5 Ways Florida's Space Coast Is Reemerging As A Popular Destination

Families and curious travelers are once again flocking to this Sunshine State region for fun and history.

Florida's Space Coast was once a popular destination in the late 1960s thanks in part to Kennedy Space Center and the excitement of the space race. This destination was famous for many things, including the beaches, rockets, and even lagoons that rivaled the classic Florida sand. But things changed in the ensuing decades, especially as Orlando's theme parks emerged, and this spot became less prevalent as other regions of the state boomed.

For the last two decades, the Space Coast's best minds have been working on reconstructing the destination's image and offerings, trying to bring back its golden glory of yesteryear. While going back in the past is not possible, these efforts have been producing some fantastic attractions that are making it a must-visit location for new generations.

Beachside Hotel and Suites

Hotels are sometimes the things that can make or break a destination, and they don't always have to be five stars. The Beachside Hotel and Suites is the ideal place to bring your family and camp out. It doesn't lose itself in frills that the coast isn't known for, instead embracing its past—albeit with modern amenities perfect for larger families.

The rooms are decked out in 60s vintage-inspired décor, while the wrap-around lazy river is an excellent addition if you want to avoid walking down to the beach. While this boutique hotel isn't beachfront, it's only minutes away from the water, and it does partner with organizations like Cocoa Beach Surf Company for private surf lessons. I did a class here and found it perfect since the water was choppy enough to produce some waves but not aggressively tricky, where a beginner like myself would be overwhelmed. The instructors are hands-on and work at your pace, which is excellent for different types of learners.

4th Street Fillin Station

The 4th Street Fillin Station envelopes the new vibe of Cocoa (and the Space Coast) in a way that seems welcoming to anyone. As its name implies, it's built from an old gas station and is one of the area's most diverse drinking and gastronomy spots. They have over 26 craft beers available and an expansive menu of plant-based, gluten-free, and other options available.

Some of their highlights are the street tacos and homemade ice cream. The space is partially outside, which makes it fun during good weather moments. Most of the walls are covered in art murals, and there's a sense of modernity there that feels like a breath of fresh air when you're around so much history.

Kennedy Space Center

This one is a classic but still an essential part of what makes the Space Coast exciting and relevant. The Kennedy Space Center is the area's biggest and most popular attraction. Opened in the early 60s, the Kennedy Space Center was and still is an integral part of The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Countless explorations started there, and the first crewed ship that landed on the moon launched from here in 1969. Outside of history, there are many things to do if you're visiting. They have an incredible rocket museum and a revolving list of seasonal programs. There are countless other attractions to discover, but the most popular is watching a rocket take off. Make sure to check their website for a calendar.

Florida-Adventurer

If you've ever been to Florida, you know there are many things to do outdoors. One thing folks need to learn more about is its canals, filled with diverse ecosystems and different animals ranging from alligators to dolphins and manatees. Florida-Adventurer is a local company that offers tours of the channels, and one of their most popular is the bioluminescence kayak tour in the Haulover Canal. I did this tour not too long ago, and it was one of the best bioluminescence tours I've ever done.

Usually done after the sun goes down, this tour takes you around the canal, as the guide points out different animals and locations. It's just a short distance from the Space Coast, and the best time to see the water glowing is between June and September. It's a great activity that everyone should experience at least once. Make sure to bring a lot of mosquito repellent, because the pests are aggressive near the water and after dark.

Brevard Zoo

Any trip to the Space Coast should end at the Brevard Zoo. This family-friendly attraction has been inviting guests to visit since 1994. It is a great way to teach kids about Florida's natural habitat. They even have a Sea Turtle Healing Center that opened in 2014 (not open to the public) that works with the native sea turtle population, considering Broward's beaches are the largest nesting area for sea turtles in the United States.

While the Space Coast holds on to its history, it also allows itself to evolve and change with time. The next time you plan a vacation to Central Florida, check out what this destination can offer. It might surprise you.