Port Canaveral Exploration Tower

Port Canaveral Exploration Tower is part event center, part museum, part welcome center, part observation tower, and all architectural landmark. Located along the eastern coast of Florida in Port Canaveral, the tower is part of the community near the Kennedy Space Center.

Exploration Tower
Exploration Tower

A trip to the top of the Exploration Tower won't take you as far into the skies as the space shuttle, but it will take you off the ground. The striking addition to the Orlando area opened in 2013 in order to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Port Canaveral harbor. The project, which is reminiscent of a sailboat, took $23 million to complete.

Organized into seven floors, the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower was designed to be user-friendly, accessible, and interesting from stem to stern. Once visitors walk across the promenade into the tower, they'll find the first floor, home to the welcome desk, staffed by friendly people welcoming them to Florida's Space Coast. There's also a gift shop and small cafe, a nice little place to relax, before or after exploring.

Exploration Tower Florida
Exploration Tower Florida  Image: RustyClark (hottnfunkyradio.com) (flickr)

Museum exhibits are located on the second floor, exploring both the history and ecology of Port Canaveral and surrounding Central Florida. The interactive exhibits cover nearly 3,000 square feet, nestled among sculptures of sea life—all crafted from recycled materials. The next floor up has the Leisure and Recreation Theater with 72 seats. It shows a movie not seen in any other theaters, one explaining how the Port grew from a small coastal community into one of the busiest cruise ship terminals in the world. The fourth floor is specially dedicated for special events, and the fifth floor is open to tours again. On this naturally themed level, visitors step into the role of a harbor pilot, using the navigation simulation to guide a boat through the harbor and welcome the arriving cruise ships.

The sixth-floor observation tower focuses on the area’s deep connection to space exploration. On the seventh floor, the observation deck offers amazing views of the Kennedy Space Center, plus the water, green spaces, and wildlife found throughout Brevard County. It’s one of the best places around to watch rockets launch or gaze towards the heaven after dark when the stars are twinkling in the sky. During the day, the seventh floor is an excellent vantage point for watching cruise ships arrive from far-off Caribbean islands or exotic ports of call.

With nothing else like it in Orlando region, the tower is a cool addition to a day trip and a nice place to visit after experiencing the hustle and bustle of the themes. After paying admission to those parks, it's refreshing to know how inexpensive the admission rates are. For less than the cost of a value meal or a big, fancy latte, you can gain access to all seven floors of the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower. It's open seven days a week until 7 p.m., with discounts for kids and seniors. And the parking is free, so it won’t break the bank to bring the whole family to the tower.

Top image: RustyClark (hottnfunkyradio.com) (flickr)
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