If you’ve ever sailed on a cruise out of Port Canaveral, you’ve seen this building. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve always wondered what it was and what was inside the building.
Well, wonder no more – during our recent family vacation in Cape Canaveral, we visited Exploration Tower and learned about this cool looking building and discovered a ton of great history and stories inside too.
The girls and I needed a break from the beach and the afternoon heat (hello, Florida!) so we made our way over to Exploration Tower for a change in scenery during our stay. A super, quick drive up A1A from the Cocoa Beach area, the tower offers free plenty of free parking and the a/c is nice and cold too!
Here’s what you’ll find inside the tower and a few of the highlights we discovered during our visit –
What is the Exploration Tower?
This seven-story tower tells the stories of Port Canaveral and surrounding areas ranging from sunken ships, local waterways and nature, the tourism industry, space industry, a look at surfing legends and tells about the Port itself – from cruise industry to shipping industries too.
Think of it as a history museum filled with inspiration, educational aspects and really great views from the seventh story observation deck.
What is Inside Exploration Tower?
Paired with interactive displays, videos and hands-on stations, my girls enjoyed exploring the different levels of the building. We spent about an hour making our way through the seven floors of the center – starting first with the 12-minute video showcasing Port Canaveral that told backstories of the area and scenery. The movie plays every hour on the hour and I highly recommend making it part of your visit.
The girls really enjoyed learning about the port itself – and were amazed that it was so much more than just a place where cruise ships come and go during the week. Millions of cargo pass through the port each year with products ranging from lumber, salt, cars and trucks, petroleum, citrus and more.
The biggest highlight for them was playing the interactive, video game where you become the captain of the pilot boat. They were able to virtually drive the boat out to the mouth of the ocean to greet the incoming cruise ship. Needless to say, they each took a few tries at navigating the boat – and yes, so did I. (Start with the beginner level first!)
As the travel nerd that I am, I enjoyed spending time learning about tourism history in the area. From how the railroad impacted tourism to the area to how the space program brings visitors from around the world. The old brochures on display were pretty neat – dating back all the way to 1922. Amazing!
Learn about the area’s waterways and natural habitats – I was surprised to learn that water makes up 35% of Brevard County! Take a look at the different types of fish found in the area waterways and spend time learning about the area’s surf culture too. In addition to Ron Jon Surf Shop, Cocoa Beach is also home to 11-time world surfing champion, Kelly Slater.
And for all the NASA buffs – save time for the space history section. In addition to the great views of the Vehicle Assembly Building from the tower’s observation deck, you can learn about the business of space for the Brevard County area.
Tips for Planning Your Visit
- Check out the Port Canaveral cruise schedule to see if there will be any ships in port during your visit. I didn’t plan ahead and went on a day where there were no cruise ships in port, but it would be a fantastic place to watch the ships leave too.
- There’s no specific order for visiting the different floors of the tower. If one floor feels crowded, skip it and come back later. We hopped around to different floors to avoid groups.
- There is a small cafe and shop in the bottom floor – grab a treat and take a stroll around the lake. Be on the lookout for wildlife.
- The tower hosts special events for rocket launches – it requires a separate ticket and from what I’ve heard they typically sell out quickly, so plan ahead and buy online. The observation deck offers some great views and they have a few permanent telescopes out there to check things out too.
Ready to Visit the Exploration Tower?
Ready to learn more about the Port Canaveral area? You can buy Exploration Tower tickets in advance and save money on each ticket. Tickets at the main entrance are $6.50 for adults and $3.75 for children, but purchase them in advance and you’ll only pay $5 for adults and $2.75 for children. Brevard country residents and military members also receive discounts on admission and parking is free!
Have You Been to the Exploration Tower?
** We bought our own tickets to Exploration Tower. Thoughts and opinions here are my own. **