Port Canaveral Questions

In this post we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions and internet searches about Cruising from Port Canaveral!

Port Canaveral Airport

Port Canaveral near airport?

Which is the Port Canaveral Airport?

Where is Port Canaveral Orlando Airport?

Most cruisers fly to Orlando International Airport (MCO) just under an hour by car from Port Canaveral.

There are often cheaper flights to Melbourne International Airport or  Orlando Sanford International Airport.  Both are about an hour’s drive.

Port Canaveral Location

Where is Port Canaveral?

Is Port Canaveral in Florida?

Is Port Canaveral in Orlando Fl?

What is the Port Canaveral address?

Is Port Canaveral in Orlando?

Where is Port Canaveral Orlando?

Port Canaveral Florida is about an hour’s drive east or Orlando! It is in a different town called Cape Canaveral.

There is no such thing as Port Canaveral Orlando or Port Canaveral Orlando Fl!

If you need directions, simply find Grills Restaurant Cape Canaveral on your GPS or map and proceed in that direction!  Port Canaveral Grills is right next to Terminal 1.

When you get close to the Port, you will notice various road signs directing you to your cruise terminal. At this point you can stop the GPS navigation and just follow the signs.

Port Canaveral Car Rental

Car rental at Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal?

Port Canaveral car rental companies?

Where is the Port Canaveral car rental drop off?

Port Canaveral Fl car rental?

Car rental in Port Canaveral cruise terminal?

Car rental near Port Canaveral Fl?

There are no car rental agencies inside or at the cruise terminals. You have to take a free shuttle van to/from the rental agencies.

All the major car rental agencies have offices within 6 miles of the cruise terminals. For detailed information, please visit: Car Rental at Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral Parking

Port Canaveral cruise parking?

Port Canaveral parking?

Port Canaveral parking Carnival?

Port Canaveral parking coupons?

Port Canaveral parking fees?

Port Canaveral parking for Carnival cruise?

Port Canaveral parking for Disney cruise?

Port Canaveral parking for Royal Caribbean?

Parking near Port Canaveral?

Port Canaveral parking Radisson?

You have many wonderful options for parking at Port Canaveral! Shipside, off-site and nearby hotels!

For information about the parking garages at each cruise terminal, please read: Port Canaveral Cruise Terminals

For information about the off-site parking options and hotels, please read: Port Canaveral Parking

Port Canaveral hotels

Port Canaveral hotels?

Port Canaveral hotels near cruise terminal?

You have many hotels to choose from with some just minutes from the cruise terminals.

Please read: Port Canaveral Hotels

 

 

Walt Disney World and Disney Springs – Cruise Shore Trip

Walt Disney World and Disney Springs – Shore Trip or Pre/Post Cruise Visit

Everything you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World (and Disney Springs) as a shore trip or excursion from Port Canaveral. It is about 65 miles (depending on the attraction) and should take less than 75 minutes from the Port.

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World (click to enlarge)

Cruisers visit the Disney World area as follows:

  • Pre-cruise Stay
  • Full Day Shore Trip when ship arrives before 8am
  • Half-day Shore Trip when ship arrives around noon
  • Partial-day Post-cruise visit when flight home departs in the late afternoon or evening
  • Post-cruise Stay

 

Driving Directions to Walt Disney World/Disney Springs and back to Orlando Airport

  1. Exit the Port and head West on FL-528. It is a toll road – pay $1.50 + $1.00 = $2.50 (change available).
  2. Take exit for I-417 West towards Disney World. It is a toll road – pay $1.75 + $1.75 = $3.50 (change available).
  3. Take exit 6 toward Epcot/Disney Springs even if going to the Magic Kingdom! (the signs say use exit 3 for Magic Kingdom but we prefer exit 6)
  4. Follow the signs to your attraction of choice. Buena Vista Drive takes you to/from Disney Springs!

Afterwards – Retrace your route to return to Port Canaveral and the Airport. Simply follow the Airport Signs back to I-417 and look for the airport exit after the 2nd toll booth or continue straight for the Port.

UberX costs about $95 +$5 (port pickup fee) = $100 for one-way from the Port to the Disney area.

Port Canaveral to Disney Springs
Port Canaveral to Disney Springs and back to the airport (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)

Disney Springs Parking

Below is an image of the approach road to Disney Springs as you arrive from the port via toll road 417. The signs are very clear; once on Buena Vista Dr look for either the Orange or Lime parking garage unless you have an over-sized vehicle.

Disney Springs Directions
Disney Springs Directions – Keep right on Buena Vista Dr and find a parking garage. Return back to Buena Vista Dr after your visit and look for 536/417 East (click to enlarge)

There are several parking areas as shown below. Lime Garage is most central and places you closest to the action. As you approach the garage keep to the right because you want to park on Level 2 if you can for the fastest access to the shopping areas.

If you have an over-sized vehicle, you have to park in the surface lot (Strawberry) which is the first one you will encounter when approaching Disney Springs.

DisneySprings-Parking
Disney Springs Parking (click to enlarge)

The Magic Kingdom Parking

Below is an image of the parking lots at the Magic Kingdom. Upon arrival you will be directed to an available lot – the later you arrive the further away the parking! But no worries, you will hop on a tram to the ticket center and will not have to walk far. As you step off the tram, you have to get in line for the security check and then you line up for the ticket booths! From here you have to decide if you want to ride the Monorail or the Ferry to the Magic Kingdom.

You can see there are two trams. Basically the parking lot is split into two sections – HEROES and VILLIANS. After you parked, make sure you make note of your section and lot (for example, you parked in HEROES – PETER PAN). When you return after a day in the Kingdom you hop on the HEROES tram and get off at the PETER PAN stop. Very easy.

How long does take? From the moment you drive underneath the Magic Kingdom Arch just before the parking pay booth until you step foot inside the Kingdom – plan on at least ONE HOUR.

TIP – The best route back from the Magic Kingdom to Port Canaveral or Orlando Airport is to follow the Airport Sign until you are back on Toll Road 417! If you follow the airport signs you cannot get lost.

Magic Kingdom Parking
Magic Kingdom Parking (click to enlarge)

Disney Springs – The Perfect Starting Point For Exploring WDW Beyond The Parks

Unless you have dinner/resort reservations, it is not possible to park at Disney Resort hotels! So Disney Springs is a great FREE PARKING option from where to explore the Resorts and attractions. However – PLEASE DO NOT PARK AT DISNEY SPRINGS IF YOU ARE VISITING A PARK. It is a very cumbersome way of doing things due to the transportation timetables, it is taboo and it is frowned upon.  If you are visiting a Park, drive up and pay for parking – as simple as that.

Once you parked at Disney Springs, you have many options to choose from! Where to go and what to see!!

First, you have to understand the Disney Transportation system from/to Disney Springs.

  • Taxis and Uber – available and very efficient. The pick up areas are on the edges of Disney Springs as shown on the parking map above.
  • Water Taxis – The most fun way to get around but service is limited to just a few resorts as described below.
  • Disney Buses – The most popular way to get around (when no monorail is available!).
  • Disney Minnie Van – Disneys version of Ridesharing!

Disney Water Taxis

Few things feel “Disney” as much as the boats sailing the waters around WDW! In the midst of all the buzzing and craziness, the boats offer a few moments of quiet bliss!

At Disney Springs, you can use water taxis to get around the shopping areas or you can travel beyond the Springs to 5 beautiful Resorts.

NOTE- these are NOT sightseeing boats. You are expected to ride only from point A to Point B and get off at your stop. During busy hours the captains will ask you to exit the boat if they suspect you are just touring around in a circle! No worries, you can get back on but you have to go to the back of the waiting line on the dock.

Take a look at the map and pictures of the boats below. You will notice there are 3 docks at Disney Springs.

  1. The West Side Dock is home to the RED FLAG boats that circle anti-clockwise as follows: WEST SIDE – THE LANDING – THE MARKETPLACE and straight back to WEST SIDE.  You use this RED FLAG boat to explore Disney Springs. It saves you from walking all the way between the west and east sides of the Springs.
  2. The Landing Dock is home to two different boats: The BLUE FLAG boats that circle to Saratoga Springs Resort (5 minutes) and back. Please note, if you are going to the Treehouse Villas you must change boats at Saratoga Springs.  The GREEN FLAG boats circle to Old Key West Resort (15 minutes) and back.
  3. The Marketplace Dock is home to the YELLOW FLAG boats that circle to PORT ORLEANS (Riverside) Resort (22 minutes) and the PURPLE FLAG boats that circle to the French Quarter Resort.

Disney Springs Boats - Yellow - Blue

Disney Springs Boats – Blue Flag and Yellow Flag (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)

Disney Springs Boats - Yellow
Disney Springs Boats – Yellow – at Port Orleans Riverside (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)
Disney Springs Boat Docks
Disney Springs Boat Docks

Disney Springs Marketplace Dock

Disney Springs Marketplace Dock

Disney Springs Landing Dock
Disney Springs Landing Dock

 

Disney Springs West Side Dock
Disney Springs West Side Dock

Disney Buses

The comprehensive Disney bus system can be frustrating at times but the air-conditioned rides are a great relief from the Florida summer heat! WDW is a large place and some rides are well over 30 minutes long so do factor in the wait times, etc. when planning a day from Disney Springs.

The schedules are a bit crazy too because these change during the day based on traffic. Disney expect most visitors will be inside the Parks between 11am and 2pm and they schedule the buses accordingly (more or less). We’ve seen many bloggers and websites trying to publish time tables but those are mostly inaccurate because of the daily changes and “real-time” adjustments by transportation control. In addition, buses lose time due to the many strollers and folks struggling to park mobility scooters securely inside the packed buses.

TIP – The rule of thumb is to give yourself enough time – if you are in a hurry then take taxis or Uber!

In the image below (and on the map above) you can see the bus terminals at Disney Springs. The buses drop off to the left (next to the Lime Garage). To board a bus you walk to the right and follow the signs to the gate for your bus.

Disney Springs-Bus Stops
Disney Springs-Bus Stops (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)

So how do you know which bus to board? There are signboards posted at the bus stop to the gates. Just pick your resort as shown below!

NOTE- Some resort buses begin early each day (between 9am and 10am) whereas others start later around 11am (Grand Floridian, etc.) Disney is trying to prevent folks from getting to the Parks early when parked at Disney Springs. Please do not park at Disney Springs when going to the Parks. 

Disney Springs Bus Directory
Disney Springs Bus Directory (click to enlarge)

 

Disney Springs Bus Stop
Disney Springs Bus Stop (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)

Once at a Resort, the bus stops have signs (most have arrival times indicated on electronic boards) to help you find the correct bus back to Disney Springs!

Disney Bus - Schedule
Disney Bus Stops – Estimated Schedule at the Resorts. Bus to Disney Springs arrives in 1 minute, 56 seconds

 

Disney Bus
Disney Bus Stop at Animal Kingdom Resort (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)

Riding the Monorail!

Few things create magic like riding the monorail at Disney World! It is more than just a transportation system; the ride is a rite of passage!

Monorail at Magic Kingdom
Monorail at Magic Kingdom (click to enlarge)

Please look at the map below to see the routes of the three monorail lines and their stations. Click on the lines or icons for more information:

  1. The Magic Kingdom Express Line (pink color) – counter-clockwise – 4 minutes from TTC to MK (the only two stops)
  2. The Magic Kingdom All-Stations Line (pink color) – clockwise – 5 stops
  3. The EPCOT line (lilac color) – clockwise – 12 minutes from TTC to EPCOT (the only two stops)

 Note: the Magic Kingdom Monorails run on two parallel tracks in opposite directions. Express goes counter-clockwise, all-stops goes clockwise. This is important, for example, if you are at the Contemporary Resort the line to MK will stop 4 times!

 

How do you get from Disney Springs to the Monorails?

  1. Pick which monorail you want to ride first
  2. Take a bus (or Uber) to any resort with a monorail station (shown on the map). If you are too early for a specific resort bus, ride to another resort in the same direction, then change buses to reach the TTC at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.
  3. After the rides, return to a resort with a monorail station and take a bus back to Disney Springs

 

 

Port Canaveral Beaches – A Guide for Cruisers

Port Canaveral and Cocoa Beach Beaches – A Guide for Cruisers and Visitors

If you are looking for a beach you came to the right place! You have beach all the way from Port Canaveral down to Miami and beyond. Near the Port, we suggest you visit one of four beach areas depending on your interests and budget. While it is tempting to swim anywhere, please consider this tip from us:

TIP – even when the waves do not look that big, the ocean here is deceiving with dangerous rip currents and the (very) rare shark attack. For these reason I suggest you ALWAYS swim near a lifeguard station. You also want restrooms and on-site beach toy rentals! And lifeguards will warn visitors when painful man ‘o war are present (see picture)

big man o' war next to a size 11.5 foot
big man o’ war next to a size 11.5 foot

 

TIP – Upon arrival at Port Canaveral, all cruisers should use their smart phones or tablets to browse to our LIVE Google map. There are no apps to install. Your position will be shown on our map in relation to the beaches mentioned here. With our map you cannot get lost and you do not have to be worried about making your way around the area.

There are four year round lifeguard towers near Port Canaveral as shown on our map:

  • Jetty Park – closest to the cruise ships with a shop/cafe/beach rentals/restrooms. The cafe opening times vary during the year.
  • Cocoa Beach Pier – the busiest beach with everything you need nearby as well as bars, restaurants and shops
  • Alan Shepard Park – popular with cruise ship shore excursions and always busy when the ships are in. Ron Jon surf shop, bars, restaurants, beach rentals and restrooms
  • Lori Wilson Park – fewest people and the furthest away from the port therefor not for everyone. Restrooms and rentals but no restaurants or bars nearby except at the Hilton and International Palms

Getting to the Beaches from the Port, and Back

Your options depend on your cruise terminal.

If you dock at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3:

  • You can walk to Jetty Park Beach. The beach is 1.5 miles from Terminal 1 and 0.5 miles from Terminal 3 and the walk is clearly marked in green on our map. You will walk on a wide side-walk shared with cyclists. It is flat, safe and easy walking.
  • You can take the SCAT bus ($1.50 per person each way) to Cocoa Beach Pier Beach, Alan Shepard Park Beach and Lori Wilson Park Beach. We show you exactly how to use the SCAT bus in another section – Using the SCAT Bus.

Options from any Terminal:

a] Cruise line Shore Excursions to the Beach

  • Travel time – It takes about 15-20 minutes from the Port to Alan Shepard Park or the Sheraton Four Points Hotel from where it is a very short walk to the beach (east) and the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop (south).
  • Frequency – The buses run every 30 minutes or so and the last shuttle is usually 3 hours prior to ship sailing time from both pick up and drop off location.
  • Costs – Average $15 to $19 per adult for the round-trip usually including 15% shopping discount vouchers but this depends on the cruise line.
  • Description – This is a cruise line bus service running continually throughout the day during your cruise ship visit. You will travel to Alan Shepard Park in a large air-conditioned bus or smaller vans.
  • Negatives – While convenient, it can get expensive if you have more than 2 people in your group. UberX will cost between $25 and $35 per car round-trip (maximum 4 adults). Also, you do not get to choose which beach you want to visit – it will be Alan Shepard Park Beach and that’s it. And you will have lines as shown in the pictures below!

NOTE – In 2018 we are seeing most cruise lines drop passengers at the Sheraton Four Points across the street from Ron Jon, instead of Shepard Beach. It may be a better option in Summer because of the heat and lack of shade/shelter at Shepard Beach.

Please also note – there are no bathrooms at the beach if you walk directly east from the Sheraton. The nearest bathrooms are at the hotel or a block or two north at Shepard Beach. 

Here are photos of the cruise line buses at Shepard Beach and vans at the Sheraton Four Points. Note the stop is under cover at the Sheraton and in the open at Shepard Beach:

Carnival buses at Shepard Beach
Carnival buses at Shepard Beach (click to enlarge)
RCL Bus at Shepard Beach
RCL Buses at Shepard Beach (click to enlarge)
Sheraton Beach Shuttle Stop
NCL Sheraton Beach Shuttle Stop (click to enlarge)
Sheraton Beach Shuttle Stop
Sheraton Beach Shuttle Stop (click to enlarge)

b] Uber and Taxi Services

While 888-Transportation taxis will be waiting outside your terminal, those are metered therefor we recommend Uber because traffic can slow you down as you near the Cocoa Beach area. As stated above, expect to pay between $25 and $35 per car round-trip (maximum 4 adults) to Alan Shepard Beach but cheaper to the others. With Uber and Taxis you have flexibility and can choose your beach.

c] Rental Cars

It is wonderful to have your own transportation and the area is extremely easy to navigate. You can explore the beaches mentioned above or venture to others further away from the crowds.

Parking, however, can be a challenge unless you are willing to pay. Rates are shown below for each beach.

Please read our dedicated car rental pages!

d] Bike Rentals

This area is perfect for bike enthusiasts. It is flat with bike lanes and sidewalks everywhere. You can also ride on the beach (weather and tides permitting). Several of the rental companies will deliver your bikes to a predetermined location and arrange for convenient drop-offs. Please read our page Dedicated to Bike Rentals!

Jetty Park Beach

The best beach is Jetty Park because it is near the Port, it is far less commercial, the sand is wide with some wave action and there are life guards on duty. You can also walk out on the long fishing pier for a close-up look at the entrance of Port Canaveral!

However, if you are looking for bars and restaurants and shops, it is best to head further south to Cocoa Beach Pier or Alan Shepard Park.

If you enjoy walking you can easily walk the 3 miles from Jetty Park to Cocoa Beach Pier along the beach (easier at low tide).

Jetty Park Map
Jetty Park Map (click to enlarge)
Jetty Park Beach and Jetty
Jetty Park Beach and Jetty (click to enlarge)
Jetty Park Beach
Jetty Park Beach (click to enlarge)
Jetty Park Beach
Jetty Park Beach (click to enlarge)
Jetty Park Beach
Jetty Park Beach (click to enlarge)
Jetty Park Beach
Jetty Park Beach and life guard station (click to enlarge)

Parking/Entry Costs – $15 per car. Walking and cycling are free

Beach Rentals

Jetty Park Beach Rental Rates
Jetty Park Beach Rental Rates (click to enlarge)

Shops – The campground has a small shop but the gates are often locked. The beach Pavilion Store is open from 7:00am – 7:00pm if you want sodas, chips, etc.

Food/drinks – Fishlips Restaurant is the concessionaire for a good selection of hot meals. Hours are 7:00am – 7:00 pm.

Jetty Park Fishlips Pavilion Menu
Jetty Park Fishlips Pavilion Menu (click to enlarge)

Restrooms – yes with a water fountain

Cocoa Beach Pier Beach

If you want to go to the beach near restaurants or bars where surfers play, then the Cocoa Beach Pier beach area is just what you need! It is always busy but rarely overcrowded. If you want fewer people around you, just walk a few hundred yards to the north or south.

To see real-time beach conditions, here is a webcam of Cocoa Beach Pier:

Cocoa Beach Pier
Cocoa Beach Pier (click to enlarge)
Cocoa Beach Pier 2017
Cocoa Beach Pier (February 2017) – click to enlarge

The pier is fun but you either have to pay $2 to walk beyond the restaurants or buy a drink inside and keep the receipt! There is a small drink station on the outside pier (while the Tiki Bar is under construction).

Cocoa Beach Pier and Beach
Cocoa Beach Pier and Beach (click to enlarge)
Rikki Tiki Tavern
Rikki Tiki Tavern (click to enlarge)

Parking/entry Costs – $10 – $20 per car (including the $2 pier entry fee) but free after 4pm. Metered parking is also available.

Beach Rentals – You will find stations on the beach to the south and to the north to rent umbrellas, chairs, boogie boards and surfboards. The stations on the north side are slightly cheaper. Expect to pay $20 – $25 per day for an umbrella and 2 chairs. You can also rent bikes at Trader Ricks and Island Watercraft (on the beach in front of La Quinta Hotel).

Shops – Not a major shopping area (Publix groceries is the major business here) but the Pier has two shops for beach wear.

Food/drinks – Several bars and restaurants either on the pier or two blocks to the west. We recommend you hang out at the Pier.

Restrooms – Yes

Cocoa Beach Pier Beach
Cocoa Beach Pier Beach (click to enlarge)
Beach Rental -North
Beach Rental -North

 

Alan Shepard Park Beach

Cruise ship shore excursions go to Shepard beach (near Ron Jon) with several restaurants/bars nearby but do not go there if you want to avoid crowds during cruise visits.

NOTE – In 2018 we notice the cruise ships are dropping passengers at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel just a block or two south. As a result Shepard Beach is now less crowded when the ships are in!

Shepard Park Beach
Shepard Park Beach (click to enlarge)

Parking/entry Costs – $15 per car but metered parking is also available.

Beach Rentals – You will find stations on the beach to rent umbrellas, chairs, boogie boards and surfboards. Expect to pay $30 per day for an umbrella and 2 chairs.

Shepard Park Beach Rentals
Shepard Park Beach Rentals (click to enlarge)

Shops – Two blocks away you will find several beach shops including the famous Ron Jon a bit further south.

Food/drinks – Several bars and restaurants with Sandbar being the most popular. There is a 7-Eleven to buy snacks but you can also buy water, sodas and snacks from the vending machines at the beach (credit cards and cash accepted)

Restrooms – Yes

Shepard Park Beach Arrival
Shepard Park Beach Arrival (click to enlarge)
Shepard Beach on Shore Trip Day
Shepard Beach on Shore Trip Day with surf lessons in front (click to enlarge)
Sandbar and CaptJs
Sandbar on the right and and Captain J’s on the left (click to enlarge)

 

Shepard Park Vending
Shepard Park Vending (click to enlarge)

Lori Wilson Park Beach

To escape the crowds you can travel further south to Lori Wilson Park Beach. It located next to the Hilton Hotel.

Lori Wilson Park Beach
Lori Wilson Park Beach with the Hilton Hotel in the background (click to enlarge)

Parking/entry Costs – free with plenty of parking

Beach Rentals – You will find stations on the beach to rent umbrellas, chairs, boogie boards and surfboards. Expect to pay $20 per day for an umbrella and 2 chairs.

Shops – No

Food/drinks – You can walk to nearby Hilton Hotel or International Palms for restaurants. There is usually a food truck at the park.

Restrooms – Yes

Lori Wilson Park Food and Drink
Lori Wilson Park Food and Drink (click to enlarge)
Lori Wilson Park Rentals
Lori Wilson Park Rentals

Cheapest Parking Near Port Canaveral Florida – 2018

Cheapest Parking Near Port Canaveral

Cheapest Parking near Port Canaveral in Florida

Are you looking for the cheapest parking near Port Canaveral?

Consider a 7-night cruise for two people

The very convenient ship-side parking garages at Port Canaveral will cost you $17 x 8 days = $136.

Fortunately you can save money by parking off-site or even at your hotel if the Snooze and Cruise Package is any good!

Unfortunately, the savings are often not that great because some off-site lots are not cheap. Expect to pay between $90 and $95 at the most popular lots. You can read more on our dedicated page for Port Canaveral Parking.

Are there cheaper parking options?

Yes! But where to park depends on the number of people in your party.

With two people you pay only $39.80 at Go Port Canaveral

What is the catch?

None when only 2 people! You park in their lot, lock your car, hop on their shuttle and arrive at your ship!

Sure, if you are driving north from the Port then you will be going the wrong way for 6 miles (since the lot is on A1A in Cocoa Beach) but this is just a minor inconvenience.

When more than 2 people you have to compare costs more carefully because you pay per person and not per car at this lot.

Where is this lot?

Under 6 miles from Port Canaveral and less than 15 minutes by shuttle.

Please find the location on our Port Canaveral Map.

Do I keep my car keys?

Yes

Is the parking secure?

The lot is not fenced but there are security cameras from the nearby hotel

How often does the shuttle run to the Port and Back?

You pick one of 3 departure times from the lot during booking. The return shuttles will be waiting when you disembark and run until all passengers have retrieved their vehicles.

Beachline-GoPortCanaveral-Park
Beachline-GoPortCanaveral-Park

Do I need to Book or can I just Show Up?

The lot is not large and does fill up so we recommend you book online as early as you can and pick a shuttle time.

We have 6 guests in one car. Will I pay more?

Yes, it will cost $119.40. You pay for the number of people and not the number of days. You may want to look at other options on our page – Port Canaveral Parking.

 

Country Inn and Suites Port Canaveral – Cape Canaveral

Country Inn and Suites - Cape Canaveral (click to enlarge)

Country Inn and Suites Port Canaveral – Cape Canaveral

Introduction to the Country Inn and Suites Port Canaveral

Here you will find general information about the Country Inn and Suites that is not generally seen on the hotel’s own website.

Check rates, view our own maps, pictures and videos, enjoy our own unbiased comments and read Tripadvisor reviews.

Location

One of the closest hotels to Port Canaveral and with limited views of the ships. Within walking distance (0.9 miles) of The Cove Restaurants at the Port and cruise terminal 1, but walking after dark is discouraged. Perfectly safe during the day and wheel-chair/stroller friendly. Some cruisers walk to the Port in the late afternoon then take a taxi back. The path is marked in green below.

Walk To Port - wheelchair friendly path
Walk To Port – wheelchair friendly path marked in green – 0.9 miles ( (click to enlarge)

Five very good restaurants are about 0.5 miles from the hotel – safe and easy walking. Preacher Bar is an interesting concept – classy yet eccentric with a different kind of menu! Kelsey’s serves popular Italian food. Zachary’s is Greek with a home-style menu. Thai Thai (you have to cross busy A1A) has the best Thai food in the area. Zarrella’s Pizza offers both Brick Oven and Wood Fire pizza as well as other Italian food. There are also McDonalds (MD), Burger King (BK) and Subway (SW) nearby. The Florida Beer Company is THE brewery in the area with tours and a wide selection of beer on tap. Racetrac sells affordable gas/diesel as well as wine, beer and fast food.

You can also rent a car from Hertz next door or take the local bus ($1.50) down to Cocoa Beach Pier and beyond – wait at the SCAT stop.

The mini golf is the cheapest of the three courses in the area but not the most exciting!

Cape Canaveral Hotels
Cape Canaveral Hotels (click to enlarge)

Port Shuttles – Yes!

Hotel has its own shuttle service to the cruise terminals. This is included for up to the number of persons (max 6) booked on a Park & Stay Package. Additional shuttle vouchers cost $5 per person ($10 round-trip).

Last time we looked they had at least 5 shuttle buses on the property so they are efficient with acceptable wait times. Earliest shuttles depart around 10:30am and they run frequently (based on bookings) until all passengers are transferred.

Airport transportation is not offered – guests can contact Smart-Two for quotes.

 

CountryInn-Shuttle
Country Inn and Suites – Shuttle bus (click to enlarge)

Onsite Parking – Yes!

Free parking for guests only. Hotel parking included in Park & Stay Packages for up to the duration of the cruise. Otherwise cruise parking cost at least $40 per cruise (maybe more depending on the rate you paid ).

There are no fences or gates, meaning people can walk in off the street to access your vehicle but the area has no history of vehicle vandalism.

Country Inn and Suites-Parking
Country Inn and Suites – Cruise Parking (click to enlarge)

Restaurants & Bars – No

There is a breakfast area (see images below)

Rooms and Interior

While not the most exciting hotel, the Country Inn and Suites is popular with families! All rooms offer a fridge, microwave and coffee maker.

The Family Suite rooms are particularly nice because you get a living area and two bedrooms with a queen bed in one and two single beds in the other. The kids room has its own TV so they can watch their own shows.

You can also opt for a One-Bedroom Suite – a king or two queens in the bedroom and a pull-out queen sofa in the living room. Each room has its own TV.

Honeymoon couples can opt for a Whirlpool Suite – king bed with a two-person whirlpool tub!

Standard Rooms feature king or two queen beds

How about Cruise Ship views?

As seen below there are limited views of the cruise terminals from the top floors of the north facing rooms.

Country Inn - Ship Views
Country Inn – Ship Views (that is Terminal 1 and the Exploration Tower) (click to enlarge)

 

Country Inn and Suites-Interior
Country Inn and Suites-Breakfast Area (click to enlarge)

 

Country Inn and Suites-Interior
Country Inn and Suites-Breakfast Area (click to enlarge)

Pool Area

The pool large and inviting but designed for adults and not for children -no waterfalls or slides, etc. Lack of privacy because the pool is surrounded by rooms.

Country Inn Pool
Country Inn and Suites – Pool (click to enlarge)

Show Lowest Rates



Booking.com

Hotel Website

Tripadvisor Reviews:

Wakulla Suites A Westgate Resort

Introduction To Wakulla Suites A Westgate Resort

Wakulla Suites is off A1A in Cocoa Beach but stretches to the beach. It is currently undergoing upgrade construction and we recommend you call to check before booking. Is the pool completely open? Is it safe for kids? Are there construction noise? What time do they start each morning? And so on.

Calling the hotel a “Resort” may just be a bit of a stretch but we will check in with them after the renovations are completed. At close to $300 per room per night (on average with taxes) it is one of the more expensive places to stay in the area.

The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to the Cocoa Beach Pier (also a Westgate property).

Port Shuttle – No

Contact local transport companies or Uber/Lyft.

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La Quinta Inn Cocoa Beach

Introduction to La Quinta Cocoa Beach

If you are interested in the La Quinta Inn Cocoa Beach, check rates, view our own maps, pictures and videos, enjoy our own unbiased comments and read Tripadvisor reviews.

La Quinta Corporation

Location

Please know there are two La Quinta hotels in the area. This is the La Quinta Inn Cocoa Beach. The other one is Oceanfront and much further north.

The Lori Wilson Park area (location of this hotel) is the furthest south from the cruise terminals and home to three hotels. The La Quinta Inn is not beachfront but the ocean is just a short distance away.

La Quinta Cocoa Beach Location
La Quinta Cocoa Beach Location (click to enlarge)

The area is somewhat isolated but you have two eateries on the hotel premises. Siam Orchid is a very good Thai restaurant and Time Out Sports Bar is popular with locals thanks to good prices and a lively atmosphere. Just a block away Gregory’s is a stylish restaurant with solid food reviews and recommended if you want a date night! Mambo’s is a typical local beach bar (unfortunately with limited ocean views) and a good option on a lovely Florida afternoon or evening.

Denny’s is next door!

Port Shuttle – Yes

Included in Snooze and Cruise packages for all registered room guests. Departure time is 9:30am but it depends on bookings.  Extra persons are $7 per one-way trip. Current shuttle service is Road Runner.

La Quinta Hotel Shuttle Bus
La Quinta Hotel Shuttle Bus

Onsite Parking – Yes

Hotel parking included in Snooze and Cruise packages. Parking is currently on the property but may change to an adjacent lot in the future.

Restaurants and Bars

Yes! The Time Out Sports Bar on the 2nd Floor is one of the areas most popular hangouts with excellent drink specials and great food!

Bright Side Breakfast as per most La Quinta’s.

La Quinta on A1A - Time Out Sports Bar
La Quinta – Time Out Sports Bar (click to enlarge)

Rooms

The hotel is U-Shaped with the pool in the middle.

Pool Area

La Quinta has a good-size pool in front of the property.

La Quinta Pool
La Quinta Pool (click to enlarge)

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La Quinta Inn & Suites Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

La Quinta Beachfront Hotel
La Quinta Beachfront Hotel (click to enlarge)

Introduction to La Quinta Inn Oceanfront

La Quinta Inn Cocoa Beach Oceanfront is one of the best beach-side hotels in the area and it overlooks the famous Cocoa Beach Pier.  If you are interested in the La Quinta Inn Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, check rates, view our own maps, pictures and videos, enjoy our own unbiased comments and read Tripadvisor reviews.

La Quinta Corporation

Location

A beach-front property located in the Northern Cocoa Beach area only 4.5 miles from the cruise terminals. The location is wonderful within walking distance of the famous Cocoa Beach Pier, several restaurants, bars, grocery stores and liquor stores.

Please look at our INTERACTIVE MAP for exact locations of the places mentioned below.

Across A1A is a Publix grocery store and liquor store as well as several very good restaurants.  Do check with the front desk if they have discount vouchers for any of the nearby restaurants or shops:

  • Coasters Taphouse – very popular sports bar with excellent food and many beers, wine and liquor on tap and bottled
  • Kim Bo Chinese – the best Chinese food around. Mostly takeouts but friendly and clean
  • Flavors of India – with authentic Indian cuisine – very good food!
  • El Buzo – good Peruvian food in a plain unpretentious setting
  • Salsas Mexican – there are many Mexican restaurant in the area and this one has nice décor with a comfortable bar. Good food and affordable drinks.

Near A1A, there are 2 more restaurants:

  • Cocoa Beach Ale House – the bar is fine with a good selection of drinks but the restaurant is hit or miss. Despite the traffic the outside seating area is nice on a pleasant day.
  • Ohana J’s Steak and Seafood – another restaurant well-known for its inconsistency and reviews reflect this. A bit expensive for what you get. Located at the Best Western Hotel.

At Cocoa Beach Pier you have a choice of several eateries. Let’s be honest, the area is touristy and the food is typical of touristy areas along the Florida coast but the setting is worth the extra costs for sometimes average food! Watching local surfers play in the waves below while you sip a cocktail is priceless! Nothing will put your mind in cruise mood faster than that!

Pier Points To Ponder:

  • There is a$2 charge (free when you have a drink receipt) to walk out on the pier beyond the restaurants. TIP – buy drinks at the first bar, take your receipt and walk to the pier drinks in hand!
  • You can rent beach chairs, toys and umbrellas from 3 places around the pier. The stall on the north side (in front of La Quinta) is the cheapest!
  • You can rent bikes from Trader Ricks but there are cheaper places that deliver to your hotel (please read our bike rental page)
  • The pier has 3 small shops for beach wear and beach-related items. For a larger selection, you can visit Beachwave just south of the Holiday Inn on A1A
  • If you have a vehicle it is best to park at the hotel and walk or pay $10 -$20 per day until 4pm (cost varies)

If you want to travel to other parts of Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, Uber is available and recommended. You can also use the local SCAT bus with stops nearby (please read our SCAT Bus page).

Cocoa Beach Pier Hotels
Cocoa Beach Pier Hotels

Port Shuttle – Yes

Included in Park, Shuttle and Cruise packages for all registered room guests. Departure times are 10:30am and 11:30am. They currently use Beach Line Transportation for shuttle services.

La Quinta Beach Shuttle
La Quinta Beach Shuttle (click to enlarge)

 

Onsite Parking – Yes

Free parking for guests during their stay. Cruise parking at the hotel is included in Park, Shuttle and Cruise packages.

Restaurants and Bars

None onsite except for the usual Bright Side Breakfast, but there are several other choices within a block or two.

The Ale House is a popular sports bar and restaurant. Across the street near Publix is Coasters Taphouse – one of the most popular restaurant/bars in Cocoa Beach with great food and many beers and wine on tap! A few doors down is Flavors of India with authentic Indian cuisine – very good food! For takeout meals, Kim Bo Chinese is recommended.

Right next door to the south of the hotel is the famous Cocoa Beach Pier with several restaurants/bars and always busy with both locals and visitors! Ohana J’s Steakhouse is fine although not as popular as the others.

Rooms

Most of the 78 rooms have ocean views but the direct oceanfront executive rooms are special not only because of the views but because the balconies are private. The rooms overlooking the pool have side views of the ocean but their balconies are not really private as you can see in the photos below (the design allow your neighbors to see you on your balcony).

You can generally choose between 2 Queen Beds or 1 King Bed with a Twin Sofa Bed. The cheapest rooms have the poorest views!

In the photo below, room 607 is an open floor-plan ocean-facing room on the top floor. It has a bedroom on the left in the picture with a King Bed and on the right is the living room with a Queen Sofa Bed and a Twin Sofa Bed.

Room 501 is the ocean-facing room on the far right in the photo below and 508 is the one on the left. The 4th (401 to 408) and 3rd floor (301 to 308) rooms also have great views. All these are called Executive Rooms and you can choose between a King Bed with a Twin Sofa Bed, or Two Queen Beds.

Note the rooms on floor 1 and floor 2 look into the dunes.

La Quinta Beachfront Oceanview Rooms
La Quinta Beachfront Oceanview Rooms (click to enlarge)

In the photo below of the rooms overlooking the pool (most have ocean views too), please look at the two top floors (5 and 6):

  • There are two Balcony Suite rooms – one on floor 6 and one on floor 5
  • The suite rooms to the right (with the 4 smaller windows) has a separate lounge (with a Queen Sofa Bed and a Twin Sofa Bed) and Twin Queen Beds in the bedroom.
  • It has two doors and is numbered (609A and 609 on the top floor) or (509A and 509 on the floor below)

In summary, the rooms in this section are (right to left):

  • 609A/609, 610, 611, 612, 613, 614, 615 and 616 (on the left corner)
  • 509A/509, 510, 511, 512, 513, 514, 515 and 516
  • 409-416. There is a small strange 408A room (no balcony) across from room 408!
  • 309-316
  • 209-216

You can see the ocean views are gone when you are on floors 3 and 2.

La Quinta Beachfront - Pool rooms
La Quinta Beachfront – Pool rooms (click to enlarge)
La Quinta Beachfront - Views from 6th floor
La Quinta Beachfront – Pool Room views from 6th floor room 609 (click to enlarge)

Every room has a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker.

Pool

The pool is not big and certainly not private but right next to the beach and it is actually quite attractive with a pool bar on the side!

La Quinta Beachfront Pool
La Quinta Beachfront Pool (click to enlarge)
La Quinta Beachfront Pool
La Quinta Beachfront Pool – note the pool bar with bar stools

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Kennedy Space Center

A Day Visit to the Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is highly recommend for cruisers and/or visitors to the Port Canaveral area! With opening hours between 9am and 6pm (sometimes 7pm or even 8pm) and located only 30 minutes away, it is a perfect shore trip!

DISCLAIMER – This article is for visiting cruisers with limited time at the Kennedy Space Center.  We mean no disrespect when we suggest to skip some exhibits. It is done purely to allow for more time at the most important and unique (in our opinion) displays.

The map below shows the important sights to see. To see the Legend, click on the small window icon at the top left of the map header:

  1. If your ship arrives before 9am and departs after 5pm then you can see most if not all the attractions! Please read our “Itinerary Section” below.
  2. But is it feasible for half-day visits? Let’s take a look:
  • 1pm to 9pm – typical for Norwegian Breakaway & Norwegian Gem
  • noon to 9:30pm – typical for Anthem of the Seas
  • 10:30am to 9pm – typical for Grandeur of the Seas

The first passengers typically depart a ship about 30 minutes to 45 minutes after docking. Those booked on cruise line shore trips may get priority disembark privileges. This means if you dock at 1pm and can hopefully depart the terminal before 2pm, you will reach KSC before 2:30pm – giving you at least 3.5 hours to explore. If you arrive at the Port at noon, enjoy the extra hour at KSC!

On Your Own or Ship Excursion?

There are 3 types of visits:

  • Post Cruise – About 6 hours or less. These are tours to the KSC and back to the airport
  • AM Tours – Your ship arrives early and you will be at KSC at opening time (9am) before departing around 3pm.
  • PM Tours – Your ship arrives around noon and you can visit KSC until closing time (6pm on most days)

Normally we suggest you avoid overpaying for ship excursions but you can actually save time if you do the following:

  • Decide how serious your family is about the Space Program. The Guided Ship Tours will cost a hefty sum for a larger family because it packs a lot in a few hours and include close-up experiences. If you just want to see the basics like the Space Shuttle and moon landing vehicles, book an “Express Tour” instead and save $$$.
  • Your excursion is probably managed by Sunward Tours on behalf of your cruise line.
  • Call your cruise line or Sunward (be persistent and ask for someone who actually knows) and ask if your shore excursion will take you direct from the ship to see the launch pads and Apollo/Saturn V Center. These are often called “VIP” or “Guided Tours”.
    • If YES, this means you will save A LOT OF TIME by bypassing the general entrance area lines. Assuming you are serious about Space, go ahead and BOOK THE EXCURSION! Please know Guided Tours usually include either the Explore or Launch Control Tour that cost $25 per person in addition to the general admission. You may also get priority debarkation, priority entry at some exhibits and an after-hours IMAX showing.
    • If NO, then the tour is unguided (also known as an “Express Tour” – meaning you will be taken by bus to the entrance, then tour on your own and meet a return bus at a given time at the end of the day). Unguided is a bit of a misnomer because your admission ticket includes a 1-hour narrated bus tour around the KSC Complex! Your driver works for the KSC and will tell you a lot about the launch pads and space shuttle and wildlife while driving.

“Express Tours” may cost more than needed and you will save money by booking KSC online and taking Uber – especially of you have a family of 3 or more.

TIP – Should you decide to arrange the KSC visit on your own, forget about renting a car for AM and PM visits because you will just waste time shuttling to the rental office. Use Uber or a taxi. And do your best to be one of the first off the ship!

FOOD TIP – Please know food is expensive. You are not allowed to bring food so to save money it is best to eat a good meal BEFORE leaving your ship! Here are some prices:

Food Prices
Food Prices (click to enlarge)

The Must-see Attractions

Here are the two most interesting attractions with suggested visiting times (if your ship arrives at 1pm). If your ship arrives at noon, then you get an extra hour to add to this timeline (at the end) for other attractions:

  • Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour (included with your ticket) – this attraction requires about 2 to 2.5 hours with buses departing every 15 minutes starting at 10am. The last bus of the day departs the center 2.5 hours before closing (3:30pm for 6pm)! You will spend 45 minutes driving out to the Saturn/Apollo V Center and 15 minutes driving back – meaning you will arrive at the Saturn Center at 4:15pm – giving you 1h15 minutes to explore before returning on the 5:30pm bus back to the visitor center (arriving as the Center is closing).

    Saturn Rocket
    Saturn Rocket (click to enlarge)
  • Space Shuttle Atlantis – this attraction requires at minimum an hour but your kids may not want to leave the complex – it is very kid-friendly with exciting things to do!
Atlantis Introduction
Atlantis Introduction

Do consider that you will arrive with busloads of other passengers (sometimes 10 or more buses from 1 or 2 other ships) thereby increasing the wait times in line for both attractions.

So, can you actually experience both attractions (and nothing else) if your ship arrives at 1pm? Yes, but only if you manage to do the following:

  1. If self-guided, buy KSC tickets online before your cruise
  2. Get off your ship fast and in your taxi/Uber between 1:30pm and 2pm so you can get ahead of the tour buses.
  3. Assume you arrive at the Visitor Center between 2pm and 2:30pm. Pick a fast line through security then scan your ticket!
  4. Rush over to the Bus Tour Departure lines and do your best to get on a bus departing earlier but no later than 3pm. Grab a seat in front and to your left as you enter the bus.
  5. Arrive at the Saturn/Apollo V Center no later than 3:45pm
  6. Depart Saturn/Apollo V Center no later than 4:30pm
  7. Arrive back at the Visitor Center no later than 4:45pm. Rush over to the Space Shuttle Atlantis line nearby.
  8. Exit the Atlantis display just before closure time and catch your ride back to the Port at 6:15pm.

It is DOABLE to experience both attractions but you will see nothing else and you have to watch the clock very closely! This rushed tour is not for everyone and it will be frustrating if the lines are long.

You also have to consider the ages of your children and their interest in space travel. Younger children may find the bus tour rather boring (except for the occasional alligator/pig sightings) and it may be best to focus on the main Visitor Center instead of bus tours.

In addition, many of the displays at the Kennedy Space Center are noisy because rockets are loud. Babies often cry for the duration of the video presentations and displays! Please consider the age of your child and how crying affect the experience for you and others nearby.

Tip from a local – We suggest you skip the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour if you arrive after 2:30pm. Instead, focus on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and other attractions at a more relaxed pace.

ANOTHER INSIDER TIP – Please know many of the displays have a preamble video presentation to add suspense and enhance the experience. If you are delayed and short on time you can skip the presentations by entering via the gift shops and other doors. But please do not do this for Space Shuttle Atlantis because the presentation part is breathtaking!

Directions and Map of the Complex

KSC is only 18 miles from Port Canaveral – an easy 25 to 30 minute drive and no traffic to worry about!

UberX – $29 +$5 (port pickup fee) = $34 one way. If Uber is not your thing, try Space Port Transport for $50 one way (up to 4 people) or 888-transport (taxi at terminal but ask for a fixed rate, not metered).

Here is our detailed Google map of the Complex and the drive route from the cruise terminals. Please know the greater complex is an active launch area and bus routes may change to accommodate launch schedules. For example, SpaceX is now using launch pad 39A so you may not get to circle it during your tour.

Admission

Tickets are currently set at $57 per adult plus taxes. Various upgrade packages are available.

Those looking for ticket discounts will not have much luck. You can look for coupons in discount booklets found at local gas stations, tourist offices and restaurants but generally you will only save $2.50 to $5 per ticket and you have to read the small print carefully! For example, try SpaceCoastFunGuide.com and print the coupons under Fun Things To Do.

A better discount option is membership in incentive-based programs offered by large companies. Ask your human resources department if your company participate in Tickets At Work for example – see website.

Parking is $10.

The Players at Kennedy Space Center

During your visit to the KSC you will hear about NASA, SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance. Their launch sites are shown on the map above.

To understand the differences between these organizations it is most important to know that the future of USA Space Travel is divided into two objectives:

Deep Space Exploration – This is NASA’s world; at the KSC you will learn about deploying more advanced telescopes to better understand the galaxies and landing a human on Mars. Other countries and commercial companies such as SpaceX may have the same aspirations to build settlements on planets such as Mars but for now at least, NASA is leading the way and the KSC is the place to watch the excitement unfold.

Sub-Orbital and Orbital Exploration – Where private corporations compete for contracts to deploy/maintain satellites, to deliver supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and to fly tourists into space. Some, like SpaceX, also plan to fly tourists to the moon and back.  At the KSC you will learn about the history of the ISS and the moon flights – the historic missions by NASA that made future commercial flights possible.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos of Amazon) has two space vehicle systems in development.

  • The New Shepard system will take 6 tourists into space and then land the capsule using traditional parachutes. The vehicle will launch in West Texas and therefor it is irrelevant to KSC visitors.
  • New Glenn Orbital Vehicles – will be built at Exploration Park next to the KSC. This facility under construction will also acceptance-test the BE-4 engines (to power both New Glenn and United Launch Alliance Vulcan rockets).  The New Glenn system will orbit the earth and be capable of deploying satellites and delivering cargo and astronauts to the ISS.

At Cape Canaveral, Blue Origin will use Launch Complex 36 (last used in 2005) so you may see a Blue Origin New Glenn launch during a visit to the Space Coast starting in 2020 or so.

United Launch Alliance

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin to launch Government (military, NASA and others) missions from Cape Canaveral. As can be expected, ULA is experiencing intense competition from commercial companies (SpaceX in particular) who are bidding similar services usually at much lower costs but perhaps the Government thinks their top-secret payloads are more secure with ULA. Who knows!

ULA has four space vehicle systems in development.

  • Atlas V
  • Delta IV
  • Delta II – rarely launch from Cape Canaveral
  • Vulcan (2019)
  • Centaur (to be replaced by ACES for Vulcan) – the payload capsule

At Cape Canaveral, United Launch Alliance uses Launch Complex 41 for Atlas V and Launch Complex 37B for Delta IV so you may see a ULA launch during a visit to the Space Coast!

Boeing

Boeing has several projects in development that are of interest to KSC visitors:

  • It is under contract to help NASA develop its Space Launch System (SLS) for flights into deep space (Mars for example).
  • CST-100 Starlight – A capsule for transporting up to 7 astronauts and/or payload to the ISS – one of two official transportation capsules selected by NASA (SpaceX Dragon V2 is the other). It is compatible to launch on top of several vehicles including Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9 and Vulcan.

At Cape Canaveral, Starlight to the ISS will initially ride atop the ULA Atlas V vehicle from Launch Complex 41 starting in 2018.

SpaceX

SpaceX has several projects in development that are of interest to KSC visitors:

  • Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle – The current reusable system is flying the Dragon cargo capsule to the ISS. Stage 1 of the vehicle actually returns to Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 or barge after each launch!
  • Falcon 9 Heavy Launch Vehicle – The next generation vehicle designed to carry Dragon and Dragon 2 capsules to the ISS or to deep space (Mars). First launch is planned for 2018.
  • Dragon and Dragon 2 – A capsule for transporting up to 7 astronauts (Dragon 2) and/or payload to the ISS – one of two official transportation capsules selected by NASA (Boeing CST-100 Starlight is the other). It is compatible to launch on top of the Falcon vehicles.

At Cape Canaveral, Dragon is already delivering payload to the ISS from Launch Complex 39A atop Falcon 9 while the Stage 1 vehicle is returning to either Landing Zone 1 (near the lighthouse) or on a barge in the ocean. Launch Complex 40 is being repaired after a Falcon 9 explosion in September 2016.

NASA

We all know about the history of NASA and the KSC is where it all comes alive! You can learn about the early days of space flight, the moon landing missions and the awe-inspiring space shuttle.

But NASA has many projects in current development that are of interest to KSC visitors:

  • International Space Station – NASA astronauts continue to conduct scientific experiments aboard the ISS as they prepare for the Journey To Mars. You can learn more about the ISS in the Atlantis building.
  • Space Telescopes – A full scale replica of the Hubble Space Telescope and a scale model of the new James Webb Space Telescope are on display in the Atlantis building.
  • Mission to Mars – You can see Mars Rover Vehicles and learn about the Mission to Mars in the Journey to Mars building.
  • Space Launch System (SLS) – The next generation vehicle for carrying crews and payload into deep space is in development.
  • Orion – A capsule for transporting up to 4 astronauts and/or payload to Mars (and to the ISS if needed) using the SLS launch vehicle.

At Cape Canaveral, NASA’s SLS launch vehicle will use Launch Complex 39B starting in 2017.

Other Space Partners

Occasionally there are launches at Cape Canaveral from relatively unknown companies. These are mostly military related.

One such Launch System is Minotaur IV from Orbital ATK using Launch Complex 46 starting in 2017.

Kennedy Space Center Attractions

The Kennedy Space Center covers a large area because the attractions extend beyond the main Visitor Complex. It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed and unsure about what to see and do and in which order.

We like to separate the Complex into 7 different experiences:

  1. The IMAX movies – Space-related films on a huge screen shown mostly in 3D
  2. The History of Space Flight – The heroes and vehicles of the early days
  3. The Future of Space Exploration – Deep Space including The Proving Ground and Mars
  4. The International Space Station and Shuttle Flights – Atlantis is the main attraction
  5. The Space Telescopes – Hubble and James Webb
  6. The Moon Landings – Saturn and Apollo
  7. The Launch Areas and Space Operations – Where rockets are being built and the launch/landing pads

TIP: Always pick up a daily schedule of activities at the entrance! 

The 3D IMAX Movies

Shown in two adjacent theaters, these are fabulous visual and sensory 3D experiences of earth from space or life in space. The films are about 40 – 50 minutes long.

The theaters are big and you can almost always get a seat but crowds begin to line up about 15 minutes before show time. There is a pop corn and snack station in the waiting area!

TIP – Take note of the IMAX show times on your daily schedule pamphlet as soon as you enter the KSC and plan your day accordingly.

IMAX Theater
IMAX Theater

The History of Space and Flight

The history of NASA is on display at various locations throughout the KSC Complex. As explained above, while meaning no disrespect to our space heroes, you can skip all the exhibits in this section if you are short on time.

  • The most visual exhibit is the Rocket Garden that is seen as soon as you enter through the ticketing gates. You can walk through the garden or join a 20-minute guided tour (5 times per day as per your daily schedule).

    Rocket Garden Panorama
    Rocket Garden Panorama (click to enlarge)
  • The Heroes & Legends building is immediately to the left of the Space Garden. You line up outside, pick up your 3D glasses and enter a round room for the first of two video presentations. The first presentation is a 5 minute testimonial from various people (famous and not) who talk about their heroes. TIP: Walk to the middle of the room and stand at the center piece while facing ahead and slightly to your right. You then enter a room with 3 levels to watch a 10 minute 3D presentation of the experiences of 4 pioneers such as Jim Lovell who talk about the moments that define their lives in space. This presentation is actually very well done and the special effects are top-notch. TIP: For the most immersive experience walk to the right and stand on the lower (front) section facing the wall.
    Heroes and Legends Building
    Heroes and Legends Building on the left (click to enlarge)
    Heroes and Legends Intro
    Heroes and Legends Intro (stand at the middle circle, but unlike these folks, stand with your back towards the entrance and not facing it)

    Heroes and Legends 3D
    Heroes and Legends 3D (click to enlarge)
  • The Nature & Technology building is across from the Rocket Garden. Here you learn a little about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve that host the growing KSC! It has a small diorama of the fauna and flora of the area and a bit of history of the native people. Honestly, this exhibit appears to be a bit of an afterthought and seems out of place.

    Nature and Technology Diorama
    Nature and Technology Diorama (click to enlarge)
  • The Astronaut Memorial is at the back of the Visitor Complex. It is a solemn place that all should visit to pay respect to our space heroes but it is a bit of a walk out there and since most cruisers are pressed for time, it cannot be a priority. Again, no disrespect meant.

    Astronaut Memorial
    Astronaut Memorial (click to enlarge)
  • The Air Force Space and Missile Museum is not at the KSC Complex but you can visit it on your own or as part of a Cape Canaveral Then & Now Bus Tour. Do this only if you want to revisit the days of Mercury and Gemini and the history of the launch pads!  The museum is near cruise terminal 5 at Port Canaveral and it is easier (but not as interesting) to visit it from that side using Uber or a taxi.
    Air Force Museum
    Air Force Space and Missile Museum

     

The Future of Space Exploration

The future of Space Exploration is represented by several exhibits across the Complex.

  • Nothing says “future” quite like seeing modern rockets on the Launch Pads! To experience this you have to take a bus tour. We discuss the bus tours below in the Launch Areas section.

    Explore Bus Tour
    Explore Bus Tour (click to enlarge)
  • Mission Status Briefings are given by experts in the Astronaut Encounter Theater and these 20 minute sessions will update you on current NASA space happenings as well as future plans. Afterwards you normally stay in your seat for a 30 minute Astronaut Encounter with a current or retired Astronaut! It is fun to hear from a real person about their space experiences. You can ask questions and take selfies!

    Astronaut Encounter Theater
    Astronaut Encounter Theater
  • Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted is a 30 minute session with an expert who is trying to recruit future astronauts in a fun and informative presentation! The exhibits surrounding the stage are all about Mars and you learn about the challenges of colonizing the red planet. There are simulators to play with and several interactive displays with buttons to push, levers to pull and knobs to turn! Do not miss the Mars rover displays! Who does not love a 4WD space vehicle!
    Journey To Mars Stage
    Journey To Mars Stage
    Journey To Mars Simulator
    Journey To Mars Simulator to land on Mars
    Curiosity Mars Rover
    Curiosity Mars Rover

     

The International Space Station and Shuttle Flights

This is a MUST-SEE exhibit at the KSC! While it can be seen in about an hour, it is deserving of at least 2 hours because of all the fun things to do beyond the Space Shuttle!

Without letting the cat of of the bag, we want to tell you that the multi-media build-up to the reveal of the Space shuttle Atlantis is one of the most dramatic and heart-warming events you will ever witness. Yes, it is a very popular exhibit and the line can be long at times but it is well worth the wait.

The building is next to the drop-off area of the tour buses so it makes sense to visit the space shuttle AFTER the free bus tour to the Saturn/Apollo Exhibit.

Atlantis Entrance
Atlantis Entrance (click to enlarge)

The building is home to four different experiences:

  • The Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Shuttle Missions History,
  • The Space Telescopes (discussed in the next section),
  • The International Space Station (ISS) and
  • Very cool simulators and educational stations for kids of all ages including grandpa!

The large Atlantis vehicle is presented on 3 levels so you can photograph it from the side, front, back and below! It is best photographed with a panorama setting on your camera/phone as seen below.

Space Shuttle Atlantis
Space Shuttle Atlantis (click to enlarge)

After you’ve seen the vehicle, you can immerse yourself into the many multi-media exhibits that explain the Missions and how the Space Shuttle was built, mounted on its rockets, delivered to the launch pad, flown into space, docked to the ISS, emptied its cargo bays, and returned to earth. You can even train like an astronaut to perform many of the most important space tasks in various simulators on the ground floor, including a slide to simulate the landing G-forces!

Space Shuttle Simulators
Space Shuttle Simulators (click to enlarge)

Another ground-floor highlight of this visit is the Shuttle Launch Experience – a wild and loud simulator ride into space in a Space Shuttle!  It is simply the best experience at the KSC!

Shuttle Launch Experience
Shuttle Launch Experience (click to enlarge)

Finally, do not miss the International Space Station exhibits. The ISS was the reason why the Space Shuttles were build and it still plays a very important role as NASA prepares for deep space exploration and a Mars landing.

ISS and Space Shuttle
ISS with a docked Space Shuttle (click to enlarge)

As you walk away from the Atlantis, you will notice a small ISS exhibit in the corner on your right. An expert will be on hand to show you a multi-media presentation of the ISS.

ISS Presentation
ISS Presentation (click to enlarge)

A bit further down the hallway on your left, you will notice a scale version of the ISS that is large enough for to crawl through (no shoes please)!

ISS Experience
ISS Experience (click to enlarge)

On the ground floor you can learn more about the ISS such as how the toilets work, where the astronauts sleep and more.

ISS Toilet
ISS Toilet (click to enlarge)

The Space Telescopes

These are not major exhibits at the KSC but we feel it is important to take a look at NASA’s eyes into deep space!

  • The Hubble Space Telescope exhibit is easily missed because it is overshadowed by the presence of Atlantis nearby! As you exit the Atlantis multi-media presentation, look to your right and you will see Hubble hanging from the roof! It is about the size of a school bus! You are looking at a full-size replica of the telescope – known to many only because of its multiple problems since deployment in 1990! After 9 years of tuning and servicing, the Hubble is operational and will be until 2040 if all goes well.

    Hubble Space Telescope
    Hubble Space Telescope (click to enlarge)
  • The successor to the Hubble is in development and could be deployed in 2018. A scale replica of the James Webb Space Telescope (using infrared technology) is on display on the ground floor of the Atlantis building.

    James Webb Telescope
    James Webb Space Telescope (click to enlarge)
  • To learn about the differences between these two telescopes in image quality, richness and reach into the dark universe, attend the Eye on the Universe 3D multimedia show (20 minutes) in the Astronaut Encounter theater. Show times are listed on your schedule and doors open 10 minutes earlier. An expert will lead the presentation that shows images of deep space with special focus on the remote galaxies.

    Eyes on the Universe
    Eyes on the Universe 3D Presentation in the Astronaut Encounter Theater

The Moon Landings – Saturn and Apollo

While the Space Shuttle to the ISS was a modern flying marvel, the achievements of the moon program can never be over-appreciated! Those were the early days of the American space program with very limited computing power and strong competition from the Russians! For many older folks, the first manned mission to land on the moon in 1969 was a defining moment in their lives that they will never forget.

Fortunately, KSC does a marvelous job of capturing the highs and lows of that turbulent yet successful time in NASA’s history. To experience this, you have to board a bus and travel to the Apollo/Saturn V Center – a 45 minute drive that is part of a tour (the tour is discussed below). Together, the tour and Apollo/Saturn Center will take at least 2 hours.

At the Apollo/Saturn V Center you will experience the following:

  • As you walk away from you bus you will enter the first of two multimedia presentations. “We Choose To Go To The Moon” shows the struggles and failures of NASA’s early attempts to be the first in space. The Russian space program were way ahead and video does a great job of capturing the exploding rockets and disappointed faces of those trying to get America into space. Then President Kennedy made his famous speech directing the space program to put a man on the moon and to return him safely back to earth. Finally, things began to fall into place and in 1968 the Apollo 8 was ready to take off on a manned journey to orbit the moon.

    Going to the Moon
    Going to the Moon
  • The presentation then shifts to a different theater – the actual Apollo Firing (Launch Control) Room as it was on December 21, 1968 when Apollo 8 started its countdown from launch pad 39A! In a nail-biting show, anticipation builds as the system checks are completed and the Saturn V rocket with its precious human cargo takes off on its historic journey to the moon! It is simply a magnificent moment when the doors open and you find yourself standing underneath a huge Saturn V vehicle.

    Apollo 8 Firing Room
    Apollo 8 Firing Room (click to enlarge)
  • The exhibit hall is a large rectangular building. The horizontal Atlas V rocket fills the center and you start at the engines then walk towards to the Apollo Spacecraft (the front or top of the rocket). It is best to walk on the far side (the restaurant side) so you can read the displays that explain each important stage of the rocket. There is also a scale model of the rocket so you can see the inside of each stage. Stages 1, 2 and 3 of the rocket will all be jettisoned before the actual moon landing so you can move fast until you reach the restaurant.

    Saturn Rocket
    Saturn Rocket (click to enlarge)
  • When you reach the Moon Rock Cafe, you are at the most interesting modules – the Apollo Spacecraft stage containing the Lunar Module (LM), the Service Module (SM) and the Command Module (CM).
    Apollo Spacecraft
    Apollo Spacecraft (click to enlarge)

    If you look up you can see a real Lunar Module (used until Apollo 14). The Service Module is shown in detail near the very front (top) of the rocket and you can see the Command Module elsewhere on the floor.

    • The Lunar Module landed on the moon and was crashed on the moon after the astronauts returned to the Spacecraft

      Lunar Module
      Lunar Module (click to enlarge)
    • The Service Module propelled the Spacecraft and was jettisoned just before the Command Module’s earth re-entry

      Service Module
      Service Module (click to enlarge)
    • The Command Module is where the astronauts lived during the launch and when they returned to earth

      Command Module atop Saturn V
      Command Module atop Saturn V
  • As you reach the end of the hall, you will see an exhibition that pays Tribute to the Apollo 1 Crew who perished in their Command Module Capsule during a test in 1967. You will learn about the three astronauts and see the photos from that fateful day.
    Apollo 1 Tribute
    Apollo 1 Tribute

    When you exit the exhibit you walk over the service arm that the Apollo 11 crew used to enter their Command Module more than 300 feet above the ground! You will also get a good look at the inside of the CM!

    Apollo 11 Service Arm
    Apollo 11 Service Arm (click to enlarge)
  • The Lunar Theater shows a wonderful 20-minute presentation of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module’s landing on the moon. Called the “Eagle”, the landing was plagued with technical issues but Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used their piloting skills to overcome every issue! Not to be missed!

    Eagle Landing
    Eagle Landing (click to enlarge)
  • The rest of the displays on the exit side of the building cover more moon landing events. You will see a Moon Rover, actual moon walk space suits,  you can touch a moon rock , see the actual Apollo 14 Command Module Capsule and learn about the different Apollo missions!
    Lunar Rover
    Lunar Rover
    Apollo Space Suits
    Apollo Space Suits
    Touch this Moon Rock
    Touch this Moon Rock

    Command Module Capsule
    Command Module Capsule (click to enlarge)

You exit the hall via the gift shop to catch a bus for the 15 minute drive back to the Visitor Complex.

Bus to Visitor Center
Bus back to the Visitor Center Complex

The Launch Areas and NASA Operations

Our maps shows the active launch pads marked in purple. While the public does not have access to any of these pads, you can get relatively close by taking a bus tour.

Launch Pad 39A with SpaceX Rocket
Launch Pad 39A with a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket ready to launch (click to enlarge)

There are FOUR tours to choose from and they all end at the Apollo/Saturn V Center plus TWO Astronaut Experiences – 6 in total:

  • The Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour is included in your admission and the route is shown in YELLOW on our map
  • The Explore Bus Tour is very similar to the free tour but you stop at 2 locations to get a closer look at the launch pads and you stop near the Assembly Building (but you do not enter it). You can see the tour route if you enable the Explore Tour section in our map above.
  • The Launch Control Center Tour is similar to the Explore Tour in that it stops at 2 locations to get closer to the launch pads but then it stops and takes you inside the Control Center where you will see several Firing Rooms including the one being prepared for NASA’s SLS program. You can enhance this tour by booking the Launch Director Tour – your will meet a Launch Director with 37 space shuttle missions including Atlantis.
  • The Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour takes you to the Air Force Space and Missile Museum
  • Fly with an Astronaut is a guided tour of the KSC with an astronaut who will join you aboard the Shuttle Launch Experience simulator in the Atlantis building!
  • Astronaut Training Experience is designed to immerse you in the world of space exploration. Enter a world of simulators with a Certificate of Completion to those who pass (everyone pass!)

Are these guided bus tours worth it?

  • First,  the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour is FREE and included in your ticket so from that point of view it is a MUST-DO!
  • The other three cost $25 per person extra.
  • You will get slightly closer to the launch pad on the paid tours but not by much.
  • The paid tours have a separate VIP line and benches at the bus loading zone at the Visitor Center. This means you do not have to stand in line and you can save time.

    Paid Bus Tour Waiting Area
    Paid Bus Tour Waiting Area
  • The paid tours use guides that offer more in-depth narration of the sights and points of interest along the tour route.
  • The paid tours operate at scheduled times. You pick a time while booking online.

Generally speaking, we suggest that the paid tours are for serious space enthusiasts only unless you just want to skip the lines and pay extra for the Explore Bus Tour!

Itineraries

The Kennedy Space Center recommends the following itineraries for children and/or adults.

See itineraries!

BEST WESTERN Cocoa Beach Hotel & Suites

Best Western Ocean View
Best Western – The Beachside Tower is on the left (click to enlarge)

Introduction to the Best Western Cocoa Beach

The Best Western Cocoa Beach is a very popular campus-style hotel with 6 buildings near the famous Cocoa Beach Pier. If you are interested in the Best Western, check rates, view our own maps, pictures and videos, enjoy our own unbiased comments and read Tripadvisor reviews.

Location

A beach-front property located in the Northern Cocoa Beach area only 4.5 miles from the cruise terminals. The location is wonderful within walking distance of the famous Cocoa Beach Pier, several restaurants, bars, grocery stores and liquor stores.

Please look at our INTERACTIVE MAP for exact locations of the places mentioned below.

Across A1A is a Publix grocery store and liquor store as well as several very good restaurants.  Do check with the front desk if they have discount vouchers for any of the nearby restaurants or shops:

  • Coasters Taphouse – very popular sports bar with excellent food and many beers, wine and liquor on tap and bottled
  • Kim Bo Chinese – the best Chinese food around. Mostly takeouts but friendly and clean
  • Flavors of India – with authentic Indian cuisine – very good food!
  • El Buzo – good Peruvian food in a plain unpretentious setting
  • Salsas Mexican – there are many Mexican restaurant in the area and this one has nice décor with a comfortable bar. Good food and affordable drinks.

Near A1A, there are 2 more restaurants:

  • Cocoa Beach Ale House – the bar is fine with a good selection of drinks but the restaurant is hit or miss. Despite the traffic the outside seating area is nice on a pleasant day.
  • Ohana J’s Steak and Seafood – another restaurant well-known for its inconsistency and reviews reflect this. A bit expensive for what you get. Located at the Best Western Hotel.

At Cocoa Beach Pier you have a choice of several eateries. Let’s be honest, the area is touristy and the food is typical of touristy areas along the Florida coast but the setting is worth the extra costs for sometimes average food! Watching local surfers play in the waves below while you sip a cocktail is priceless! Nothing will put your mind in cruise mood faster than that!

Pier Points To Ponder:

  • There is a$2 charge (free when you have a drink receipt) to walk out on the pier beyond the restaurants. TIP – buy drinks at the first bar, take your receipt and walk to the pier drinks in hand!
  • You can rent beach chairs, toys and umbrellas from 3 places around the pier. The stall on the north side (in front of La Quinta) is the cheapest!
  • You can rent bikes from Trader Ricks but there are cheaper places that deliver to your hotel (please read our bike rental page)
  • The pier has 3 small shops for beach wear and beach-related items. For a larger selection, you can visit Beachwave just south of the Holiday Inn on A1A
  • If you have a vehicle it is best to park at the hotel and walk or pay $10 -$20 per day until 4pm (cost varies)

If you want to travel to other parts of Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, Uber is available and recommended. You can also use the local SCAT bus with stops near the Holiday Inn (please read our SCAT Bus page).

Cocoa Beach Pier Hotels
Cocoa Beach Pier Hotels

Port Shuttle – Yes

Included in Stay and Cruise packages for up to two guests. Departure times are 9:30am, 10:30am and 11:30am on weekends and 10:30am and 11:30am during the work week.

Best Western Port Shuttle
Best Western Port Shuttle (click to enlarge)

Onsite Parking – Yes

Hotel parking included in Stay and Cruise packages.

Restaurants and Bars

The hotel serves hot breakfast in the breakfast area of the Family Suites Building. This is standard for these kind of hotels.

The small Veranda Bar next to the Garden Pool is seasonal and weather permitting.

Complimentary evening social on Thursdays from 5pm to 6pm in the breakfast area beer, wine and snack food.

Note – while Ohana J’s Steakhouse & Grill is next to the hotel lobby, there are several other choices within a block or two. These are shown on our map.

The Ale House is a popular sports bar and restaurant. Across the street near Publix is Coasters Taphouse – one of the most popular restaurant/bars in Cocoa Beach with great food and many beers and wine on tap! A few doors down is Flavors of India with authentic Indian cuisine – very good food!

Just a block to the east is the famous Cocoa Beach Pier with several restaurants/bars and always busy with both locals and visitors!

For takeout meals, Kim Bo Chinese Is recommended.

Rooms

The hotel has a campus setting with rooms located in 5 buildings. You can see the buildings on our map below.

Best Western Layout
Best Western Layout (click to enlarge)

The Tower Building (FLOORS 3-8 = 6 FLOORS) is the most desirable with beautiful ocean views:

  • Choose the upper floors 8, 7, 6 or 5 for the best views.
  • Choose between 42 oceanfront (direct ocean views) or 18 ocean view rooms (these are on the side of the building facing south and southwest).
  • The middle 5 rooms on each floor have either One King Bed (sleeps 2) or Two Queen Beds (sleeps 4).
  • The outer two rooms on each floor are called junior suites and offer Two Queen Beds and a Double Sleeper Sofa (sleeps 6 in total).
  • Every room has a small fridge and microwave.

    Beach Western Tower Block
    Beach Western Tower Block (click to enlarge)

The Family Suites Building (FLOORS 2-5 = 4 FLOORS) is perfect for families. The fitness room and breakfast room are located on Floor 1:

Floor 2 is just above the pool. Floor 5 is the highest.

Each suite has TWO ROOMS (bedroom with door and a lounge) with a kitchenette (full fridge, sink and microwave).

Each suite offers One King Bed and a Double Sleeper Sofa in the lounge (sleeps 4 in total) or Two Queen Beds and a Double Sleeper Sofa in the lounge (sleeps 6 in total).

Best Western Family Suites
Best Western Family Suites (click to enlarge)

The three Garden Room Buildings (FLOORS 1 and 2) have many rooms on TWO FLOORS.

  • Some rooms face the streets and others face the courtyard or pool.
  • Choose Building C if you want to be closer to the beach, or Building B if you want to be closer to the breakfast room
  • Each room offers One King Bed (sleeps 2), Two Queen Beds (sleeps 4) or Two Double Beds (sleeps 4).
  • Ask about a FREE crib.
  • A few rooms have kitchenettes (full fridge, sink and microwave).
Best Western Garden Building C
Best Western Garden Building C in the foreground and Tower in the back (click to enlarge)
Best Western Garden Buildings B and A
Best Western Garden Buildings B and A are visible in the middle (click to enlarge)

If you have a family of 5, do ask about a rollaway bed (extra costs) to add one to a 4-person room.

Pool Area

Two pools are available. The Garden Pool is more private (best for adults) and with the Veranda Bar mentioned above. The Family Suites Building has its own pool with the east-facing rooms looking down on it.

Best Western Garden Pool
Best Western Garden Pool (click to enlarge)

 

Best Western Suites Pool
Best Western Family Suites Pool (click to enlarge)

Show Rates



Booking.com

Hotel Website

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