Updated 1/22/2024

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You’ve booked your cruise out of Cape Canaveral in Florida, and you can’t wait for the Bahama Mamas to flow as you sail to exotic–and warm– Caribbean destinations. But you wonder if spending a day or two before or after your cruise in Cape Canaveral in Florida is worth it.   

Or maybe you haven’t booked a cruise yet, but are heading down to the area for work, to visit family, or see the Kennedy Space Center. 

Orlando and Tampa tend to overshadow the Space Coast. But that doesn’t mean you have to trek into expensive and crowded Orlando to find fun things to do.  

We think there are plenty of cool things to do in Cape Canaveral in Florida to entertain you and your family. So whether you love cruising, the beach, space, sports, wildlife, or gambling, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to Cape Canaveral to help you plan the perfect vacation. 

Cruises Out of Port Canaveral Florida: Sailing to Paradise

Four towering cruise ships in Port Canaveral, Florida.
Port Canaveral is now the busiest cruise port in America.

An easy drive from the mid-Atlantic and southern states, Port Canaveral in Florida, is the busiest cruise port in America. (overtaking Miami in 2023). The terminals are clean and modern, and parking in Port Canaveral Florida is a breeze. I’ve been cruising out of Port Canaveral for over 23 years, and I love how hassle-free and user-friendly it is.

Not only does Disney sail from here, but so does Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and MSC. The ships rotate depending on the season, but there’s always a ship in port, and the schedules are convenient. Pick from 4 to  9-day cruises. 

Cruises out of Port Canaveral typically sail to the Bahamas, Western Caribbean (Florida Keys, Belize, Cozumel, Jamaica, Honduras, and Costa Maya), or the Eastern Caribbean (US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, and Puerto Rico). 

You will not likely find cruises to Bermuda or the southern Caribbean from this port. 

Parking in Port Canaveral: Quick and Easy

Parking garage in Port Canaveral, Florida cruise port
Parking is plentiful and easy in Port Canaveral.

Parking in Port Canaveral for your cruise is quick, easy, and hassle-free. You have several options.  

There are parking garages conveniently located across from each ship. It costs $17.00 per day +tax, including the day you arrive. Be aware that rates are subject to change without notice. Contact the Canaveral Port Authority (321-783-7831). 

You’ll drop your luggage off at the porter, go park, and walk across to start processing. That’s it.  But there are other less expensive options.  

Other Cape Canaveral in Florida Cruise Parking Options

As expected, you will pay less for parking the further you park from the port, but these options include a round-trip shuttle to the port, so it’s not a deal breaker. 

  1. The cheapest parking place is 6.5 miles from the cruise terminals at Port Canaveral Parking, with a daily fee of $10.95. 
  2. Closer, at 2 miles away, you’ll find Park N Cruise Port Canaveral Parking ($12.99 a day) and Country Inn and Suites by Carlson Cruise Parking which works the cost into your stay.
  3. The closest to the terminal (under one mile) is Port Parking Space at $17.00 per day. However, they do NOT service Disney Cruise lines. 
  4. And if you’re leaving your large van (15 passengers) or RV while you cruise, the best option is Park N Cruise Port Canaveral Parking for 15 Passenger Vans or RV Parking for $23.50 per day. They do NOT allow semi-trucks and are only 2 miles from the terminal. 

Hotels in Cape Canaveral in Florida With Cruise Parking

Map of hotels in Cape Canaveral in Florida.
There are plenty of great hotel options in nearby Cape Canaveral.

Many Cape Canaveral hotels in Florida provide cruise parking. These are all name-brand hotels in safe areas. We’ve got all the necessary information, so you don’t have to dig.  However, please double-check with your hotel to ensure no changes since this writing.

  • Country Inn & Suites Cruise parking is $65 plus tax for one vehicle for up to 8 days. Includes shuttle to and from the cruise terminal. Service can be added to any existing reservation. Shuttle only without parking is $7 per person each way to the cruise terminal. Call two days before cruising to schedule shuttle times. First come, first serve basis.
  • Home2 Suites by Hilton- Cruise parking is $25 per day. Shuttle Departs at 11 and 11:45 am $10 per person each way to the terminal if staying at the hotel.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites by HiltonCruise parking is $20 per day. The shuttle is $10 each way per person for shuttle service. Sign up for the shuttle at check-in.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott- Cruise parking is $10.70 per night, added at check-in. The shuttle to the terminal is $8 per person each way—Reserve the shuttle and parking at check-in. 
  • Springhill Suites by MarriottThis is an excellent hotel to use if you’re flying in, as it has an Orlando airport shuttle for $30 each way.  If driving down, it’s $12.84 per day for cruise parking. $10 for the shuttle to the cruise terminal per person each way. 
  • Radisson- Different Stay and Cruise package options are available and depend on whether you are flying in or driving. Shuttle service is included when booking the package:  Prices are subject to change depending on when you travel. Contact Radisson for rates, as they vary from month to month.
  • Park for 3 or 4 nights and cruise.  
  • Park for 5 to 8 nights and cruise. 
  • Fly, stay, and cruise (includes a shuttle from/to Orlando International Airport (MCO).  
  • Snooze and cruise (does not include parking). 

Luggage Service

Finding a place to store your luggage when you roll into town and your hotel won’t let you check in yet, or you have to check out of your hotel well before your ship departs. One excellent option I love is a luggage storage service. And there’s no better service than Radical Storage which offers you freedom and peace of mind for as little as $6 a day. 

Just find the closest location, book online, store your luggage, and go!

It’s Fun Time: Things to Do in Cape Canaveral in Florida

Sitting around a hotel isn’t fun. But there are many fun things to do in the Cape Canaveral area. You’ll barely spend any gas money going from one to the next and filling up your free time adventures.

Here are some I’ve enjoyed when staying in Cape Canaveral.

Aerial Adventures 

Aerial adventures in Cocoa Beach. Near Cape Canaveral in Florida.
You’ll have a blast at Aerial Adventures in Cocoa Beach.

Located right off Astronaut Blvd in Cape Canaveral in Florida, you’ll find Aerial Adventures, a high-flying tightrope walking experience, not for the faint of heart. Like a squirrel, you’ll wind through 49 different agility tests while suspended (securely) 45ft above the ground. 

Don’t worry if you aren’t too excited about heights or have little ones with you. Aerial Adventures offers seven different trails and three skill levels so everyone can have a great time. This isn’t just a physical activity; you’ll have the opportunity to use your problem-solving skills all along the way. 

Tripadvisor ranks it as the #1 Outdoor Activity in Cape Canaveral. I agree!

Banana River Park 

Park with playground near Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Banana River Park is a nice waterfront park with plenty of space for the kids to expend energy.

Banana River Park fits the bill if you are looking for a quiet waterside park to relax or want to host a large group at the available pavilion in Cape Canaveral in Florida. You can reserve the pavilion for a fee and have the place for yourself or your group. 

Alcohol isn’t allowed in the park without a permit, but your four-legged friends are welcome, provided they are on a leash. The view of the intercoastal river is fabulous. This is an excellent spot with a lot of options.

There are plenty of amenities at your disposal:

  • Soccer fields
  • Picnic table and grills
  • Restrooms
  • Playground for the kids
  • Fishing
  • Dock for kayaks
  • Bocce ball
  • Parking area, which holds 30 vehicles 
  • Shade shelter
  • Putting green for working on your golf game
  • EV charging station

Beaches

White sandy beach with trees in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
There are several super lovely beaches close to Port Canaveral.

If you’re cruising, you’ll soon relax on pristine world-class beaches in the Caribbean or Mexico. But if the kids are screaming for more time in the sand or beaches are just your passion, you are in Florida, so it’s hard not to find one nearby. 

I’ve visited most of the beaches in the Cape Canaveral in Florida area, and while they aren’t world-class, they are relaxing and picturesque. 

Before going to famous Cocoa Beach, you can check out ones close by like Jetty Park Beach, Cape Canaveral Beach, Peacock Beach (yes, you will see some peacocks in the area for sure, and not necessarily on the beach), and Monroe Beach.

Dinosaur Museum and Store

The Dinosaur Store and Museum have exhibits and educational toys.
The Dinosaur Store and Museum is a fun and educational stop for everyone in the family.

 

The Dinosaur Museum and Store is in its 26th year and is always a crowd-pleaser. You’ll find more than just dinosaur relics under this roof. Here you’ll also find the Adventure Zone, which offers an interactive experience for all ages. Everyone will find something fun to see, touch, and play with, from the live animals to the science stations and video games. 

There’s a movie theater and even a carnival ride on the premises, so don’t be surprised if you spend more time there than expected. Plenty to choose from for a dino-themed souvenir in the store. A great stop on a rainy day or to get out of the heat.

Exploration Tower 

Tall observation tower in Port Canaveral. Near Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral.

You will see a unique-looking building on the water, close to all the cruise terminals. This is the Exploration Tower. Not only is Exploration Tower a site from the outside, but inside this architectural marvel, you’ll find seven floors of interactive play and educational exhibits. There are indoor and outdoor observation decks, a cafe, an auditorium, and a gift shop.

The tower is currently closed while it undergoes a maintenance project but is set to reopen in 2023 at some point. Enjoy a little something different with a visit and check out the views of all the ships that make port in Cape Canaveral.

Golf ‘n Gator

Mini-golf course with alligators.
Mini-golf and gators? When in Florida…I guess so!

 

This isn’t your average putt-putt experience. At Golf’n Gator, you get more than an opportunity to drop a hole-in-one (you get 36 tries with two 18-hole courses); you get to meet some alligators up close and personal. And not just gators. You can see and hold other Florida wildlife too, like snakes and tortoises. 

You may only intend to visit for a quick visit, but with so much to see and do, you will find yourself staying longer. The best part is that it’s right on Astronaut Blvd, so you’ll be there in no time. The kids will love it! 

Jetty Park

Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral in Florida has a beach and walking path
Jetty Park in Port has a beach and plenty of space to explore the space coast in Cape Canaveral.

Jetty Park is a one-stop shop for seeing the beauty of Port Canaveral. Here you’ll find a beach, campground, fishing pier, and campground store to meet most of your needs. Because of its location, Jetty Park is THE BEST place to sit and watch cruise ships arriving and departing, launches from KSC, or fireworks if you happen to be in town on the 4th. 

If you’re planning to camp, call well in advance for reservations. This is one gorgeous location, one that will have you coming back again and again when you visit Cape Canaveral in Florida. 

Beachside Grand Prix

Go cart racing at Beachside Grand Prix.
Beachside Grand Prix has heartstopping fun for the whole family!

 

Hold onto your hat, literally! At Beachside Grand Prix, their electric karts pack a lot of speed and fun. This multi-level track is a blast giving you a great glimpse of the area from the top level if you dare take your eyes off the road. This is one activity the kids will absolutely love–a chance to beat mom and dad from behind the wheel of their own little sports car. 

While safety is paramount at Beachside Grand Prix, the high-tech course was designed for speed, and it never disappoints. After your race is complete, there is plenty to do since the property is shared with Golf’n Gator. So play to spend an afternoon with the family during your stay in Cape Canaveral.

Ron Jon and Cocoa Beach

Large Ron Jon Surf shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Ron Jon of Cocoa Beach is a legend.

Cocoa Beach is home to the surf and beach lifestyle icon Ron Jon. Founded in 1959 on the Jersey Shore, Ron Jon is well-established and well-respected worldwide for its apparel and beach/surf gear. If it says Ron Jon, it came from one of their stores, as their merchandise is not sold elsewhere.

The “One of a Kind” store in Cocoa Beach is a popular destination due to its large sprawling footprint and energetic decor. People rarely come to the beach and want their picture taken in front of a shop. But of course, Ron John Surf Shops are far from ordinary. The prices are reasonable, and the souvenirs are plentiful. A great stop, a must-see!

Manatee Sanctuary Park

A manatee at Manatee Sanctuary Park in Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Take your family to see one of Florida’s most endangered wildlife, the Manatee, at Manatee Sanctuary Park.

Manatee Sanctuary Park is Cape Canaveral’s best park, with ten scenic acres of waterfront on the Banana River. 

This park borders a section of the Banana River, a protected manatee habitat. There’s no guarantee you’ll spot a manatee during your visit, but these gentle creatures are often seen feeding off the seagrass along the boardwalk–so have your camera ready. 

Even if you don’t see any manatees, this is a beautiful, peaceful place for picture taking, exercise, or getting the kids some fresh air.

  • A paved walking trail with 10 exercise stations
  • Playground
  • Picnic tables & grill
  • Covered boardwalk
  • Electric vehicle charging station

Victory Casino Cruises

A cruise ship with gambling in Port Canaveral.
Gambling in Port Canaveral? Yes! Get lucky on the Victory Casino Cruise.

 

If you’re feeling lucky and want an afternoon on the water, take a spin on the Victory Casino Cruise out of Port Canaveral Florida. Whether a veteran gambler or a first-timer, the Victory Casino Cruise has something for everyone. Penny slots for those not wanting to risk their vacation funds and plenty of higher denomination slots and table games.

The ship isn’t huge, but it’s comfortable with a guest cut-off for the two daily cruises. There is plenty of space above the deck with the outdoor bar and seating area, and if it’s too warm or windy, you can step inside where comfortable seating awaits. Plenty of discount coupons are available right here

Our experiences on this cruise have always been excellent. The only thing to bear in mind is you are dealing with a smaller ship, and out in the Atlantic, you will feel it, so come prepared with some Dramamine, and you should be fine. The meals in the galley were tasty and plentiful. I’d double down on this casino at sea anytime I’m in town. 

Wizard of Oz Museum and Gift Shop

Wizard of Oz Museum and gift shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Who doesn’t love The Wizard of Oz? Cocoa Beach has a fun, immersive museum and gift shop.

Young or old, everyone loves the Wizard of Oz.  Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, your entire family will love the immersive Wizard of Oz Museum. The museum has a 20,000 cubic feet Immersive Experience show. Using 30 laser projectors, visitors are placed in Dorothy’s shoes and travel into a tornado, through Munchkin Land, Dark forest, and poppy field to Emerald City.

See an extensive collection of unique artifacts from the books by L. Frank Baum, the movie “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, and modern versions like “The Wiz” and “Wicked.”

And if you’re an art lover, there’s a surprise: An immersive Van Gogh experience too!

Airboat Ride

Airboat ride in a Florida swamp.
Don’t leave Florida without taking the quintessential airboat ride. See gators and other wildlife.

 

What’s visiting Florida without an airboat ride? Head west on Highway 50 to Christmas, Florida, to Captain Dukes Air Boat Rides for a thrilling ride through the Central Florida Everglades–one of the last wetlands in America.

See snakes, bobcats, herons, bald eagles, raccoons, and alligators!

Reservations required. 

Cocoa Village

Historic Cocoa Village downtown with cute shops and restaurants.
Historic Cocoa Village has some quaint shops and great restaurants and breweries.

A short ride from Cape Canaveral, you’ll find Historic Cocoa Village, a quaint little spot with plenty of charm. This is one great village if you like to walk the streets to shop or stretch your legs. We saw plenty of bicyclists there, so it’s a trendy place to bike around. 

The cobblestone/brick roads here and there are adorable and draw you in. Plenty of restaurants and bakeries to keep your interest any time of the day. Taylor Park and the waterfront are right at the bottom of the hill going east, making for a relaxing place to sit or stroll. A short excursion from Cape Canaveral in Florida is worth the drive.

Dolphin Ears Dolphin Tours

Dolphins can be seen on a dolphin tour.
Thousands of dolphins make the space coast their home. Take a tour to interact with these fun and intelligent creatures.

If you love wildlife, you’ll enjoy this fun and educational experience.  Take a trip with Dolphin Ears Dolphin Tours. They offer ecotourism and a wild dolphin swim experience. You will motor to the Banana/Indian River Lagoon for two hours to see and listen to dolphins with special listening devices.  

Then you’ll head to the Sand Bar, where you can swim, float in a tube and see wildlife in their element. 

There are a maximum of 6 guests per trip. 

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Black and white striped lighthouse in Cape Canaveral.
If you love lighthouses as I do, don’t miss the beautiful Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.

Poking out above the foliage on the property of the Space Force, The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse has had a presence here for 155 years. The United States Space Force is tasked with maintaining the vintage lighthouse as it is still active and is used by the United States Coast Guard. 

The good news is even though the lighthouse lives in an isolated location; enthusiasts can still visit it along with the museum and gift shop. Tours are restricted to Wednesdays between 10 am and 1 pm, so if this fits your schedule, you can book your seat on the bus to get out there and see this area institution. You are not permitted to drive your vehicle to the lighthouse unless you are badged.

$55 for the tour (should be booked a couple of days in advance).  https://www.canaverallighthouse.tours/book-now/ 

Air Force Space and Missile Museum

Military missiles and space history.
Military and space buffs will want to get to the Air Force Space and Missile Museum.

The Air Force Space and Missile Museum tour is coupled with the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse tour above. It’s a great two-for-one deal since gaining access to either location takes a specific military badge or, in this case, a pre-scheduled tour.

The museum opened in 1966 to educate visitors about the history of United States rocketry and space flight. The museum’s objective is to acquire, restore, and display as many items of historical significance as possible, which led to the formation of the US Space Force space launch enterprises.

When visiting, you will see many full-scale exhibits at Launch Complex 26, nearby at Launch Complex 5/6, along with the Sands Space History Center. This is great for space enthusiasts. The history is palpable.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife refuge with alligators and birds.
The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Visitor Center is a much for anyone who loves seeing gators and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, is located along Florida’s coast just west of Titusville. The refuge was established on the north-western edge of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This is probably the furthest quick trip for things to do when staying in Cape Canaveral, and it’s a beauty and worth the short drive. 

The refuge is contained within one of the most productive estuaries in the US. Established in 1963 to protect migratory birds, the sanctuary covers a whopping 140,000 acres. The refuge contains several habitats for a coastal location: saltwater marshes, managed impoundments, coastal dunes, scrub, hardwood hammocks, and pine Flatwoods. 

You’ll find more than 1,500 species of plants and animals here and 15 federally listed species. Easy to access and a great place to explore, working it into your visit won’t be regretted.

Kennedy Space Center

Rockets and history can be seen at the Kennedy Space Center.
The Kennedy Space Center is a must-see for every American.

Young or old, there are very few places to visit that both amaze and inspire minds like Kennedy Space Center. While the space program has its roots in my home state of Virginia (NASA’s Langley Research Center), the best-known NASA centers are Kennedy in Florida and Johnson in Houston. But by far the sexiest of them all is Kennedy, with all the manned launches and famed moon landing success.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center has grown into a metropolis of its own. It’s a must-see if you have a few hours to a few days to spend in the area. Granted, you will have to pay to park and to gain entry to the visitors’ center, but it is worth every penny. So much science and history, not to mention the full-size flight vehicles on display.

Tours of the actual space center originate from the visitors center, where you will board a tour bus and enjoy getting close to the Vehicle Assembly Building and other well-known Kennedy Space Center sites.

Go Golfing

Golf course with a man swinging a club in Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Florida is famous for golfing, and the area surrounding Port Canaveral has several beautiful courses.

This is Florida.  And that means year-round golfing. So if you’re itching to get a quick 9 in, here are a few courses nearby. 

  • The SavannahsA beautiful, low-country style course with a relaxing southern atmosphere. 
  • Cocoa Beach Country ClubThough it says “country club” in the name, this is a public course open to all. There are three courses to choose from, and the atmosphere is casual. 
  • Manatee Cove Located on Patrick AFB, this is an excellent choice for active duty or retirees. Rates are very reasonable and go by rank. Civilians are allowed on with permission. 
  • Turtle Creek- This is an older golf course, but it is nicely manicured and well-wooded. And they have a fun twist on golf called “Smash Golf,” -a hybrid of golf and tennis. Don’t ask…just go play!
  • Viera East Golf ClubThis absolutely gorgeous golf course has pristine white sand bunkers, clear lakes, and rolling fairways. 
  • The Great Outdoors Golf ClubA pretty, hidden gem on the Space Coast that boasts lovely fairways and greens. Great for golfers of all levels. 

 

Yum Yum: Eats and Drinks in Cape Canaveral

Man eating and holding a beer in Cape Canaveral in Florida.
There are dozens of fantastic restaurants and bars in the Cape Canaveral area.

Cape Canaveral isn’t NYC or Paris.  But it has some decent restaurants. My favorite is at the port, Grills Seafood and Tiki Bar. I’ve tied on a few here. Besides the great drinks, there is usually live music, beautiful views, and delicious food. This is a local favorite and one of mine.

Southern Charm Cafe is one of the best places in the entire south to get typical southern comfort food. With vegetarian and vegan options, everyone in your party can be happy. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner at reasonable prices…this is a can’t-miss. 

In the mood for a good pizza? Head over to Papa Vito’s Italian Restaurant. Get there for happy hour from 3 to 6 pm for discounted wine and beer. The pizza and calzones are the best in town!

For a fun American pub experience and drinks, head over to the Preacher Bar. The atmosphere is eclectic, casual, and friendly. This is within walking distance from many hotels–so bottoms up!

For Mediterranean fare, you can’t beat Pita Paradise in Cocoa Beach. This is much more than a place to get a gyro. There are Lebanese, Greek, and Middle Eastern choices on the menu. Trust me; it’s worth the drive. 

Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill has casual waterfront dining and a sports bar with good seafood and burgers. Live music livens up the atmosphere most nights. Great place to head over and watch the cruise ships leave port. 

There are plenty of other places to eat and drink, both in Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. Getting a table can be challenging in the winter, so go early or make reservations if possible. 

Wonder of the Seas Cruise Liner leaves Port Canaveral late in the day with patchy clouds in the sky.
A Royal Caribbean cruise liner leaves Port Canaveral.

Enjoy your time in Cape Canaveral and Bon Voyage if you’re cruising. I’d love to hear about your favorite places in or near Cape Canaveral!

8 thoughts on “Cape Canaveral in Florida: The Ultimate Guide for Visitors”

  1. Great advice! I am so mad I missed the lighthouse when we visited a few years ago…and I esp. appreciate the advice on parking..always such a hassle.

  2. We’ve visited the space center but haven’t had a chance to explore the are. Manatee Sanctuary Park and the Merritt Nature center are now on my list for our next visit to the area, thanks!

  3. We have been to Florida many times but have not yet made it to Cap Canaveral. As space enthusiasts I can’t actually understand that. But it was fun to see that there is so much more than just the space centre. And those manatees would call to me! Fun to plan a few extra days if cruising from there.

  4. Great post. If you are cruising, it is always a good idea to arrive at your cruise port the day before. You’ve given lots of great ideas for things to do the night before you set sail.

  5. I had no idea that Cape Canaveral had so many exciting things to see and do! The Kennedy Space Center is a must-see, but I think the Wizard of Oz Museum and Dinosaur Museum would be an epic idea too, especially for my children! Thanks for the great guide!

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