Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit Honors 30-Year NASA Program

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex Photo

Now open on Florida’s Space Coast, the $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit features over 60 interactive experiences and celebrates the people, passion and patriotism behind the shuttle program.

“It’s true that there is more than one space shuttle orbiter out there, but there is nowhere else on Earth like Space Shuttle Atlantis,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in the Miami Herald.

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The 90,000-square-foot Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit is not funded by tax dollars or appropriated funds but by ticket, food and merchandise sales – part of a 10-year master plan developed by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, operator of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA since 1995.

Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11 and includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, which features the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, the new Angry Birds™ Space Encounter, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and other interactive exhibits.

“This completely immersive experience is about much more than seeing Atlantis close up,” said Moore. “With hi-fi replicas, simulators and interactive activities touching on all aspects of the shuttle program and its accomplishments, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, it’s the closest guests can get to living and working in space – short of applying to the astronaut corps.”

Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia.

Transformers Invade Orlando, Take No Prisoners

Transformers
Universal Orlando

Ever think being part of an intergalactic battle to save the Earth might be an interesting day’s work? Yes? Well head on over to Universal Studios Florida and help the Autobots fight off invading Decepticons at Transformers: The Ride, now open and ready to recruit your help.

“Transformers is one of the movie industry’s most successful franchises and Universal’s ride offers a four-minute, condensed version of all the action that people loved from those movies,” Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider told NBC News. “It’s just the robots, fighting, with the audience along for the ride – literally.”

Heralded by an elaborate pyrotechnics ceremony, a Transformers song by the band Cheap Trick and a flyover of private jets, Transformers: The Ride opened last week to kick off the central Florida attractions summer season. Basically, the 4 1/2 minute ride is an interactive battle between the Autobots and Decepticons.The queue for the ride begins at the headquarters of NEST (Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty). As the story goes, the evil Decepticons want Allspark, a source of energy nestled in NEST. Using flight simulator technology, movie screens, wind, smoke, heat and other effects, the ride takes guests after Decepticons, including Megatron, Grindor, Devastator, Sideswipe and Bonecrusher. Guests survive explosions, crashes, free falls, missiles and more as good wins out over evil, all in 3D.

10 Florida Attractions That Are Not Theme Parks

florida attractionsWhen planning a summer vacation, many travelers choose Florida attractions for some good family fun and look forward to the trip all year. Others, not interested in the theme park experience, are turning to ecotourism opportunities in Florida that provide vacation fun and have a more positive impact on the planet.

Ecotourism has travelers visiting fragile, pristine and protected areas of the planet as a low-impact alternative to mass tourism. Educating the traveler along the way, ecotourism commonly provides funds for ecological conservation that directly benefits local communities. In Florida, Cocoa Beach is a coastal city that has a wide variety of ecotourism opportunities about an hour from popular theme parks and attractions.

1. Canaveral National Seashore is a 24-mile beach with birding, fishing and wildlife run by the National Park Service.

2. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is located on the John F. Kennedy Space Center, east of Titusville, Florida.

3. Cocoa Beach Wildside Tours is a Nature Tour Boat operating out of Cocoa Beach, Florida. They provide a close up experience with Manatees, Porpoises, Wild Birds and Alligators.

4. Blue Heron Adventures showcases the Indian River Lagoon and Bottlenose Dolphins, along with the opportunity to watch endangered Florida Manatees play.

5. Island Boat Lines offer daily eco-tours departing from various locations throughout the Space Coast. Optional cruises feature the Cocoa Beach Thousand Islands, Port Canaveral & THE LOCKS, Barge Canal and Historical Cocoa Village.

6. The Great Florida Birding Trail is a collection of sites throughout Florida selected for their excellent bird watching or bird education opportunities.

7. Brevard Zoo is the result of the popularity of on-site kayaking in Brevard Zoo’s 22-acre wetlands. The Brevard Zoo is also offering kayaking eco-tours of the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon.

8. Grasshopper Airboat Eco-Tours is located on the St. Johns River West of Cocoa. There, travelers can experience a unique and thrilling Florida airboat ride adventure.

9. Inlet Marina offers Pelican Island and Indian River Lagoon Tours in addition to canoe and kayak rentals.

10. Fun Day tours is an eco-tour operator providing over 20 new, and unique, half- and full-day, guided nature and wildlife adventures for preformed groups, plus a “VIP” privately guided group tour of Kennedy Space Center.

Florida is also home to the Everglades, a protected area in danger as we see in this video:

Visit the Everglades Safari Park in Miami

Flickr photo by Elido Turco – Gigi