If you're visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, it's good to know that you can get outside the parks to enjoy some of the unique things Florida has to offer for kids and parents alike. If you're looking for a great, close side trip, here are four great things to do on the nearby Space Coast.
Visit the Beaches. The beaches on the Space Coast are the closest to Disney World, so they're a good break from theme-park mania. Cocoa Beach, just under 60 miles from Orlando, is famous as a surfer haven in addition to being linked to the heroic astronauts of the 1960s. Playalinda Beach offers both a great view of the space-shuttle launch pad and an incredible experience watching the sea turtles lay their eggs in the spring.
Experience Cape Canaveral. Surely the best part of any trip to this area is the historic—and still vital—Kennedy Space Center. You can view historic remnants of the past space program, such as the space-shuttle launch pads and an Apollo-era Saturn V rocket. Take the kids to see the space shuttle Atlantis in its permanent exhibit or have lunch with a real astronaut. If you're more interested in the early days of space exploration, be sure to sign up for the "Then and Now" tour that revisits the historic launch pads of the Mercury and Apollo programs.
Relax in Cocoa. Cocoa Village is a good place to rest and relax after either an exciting day at the Cape or surviving a few days in the hustle and bustle of Walt Disney World. Filled with picturesque Victorian-style homes and a laid-back attitude, this is a good place to find a quiet hotel and watch the kids play in the water. Stop in at Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science for a hands-on experience the whole family will love.
See Rocket Launches. If you can time it right, one of the most exciting experiences for both kids and adults is to view a real, live rocket launch. NASA's website can help you keep tabs on upcoming launches so space aficionados can schedule their trips accordingly. There are several viewing sites set up up within Kennedy Space Center, but you can also see launches for free at nearby locations—including Jetty Park, Alan Shepard Park at Cocoa Beach, and the local pier. For an even more convenient launch view, have your travel agent book you into an oceanfront hotel in the Canaveral area.
No matter what your family's tastes are, you can find something to enjoy while you take a break from your Disney World adventure.