Recently my hands have been a bit tied.. Because of the Mrs.’ work schedule I get to hang out with the boys every other weekend while their mom gets some well deserved sleep during the day. While I have been comfortable taking one toddler out on my own, a toddler and an infant is a bit of a different story. There are a whole different set of things I must do while taking them out together. Not to mention, at only 3 months old, we’re still pretty limited to the places we can go. We can’t yet put sunscreen on him, and lets face it, August in Florida might as well be the surface of the sun! The environment is not really conducive to adventures outside with a baby. For my very first solo adventure I needed a place that was indoors, fairly close, family friendly, and inexpensive. I remembered a friend told me about a spot at Port Canaveral where his family got to watch some amazing fireworks. At the time I didn’t really think too much about it, but after a bit or research I found the spot that met all of my criteria for our very first adventure together without mom: the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower!
So I knew at least one person who had been to the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, but I really didn’t have many details. Their website looked pretty cool, but had very basic information. I knew there were going to be at least 7 floors of things to do and see at the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, but that was about it. Heading to Port Canaveral on a Saturday was about an hour drive from where we live, so I packed up the boys and all the essential gear and started our drive. We all made it there in one piece, no crying, to smelly diapers, so far so good.
When we turned into the parking lot however, it was a bit of a different story. We were greeted by a parking attendant, and she politely asked me if she could help. I was a bit puzzled but told her we were there to see the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower. She very quickly told me where to park and I started to unload the boys. I strapped my smallest into what I have call my “baby holster”, and unloaded my oldest. As we walked to the entrance, it turned out there was a big concert that was going to take place later that afternoon. There was also a sign that they would be closing early, but I wasn’t really concerned since it was still morning. It did however explain the parking attendant. Walking up to the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower was actually pretty awesome. It just looks like fun from the outside! The building architecture is unique, and it looks like it may be the cornerstone for future shopping and entertainment at the port.
After we went inside the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, I gladly paid the $6.50 admission. It wasn’t too bad for an adventure as both of my minions were free! The very first thing we saw was the bathroom. That’s right, possibly the very most important exhibit in the place when you have kids in tow. For my first time on an adventure with both of them, it was pretty interesting to try to figure out how I would manage to change two sets if diapers and keep my oldest from touching everything in the bathroom. Thankfully the restroom was very clean, and apparently my wife has trained him very well to stand in one place while she works on changing up the other one. Ok, this isn’t so bad, I got this!
It was recommended that we start our tour of the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower at the top and work our way down. That’s exactly what we did, so straight to the top we went! The 7th floor features spectacular views of Port Canaveral. You can take a few minutes and enjoy passing boats, and really get a look at the vast open spaces that is Port Canaveral. If we had timed it better, it would have been cool to watch the cruise ships come and go. Better, yet, we would love to see a rocket launch from there! You’re so close to the space center, you can actually see the vehicle assembly building in the distance. Along the backside of the observation deck, there were a few animal themed sculptures and replicas that my little guy got a kick out of. Remember, he is a seasoned professional adventurer so he was right at home with the alligator, turtle and dolphin.
The 6th floor of the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower was all about the local space history. Although far from the size of a museum, they had quite a few impressive displays regarding Port Canaveral’s space history and future. There was a model of a lunar rover and I had a great time explaining to my boys that their great-grandfather actually helped build one of them. My grandfather worked for Grumman back in the day and actually helped weld a few of them! While not everyone has the personal connection to the space program, there were great displays that you could take quite awhile to get into. With two kiddos, their attention span was a bit short, but I packed in some educational info when I could.
Continuing down to the next floor of the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, we opened the elevator to a different world all together. One of the main attractions at the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower is an awesome boat navigation simulator! Featuring three large screens, a steering wheel and throttle control, it was a very realistic feeling. There were multiple simulations to choose from that all offered different skill levels of navigating throughout the unique geography of Port Canaveral. While working on your mission you can change views, and actually feel like you’re driving a boat! On the other side, we had an opportunity to learn about the current and past naval operations of Port Canaveral as well as some of the local shipwrecks that have occurred throughout the years. There is what appears to be an interactive display but it must have been turned off while we were there.
The 3rd Floor features a surf board photo opportunity which is sponsored by a large local surf shop, and have some great information regarding local water sports. While that was cool, it wasn’t the best part of the floor. Every 30 minutes, there is a movie that plays in the theater. We were a few minutes early so my oldest literally ran around the place. For awhile we were the only ones in the room so he was able to run amuck. I was puzzled though, since I could see a projector and a rocking audio system, but the room was very bright. I figured someone would pop in to lower a screen, but what happened in a few minutes was quite a bit more exciting. Not only was a screen lowered, but the room immediately began to darken as shades seemed to literally come from no where. The theater of the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower literally came to life all by itself and we were able to watch a video all about the local attractions, history and future of Port Canaveral. My tiny little guy slept through most of it, but my oldest thought it was pretty cool. If the video was good enough to hold the attention of my two year old, you know it must be good! In conjunction with the theater the 4th floor houses a very impressive meeting space. There is a full catering kitchen, and room for quite a few people. I would love to host a meeting there, and it seems like a picturesque place to host a small wedding.
We were almost done with our adventure at the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, and so far I felt like Super Dad! No melt downs, no crying, no screaming, and best of all, no smelly diapers to contend with. We ventured out to the last of the exhibit floors of the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, which focused on the natural history of the area. Central to the display cases, there was a large interactive touch screen table which allows visitors to virtually explore the area. It seemed like something from a futuristic science fiction movie really, but was more text based rather than multi media based. It was still pretty cool and seemed to compliment the static displays quite well. On the other side of the floor, you could view the gigantic art sculpture made entirely out of trash which floats between the first and seconds floors. There were also a few hands on exhibits about waves and oceanography.
We finally made our way to the ground floor of the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower which features a gift shop and a small cafe. About this time we could hear the sound testing for the concert that was going to start soon, so I decided to leave between the testing sets. I imagine if I were to bring home an infant with ruptured ear drums, my wife would forever forbid me to take the boys out alone ever again.
Overall the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower turned out to be a great adventure for me as a Dad trying to juggle two very young ones, and was surprisingly hands on with all the simulators and interactive displays. I think this would be a great place to watch a rocket launch, and would certainly come back if we were in the area and needed something to do. I’m sure it’s this way by design, but the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower is really more a visitor’s welcome center than museum. Between all the different floors, you get to see a pretty good cross sampling of what the area has to offer. The admission price is reasonable, and if you took the time to read all the exhibits, you could spend a few hours there. Brevard county residents are also entitled to additional discounts, making this even cheaper for locals. I would certainly consider this a good place to visit on a rainy day as well. Port Canaveral is much more than just a place to set sail on a cruise ship and the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower highlights the very best the area has to offer.
Port Canaveral Exploration Tower Details:
|Date(s):||Mon – Sun||Time(s):||10am-7pm|
|Address:||670 Dave Nisbet Drive Port CanaveralFl 32920|
|FREE||$6.50||$4.50||$4.00||$22.50 A / $15
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||$22.00|
|Note: Brevard County Residents Receive A Discount On Admission!|