A few years ago, I lived in Tampa, Fla. One day, I was returning to my apartment after throwing out the trash when I heard a loud “Boom!” I looked up and in the distance I saw the thick, billowy trail of the space shuttle blasting into space. That was really cool.

At 3:48pm on Saturday, July 1, during the Independence Day weekend, the space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch, and it is expected to bring in the crowds. According to Florida Today, shuttle launches can draw 150,000 viewers. And, since this is the first shuttle flight in nearly a year, it could attract even more.

The catch is, this is already a heavy tourist weekend, especially with the launch coinciding with the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in relatively nearby Daytona Beach.

“Our property is already sold out for the first week of July,” Rick Hutcherson, director of sales and marketing for Holiday Inn Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Resort told Florida Today, “and looking strong for the rest of the month.” He added, “Any time we have a launch, we do well. But this launch will fall on our biggest holiday of the year.”

Interestingly enough, shuttle launches draw an international crowd. “The shuttle launch brings international recognition to our area,” Danielle Courtenay, vice president of public relations for the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau told Florida Today. Among international visitors, most are expected to hail from the United Kingdom.

“We just had a visit to the United Kingdom, and the people are very excited about the space program,” Rob Varley, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism told Florida Today.

However, as my anecdote above illustrates, you don’t have to go to the Space Coast to see at least part of a shuttle launch. If seeing the shuttle on the ground with the flames and steam billowing about it is not so important, and you just want to see the shuttle as it makes its way into orbit, you can catch some of that action from across the state.

For more information:
Florida Today: Launch adds to holiday tourism boom
Space.com: STS-121 Crew To Fly July 1
Orlando Sentinel: Shuttle Discovery to launch July 1