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Eating Out with Kids – Our Favorite Places in Cocoa Beach, Florida

During your family vacation going out for dinner with your children can sometimes be stressful depending on the location. These are our recommendations for Cocoa Beach (Florida) for enjoying a stress-free family meal.

Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse has a nice kids’ menu and they are one of the most kid friendly restaurants in Brevard. We like to go there on a Monday night as they have special games and entertainment for the kids.

Long Doggers

Long Doggers is a relaxed place. They have a variety of sandwiches and of course hot dogs and other kids‘ favorites.

La Catrina Mexican Restaurant

La Catrina Mexican Restaurant have a relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff.

Taco City

If your children like Mexican food, then Taco City is another fun option. They have special kids menus and also a buffet.

Coconuts on the Beach

taco salad at Coconuts on the Beach in Cocoa Beach

Coconuts on the Beach is a fun place and as it says close to the beach. So it is great option to combine it with ocean activities. Avoid the weekend as it is very crowded. It is also a good choice when the weather is bad as they have a fun ocean themed indoor seating.

Juice ‘N Java

This is a place we would usually go to for breakfast (for other breakfast recommendations please read this post). It is a nice place to visit with children. Juice ‘N Java have delicious smoothies. You can also stop here for lunch.

What are your kids’ favorites?

Which places do your kids love? Please share your recommendations for the best family restaurants in Cocoa Beach.

Also check out great activities for Children in Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Our Game Plan for a Day at the Raymond James Stadium

Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Flroida.

Watching an NFL match is a highlight (of any Florida vacation). With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins you have three options in Florida (the only other state with three teams is California).

Closest to our vacation home in Cocoa Beach are the Buccaneers. Here is our guide to help you plan and prepare for that special game day experience.

What kind of tickets should I buy?

One thing to consider is the time of the game (if you do have choices). It can get very hot during the 1 pm matches and in the afternoon there is a risk of thunderstorms. So if there is an evening game scheduled that would be the best option.

The stadium offers great viewing from most areas. Sitting in sections ending in 09-12 (e.g. 209, 210,…) or 34-37 will have you positioned between the 30 yardlines. The best bargain is section 217-220. These corner sections give you a good view of the field, the videoboard and the pirate ship for a lower price.

If you want to party then the sections 146-149 in front of the Buccaneers Cove are your choice.

I like the upper deck if you can get seats in the front rows. If you should be there for a 4 pm game try to avoid the east rang so that you do not have to look into the sun.

Where to park

Different parking options are available. The closest lots to the stadium are located on North Dale Mabry and Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Check out the parking map prior to your trip as I find it sometimes difficult to locate the spaces.

If you plan to arrive early you can also park in one of the private parking lots nearby the stadium which are usually offered around $20.

Tailgating is permitted but is limited to the purchased parking space. 

What to bring

The NFL discourages the use of personal bags in all of its stadiums in order to speed up the entry process. The Nfl currently allows one clutch purse no larger than 4.5” by 6.5”. If your bag does not pass the security check, lockers are available onsite near gate C.

Even though being in Florida the stadium does not have covered seating. So prepare for the sun with a hat and sunscreen.

While you are not allowed to bring in (plastic) water bottles, you can get free cups with ice which you can use at the water fountains.

Food and drinks

There is plenty of space on the concourses so that you can walk around and have a look for your preferred eating and drinking options. In the north end zone plaza, there are many food stands.

Around the rest of Raymond James Stadium, regardless of seating level, the food stands are a little more standard.

Merchandise

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Merchandise

The team store is located at the west side of Raymond James stadium. It is open before and after but not during the game. It has in-store exclusive items.

Another option is to stock up on your team gear before the game. The NFL online shop has good options and always some special offers.

And a souvenir cup is a nice memory from your game day.

Best Locations to Watch a Rocket Launch at Florida’s Space Coast

Rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Watching a rocket launch is a bucket list item for many people visiting Florida. The tricky part about that is that launches often get rescheduled due to weather. However, the number of launches is increasing at Kennedy Space Center and so are your chances to watch one.

But what are the best locations? This is the question I am often asked by guests of our vacation rental. Here are some suggestions.

Kennedy Space Center

The first choice has to be the Kennedy Space Center. It is the closest you can get and provides live launch commentary. Viewing locations are within miles from the launch pads. Check the website prior to your visit to see what is scheduled. Again, schedules may change short notice depending on weather.

You have to buy regular tickets plus launch tickets. If the launch gets rescheduled it is still nice to visit the complex. Read the following post with our recommendations for the Kennedy Space Center.

Canaveral National Seashore

Canaveral National Seashore at Florida's Space Coast

This is the closest beach to the Kennedy Space Center and a diverse nature habitat. It is a great option to watch launches. Come early as the park may close if it reaches its capacity prior to a launch. There is a $15 vehicle entrance fee. Bring sufficient water, food, and sunscreen.

Space View Park, Titusville

The Space View Park in Titusville is approximately 15 miles away from the launch pads. You should get here early before the launch. The park also provides interesting space history.

Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral

The Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral offers great views not only of cruise ships but also of the Kennedy Space Center. You can watch a rocket launch from the 7th deck. You need to buy a launch viewing ticket.

Cocoa Beach Pier

A drink and a launch? The Tiki Bar at the Cocoa Beach Pier offers great views of the ocean and the launches.

Bars in Cocoa Beach

There are several bars and restaurants in Cocoa Beach which offer good viewing as well. Check out the Coconuts on the Beach or the Sandbar. Also read the following post for other options with great views.

Secluded Beaches in South Cocoa Beach

Secluded beach in Cocoa Beach, Florida

You can watch rocket launches directly from the beach across our vacation rental. It is best viewed after dusk or before sunrise.

Do you have a favorite Spot?

Do you have another great place to watch launches? Please share it with us.

All You need to Know about Brevard Zoo and the Treetop Trek

flamingos at a pond in Brevard Zoo. Florida

Families visiting our vacation rental in Cocoa Beach often ask me which theme parks they should visit in Orlando. Then I always recommend the Brevard Zoo (half a day or a full day). I like the zoo for its educational focus and unique attractions. Additionally, the Treetop Trek is such a fun activity, I have done it several times.

What to see

If you walk clockwise the first section is Expedition Africa. Often the giraffes are not out right at opening time. Therefore, it may make sense to come back to this area at a later time. Feeding the giraffes is a highlight. This section offers great viewpoints of the savanna.

In the Australia/Asia area you can walk around the kangaroo enclosure and you can see many other animals. What we like a lot is feeding lorikeet birds.

Wild Florida is a nicely done and very educational area- it represents the state’s natural habitat. A boardwalk leads to the wetland overlook, which is a wonderful sight.

My personal favorite of the La Selva Rainforest are definitely the different monkeys.

The Paws On section is definitely the place for small children, but it is also interesting for older children and adults. It features a petting zoo and playgrounds. Children can cool off in the water features.

Which add-ons are worth it?

The Brevard Zoo offers some great add on adventures.

The giraffe and bird feeding are an amazing experience.

A unique activity is the kayak tour. It is a guided tour in the Expedition Africa section.

A good deal for these activities is the adventure package. It includes zoo admission, one guided kayak tour, one giraffe feeding and one bird feeding.

A real highlight is the Treetop Trek. Even though it is connected to the zoo it is rather a separate attraction, see below.

Treetop Trek

Zip and climb through the trees. Challenge yourself in the lush greenery of the zoo. Often you will have great views of the animals from above. This is a separate activity from the zoo requiring additional admission. While you can get a combo ticket with the zoo you do not have to do both on the same day. Depending on the experience you will choose the Treetop Trek can easily last up to 3 hours.

There are different levels available:

  • Chutes & Ladders – this is a fun option for children aged 4-8 years. It consists of bridges, tightropes and a couple of zip lines.
  • The Canopy Walk – An introductory course where you can walk twenty feet above the ground through the rain forest
  • Challenge Reloaded – This is my favorite challenge. It includes the Canopy Walk, some intermediate to more difficult elements and large zip lines. The zip lines cross over 600 feet of wetlands, including ones with gators below.
  • Black Diamond – This is the most serious challenge which includes all other elements plus some special tests.
  • Zip Only – This is a shorter and easier course if you would only like to do the zip lines.

Plan some time for the prep talk in the beginning. Try to do it in the cooler morning times.

Tips for your visit

Brevard Zoo in Florida.
  • You can buy food and drinks in the zoo. There is also the Flamingo Cafe. I would recommend to bring water (food is not allowed) and eat outside of the zoo in nearby places. We can recommend the Grills Riverside Melbourne which is only a 10-minute drive away and offers great views of the Indian River. The perfect place to finish your visit in the zoo with a late lunch or early dinner.
  • Book your activities in advance
  • Start your visit early to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. This is particularly true for the Treetop Trek.
  • You can get a combi ticket for the zoo and Treetop Trek which will save you some money. However, you can do it on different days which I would recommend.
  • Pack bathing suits for your children so that they can play in the water features of the Paws On section.

Do you have any recommendations?

What are your highlights of the Brevard Zoo and Treetop Trek? Do you have any additional tips?

How to Save Money at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando has been a visitors’ magnet since its opening in 2010 and is one of Florida’s top attractions. It is a truly magical experience. Especially if you are going with a larger family it can get quite expensive.

Below I share some recommendations to save money on areas which will not impair your experience. Sometimes good planning will save you money.

Park Tickets

The decision how long you plan to stay in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and where you plan to stay will have the most impact on your required budget.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of two theme parks: In Universal’s Island of Adventure you find Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Castle while Universal Studios has Diagon Alley and the Gringotts Bank. Both parks are connected with the Hogwarts Express which you can only ride with a park-to-park ticket.

If you have only one day my recommendation is to pick one of the parks and I would opt for Islands of Adventure. It is possible to see everything in one day if the waiting lines are not too long but it can get exhausting.

The longer you stay the lower the admission price per day will be. Unless you are an amusement park enthusiast two days in the parks are usually enough.

There are no real discount sellers, you will get the best prices directly on the universal website.

Accommodation

Staying in the park’s official resort hotels is usually more expensive. I would rather chose nearby Orlando hotels or vacation rentals. Another good options is staying in one of the nearby beach towns like Cocoa Beach. Especially if you only plan to stay one day in the park this is a good option.

However, it does make sense to check the Universal website. They may have a good package deal including resort accommodation and park tickets. Staying in an Universal resort usually comes with extra benefits like early park entry.

If you plan to stay at one of resort hotels the Cabana Bay Resort is a well priced option for families. Other value options are the Dockside Inn and the Surfside Inn.

Souvenirs

The parks have unique souvenirs. However, in particular clothes are quite expensive. I would recommend to get some Harry Potter themed t-shirts or robes before in shops or order them online.

You find great souvenir options for example in the legendary Honeydukes. There you can get chocolate toads or every flavor beans.

Food and Drinks

They have authentic food and drinks in the parks which are often better than the average them park food. The Three Broomsticks is a great choice where you can try the butterbeer. I would recommend to bring your own water bottle which you can refill at several locations for free.

After you are finished with your day a good option it to have dinner outside of the park in Universal’s City Walk. It is less expensive and they have nicer places than in the park. If you like Mexican food Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food is a great idea. For Italian head to Vivo Italian Kitchen.

Do you have any Tips?

Have you been to the Wizarding World and have other tips to share?

Road-trip New Orleans to Cocoa Beach

That was a road-trip I took with three other friends in only three days. However you can easily spend four or five days on the road. Starting at New Orleans there are several locations which are great for going out. Therefore it is definitely a good trip for a group of friends. Also you drive along stunning beaches – a great option for beach lovers.

These were the stops we made:

  • New Orleans
  • Mobile
  • Gulf Shores
  • Orange Beach
  • Panama City Beach
  • St. Augustine
  • Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • Cocoa Beach

New Orleans

We started the trip with three days in New Orleans. Naturally, you can spend more than three days in New Orleans. Though, we found three days sufficient to get a good overview. It is a great place for food, drinks, and music.

Here is a list of activities I would recommend from our stay in New Orleans:

  • Take a trip with the historic street cars. Even though they are rather slow it is an essential New Orleans experience.
  • Explore the French Quarter.
  • Stroll down Magazine Street and plan a lunch or/and dinner stop.
  • For a haunted experience visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. It is shaded by groves of lush greenery.
  • Listen to authentic New Orleans Jazz.
  • Walk through Audubon Park with its typical Spanish Moss.
  • Have on over-sized tacky cocktail in Bourbon Street.

Mobile and USS Alabama

An educational and fun stop in Mobile is the Gulf Coast Exploreum. They have many science based exhibits, experiences and movies.

We found the USS Alabama very interesting. They have several routes to explore where you can literally get lost in this huge WWII ship.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

Beautiful stretches of white-sand beaches are waiting for you. Just drive along the coast and stop wherever you like. Many areas are secluded.

Further East I recommend a stop at cute Seaside. If it looks familiar you may recognize the set from the movie “The Truman Show”.

Panama City Beach

Panamy City Beach is a known Spring Break destination. It has large beach bars and clubs and wide white beaches.

Have a drink or two at famous Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine is the oldest city of the US: its unique scenery and history set this city apart from any other in the country. Explore historic downtown with its centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards, and specialty shops. Don’t miss the beautiful Flagler College in the city center.

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

The Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is a great stop to explore nature. I recommend the educational visitors’ center, where they have some nice boardwalks. Also make sure you visit the beautiful beach at Cape Canaveral National Seashore.

Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center is one of Florida’s highlights and the top attraction of the Space Coast. It is a MUST if you are somewhat interested in Space. You should plan at least four hours, but you can easily spend a full day there. If you do nothing else you should take the guided bus tour. You get a kind of behind the scenes look. It covers a larger area of the place which is not part of the visitor complex. For more recommendations visit our post on the Kennedy Space Center.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach was the destination of our trip (and our home base). You could spend a couple of days here. Enjoy the beaches which are often empty (especially at the south end). Kayak on the Banana River and hopefully see some dolphins. Have a cocktail at the Cocoa Beach pier. Or shop all around the clock at the US’ largest surf store.

If you only have one day read this post for a perfect day in Cocoa Beach.

Which Stops Would You Recommend?

Unfortunately due to time we had to leave out stops like Wakulla Springs, Tallahassee, or Jacksonville.

Which other stops would you recommend along this route?

Restaurants in Cocoa Beach with the Best Water Views

Cocoa Beach is located on a barrier island at Florida’s Space Coast. It has plenty of beautiful water views – no matter if it is the ocean or the Banana River. Also Port Canaveral is close by – one of the busiest cruise ship ports in the United States – so there is a good chance you will spot some impressive cruise ships. None of the places in the following list are pricey. All of the options are within a 15-30$ price range for a meal.

Coconuts on the Beach

Coconuts is directly on the beach. It is a great place for the afternoon. It can get very crowded on the weekend. Even though it is only a starter I really like the nachos. The coconuts shrimps are a favorite.

Grills Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar Harbor – Port Canaveral

The Grills at Port Canaveral has a large deck for outside dining. It is a good location to see cruise ships at close range. Check the port schedule in advance for best days to spot the ships.

Grills Riverside Melbourne

Grills restaurant in Melbourne, Florida as seen from the Indian River.

Grills also has a stunning location at the Indian River. It has one of my favorite views in the area. Very relaxing.

Sunset Waterfront Grill & Bar

Banana River as seen from Sunset Waterfront Bar and Grill in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The Sunset Waterfront Bar & Grill is one of the best places to watch a sunset over the Banana River. They have a wide selection of seafood.

The Boardwalk Bar at Cocoa Beach Pier

The Boardwalk bar on the Cocoa Beach Pier.

The Boardwalk Bar is directly on the Cocoa Beach Pier. It offers fantastic views of the ocean and the beach.

The Island Waterfront Bar

The Island is a favorit with locals. It is directly located at the Banana River and you can watch sunsets. It is a fun place to go for a laid-back experience. It is also a good option for a cocktail (with weekdays happy hour from 4-7 pm).

What is your choice?

For sure there are many other great restaurants with stunning views in the area. Which ones would you recommend?

See also: drink with a view.

Unique Places to Eat You Want to Try in Cocoa Beach, Florida

Did you know that in the U.S. more than 70% of the restaurants belong to chains? If independent restaurants want to survive they have to stand out with good and specialized menues. Are you looking for unique experiences when dining out – something you would not find everywhere?

These are our recommendations for Cocoa Beach (Florida) and the Space Coast, the places we found and love. They are a bit different and offer a unique experience.

Fat Snook

Dinner table with food and wine at the Fat Snook in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The Fat Snook is just a one minute walk down our street. Being ranked as one of the Space Coast’s top restaurants it has exceptional seafood and is a place for a special occasion. You should make a reservation.

Florida’s Fresh Grill

Chicken based salad at Florida's Fresh Grill in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Being located in a strip mall, Florida’s Fresh Grill does not look that impressive from the outside. However the inside is really nice and the food is exceptional. My favorite is Shelly’s Chicken.

Da Kine Diego’s

For a different take on Mexican food head to Da Kine Diego’s. This surf style shack offers tasty Burritos and Tacos with special flavors and their large variety of self-made hot sauces. It is also a nice place to visit with kids. For other family friendly restaurants please have a look at this post.

Sandbar

The Sandbar is a typical sports bar. They have some unique items on the menu like their famous fish tacos.

Lou’s Blues, Indiatlantic

Margerita at Lou's Blues in Indiatlantic, Florida,

It is south of Cocoa Beach but worth to mention. Lou’s Blues is the place for live music but also for good bar food (right on the beach). Try the Blues Burger.

What is your choice?

For sure there are many other great restaurants in the area. What would you recommend?

How to Spend an Exciting Day at Kennedy Space Center

Entry to Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The Kennedy Space Center is one of the highlights in Florida and the top attraction of the Space Coast. It is a MUST if you are somewhat interested in Space. It is also a lot fun for smaller children (for other activities with children have a look here). Please find below my recommendations and insights.

Planning your visit

You should plan at least four hours, but can easily spend a full day there. Of course weekdays are less full than the weekends.

If you happen to be in the area when a rocket launch is planned this is a great opportunity. However the park will be full and there is always a risk that the launch has to be postponed due to weather or other issues.

Highlights not to miss

If you do nothing else you should do the guided bus tour. You get a kind of behind the scenes look. It covers a larger area of the place which is not part of the visitor complex. Ideally plan the best time to take the tour when you have entered the center.

Usually there are some astronauts available for Q&A sessions. This is a great opportunity to get some insights. Look for the schedule at the entrance. Other highlights are  the Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit and Journey to Mars.

Food

There are several places for decent food. Why not cool off with Martian Rocks flavor Space Dots.

Souvenirs

It is worth checking out the souvenir shop. They have some special items which you do not get at other shops.

Do you have any special recommendations?

We would love to hear what you liked best in the Kennedy Space Center. What are your recommendations?

One Day in Cocoa Beach, Florida

Street Art on a wall in Cocoa Beach, Florida, displaying the city's name.

Maybe you are going on a cruise from Port Canaveral and have a day before or after in Cocoa Beach. Or you are making a round trip through Florida and are visiting the Space Coast. These are my recommendations if you have one day only in Cocoa Beach with some options for each time of the day.

Start the day right with a great breakfast

Breakfast at Juice N Java Cocoa Beach. A bagel with Avocado

Start the day right with a good breakfast. I love Juice N’Java for its relaxed atmosphere. The smoothies are delicious. If you are into surfing then try the Surfinista with its surf style theme. Or try both as they are just opposite each other on the same street. For more options have a look at our list of favorite breakfast places.

During the morning go to the beach and shop at the largest surf store

No matter whether you are looking for some swim suites or souvenirs you have to visit Ron Jon Surfshop. It is the largest surfshop in the world. It is open 24/7 and during hot days a good option to cool down.

Of course, you can also buy surfboards.

Why not directly head to the beach to try out your new gear. Just behind the shop is a good area. If you are looking for a quieter beach go to the South End of Cocoa Beach.

Enjoy some afternoon drinks and snacks

Are you ready for some drinks and snacks? Two options with great views are the Coconuts on the Beach or the Tiki Bar on the pier.

The Coconuts has great views of the beach, a large selection of food and maybe the best happy hour beer specials (5-7 pm).

The Tiki Bar is at the end of the pier with beautiful views of the beach. Enjoy your drinks sitting above the waves. Happy hour is from 4-7 pm. You will have to pay an entrance fee for that part of the pier, however can use that to pay for your drinks.

Late afternoon activities

What about some mini golf? I like the Lighthouse Cove adventure golf. There you can also take a bucket with drinks along the course. The ice cream is very delicious.

Another option for the late afternoon is kayaking. It is usually less warm, you may see dolphins hunt and could even kayak into the sunset. Some vacation rentals or hotels offer kayaks. If not you can rent them for example at Wildlife Watersports. They also have guided tours.

Finish the day with a nice dinner

After a long day you should be hungry. Is there still some time until the sunset? If yes you could watch it at the Sunset Waterfront Bar and Grill.

If you do not mind sitting inside I would recommend Florida’s Fresh Grill or the Fat Snook. Both places have great Seafood with the Fat Snook offering even more elaborated options (at higher prices). The best is just to check both menus online before you decide.

How would your perfect day in Cocoa Beach look like?

This was my perfect day. Maybe you ave other suggestions, how would your perfect day in Cocoa Beach look like?