Rocket Launch: Plan a Visit to Cape Canaveral in Florida

Rocket Launch Cape Canaveral New Horizons

Cape Canaveral, Florida is one of our favorite locations in the United States because it’s home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a cruise ship port, and the beautiful Atlantic ocean. Most recently, we visited for a rocket launch!

Rocket Science
Rocket Science

View a Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

We’ve toured the Kennedy Space Center and taken several cruises from Port Canaveral. One of our most memorable trips — a cruise and rocket launch — on the same day!

Prior to boarding the Disney Wonder on January 19, 2006.

While NASA has launched rockets from the Cape for over sixty years, we’ve only witnessed two of them in person. We’ve tried several times to see more launches, however, timing (work and school), weather (Florida thunderstorms!), and technical issues have interfered.

New Horizons Rocket Launch

On January 19, 2006, Michael, Nic, and I embarked on the Disney Cruise Line’s ship, Disney Wonder. We were excited to board the beautiful ship and head out to sea. After boarding, we learned we were in for a special send-off. NASA was launching New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe, with a planned Pluto Fly-by for July 14, 2015!

Instead of heading to our stateroom to settle in, we found a great location up on deck to view the launch. We couldn’t believe our good fortune.

At 2pm, New Horizons lifted off!

New Horizons lifts off at Cape Canaveral. Rocket Launches from Cape Canaveral are amazing.
New Horizons lifts off
New Horizons rocket launch from Disney Wonder ship
New Horizons rocket launch from Disney Wonder
New Horizons rocket launch
Launch of New Horizons
New Horizons rocket launch
New Horizons blasts off from Cape Canaveral

The fun continued for years. We kept track of New Horizons throughout Nic’s childhood. Finally, when Nic was 15, New Horizons made its historical flight past Pluto.

Atlas V Rocket Launch

After several missed launches the past couple of years, we found ourselves at the right place and time for an Atlas V rocket launch. On the morning and afternoon of November 19, 2016, we had a scheduled tour for Nic at Florida Institute of Technology. In the evening, we took the easy drive from Melbourne to Cape Canaveral; still amazed by our good fortune.

Nasa Parkway East, Banana River, Rocket Launch Viewing Area
Nic and Michael waiting for rocket launch

We found a great parking spot along Nasa Parkway East (a strip of road in the middle of the Banana River) and facing Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41.

Nasa Parkway East Rocket Launch Viewing Area
Nasa Parkway East Rocket Launch Viewing Area
Looking towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kenney Space Center from across the Banana River, Nasa Parkway East
Looking towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

Typical of rocketry, we were in for a tense wait. During the hour-long launch window, the timing was pushed back numerous times. When there was one last chance to launch by 6:42pm, the Atlas V finally lit up the sky!

Atlas V Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral
Atlas V Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

Thankfully, it was a successful blast-off of United Alliance’s Atlas V rocket carrying a next-generation weather satellite. And we were there to see it!

Rocket Launch Cape Canaveral

Cape Canaveral History

Cape Canaveral wasn’t America’s first launch site though. In the 1940s, many of the first U.S. rockets launched from White Sands Missile Range situated in the New Mexico desert. While this desert location is plenty remote, larger rockets required a site that would be less dangerous to the general public. So, on July 24, 1950, Cape Canaveral launched its first rocket over a safer spot — the Atlantic Ocean.

White Sands Missile Range
White Sands Missile Range

Cape Canaveral Future

Rocket launches can be viewed from many public areas as well as with reserved tickets at Kennedy Space Center.

We hope to watch future launches of the new Space Launch System. And with SpaceX and Blue Origin continuing to bring their rocket launches to the area, the Cape is sure to be an uplifting place to visit!

Have you seen a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral? Share with us in the comments!

Kimberly LaPaglia

Kimberly shared her passion for Disney when she was selected for the inaugural Walt Disney World Moms Panel and then as the first Disney Cruise Line panelist. As a Disney Mom, she helped countless families plan their own dream-filled journeys. Blending her love for research, travel, and writing, Kim has been an editor for Disney Food Blog for nearly 8 years. At The Castle Concierge, she blogs about travel, parenting, celebrations, and the road to empty nesting.

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4 thoughts on “Rocket Launch: Plan a Visit to Cape Canaveral in Florida

  1. In 1982, we traveled to Walt Disney World with our neighbors. We had a small TV that plugged into the car battery. Just as we were checking into Fort Wilderness, we saw the space shuttle take off on the tv. We immediately looked up and saw it above us.

    1. Wow! I regret never seeing the space shuttle. Seeing it from WDW — amazing! Thanks for sharing. I’ll be sure to tell Nic!!

  2. My grandson has had so many wonderful opportunities. He has always had a love for space and now wants to be an aerospace engineer.

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