Lonely Planet Writer

Rocket tourism takes off in Florida as thousands flock to see the latest blast-off

Rocket tourism is having its second coming on Florida’s Space Coast as tens of thousands of visitors make plans to see the next SpaceX launch.

Launch viewing from Apollo Saturn V Center. Image by Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism​

Now, the local tourism promotion agency has had their very own launch … of a new app so that you can plan your visit to see the next lift-off. More than 100,000 people visited Florida to see Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket send a car into orbit in February. That type of crowd has not been seen since the heyday of the Space Shuttle programme, which flew its last mission in 2011.

The Kennedy Space Center. Image by Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism​

Tom Bartosek of Space Coast Florida told Lonely Planet: “all the hotels in the county were full, the campgrounds and condos were near capacity and since the launch was delayed [slightly] … even more people had the opportunity to get into place to witness it. “Many locals said it was like the days of the Space Shuttle programme where crowds of 100,000 were very common. Because of the crowds, many commutes away from the viewing sites, which normally would take about twenty minutes, took up to two or three hours.”

He said launch visitors packed beaches, riverside parks, and causeways to see the historic event. There are more than thirty rocket launches scheduled in 2018 from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. To find out what’s up next, you can visit their website or download their new app by searching for “Launch Console” on the Apple or Google stores. Tom Bartosek said the best way to plan a visit was to arrive one day prior to the scheduled launch and plan to spend three days in case of delays (always possible because of the technical complexities involved).

There are plenty of other things to do in Florida too. Image by Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism​

To get as close as possible for daytime launches, he recommends the Kennedy Space Center website where tickets are made available. Evening and overnight launches are best watched from the beaches or public parks along the Indian River Lagoon. He said there were plenty of other things to do during your rocket launch visit including sixty miles of beach, turtle walks, the famous Brevard Zoo, and lots of wildlife reserves.