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July 8, 2010 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Going to see a shuttle launch in Florida. Where to stay?

The hubby and I thought we might take our summer vacation in November, to watch a shuttle launch. I understand Titusville is a dump. So: Cocoa Beach? Another beach community? The water may be cool, but I know the weather will be great.

We don't need much in the way of hotels besides clean and reasonably comfortable, and we don't need fine dining. Mostly we just want to see the launch and lie on the beach for a week, with maybe day trips to Disney and Merritt Island.

Also, tips for where to watch the launch would be awesome.
posted by thinkingwoman to Travel & Transportation around Florida (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I used to work at the Cape, and during my commute home I would see many hotel options that seemed nice in Cocoa Beach, both cheap and expensive, on the A1A (Beachside highway that runs through Cocoa Beach).

When it comes to watching the launch, I know the KSC Visitor's Complex sells tickets to watch the launch within the KSC grounds, but I understand they're not cheap. If you would like to watch the launch for free I would recommend a few places: Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral is a hot spot to watch launches. I've personally never been there for a launch, but know many people who enjoy watching there. Be advised that it fills up very quickly so I would recommend staking a spot hours before. Additionally, I've watched several launches near the South Entrance of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It's a nice view because it looks directly across the Banana River to the launch pad. You can always watch it from the beach as well, (visible even from 40 miles north or south of the Cape on the coast), but of course try and get as close as possible.

Lastly, it's worth nothing that traffic is usually very bad after a launch and one can encounter hour long delays on the A1A, U.S. 1, and I 95 (closest highway on the main land). Think about packing some sandwiches and playing cards for the post-launch traffic jam.

Enjoy the launch!
posted by danhendrickson at 7:35 AM on July 8, 2010

I understand Merritt Island is lovely but I don't know what kind of lodging they gave there.
posted by beccaj at 7:35 AM on July 8, 2010

We went to see STS-131 in April and stayed at the Beach Place Guest Houses in Cocoa Beach. They have a number of options from basic rooms to 2-bedroom apartments, the latter of which are nice if you want to cook your own meals. They were also a little south of the main drag in Cocoa Beach, so getting in and out of the parking lot was easier than it would be in the middle of town where traffic is heavier. Very laid back and right on the beach, we would stay there again. There are a lot of hotels on the beach as well as other efficiency apartment type places, but I have no personal experience with those. There are some big chain hotels there that should have predictably good levels of service and compfort, though. Cocoa Beach is about a 45 minute drive from the space center, but it will take several hours on launch day. We had tickets to be bussed out to the causeway and the whole thing took us 12 hours from the time we left the hotel until we were back there. Since it was a 6 AM launch that meant we were slogging through traffic and crowds from 10 PM to 10 AM, with a 5 year old, no less! It was well worth it though, and much of that time was spent at the visitors complex which was open even though it was the middle of the night.

There are a few good questions on AskMe about viewing a launch, so check those out. One of them led me to Ben Cooper's page, which had the best information on launches I could find, as well as some incredible photos. Enjoy your trip; you won't forget it!
posted by TedW at 8:21 AM on July 8, 2010

When it comes to watching the launch, I know the KSC Visitor's Complex sells tickets to watch the launch within the KSC grounds, but I understand they're not cheap.

Yes, they are expensive and they are tied to the launch, not to a date. I bought one a couple of launches ago and they almost immediately rescheduled the launch for dawn on the day after Easter. I couldn't make it and it was very disappointing and a waste of money.
posted by smackfu at 9:03 AM on July 8, 2010

I bought airline tickets to go down and see STS-133 before the dates slipped, so now we're just visiting family in the area and going to the beach, my dream of seeing a shuttle launch dashed. Our plan was stay in New Symrna Beach, which is about 40 minutes north of Canaveral. Not a bad drive, but far enough to avoid some of the crowds in Cocoa and Titusville. We've stayed at the Longboard Inn and highly recommend it.

I was hoping to buy Canaveral tickets to see the launch from the causeway, but never got that far. my plan was to follow @ExploreSpaceKSC on twitter so I was sure not to miss the announcement when tickets were going on sale.

If you're into kayaking, I think you could go out into the Canaveral National Park and have a pretty amazing view of the launch.
posted by jrishel at 10:18 AM on July 8, 2010

When shuttles launch, people line all the barrier island beaches...Cocoa Beach, Indialantic, Melbourne Beach. The further north (closer to launch site) obviously the better. That being said, I've seen a shuttle launch from the park where thousands gather to watch and I've seen a shuttle launch from south Melbourne Beach and it's spectacular either way.

Melbourne Beach is a great town. Lots of great places to eat and unique shops. I vacation there at least twice a year.
posted by morganannie at 2:56 PM on July 8, 2010

I hear the launch dates change frequently, so if the only reason you are vacationing there is for that, uh... keep that in mind.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:33 PM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, we know the dates change frequently. We're flexible, and okay with missing the launch if that's what happens. We haven't had more than a 3-day vacation in almost 3 years, so we'll enjoy pretty much anything at this point. :)
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:27 AM on July 9, 2010

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