Living in Jacksonville has a lot of perks when you are looking for places and things to do with kids. There are tons of great day trips, just a short driving distance, a great number of family friendly beaches and parks, and historic cities and towns to explore. However, you might be missing out on one of the most exhilarating experiences that you can have: viewing a rocket launch!
My husband and son are particularly great space enthusiasts. One of the first things we did once we moved to Jacksonville was to visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Soon, we found out that we could come to a rocket launch, due to an increase of space exploration initiatives by NASA and private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. That is how we planned a trip for only that and it was jaw-dropping.
The impact that this experience had on all of us has remained through the years and we keep continuing trying to go to rocket launches to experience it once more, now more than ever with the upcoming Artemis initiative that aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface. It has also encouraged my kids to learn more about science and space exploration. It has sparked their imagination, and has reaffirmed for them that there is nothing impossible for the human mind to achieve. Here’s a few mom-approved tips to make sure your trip to see a rocket launch is out of this world.
Decide What Launch You Want to Attend
There are different planned launches throughout the year and apps that you can get for free so you can see the schedules. The most popular is the Launch Console App. Aside from the most up to date information on launches, it has other features like live streaming, a compass to ensure you are in the best spot, countdown to lift off, and a blog with all other relevant information. You can also visit the Kennedy Space Center and NASA websites, and follow them on social media for updates.
Rocket Launch Viewing Locations
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is probably the most popular location to see a rocket launch, plus depending on the launch they offer packages that allow you to visit the complex as well while you are visiting. Yes, it provides you a very privileged view, but this is not the only place. There are plenty of other spots where you can witness a rocket launch, even for free!
Titusville, Cape Canaveral, and Cocoa Beach, also have a bunch of options to witness a rocket launch. Lakes, beaches, parks, even parking lots are fun sports to gather and see the event. When you are with kids, think about a close by bathroom option. Restaurants and other local spots offer events and deals for launches. If you plan to book a hotel on the coast, try to do it ASAP. Some launches are expected to be packed, and people book all these tickets, and rooms in advance. Here is an interactive map to help you decide or click on www.visitspacecoast.com for more detailed information on locations.
Getting Ready for the Launch
Plan to arrive early. Pack plenty of snacks and drinks, a good pair of binoculars, chairs, blankets, and any other thing you might think of to make you and your family feel comfortable. There are day and night launches so dress accordingly as sometimes it can get pretty chilly at night depending on the time of the year. Some people also take telescopes to get a closer look at the rocket.
I know you will feel tempted to record or take pictures once there is lift off. Try to resist this urge and just look up! Watch the event, feel the sounds and movements, the breathtaking view of the rocket, look at your children’s eyes, smile. There will be lots of pictures available after the event from professional photographers and media. You have planned and waited for a while, and you have just a few minutes to experience it fully. And trust me, your pictures, unless you have a very very good camera and lens, will not be that good.
A Warning About Launch Viewing
Beware that launches can get scrubbed. The team managing the rocket launch can call off the attempt, even seconds before lift off. Inclement weather such as thunderstorms, strong upper-level winds, and cold temperatures, or technical or mechanical issues with the rocket itself, spacecraft, payload, or systems on the ground, can cause a scrub. I won’t lie to you, you will get disappointed and there is nothing to do about it. But if you are prepared, your disappointment won’t last long, because there are other things you can do with your kids while you are there.
If your launch does get scrubbed you can always visit Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (did I mention that there is an incredible indoor playground with a bar), go to The American Space Museum and Space Walk Hall of Fame, you can take a Tour of the Historic Canaveral Lighthouse or, enjoy the parks and beaches nearby! Launches are re-scheduled and you can always come back for a different experience.
Paola is an award-winning author, originally from Colombia. Her first novel El Lago de los Milagros (2016) (Spanish version) is an Award Winning Book at the International Latino Book Awards 2017. Paola also published Shorty Tales (Cuentitos) a collection of short bilingual stories, and in 2021 she released her first Non-Fiction Book, The Anxious Mom Manifesto: 18 Lessons to Control Your Anxiety Monster. An original, provocative, and honest take on motherhood, anxiety, and facing one’s own monsters. Currently, she lives in Jacksonville with her husband and kids. You can follow her @paobsur and reach her at www.paolasur.com.