SPACE COAST STADIUM
If You Go ...
The Space Coast of Florida (Titusville, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne and Palm Bay) may not be as touristy as Orlando, but there are some definite things to do if you're in town for spring training. The one mandatory stop for out-of-towners is the Kennedy Space Center, where NASA launches and lands Space Shuttles. While access to launches isn't as casual as it was before 9/11, you can still sign up for a limited-access to the launch through NASA or view the launch from outside Kennedy Space Center grounds. (See the next paragraph for more information.) The adjoining Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex features a full-scale replica of the Space Shuttle Explorer as well as exhibits honoring the history of the space program. You can get to the Kennedy Space Center directly from I-95 (follow the omnipresent signs); if you're coming out from Orlando, hop on the Bee Line and head east until you hit the signs for the Kennedy Space Center.
Nearby is Port Canaveral, where several cruise lines -- Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Holland America, among others -- set sail for exotic destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Central America. But most folks don't know about the three parks that are within Port Canaveral: Jetty Park, Ports End Park, and Freddie Patrick Park. All three feature fishing and camping; the pier at Jetty Park is also well-regarded as a great place to watch a space-shuttle launch.
After seeing a gazillion billboards for Ron Jon, you'll assume it's this huge shrine to surfing. While a drive into Cocoa Beach is worth a trip -- and be sure to him the theme from I Dream of Jeannie while you imagine where Major Nelson lived -- you'll probably be a little disappointed in the 52,000-square-foot store, where the main product seems to be Ron Jon t-shirts. Don't say you weren't warned.
In addition, you're only 55 miles east of Orlando, and a trip into town would be fun. You would be well-advised to spend some time in a Disney theme park while visiting -- they are truly amazing experiences. I first visited Disney World four years ago, and to be honest I didn't know what to expect, but I ended up having a great time. This certainly isn't the most original advise or a secret to most of you -- after all, Disney World is one of the most popular places on the planet -- but the parks are worth the steep admission prices. The same thing goes for Sea World and Universal.
If you want the Disney experience without the high admission prices, head over to Downtown Disney. Yes, the world's largest Disney-merchandise store is here, but the hip Virgin Megastore makes up for it. There are also some good restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck's (go for the meatloaf), House of Blues, and Bongos Cuban Cafe. Pleasure Island is an adults-only area that feature eight clubs with a wide variety of offerings, including dance clubs, comedy clubs, and bars. Wandering around Downtown Disney is free; there's a cover charge for Pleasure Island.
Spring-training venues that are within easy driving distance of Melbourne include Kissimmee (Houston Astros), Vero Beach (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Orlando (Atlanta Braves).
Where to Stay: The hotels in the area tend to be spread out, and as they are often full in March, some planning is required. There's a Baymont Inn less than a mile from the stadium, near the airport, but there's not a huge advantage to staying there, as you'll need a car to get around anyway.
I'd recommend staying in Cocoa Beach, which is less than 10 miles from the stadium. Cocoa Beach is right on the coast and many of the hotels are right on the beach, so you can combine some tan time with baseball time. (And even if these hotels aren't on the coast, they will usually feature good swimming facilities.) All the major chains are represented in Cocoa Beach, including Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, Super 8, Best Western, Ramada Inn, Hampton Inn, Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, Doubletree Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, and Radisson.
Flying In: The closest airport is Melbourne International Airport. Delta and Continental fly into Melbourne; Continental flies a 19-passenger Beachcraft 1900 jet-prop aircraft twice a day from Tampa, while Delta flies eight times a day between Atlanta and Melbourne.
Most folks will want to fly into Orlando International Airport. While it's a bigger airport, it's fairly easy to make your way around, as a tram brings you from the gates to the central terminal. Just be warned that it's quite a hike from the gates to the terminals even with the tram.
To receive spring-training news and schedule updates via email, please sign up for the Spring Training Online email newsletter.