If exploring outer space has always been your dream, but you couldn’t find the time to pursue multiple degrees and years of training, then a visit to Florida’s Space Coast and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSVC) might be the perfect alternative.
Although you won’t actually get to leave Earth’s atmosphere, the complex is still one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring places you can visit.
Located on Florida’s east coast, it serves as a hub for space exploration, offering visitors the chance to learn about NASA’s incredible history.
Not only can you get an up-close look at rockets, but you can also meet astronauts and even receive training for pretend missions.
And once you’ve explored the KSVC’s amazing attractions, you can head to nearby Cocoa Beach to unwind on the shores and soak up the local culture.
Here’s why it should definitely be on your US bucket list…
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Space shuttles and rockets
The first port of call should be to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which was part of NASA’s Space Shuttle program from 1981 to 2011.
Atlantis completed 33 missions, including trips to the International Space Station (ISS) and the final mission of the Space Shuttle program.
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I saw it up close in its exhibit, which features interactive displays like a shuttle launch simulator and a spacewalk experience.
I also checked out the Rocket Garden which, as the name suggests, houses an impressive collection of rockets from the early years of space exploration, including some replicas that the public can climb aboard.
You also won’t want to miss the Apollo/Saturn V Center, which provides a comprehensive history of the Apollo program and the incredible feat of landing a man on the moon.
The highlight of the experience is undoubtedly the Saturn V rocket, displayed in all its towering glory.
Train like an astronaut
After admiring the shuttles and rockets from the outside, I took my space adventure to the next level by participating in the Astronaut Training Experience.
This hands-on program gave me a taste of what it’s like to train like an astronaut, complete with VR simulators and real-life scenarios.
I learned about everything from spacewalks to mission control and got a behind-the-scenes look at the technology that made space exploration possible.
Talk to an astronaut
If you’re interested in getting some valuable tips before you head out to the training programme, you might want to attend the Chat With An Astronaut live presentation.
It gives visitors the unique opportunity to ask questions and chat with an experienced astronaut like José Moreno Hernández.
Deep Space Launch Complex
For those who want to get straight to the action and experience what it may feel like to launch into space, the Deep Space Launch Complex offers an immersive and educational experience for visitors of all ages.
Here, I witnessed the advancements within the space program while also getting a glimpse into the possibilities of interstellar travel.
The complex includes the Spaceport KSC, a slow-moving motion theater ride that transports you to Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
A single-day admission to the KSCVC will cost you $75 (£57) per adult/$65 (£49) per child plus tax, and the two-day ticket is $89 (£68) per adult/$79 (£60) per child.
It is located just 45 minutes from Orlando, Florida, and is open daily at 9am, with closing times varying by season.
Once I’d had my fill of the KSCVC, I headed over to nearby Cocoa Beach, in the central region of the Space Coast, to continue my trip.
The coastal town offers a wide range of activities for all ages and interests, from adventures to relaxation.
Visitors can enjoy over six miles of sandy beaches, and the pier offers breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean.
As the sun set, I visited one of the many beachside bars for some great cocktails.
One of the main draws of Cocoa Beach is its surf culture, with people travelling from around the world to come to catch some of the best waves on the east coast.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience the thrill of surfing, consider taking some lessons at the School of Surf in downtown Cocoa Beach.
The instructors provide personalised lessons for all levels and ages, ensuring that you have the best possible experience. Lessons start from $65 (£49) per person for one hour.
Cocoa Village Food Tour
If you’re looking for an exciting way to explore Cocoa Village, the Space Coast’s premier historic district, then a 2-3 hour food tour is the perfect choice.
With more than 20 restaurants serving everything from upscale cuisine to casual pub fare, there’s no shortage of delicious dining options to choose from.
During the tour, I had the chance to sample some of the best food in town, while also learning more about the local area. And at $88 (£67) per adult, you get quite a lot for the price, including a sample of the menus from numerous restaurants.
What to eat:
Playalinda Brewing Company – Brix Project
A brewery with a full kitchen serving up some of the most innovative dishes on the Space Coast, including takes on English dishes like fish and chips.
Rising Tide Tap & Table
A refreshing culinary experience, overlooking a lake and the Exploration Tower. There’s a choice of inside or outside dining
Bioluminescence Eco Kayak Tour with Fin Expeditions
I also had a rare opportunity to kayak through the Indian River Lagoon, which is known for its bioluminescent waters.
As the darkness set in, I saw the water light up in blueish-green as I paddled through it, creating a magical effect.
The tour is suitable for all ages and is an excellent activity for families, couples and groups of friends. Prices start from $74 (£56) for a single kayak.
Other things to do
Also, be sure to check out the Eau Gallie Arts District, Mural Tour – which takes you through the streets of the district – where you can see an impressive collection of colorful murals and street art. It costs $12 (£9) for adults and $5 (£4) for children ages 12 and up.
Likewise, why not give the Air Boat Tour a go – which travels through the St. Johns River marshes and swamps – where you’re bound to see an alligator or two. A 30-minute ride is $29.50 (£23) for adults and for children under 11 it’s $18.25 (£14)
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