All in a short drive: Weekend trips from the Space Coast: Part I
It’s hard to leave, but for the weekender, there is no better home sweet home than Florida’s Space Coast.
Here on the Space Coast, a lifetime of memories can be made every weekend – from historic rocket launches and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to four historic downtowns, each an attraction of their own. The 72-mile long Space Coast region, which was named one of the top 25 “Best of the World” Destinations on the Rise by National Geographic in 2021 is not only the place to call home, but with it’s ideal central location, it’s one of the best spots in Florida to call your starting point for adventure.
We’ll start with the obvious. Thrills and nostalgia are just a short jaunt west to the world-famous attractions of the City Beautiful, Orlando. A mecca of resorts and theme parks, Space Coast locals enjoy an easy weekend away to one of the top vacation destinations in the world. Close enough to be home for dinner, residents can enjoy trips around the world at Epcot, or immerse themselves in the magic of Harry Potter. Most theme parks offer annual passes, making this fantasy world a reality all year long. Want to make a weekend out of it? Explore the Orlando region with a stay at resorts by Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort, or one of the many (over 450) hotels nearby. And although they are known for their famous castles and mountains, there is much more to this area than just thrills. Downtown Orlando and all its charm combines entertainment hot spots with historic flair. For a smaller downtown feel, there is always the towns of Winter Garden and Winter Park, and although the names say cold, the chill you feel here will be nothing short of amazing.
Drive a few short hours to 1565. St. Augustine, the oldest city in the nation, was founded forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The Spanish established St. Augustine, and a walk in these streets transports you to the day they settled. Walk through city blocks of cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings in the heart of historic downtown, where shops and restaurants are tucked into quaint openings amongst courtyards just blocks from the Matanzas River. Speaking of the river, the intracoastal waterway shores host the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, built over 315 years ago to protect Spain’s claims in the New World. For more history, add a stop at the grand Flagler College, a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture and the first major poured-in-place concrete building in the United States. Tour the building which initially served as the Hotel Ponce de León, and explore the art of structural design. The regal elegance of this and surrounding buildings beg for indulgence in fine art and cuisine, which luckily, St. Augustine has both of. Aviles Street is the original art district as well as the location for an early church, cemetery, jail, and more. Fine dining can easily be found, and a stop at the St. Augustine Distillery is great for the cherry on top of a historic trip.
Crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches are a two-hour trip west where you can grab a big-city experience on some of the best beaches in Florida in Tampa. Enjoy a night out on the town with a backdrop of city lights on Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.7-mile path along the Hillsborough river which is full of attractions, restaurants and bars including Sparkman Wharf, a culinary experience with a biergarten hub featuring dozens of local beers on an incredible green space hosting concerts, movies, and more. During the day, explore The Florida Aquarium and its 20,000 residents, as you take a journey through the Florida ecosystem, from coral reefs and wetlands all the way to bays and beaches. Speaking of beaches, less than an hour from downtown is award-winning beaches, Clearwater and Fort De Soto, both voted on various “best of” lists. If another type of water adventure is your thing, then climb aboard an actual pirate ship on the Lost Pearl’s 1.5-hour interactive pirate ship tour for a one-of-a-kind experience. Then before you head back home, make sure to visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for a thrill, or two.
No matter the road trip, coming home to endless adventures will always be on the itinerary (not to mention world-class careers). Plan your staycation on the Space Coast with Visit Space Coast at VisitSpaceCoast.com, because half the fun of a trip, is coming home.