Located along the central portion of Florida’s Atlantic coast east of Orlando, Cape Canaveral is in Brevard County and is most well-known as the epicenter of the country’s space program.
The area around Cape Canaveral was originally explored by Ponce de León five centuries ago, so not only is it on the cutting edge of technology and space travel, but it’s also steeped in some of the country’s oldest history.
Scenic beaches and space-related attractions are king along the Space Coast, but they’re not the only game in town for those who’d like to experience art, cultural, and historical attractions as well.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Cape Canaveral, Florida.
1. Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
Towering more than 150 feet over the surrounding sea and shore, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse was first built more than a century and a half ago to warn mariners of the dangerous shallows in the area.
The lighthouse’s powerful beacon was capable of projecting a beam of light more than 20 miles out to sea. A variety of guided tour options are available for those who’d like to get up-close-and-personal with the historic attraction
The lighthouse is one of the most photographed icons in the area. It’s managed by a local foundation that often hosts fun fund-raising events too, so check their website to see what’s on the schedule.
2. Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is the Space Coast’s most visited attraction and is a must-see for those interested in science, technology, and space exploration.
Most Kennedy Space Center tours include transportation and a knowledgeable local guide, and visitors can expect to have access to many behind-the-scenes areas and plenty of amazing interactive exhibits as well.
Items on display include moon rocks, space suits, equipment, photographs, and first-hand accounts of those who’ve worked in the program over the years.
Space Shuttle Atlantis is one of the biggest draws, and there’s a great on-site gift shop that’s worth checking out as well.
3. Air Force Space and Missile History Center
Though it’s not widely known, there has always been significant information sharing between NASA and the military, especially the Air Force, whose jets, rockets, and missiles often utilize technology that was pioneered by scientists on the Space Coast.
The Air Force Space and Missile History Center is located on Space Port Way and has been open to the public since the ‘60s.
In addition to missile and rocket technological developments, the center’s exhibits focus on both manned and unmanned space excursions, as well as the contributions women scientists and astronauts have made over the years. There’s a popular outdoor garden area that displays old rockets and equipment from bygone eras.
4. Exploration Tower
Located on Dave Nisbet Drive in nearby Port Canaveral, Exploration Tower is one of the area’s most iconic landmarks, and is the perfect place to get a bird’s eye view of the area’s barrier islands and ocean vistas.
The tower has multiple floors and several observation decks. In addition to the fantastic views, visitors will have the opportunity to peruse some exhibits that touch on culture, animals, the natural world, and the Cape’s fascinating space exploration history.
There are on-site café and gift shops as well, and on clear days, it’s possible to see dozens of miles out to sea and up the coast.
5. Cafe Monte Carlo
After a long day on their feet under the Florida sun, many visitors to the Sunshine State require some afternoon fortification; sugar and caffeine are often just what the doctor ordered.
From organic coffee and fresh-baked croissants to macchiato and homemade lemonade, Café Monte Carlo on North Atlantic Avenue probably has a little something for everyone, no matter how finicky.
Café Monte Carlo features both indoor and outdoor seating and is a popular destination for those on tours or who’ve just disembarked from cruise ships at the nearby port
Previous guests have noted that the baristas can customize drinks to suit individual tastes, and that for those who got items to-go, they were delivered quickly.
6. Manatee Sanctuary Park
Manatee Sanctuary Park is located on Thurm Boulevard along the scenic Banana River and is comprised of nearly 10 acres, offering guests an excellent opportunity to see manatees in their natural environment.
The park features paved trails and a boardwalk, and there are a variety of observation points along the way. Though the manatees don’t always show up like they’re supposed to, the park is a great place for a relaxing picnic or an afternoon walk.
Manatee Sanctuary Park is open from 7 AM until dusk daily and includes covered seating areas with built-in barbecue grills and a playground.
7. Tropic Ice Cream
Noted for their traditional ice cream parlor feel and huge variety of unusual and unique flavors, Tropic Ice Cream on North Atlantic Avenue in Cape Canaveral is the perfect place to end a fun-filled day. Previous guests have been pleased with the ample serving sizes and surprisingly affordable prices.
Due to its location near a number of Cape Canaveral attractions, Tropic Ice Cream can get crowded during peak times, especially on the weekends in the late afternoon.
There’s even a separate cooler for ice cream containing nuts, so for those with allergies, it’s about as safe an environment as you’re likely to find.
8. Banana River Aquatic Preserve
Banana River Aquatic Preserve is comprised of nearly 30,000 acres in north Brevard County, just outside Cape Canaveral.
Most of the preserve’s area is water, and visitors have access to several boat launch facilities along Highway A1A.
The preserve is home to a variety of wildlife, like manatees, gators, and sea turtles. It’s also one of the largest pelican rookeries on the state’s Atlantic coast, and a popular bird-watching area.
For adventurous travelers brimming with energy, canoes and kayaks are available to rent on-site; the preserve’s waterways are perfect for calorie-burning self-exploration excursions into the wild.
9. Historic Cocoa Village
Historic Cocoa Village is located in scenic Cocoa Beach, and according to many previous visitors, it’s the perfect mix of old-time charm with plenty of trendy and contemporary dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
The village’s tree-lined streets are the perfect places for afternoon walks, and there are a variety of quaint shops, galleries, and eateries that make it a leisure seeker’s paradise.
The village hosts a variety of live entertainment as well, most of which takes place on the weekends in the fall and winter months, when the sun is setting, and the weather is nearly perfect.
There are also historic attractions and a popular community playhouse that’s a great place to spend an evening.
10. Center Street Park
Though visitors to the Space Coast will have a variety of full-service tour options at their fingertips, the area is full of opportunities for do-it-yourselfers who’d rather blaze their own trails.
Center Street Park is a convenient and free option for visitors interested in sticking close to home, stretching their legs, and taking in some of the area’s scenery and wildlife.
The park is known as a hotspot for nature lovers and wildlife photographers interested in getting a good look at manatees. Though they don’t always show-up on-demand, the park has plenty of other options to keep guests busy.
11. The Historic Rossetter House Museum and Gardens
Located on Highland Avenue in Melbourne, the Historic Rossetter House Museum and Gardens are a popular area attraction for history and nature-minded travelers who are tired of the region’s more commercialized destinations.
The home and gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and give visitors a unique insight into the lives of those who lived in the area during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Guided tours include both indoor and outdoor portions, as well as historic and garden-related information that most guests find both entertaining and educational.
There’s also a great gift shop that has a large selection of books and other items you won’t find elsewhere.
12. Cocoa Beach Brewing Company
Spacecraft, historic sites, and even the beach can get tiresome when they’re overdone. When it’s time for a little relaxation with an intoxicating adult beverage, there’s no better place to head than Cocoa Beach Brewing Company on North Atlantic Avenue.
They’re slightly off the beaten path in a historic building that was once part of a now-defunct Naval Air Station, but it’s now one of the area’s trendiest destinations.
Many local beer lovers consider Cocoa Beach Brewing Company a pioneer of the Space Coast’s micro-brew renaissance. They feature an impressive selection of seasonal, award-winning beers – from stouts and pale ales to IPAs and porters.
13. Brevard Zoo
The Brevard Zoo on North Wickham Road in Melbourne is different from many of its counterparts in that it features a more lifelike setting for its animal inhabitants. Instead of fences, many of them are contained by natural-looking barriers and water, giving the whole facility a remarkably natural feel.
The zoo features hundreds of species of animal from nearly every continent. In addition to typical zoo activities, they offer kayaking, zip-lining, and paddle-boating activities for those brimming with energy.
The zoo’s distinct areas feature dozens of acres dedicated to different themes, like the Florida wetlands and African savannah.
14. Sebastian Inlet State Park
Sebastian Inlet State Park is located on Highway A1A in Melbourne Beach and is particularly popular with surf-fisherman.
The park’s jetties offer easy access to some of the Sunshine State’s most sought-after game fish, like bluefish, snook, redfish, and mackerel.
There’s also an on-site fishing museum that’s a great place to retreat when the sun gets to be too much, and there are nearly two miles of scenic beach that are popular with swimmers, sunbathers, and snorkelers as well.
There are also inland multi-use trails and a sunken treasure museum, so plan on spending more than just an hour or two.
15. El Ambia Cubano Restaurant
With its abundant Latin American and Cuban immigrant populations, it’s no wonder that Florida has such a tempting array of vibrant cuisines.
Located on East Melbourne Avenue in Melbourne, El Ambia Cubano Restaurant has been described by previous visitors as both contemporary and traditional, as well as inviting, comfortable, and trendy.
Their menu is chockfull of classic Cuban favorites like empanadas, yucca frita, and marinated pork in mojo sauce, and they often host live entertainment too.
The dining area is full of colorful artwork and gives many guests the feeling that they’ve been transported to the island nation that’s just 90 miles off the state’s southern coast.