Visiting Florida these days, especially if you are visiting the Orlando
theme parks, can be very costly. It currently costs a family of four well over $200 just to walk in the door. This doesn’t even include the cost of parking, snacks, meals and souvenirs. A visit to an area on the east coast of the state, often referred to as the Space Coast, can provide enough worthwhile inexpensive activities to make your family never even miss Mickey and Minnie.
If traveling by car, the Florida Space Coast can be reached by either Interstate 75 or 95. If traveling by air, it can be reached by three airports – Orlando International, Daytona Beach and Melbourne International.
Once at the Space Coast, there are many cities to stay in – Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach are the popular choices. Yet there are other smaller coastal cities that have fine accommodations as well, such as Titusville, Cape Canaveral, Satellite Beach, Melbourne and Palm Bay.
Near Titusville, you will find the Kennedy Space Center, entertaining as much as educational. For an adult price of $37 and $27 for a child, you can tour the facilities, see an IMAX movie, visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and take a bus tour to see launch sites, a control room and the Apollo 5 rocket. The only things you won’t find here are Major Nelson and Jeannie.
Also near Titusville is Black Point Wildlife Drive, part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. And afternoon can be spent driving through a seven-mile course, looking for several varieties of birds and alligators as well, in their most natural habitat. Visitors are encouraged to stay in their car, but don’t forget to bring your camera. The best part is that it is free.
Other than the famous beaches, Daytona Beach is also famous for its auto racing. Adjacent to the actual speedway, Daytona USA is an attraction that will make motorsports enthusiasts forget about Disney. Visitors can see interactive shows, drive race car simulators, and see an IMAX movie. All for $21.50 for adults and $15.50 for children six to twelve years old. Five and under are free.
Located in Cape Canaveral, Port Canaveral is where the Disney Cruises, and several ships of other cruise lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean depart. A popular activity for both locals and visitors alike is watching the cruisers leave, waving to the boats as they leave the port. The Grills bar is always open and many nights find a live band performing.
Leaving from the same port is a fleet of charter fishing boats. A place on a larger boat can be obtained for $50 or smaller boats can be chartered for $600 to $2500 a day, depending on the type of fishing being done. The charter includes a Captain and First Mate that provide you with bait, poles and the help you need. At the end of the day they will also clean and filet your catch for you. How much easier can it be?
If Cocoa Beach is famous for one thing, it’s Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. Established in 1963 as a small shack selling surfboards, it has grown into a huge empire. The business now takes up a complete city block, and is open twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Along with surfboards, clothing, jewelry, housewares and standard souvenirs can now be purchased. The trip isn’t complete without at least one stop at Ron Jon’s.
Animal lovers will enjoy a trip to the Brevard Zoo, located in Melbourne. The zoo isn’t too small or too large, and is just the right size to visit all the animals in one day. The most unique animal experience at the zoo is the high deck for observing the giraffes. Special crackers can be purchased to feed giraffes from your own hand. Popular marine animals are on exhibit, such as dolphins and manatees, as well as alligators and crocodiles and other standard zoo animals. Adults are charged $9 and children $6.
Of course there are many other enjoyable activities to be found during a stay to the Florida Space Coast. These are just a few to get you started. Send me a postcard while you’re there, if you can find the time.