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Visit Florida’s Space Coast

The billionaire space race has reignited public interest in space exploration and travel, an interest not seen since millions watched Neil Armstrong make one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

It’s easy to forget that space travel was the dream of one man. In 1961 John F. Kennedy asked America to commit to sending men to the moon “before this decade is out.” Sadly President Kennedy did not live to see his dream come true.

JFK at Kennedy Space Center
JFK at Kennedy Space Center

When the space program began, NASA chose Merritt Island, Florida for two reasons: the launch would occur over unpopulated areas and an east coast location meant rockets leaving Earth would get a boost from the Earth’s rotation.

Explore Kennedy Space Center main gate
Explore Kennedy Space Center main gate

If you’re interested in space travel and the science of space exploration,  a visit to the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast is probably on your bucket list.

Top Tips for Kennedy Space Center Visitors

First time visitor? KSC is overwhelming. Will you have time to see everything? What should you see first? Start early and make use of the helpful concierge at the information center.

They can plan out a visit based on what you most want to see and your time available. The free map has good must see suggestions. A multi day ticket is also available – good for multiple admissions within one year.

Tip #1. 

My suggestion: Start where it all began – take the bus ride from KSC to Launch pad A. The world’s fascination with space travel was ignited by Apollo 11, the first crewed mission to land on the Moon, on July 2oth 1969.

Apollo 11 Control Room, KSC
Apollo 11 Control Room, KSC

See the actual control room, not a replica but the control room used for the first moon landing in 1969. These computers cost $3.5 million a piece and were the size of a car. Now your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than the Apollo 11 guidance computers. You can walk under a gigantic Saturn V rocket and touch a moon rock, which unremarkably feels just like an earth rock.

Saturn V Rocket at Kennedy Space Center
Saturn V Rocket at Kennedy Space Center

Looking like a model kit built by giants, theSaturn V rocket fills the room. The three-stage liquid-propellant reliable, but non-recyclable Saturn V was the NASA rocket that launched humans to the moon.

Tip #2. 

After you return, join the timed entry for space shuttle Atlantis. Choose your KSC visit partner carefully. This is not the time to have the argument that space travel is a waste of government money – money better spent improving lives on earth. That may be true but it’s a total buzz kill.

Tip #3.

After all that time on your feet, you’re ready to sit down. Visit the Imax Theaters for a film. When you visit the IMAX theater, take the stairs to the very back – the experience will be more immersive.  Also families with fidgety, coughing children will stay together on the first level by the entry doors.

While the Kennedy Space Center is the feature attraction of Florida’s Space Coast, there are plenty of other places and attractions to visit. Cities in the area include Titusville, Cocoa, Rockledge, Cape Canaveral, Merritt Island (unincorporated), Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Indialantic, Palm Bay, and Viera.

Cocoa Beach, south of Cape Canaveral, is known for its beach and surf breaks. Inside a surf shop, the Florida Surf Museum traces the sport’s local history. Nearby Cocoa Beach Pier has eateries and shops. The maritime forest at oceanfront Lori Wilson Park attracts birdlife. If you’re looking for unique crafts and curiosities or vintage clothes, check out Historic Cocoa Village.

Duran Golf Club
Duran Golf Club

Viera’s Duran Golf Club features a championship 18-hole links-style Florida golf course which plays 7151 yards from the tips. Designed by Chip Powell, Duran opened to the public in 2005.

The par-4  18th is the signature hole at Duran. This long, sweeping dogleg left wraps around a large lake, a challenging finale to your round.

Duran Golf Club Invitational annually hosts top women’s college golf teams from Louisville, Florida, Florida State and UCF,South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn.

Where to Stay on Florida’s Space Coast

Just steps from the Atlantic, the pet-friendly Windemere Inn by the Sea is situated on a barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Indian River to the west, located on A1A, in Indialantic, Florida. 

Windemere Inn by the Sea
Windemere Inn by the Sea

The Windemere Inn B&B features eleven comfortable guest-rooms. 

Pet-friendly Windemere Inn
Pet-friendly Windemere Inn

Tesla and Universal/J1772 charging stations are provided as well as parking.  Pets travelling with their owners are welcome in the secluded English Garden and the Windsong rooms.

Guests have the choice to swim in the ocean or the heated pool. Beach towels, umbrellas and beach chairs are all available to take to the nearby beach. 

Windemere Inn by the Sea
Windemere Inn by the Sea

We enjoyed comparing notes with other travellers over delicious homemade complimentary breakfasts and our genial host had great suggestions for local bars and restaurants including Meg O’Malley’s Irish bar in downtown Melbourne. Try the famous 18-cent bean soup and the best Guiness ever – in Florida!

Diplomat Beach Resort & Spa Hollywood

The Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood is at the top of upscale resort destinations in South Florida. Situated on the beach between the Atlantic and the Intracoastal waterway in Hollywood, the Diplomat is a member of the Curio Collection, a select group of luxury hotels under the Hilton imprimatur.

By the Pool at The Diplomat Beach Resort & Spa
By the Pool at The Diplomat Beach Resort & Spa photo credit: John Cameron

The AAA Four Diamond  Diplomat features 8 different culinary destinations and 209,000 square feet for meetings and events, the largest hotel convention space in South Florida. The Diplomat was voted one of the top 10 resorts in Florida by Condé Nast Reader’s Choice, 2019.

Diplomat Fitness Center
Diplomat Fitness Center

The compact, fully equipped two level fitness center is adjacent to the spa which features floor to ceiling windows that overlook the Atlantic Ocean.  Try a Diplomat Spa + Wellness signature massage –  any massage from the menu at the Diplomat Spa is available for couples.

Diplomat Beach Resort & Spa Governor Suite
Diplomat Beach Resort & Spa Governor Suite

All 1000 rooms have a warm, contemporary palette with a nod to surfer culture – a pleasing blend of upscale with casual. Guests have a choice between rooms facing east with beautiful views of the sunrise over the Atlantic or facing west with a view of sunsets over the Intracoastal waterway. The corner suites have 180 degree views of both.

Diplomat Beach Resort pools
Diplomat Beach Resort pools photo credit: John Cameron

If the ocean is too rough or too cold, swim the Diplomat’s two beautiful pools, a shallow rectangular infinity pool with a unique glass-bottom window and a large, elongated kidney-shaped pool at beach level.

Where to Eat

Monkitail Sushi Bar at The Diplomat
Monkitail Sushi Bar photo credit: John Cameron

Whether you’re staying at the Diplomat or just come for a meal, you have great options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Restaurants Point Royal from celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Monkitail from Chef & Restaurateur Michael Schulson complement the luxury steakhouse Diplomat Prime and beachfront patio cafe Playa.

There is also Counterpoint, an all day grab and go, featuring specialty coffees, sandwiches and pastries, open seven days a week, Candy & Cones for your sweet tooth and a secret, intimate karaoke bar, Nokku, where you can drink and sing your heart out until 2am.

Point Royal at The Diplomat Beach Resort
Point Royal at The Diplomat Beach Resort photo credit: John Cameron

Point Royal has an appetizing array of breakfast buffet choices and a custom omelet chef. Choose your ingredients and the chef will magically create one of the best omelets you have ever tasted. Tip: if you’re not that hungry, ask for a one or two egg omelet. Point Royal is also open for lunch and dinner.

Michael Schulson & Chef Taek Lee
Michael Schulson & Chef Taek Lee at Monkitail photo credit: The Diploma

Michael Schulson’s Monkitail has a beautiful Japanese themed sushi bar, main dining room and private speak-easy karaoke, all conceived by design team Rohe Creative.

Start your meal with a cocktail – the Monkitail – a great variation on a Manhattan with extra visual pizzaz – our waiter placed cinnamon and cloves on a barrel stave, torched it until it smoked, then captured the smoke in an overturned glass. Once the glass was filled with smoke, our waiter filled it with the cocktail. The smokiness remains for the entire drink and takes the ordinary Manhattan to another level. 

As it was our first visit, we chose the chef’s tasting menu – a perfect introduction to Monkitail’s take on the classic Izakaya.  Some favorites: the big eye tuna special roll, the lobster tail, neatly split in two, the Duck Scrapple Bao Bun – duck confit with maple teriyaki syrup wrapped in a home-made steamed bun covered in black sesame seeds. Ice cream sushi was the perfect finish to our meal.

When you want to celebrate a special  occasion head to Diplomat Prime, featuring both steak and seafood. Stone crabs, found only on Florida’s gulf coast, make a great appetizer. Two large claws, perfectly cracked, arrive at the table. Eating them is 100 percent satisfaction, zero effort. Tip: Florida stone crabs are only in season from October to May.

Diplomat Prime at The Diplomat Beach Resort
Diplomat Prime at The Diplomat Beach Resort photo credit: The Diplomat

We enjoyed a crisp wedge salad followed by the walnut crusted halibut and a buttery melt-in-your mouth salmon.  And since this is one of the best Miami steakhouses, we couldn’t leave without tasting the delicious Japanese certified A5 Kobe NY Strip. Attentive service and a great sommelier with spot on wine pairings made this dinner a memorable one.