommendation, is Florida’s Seafood Restaurant. They have a bit of everything, but as the name implies, their seafood is top class. Various fresh fish, shrimp, low country boils, and plenty more are offered on a daily basis, and it is absolutely amazing.
Cocoa Beach is a vibrant location in central Florida with easy access to most of the perks offered in the Sunshine State. Beautiful beaches, rocket launches, Disney, Universal, Legoland, and so much more are all within viable driving distance. If you’re preparing for a trip in or around Orlando, the Space Coast is a prime place to visit or make your base of operations for a fun vacation! Be sure to leave your comments below!