Out of this World
Prepare to be amazed by Florida’s Space Coast, seventy-two miles of beautiful coastline with easy access to some of the state’s most enticing attractions: the theme parks of Orlando, the galactic wonders of the Kennedy Space Center, the natural habitats of alligators and manatees, and Cocoa Beach, the Surfing Capital of the Atlantic. Initially constructed in the 1950s as a US naval port, it began welcoming cruise ships in the 1970s. Today, it’s the gateway to Central Florida, and is both a home port and a key stop on itineraries. Port Canaveral is loaded with modern facilities, including a visitor’s center, the Cove Marketplace (an air-conditioned shopping complex with several restaurants), a bike trail, amphitheater, and three public beachfront parks.
Due to the port’s proximity to Orlando (about an hour drive), guests often choose to set out to one of the area’s many theme parks. Although most well-known for Walt Disney World, Orlando is also home to a slew of action-packed adventure lands, including Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, both of which feature the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Those who would rather stay closer to port will find plenty of interesting excursions in the vicinity. The seventy-two-mile-long stretch of coastline that encompasses Port Canaveral is known as the Space Coast, thanks to Kennedy Space Center, the area’s top attraction.
For over fifty years, Kennedy Space Center has been the launching site for dozens of outer-space missions. At the seventy-acre Visitor Complex, NASA’s past, present, and future are on display through interactive exhibitions, larger-than-life IMAX films, and behind-the-scenes tours. Stroll through the Rocket Garden, home of Apollo and Gemini-era rockets. Board a life-sized replica of the Explorer space shuttle. Meet and talk to real astronauts. Take flight in the Shuttle Launch Experience, which simulates liftoff and the effects of zero gravity. In 2013, the Space Center opened its newest attraction: Space Shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis, the most sophisticated spacecraft ever built, helped launch the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Space Coast also boasts over 250 square miles of wildlife refuges in the Central Florida Everglades. During the wet season, Lake Okeechobee overflows, creating a slow-moving river dominated by grassy marshes, cypress swamps, and mangroves. Visitors can speed over wetlands on fan-propelled airboats, gliding on shallow waterways and over grassy marshes. Guides will point out myriad wildlife—especially alligators, whose sightings are virtually guaranteed. After the ride, get a taste of the Everglades by sampling some alligator meat. It tastes “just like chicken.”
Navigate the scenic Florida wetlands on a thrilling airboat ride. Cruise across the St. Johns River and into the dark waters. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators, snakes, eagles, and hawks. The ride is narrated using noise-cancelling, voice-activated headsets.
This narrated, eco-tourism, pontoon cruise glides through the saltwater marsh and extensive network of mangrove tunnels in the Indian River Lagoon. See herds of manatees, flocks of birds, and playful dolphins along the way. Float past the local waterfront homes that line the canals.
Blast across the waters of the St. Johns River at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Come within a few feet of alligators, snakes, osprey, and turtles. Stimulate your taste buds with some alligator jerky.
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