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12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach has no shiny skyscrapers, no traffic-clogged roads, and no hustle-and-bustle.

Here, the pleasures come from Mother Nature, who is kind enough to bestow this area with soft, sub-tropical breezes; soothing waves on a beautiful beach; nesting sea turtles; and Technicolor sunrises and sunsets. The pleasures also come from early pioneers and current entrepreneurs, who have created some interesting and offbeat surprises and some good old-fashioned, out-of-the-ordinary (and yes, a few world-renowned) attractions for all ages to enjoy.

Cocoa Beach is a place to relieve the stresses of modern-day life, to unwind and savor its cultural, historical, technological, and culinary surprises. You can take a cruise, see where modern pioneers fly into the heavens (and experience some of the same in-flight sensations they do), peer into the galaxies, visit a historic pioneer village, get up-close-and-personal with some animals you've probably never seen before, and tee off at some of the greatest golf clubs in Florida.

1 Explore the Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
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On a barrier island just south of Cocoa Beach is the site of a glorious path of exploration, as well as some touching human tragedies and memorials. Here, the first Americans to orbit the earth and land on the moon shot off into space. The Kennedy Space Center tells the story of humankind's march into space - step by step, personality by personality, and mission-impossible by mission-impossible. The center not only offers us the opportunity to follow in that path but also to experience some of the sights and sounds, movements and sensations experienced by these pioneers, on interactive - and totally realistic - attractions.

Address: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, SR 405, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

2 Travel into Space Without Leaving Your Seat at the Planetarium

Solar system
Solar system
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At Eastern Florida State College, you can explore the outer limits of this universe we inhabit without leaving your seat. The college has one of the finest planetariums in the United States, with state-of-the-art equipment and eye-popping fun for the family. The facility actually has two amazing shows. The Star Theater houses the world's first combined Digital & Optical Mechanical projection system, and its views of Brevard County's stunning night sky are so realistic, you'll think you're flying in it. Planetarium shows in the theater feature live tours of the night skies. There's also a laser show with special effects that will make you want to stand up and cheer, and special presentations tell you things about the skies above us that you never knew before.

Address: 1519 Clearlake Road, Cocoa, Florida

3 Take a Trip Back in Time at Historic Cocoa Village

Cocoa Village
Cocoa Village Jared
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Many towns call themselves "historic." But Historic Cocoa Village, the downtown core of the city of Cocoa, truly is - it was first settled in the middle of the 19th century. Now, in addition to being a shopping and entertainment district that retains its historic ambience, it has also become a legitimate 21st-century tourist attraction. Here, the way it was, is the way it still is. This is a colorful, historic old-time village made for walking, with surprises behind every colorful doorway and window. It's also a tree-lined, riverside community of local merchants and artisans. Dining, in many of the restaurants, is truly gourmet, while others offer hearty fare. If time allows, be sure to visit the historic Cocoa Village Playhouse or the Florida Historical Society to discover more about this little piece of heaven.

Address: Historic Cocoa Village Association, 600 Florida Avenue, Suite 104, Cocoa, Florida

Official site: www.visitcocoavillage.com

4 See the Wild Things at the Brevard Zoo

Alligator, Brevard Zoo
Alligator, Brevard Zoo
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This excellent zoo is a great place for education and interactive learning, as well as just plain fun. In the "Paws On Play" section, you can meet a variety of jumping, creepy, crawly critters from various regions of the world. In "Wild Florida," you can come up-close-and-personal with all the animals surrounding you on your Florida vacation. In the "Expedition Africa" section, you'll find yourself in the wilds of the "Dark Continent," and in "La Selva," if it flies, crawls, or hangs upside down from tree branches (like the two-toed sloth), you'll find it here. In addition, the fantastic Australasia section is now re-opened, even better than before, and there are all sorts of additional tours and attractions, among them kayaking tours and ziplining over the wilderness.

Address: 8225 North Wickham Road, Melbourne, Florida

Official site: www.brevardzoo.org

5 Tee Off at a Golf Course

Tee Off at a Golf Course
Tee Off at a Golf Course
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Golfing is one of the most popular things to do in the Cocoa Beach area, and the county offers dozens of top-notch courses. Each is characterized by natural beauty, with grassy dunes, crystal-clear waters, bright sunshine, and challenging holes. At Baytree National Golf Links, for example, you'll have to navigate through mounds and moguls and uneven lies, as well as 74 white-sand bunkers and water hazards galore. At the newly-built Viera East Golf Club, the trees aren't really an obstacle, because they haven't had time to mature yet, but the 527-yard, Par 5, #14 sure is because it requires an approach shot over water, to an island green. The Savannahs At Merritt Island requires some deft navigation, too, with water hazards on 14 of the 18 holes.

6 Find Your Inner Surfer at Ron Jon Surf Shop

Ron Jon Surf Shop
Ron Jon Surf Shop C Watts
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You know those "Ron Jon" stickers you've been seeing on beat-up old Volkswagens every time you've come to Florida for the past thirty years? Well, this is the place they come from - the world's biggest surf shop, the Granddaddy of 'em all. If it's related to surfing or water sports, and you can't find it here, give up your search. Ron Jon is 52,000 square feet of water-sports goodies, and this store is not only the original but also the flagship of a 13-store chain now stretching into five states. Needless to say, wandering through this store will get you in the mood to hit the water. If so, you're in luck - because the Ron Jon Watersports rental shop is right next door, and the waves are close by.

Address: 4151 North Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Official site: www.ronjonsurfshop.com

7 Paddle with the Manatees on a Cocoa Beach Kayaking Tour

Manatee in the wild
Manatee in the wild
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If you want to get up-close-and-personal with manatees, Florida's beloved "Sea Cows, Cocoa Beach Kayaking will take you to see these wonderful 2,000-pound creatures on a guided kayak tour through the beautiful Thousand Islands or the Indian River Lagoon. You'll find that these cartoon-like, bulbous creatures will swim right up to you; they have no fear of humans. In addition to the manatees, you'll probably see bottlenose dolphins, colorful migratory birds, and other wildlife of the Central Florida ecosystem. If you've never kayaked before, don't worry; Cocoa Beach Kayaking will give you a quick lesson before you embark, and guides will be right alongside you (or in your craft) the entire time. You don't need to bring any gear. All you have to do is show up with your camera, and they'll do the rest.

Address: 5000 Tom Warriner Boulevard, Cocoa Beach, Florida

8 Take a Stroll Over the Ocean on the Cocoa Beach Pier

Take a Stroll Over the Ocean on the Cocoa Beach Pier
Take a Stroll Over the Ocean on the Cocoa Beach Pier
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You can't really say you've been to Cocoa Beach until you visit this legendary landmark. It's an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned, woodsy pier out of the history books. Here, you can walk over water for some 800 yards. Along the way, you'll pass funky restaurants, gift shops with unique items, and great local bands performing outside. There are also beach volleyball courts, and, in the waters around the pier, some of the best surfing (this area is called the "East Coast Surfing Capital") and fishing in the United States. There are fishing-equipment rentals and beach rentals for whatever the family might need. Sunrises over the ocean are spectacular here, and the rainbow of brilliant colors changes virtually every minute. There's also an arcade for the younger set, and soothing ocean breezes for everyone.

Address: 401 Meade Avenue, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Official site: www.cocoabeachpier.com

9 Try the Newest Game Sweeping the US at Escape Cocoa Beach

"Escape" games are becoming the most popular new attractions in the country, and Cape Canaveral has one of the best. In escape games, you and your group of family or friends have to work cooperatively to find clues enabling you to "escape" from a variety of settings, and you have to be able to make your escape in an hour or less. Escape Cocoa Beach has four fun-filled adventures. In "Jail Break," well, it's just like it sounds. In "Rocket Science," you're on a spaceship, and you have to figure out what really happened to a 1960s-era scientist on this ship. You can participate in an old-fashioned Hollywood "Noir" film set in "Mystery of the Black Dahlia," and in "2325 Tremont St.," you're a detective on the Great Brink's Robbery case. The key is teamwork. You have to problem solve with the rest of your party, use the clues you're given to think outside the box, and then implement your solutions. It's the newest craze sweeping the country, and it's a ton of fun.

Address: 5675 N. Atlantic Avenue, Unit 113/114, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Official site: www.escapecocoabeach.com

10 Whiz along Local Waterways

Twister Airboat Rides, deep in the interior at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, will whiz you along the Saint John's River and Lake Poinsett. You'll have an intimate look at an ecosystem and its hundreds of plant and animal species that most people see only from afar. Your boat captain will slow down when he spots wildlife, so you can see it and take pictures. You'll most likely see some American alligators, bald eagles, and wading birds, and you may even see rarer species such as wild hogs. Twister Airboat offers three different tour lengths, but when it's over, you might not want to get off the boat.

Address: 8199 State Road 520, Cocoa, Florida

11 Haul in a Big One on a Fishing Adventure

Snook and lure
Snook and lure
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You're sitting astride one of the greatest fishing grounds on Earth, and it would be a shame to let all that bounty go to waste. Cocoa Beach has many great fishing-charter outfits, and, of course, they know where the best fishing is on any given day. One of the better ones is Fin and Fly Fishing Charters, with Captain Jamie Glasner at the helm. His specialty is sport fishing for redfish, snook, tarpon, black drum, and speckled sea trout, and he has a host of long-time clients. The fish are huge in these waters, and Captain Jamie will provide all the equipment you need. If you're in Florida, there's nothing quite like a day out on the water, and, who knows, you might even bring home your dinner.

Address: 951 Bali Road, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Official site: www.finandflycharters.com

12 Hit the High Seas at Port Canaveral

Hit the High Seas at Port Canaveral
Hit the High Seas at Port Canaveral
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For a great getaway while you're already on vacation, consider a high-seas jaunt into the azure-blue waters of this region, with cruises starting at three days to the Bahamas and some longer ones to the Caribbean. On the "Disney Dream" and "Disney Wonder," you'll get to explore the many colorful islands of the Bahamas, which include stops at the historic capital city of Nassau (be sure to hit the Straw Market for wonderful handicrafts to bring back home), the sublime out-island of Castaway Cay, and the totally-different vibe of Freeport. Of course, on a Disney cruise, the cast of characters will all be there: Goofy, Pluto, Donald, and the rest of the gang. Carnival Cruise Lines also leaves from Port Canaveral, with stops including the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, and Royal Caribbean also plies the islands of the Bahamas.

Address: 930 Mullet Road, Cape Canaveral, Florida

Official site: www.portcanaveral.com

Where to Stay in Cocoa Beach for Sightseeing

We recommend these great-value hotels near the soft sands of Cocoa Beach:

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