When you think of planning a trip to the Sunshine State, the first cities that come to mind are probably Miami and Orlando (Disney World, anyone?). Sure, these big-name cities have a lot to offer tourists, but there is much more waiting to be explored in Florida. Next time you plan a vacation down south, consider heading to Florida’s Space Coast, an eastern stretch of the peninsula home to coastal towns like Cocoa Villiage, Melbourne, Titusville, Palm Bay, Viera, and Port Canaveral.

Whether planning an outing with friends, taking the wife on a romantic getaway, or bringing the whole family along, you are sure to find the perfect vacation activities for everyone at Space Coast.

Up, up, and away!

Space Coast is famously home to the Kennedy Space Center, along with several other space-related museums, hence the area’s name. At the KSC you can walk through the history of spaceships and space travel, and see the real Space Shuttle Atlantis on display. Yes, it’s been to space and back!

You will see replicas of well-known rockets and even have the chance to talk to a real-life astronaut. Ask them all the questions you’ve been dying to know, like how it feels to look down at Earth from above. The kids are sure to love this one – as will you if you harbor an interest for astronauts and the cosmos.

If you can’t get enough of space, continue the adventure with a stroll through Space View Park in Titusville. Here astronauts are honored with statues and a live audio feed to the NASA control room. Then you can head down to the American Space Museum & Walk of Fame to see even more space-related items. For sci-fi lovers and those obsessed with the stars, you’ll have plenty here to explore!

Nature and wildlife

Florida’s Space Coast, despite its name, isn’t just about space. If you love animals and the outdoors, you will find plenty of opportunities to create truly unforgettable memories.

Not far from the Kennedy Space Center lies the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is a whopping 140,000 acres, where more endangered and threatened species live than anywhere else in the continental U.S. You can explore this area on your own, or take a guided tour and try to spot a different bird species, otters, crocodile, deer, manatee, bobcats, and much more.

Want to get even closer? Kayak tours are also offered for you to see manatee, dolphins, and otters up close and personal in their natural habitats. In the summer you can opt for a night kayak tour; in the dark, bioluminescence will glow blue beneath you and light up the water.

If animals aren’t quite your thing, have no fear; Space Coast has plenty of picturesque beaches to visit thanks to its 72 miles of coastline.

One of the most popular places to swim and catch some sun is in Jetty Park at Port Canaveral. Visitors love this spot because you can see 4,000-passenger cruise ships as they pass by on their way to dock, and cargo ships floating in the ocean not too far from shore.

To get a break from the ships (and other tourists), try checking out Sebastian Inlet State Park in Melbourne. Here you will find turquoise waters perfect for snorkeling, surfing, and scuba diving, as well as some of the best saltwater fishing the area has to offer. And don’t forget camping, either! While some spots are popular in this park, you can certainly find secluded parts of the beach if you do some more exploring.

Shop and dine

After a long day swimming, take a relaxing walk through one of Space Coast’s six towns. For historic downtown areas teeming with unique shops, high-quality restaurants, and charming atmospheres, go to Titusville, Cocoa Village, and Melbourne.

If you’re a surfer, don’t miss the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, one of the biggest surf shops in the world. That’s right, the world!

For a more traditional shopping experience, Avenue Viera is a favorite among tourists thanks to its open-air, pedestrian-friendly layout. And if you happen to be visiting during the third Thursday of the month, you’re in for a treat: Thirsty 3rd Thursday is their signature event offering free drinks, live music, and complimentary food.

A seafood addict? There are plenty of memorable dining options for you. Fat Kahunas is a local favorite (famous for their jumbo shrimp), serving quality seafood and meat right on the water at Cocoa Beach. Or eat locally caught lobster at Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty, sitting literally over the water on wooden stilts. The views don’t get much better than that!

Want to take some seafood home to cook yourself? Seafood Atlantic Market & Restaurant is the place to go, with the freshest catches at reasonable prices. And if the mood strikes, grab a table and eat there, too.

As you can see, the seafood options are endless along the Space Coast, as are the potential vacation activities. With impressive museums, some of the best wildlife the country has to offer, and gorgeous beaches for you to lounge on, this area has everything you need to create a truly special getaway. Not to mention fewer tourist crowds than in other popular cities!

So try something new next time you’re looking to visit this beautiful state and book tickets to Florida’s Space Coast. Your loved ones will thank you!