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The BEST places to watch a rocket launch in Florida, including Artemis 1

Sure, we can sometimes spot the faint glow and vapor trail of a rocket launch from here at home in Tampa Bay, but why not experience a rocket launch from a few miles away at least once before the kids grow up?

This has been a bucket list activity for me, and we finally went to see the Space X Falcon 9 CRS-22 launch at the Kennedy Space Center in the summer of 2021. I’m so glad we did and it’s an experience I highly recommend you take advantage of too since we’re only a couple hours away.

It inspired us so much, we went back this summer so our 9-year-old could attend summer camp at the Kennedy Space Center.

While there are so many different viewing locations along the Space Coast—some popular spots to see a rocket launch are beaches like the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier and parks like Space View Park in Titusville—there’s nothing quite like being at the Kennedy Space Center on launch day.

*Keep in mind that admissions for launch days often sell out, so buy your admission for the day at least a couple of weeks in advance to be safe.


Upcoming 2022 Rocket Launches at the Kennedy Space Center including Artemis 1 Launch:

There have been a steady number of launches in the last couple of years with even more in the near future, including the historic launch of the Artemis program which will eventually put humans back on the moon and even Mars.

After rolling the SLS and Orion back to the Vehicle Assembly Building due to Hurricane Ian, November 16 is the next targeted launch date for the Artemis I mission. 

It’s not the only launch on schedule though! Here’s what’s officially on schedule as of publication:

  • Artemis 1: November 16, 2022 at the earliest 

*Launch schedule subject to change and launches may not occur during normal business hours. Stay up-to-date by visiting the Kennedy Space Center Rocket Launch and Events page.

Artemis Banner at Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex
Artemis Banner at Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex – Dani Meyering

Let’s talk more about the historic Artemis 1 launch!

We will be covering this launch from the Kennedy Space Center, so be sure to follow us on Instagram at @TampaBayParenting (look for the stories highlight named “Artemis”) and we’ll be sharing more on TampaBayParenting.com as well.

The next attempt for the Artemis 1 test flight is TBD after several attempts and then a delay due to Hurricane Ian.

The good news is if you head out to watch the launch and plans change then you can enjoy all that the Space Coast has to offer. And if you are at Kennedy Space Center then you’ll have plenty of things to do even if the launch is postponed.

Learn more about the Artemis Program with these kid-friendly activities at Kennedy Space Center

Gateway attraction at Kennedy Space Center
Gateway attraction at Kennedy Space Center.

One of the first large buildings you’ll encounter after you walk through the gates of the Kennedy Space Center is the new (and beautiful) Gateway attraction.

This indoor attraction showcases more about the Artemis missions and the next era of space exploration with NASA and their commercial partners.

Gateway attraction at Kennedy Space Center
A wide view of the Gateway attraction at Kennedy Space Center. The exhibit is huge!

There is also a new immersive ride in Gateway, Spaceport KSC. It’s pretty cool and allows you to launch into space in a ‘choose your own adventure’ type experience: Cosmic Wonders, Daring Explorers, Red Planet, and Uncharted Worlds. We chose Cosmic Wonders.

Our kiddos really liked it, but if you’re prone to motion sickness, you might want to close your eyes at some points during the ride since it is one of those rides that utilizes a floor to ceiling video screen. Overall, it wasn’t too bad and I get really bad motion sickness.

Over at the IMAX theater complex, there’s a new temporary LEGO Build to Launch exhibit that teaches kids about STEM and the technology behind the Artemis program. There are cute photo opps in here and of course, LEGO building!

LEGO Build to Launch exhibit at Kennedy Space Center
LEGO Build to Launch exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center

Speaking of LEGOs, our friends at LEGOLAND Florida invited us to check out LEGO City Space play area inside the Imagination Zone. It’s an immersive build zone where your kiddos will travel to the LEGO Moonbase to help NASA build rockets and rovers. Check out our Instagram Reel to see it for yourself.

Bonus – September is Future Voyagers Month and Kids Get in Free!

Throughout the month of September until October 9, kids ages 3-11 can receive one free admission to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with the purchase of at least one adult admission! The offer is valid for up to three complimentary children’s admissions per one adult.  *Blackout dates apply, including launch dates

Will we be able to see the Artemis 1 launch from Tampa Bay?

It’s a great question since we sometimes can see the vapor trails from rocket launches on the east coast –even here in Tampa Bay. We’re turning to the expert, our pal Denis Phillips, chief meteorologist at ABC Action News to find out the place to view the launch from Tampa Bay. Here’s what he told us:

“There’s really no better spot than any other. The farther East you are, the better. We really don’t have elevation in Florida, so unless you’re closer to the East coast, you’re probably not gonna see it.

If it were a night launch, it would be amazing, but it’s not. But the rocket is literally double the power of anything we’ve sent up so they’re guessing you can hear it up to about 45 miles away.

I should clarify, I think we’ll see the vapor trail as it should be massive. Sunlight can actually highlight the trail. But rocket launches at night are so amazing, and what folks have grown accustomed to. Daytime just not as dramatic.

Bottom line, as far as viewing, the farther East, the better. Otherwise, just look to the East.”

Where to see the Artemis 1 Launch on the Space Coast

Unfortunately the timing of the next attempt, which was September 27th, now coincides with the threat of a tropical system.

From NASA.gov directly: “NASA continues to closely monitor the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian as preparations for rolling back the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building continue. The agency is making incremental decisions that prioritize the agency’s people and hardware and its process is in accordance with established NASA policies for tropical storms and hurricanes.”

What does this mean? 

As you can imagine, returning to the moon for the first time in decades is no small task. And flying a new type of rocket for the first time adds to the variables.

The first two attempts were scrubbed, and while this is disappointing, it is also to be expected. The SLS rocket is a complicated system and the purpose of Artemis I is purely a test flight. Things were looking positive for the September 27 attempt, until the weather.

November 12 and November 27 are the next targeted launch dates.

If you’re not sure what the big deal is with the Artemis launch, check out Six Reasons to Be Excited About the Artemis Program.

Keep an eye out for viewing packages from Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex for viewing packages for Artemis I and other rocket launches.

It’s going to be a big one, friends! Even bigger than the shuttle program, so if you’re close, you can expect to feel the thunder for sure.

The Kennedy Space Center recommends these Artemis launch public viewing locations:

  • Marina Park: 501 Marina Road, Titusville (restrooms, parking)
  • Sand Point Park: 101 N. Washington Ave, Titusville (restrooms, parking)
  • Space View Park: 8 Broad Street, Titusville (parking nearby)
  • Manzo Park: 3335 S. Washington Ave (US 1), Titusville (restrooms, parking)
  • Rotary Riverfront Park: 4141 S. Washington Ave (US 1), Titusville (restrooms, parking)
  • Kennedy Point Park: 4915 S. Washington Ave (US 1), Titusville (restrooms, parking)
  • Westbound SR 528 Causeway over the Banana River Park (well off the right-of-way, near the water)
  • Jetty Park: East end of Port Canaveral off George King Blvd. (restrooms, parking)
  • Cocoa Beach Pier: 401 Meade Ave., Cocoa Beach (restrooms, parking)
  • Alan Shepard Park: East end of SR 520, Cocoa Beach (restrooms, parking)
  • Fischer Park: East side of SR A1A, 1/2 mile south of SR 520, Cocoa Beach (restrooms, parking)
  • Lori Wilson Park: 1500 N. Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach (restrooms, parking)

NASA will also be streaming the Artemis launch, so you can also watch from the comfort of your own home as well!

What to Know When You Visit the Kennedy Space Center with Kids on Rocket Launch Day:

If you are lucky enough to snag an admission ticket to view a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center, get ready for an unforgettable day!

Depending on the launch, you can upgrade your visit to get even closer to the launch pad with a reserved spot, but this prime viewing experience requires a lot of pre-planning since packages often sell out for bigger launches like Artemis I.

We recommend getting on the Kennedy Space Center newsletter email list or just frequently check their website for updates.

Launch viewing locations at Kennedy Space Center that may open depending on launch:

  • LC-39 Observation Gantry
  • Banana Creek Launch Viewing Area (adjacent to the Apollo/Saturn V Center)
  • The Apollo/Saturn V Center lawn
  • The main visitor complex, with bleachers set up in designated viewing areas (this is the area we viewed the launch from)

The Apollo/Saturn V Center viewing area puts you as close as 3.9 miles away to 8 miles away, depending on the launch pad being used for that particular launch.

We couldn’t get Launch Viewing Tickets since they were sold out on the day we visited, but viewing from the lawn at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex was still a pretty cool experience.

For the Space X Falcon 9 CRS-22 launch, the launch pad was about 7.5 miles away from us. We were close enough that we could feel the launch as it got a bit higher in the sky which was pretty awesome.

Rocket launch viewing from the lawn at a the Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Lawn. June 2021.

What to Bring to the Kennedy Space Center on Launch Day:

Be sure to bring a blanket and umbrella (to seek shade while you wait for the launch). You can also pack a small soft-sided cooler with snacks and water and folding camp chairs to relax in while you wait.

Don’t worry—all umbrellas come down at launch time. The other Florida basics like sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellant and wipes to wipe down hot, sweaty kids are other must-haves.

Lines to order food at the Kennedy Space Center can get super long, so snacks and water will be MUST-HAVES to avoid hangry meltdowns.

Viewing from the Kennedy Space Center lawn actually turned out to be the best option for us because it allowed us more time to play—yes, we said PLAY!

There are so many interactive exhibits for little kids and kids at heart.

The indoor Planet Play area was a family favorite. It’s a three-story immersive, space-themed playground that also has craft beer, and wine in a small adult lounge area. Yes, please.

We recommend visiting KennedySpaceCenter.com to learn more about each launch mission and to see if special viewing locations are available.

The Space X launch we saw had fresh apples onboard for the crew of the International Space Station and even cool science experiments, one involving tardigrades which was fun to research.

It really is a fun research project for kids and adults…and who knows, it just might inspire your little ones to one day aim for the stars.

How to View a Rocket Launch By Boat:

Book a boat or kayak tour on launch day! A Day Away Kayak Tours, Space Coast River Tours and Sail Cocoa Beach are just a few that offer launch day tours.

There’s also Jetty Park, Playalinda Beach, The Cocoa Beach Pier, and even a space-themed rooftop bar. Here’s Where to Watch a Rocket Launch Like a Space Coast Local from one of our sister publications, OrlandoDateNightGuide.com.

To stay up to date on future launches and find more viewing spots, check out:

More things to do with the the kids on the Space Coast:

Make it more than a day trip and spend a few days on the Space Coast to explore all they have to offer! We did and here are some cool things families can enjoy together–other than the beach, of course!

Brevard Zoo:

This Melbourne zoo has a beautiful winding boardwalk and sidewalks that take you through the different habitats. We loved feeding the birds in the aviary and feeding the giraffe! You can also walk up close to kangaroos and there’s a splash pad for the kiddos if you need to cool off for a bit. They also have a zip-line but check ahead to see if they are booking. Brevardzoo.org 

Sea Turtle Walk Tour:

This is a unique summertime activity where you can book a tour to see the many sea turtle nests along the beaches and maybe even catch baby sea turtles making their journey to the sea. Visitspacecoast.com

Bioluminescence Kayaking Tour:

Another unique nighttime summer experience is a bioluminescence tour on the Indian River Lagoon. There are several companies that offer the experience like Get Up and Go Kayaking. July and August are prime time viewing months. 

American Space Museum:

If you didn’t get your fill of space, head over to the American Space Museum in Titusville where kids can get hands-on with actual shuttle launch controllers and view pretty cool artifacts from the space program. You can get through this museum in a couple of hours, tops. Spacewalkoffame.org

Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures: 

This is another quick indoor trip. If your kids love dinosaurs, they’ll love this place. While most of the dinosaur bones are replicas of real bones, there are real fossils on display. There is even a large store on the first floor. Dinosaurstore.com

Florida Surf Museum:

Right next door to the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop, this museum will walk you through the history of surfing in Florida. Floridasurfmuseum.org

*Originally published in the July 2021 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine, but updated July 20, 2022


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Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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