Florida Attractions

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Kennedy Space Center Welcome Sign - Photo Credit: AK / Unsplash

Kennedy Space Center

Located in Merritt Island, Florida, the NASA’s world-famous Kennedy Space Center is around 30 miles from Melbourne International Airport (MLB), 45 miles from Orlando International Airport, or around 50 miles from Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB).  There is no public transportation to the visitor complex, but it is easily accessible by car.  The Kennedy Space Center is one of 10 NASA field centers and has been the main launch center for U.S. human spaceflight since 1968.  The NASA Kennedy Space Center has over 700 facilities and buildings across 144,000 acres for launches and other operations and is home to famous launch operations such as Apollo, Skylab, the Space Shuttle Program, and most recently unmanned and manned SpaceX missions.

 

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open to the public Monday through Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The complex is organized into Mission Zones and is filled with fascinating exhibits, attractions and activities, all designed to offer visitors a glimpse into the exciting world of space and technology.  Within the separate zones, attractions and tours are grouped by chronological era, from the inception of space exploration to current missions.  Visitors will also enjoy an up-close experience of the history of humans in space.  The visitor complex also houses historic spacecraft such as the Saturn V moon rocket, the space shuttle Atlantis and a large collection of memorabilia, as well as two IMAX theaters.  A range of bus tours of the spaceport are also available, along with many other exhibits.

Some of the highlight attractions at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex include the Rocket Garden, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and the Shuttle Launch Experience, where visitors can experience a shuttle launch simulation.  Housed in a 44,000 square-foot building, the Shuttle Launch Experience has four simulators which can each accommodate 44 guests.

For travelers looking to pick up some souvenirs, the Kennedy has two shops, The Space Shop and The Right Stuff store.  The Space Shop has over 300 space-centric items to choose from such as hats, hoodies, tees, jackets, sweatshirts and space socks, all designed after popular NASA programs like Artemis, Mars 2020, Apollo, SpaceX and more.  There is even a customization Station where visitors an personalize their gear.  Additionally, on the second floor of the shop, guests can walk in the steps of NASA astronauts across the original Apollo 11 gantry.  Located at the indoor Apollo or Saturn exhibit, The Right Stuff shop offers exclusive moon landing souvenirs and Apollo program memorabilia.  Items include graphic tees with iconic statements such as “Failure is Not an Option”, a Limited edition Earthwise Framed Photo with Coin, an Apollo 17 

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U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center - Photo Credit: Quick PS  / Unsplash

Mission Patch, Zippo Moon Boot Print 50th Anniversary, Apollo Program Flight Jacket and so much more.

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Orbit Cafe at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex - Photo Credit: Aditya Vayas / Unsplash

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also has six restaurants and snack venues including the Orbit Café, the Moon Rock Café, IMAX Snax, Planet Play Lounge, Milky Way and Space Dots.  At the Orbit Café customers will enjoy salads made with lettuces and herbs that are grown hydroponically in towers right before their eyes.  The restaurant is located across from The Space Shop and serves breakfast and lunch.  Menu selections include fresh salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, desserts, and more.  One of the most popular dining options, the Moon Rock Café offers an indoor and outdoor dining area, offering guests the unique experience of having lunch among Apollo spacecraft and artifacts in the Apollo/Saturn V Center,  Meal options include Chicken dishes, the Bacon & Swiss Melt and Pepperoni Pizza. 

Before entering one of the Kennedy Space Center’s IMAX theater to screen a fascinating documentary or film, visitors can pick up their pre-requisite snacks at IMAX Snax, which offers all movie favorites such as soda, candy and popcorn.  The Planet Play Lounge offers much-needed space for young explorers, while giving parents the opportunity to sit, relax and recharge.  The second floor features a bar with coffee, wine and beer, and provides a panoramic view of the entire play area.  For those craving something sweet, Milky Way has signature offerings like Blue Sky with a Few Clouds and One, Two or Three Ice Cream Spheres, as well as a souvenir soda cup.  Finally, no visit to the Kennedy Space Center would be complete without a visit to Space Dots, which is located close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis.  The outlet offers the unique ice cream and gelato in a range of galactic flavors.    

 

It is recommended that guests should expect to spend around 6-8 hours to fully experience the Kennedy Space Center, or for those selecting a bus tour, 2 hours will provide a comprehensive overview of the major attractions.  For more information, please visit the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s official website by clicking here.

Florida Aquarium

Located in the Channel District in Downtown Tampa, the Florida Aquarium has a 250,000 square-foot aquarium and is officially accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  The facility is home to over 7,000 aquatic plants and animals from Florida and throughout the world. The aquarium’s exhibits are laid out to show how a drop of water from one of Florida’s abundant fresh water springs journeys out the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Exhibits include a large, simulated wetlands under a tall glass atrium, a simulated beach and a coral reef housed in a 500,000 gallon tank. 

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The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida - Photo Credit: Florida Aquarium

Some of the exhibit highlights at the Florida Aquarium include The Ocean Decade Exhibition, the 4Ducks Theater, The Splash Pad, an interactive display about the restoration of Florida’s coral reefs and the CIBC Aquatic Lounge in the Mosaic Center.  The Ocean Decade Exhibition is a traveling global art showcase featuring unique digital works of art emphasizing the importance of oceans and conservation.  The 4Ducks Theater combines the digital excitement of a 3D film with a range of built-in sensory effects such as scents, FX lighting, wind, water mist and seat vibration.  The theater is located in the outdoor plaza of the Aquarium near The Splash Pad, and offers daily showings.  The Splash Pad is a zero-depth fun and sun water area for kids and features water dump buckets and spray zones for kids 11 years and under.  The feature also has a dedicated play area for toddlers. 

The Florida Aquarium also has a new interactive digital display featuring a set of short documentary films that will educate guests about Florida’s Reef Tract, the third largest barrier reef in the world.  The CIBC Aquatic Lounge is a relaxing gallery space featuring bespoke work by local artists, and also features state-of-the-art, imaginative exhibits showcasing a variety of small aquatic species.  For more information, please visit the Florida Aquarium’s official website by clicking here.      

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