With several groups — NASA, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin — now responsible for sending satellites and humans into space, Central Florida is seeing rocket launches on a more-frequent basis. And with the return to human spaceflight through the Crew Dragon and Artemis missions to the International Space Station — and eventually the Moon and Mars — interest is growing rapidly. If a launch happens during your Disney vacation, you might be wondering if you can see rocket launches from Disney World and where the best places are to try to watch one.
Can You See Rocket Launches From Disney World?
Disney World is about 60 miles away from Cape Canaveral, but you can still get good views of space shots from many places in and around the theme parks. It typically takes about 30-60 seconds after launch for the rocket to reach a high enough altitude that it’s visible from Disney.
You won’t be close enough to be able to make out the shape of the rocket itself. Instead, you’ll see a small, bright light traveling through the sky. It’ll look very similar to the sun, but much smaller — about the size of a pencil eraser. It’s bright enough to see even in harsh daylight — and makes for an astounding sight at night.
There’s also usually a large vapor trail left behind, similar to the contrails you see as jets travel overhead. For launches just before sunrise, sunlight hitting these trails while it’s still dark below can produce some eerie light effects as the trails dissipate in the wind.
If the launch you’re watching is a SpaceX rocket, you might get a double show. SpaceX reuses its rocket boosters, which means they come back to earth just minutes after launching. Some land on drone ships in the ocean (and likely won’t be visible from Disney), but others land right back at Cape Canaveral and can sometimes be spotted from Disney World.
Below, you’ll find our list of some of the best places at Disney World to watch a rocket launch — further down, we offer more information about everything that has to go right in order to successfully watch a launch from Disney.
Planning a Disney trip? The Disney Planning experts at The Vacationeer can help make sure you have a blast with or without a rocket launch!
Their travel agents provide free help planning and booking your trip, and making sure you get the lowest possible price. They’ll even keep an eye out for new discounts and apply them to your vacation after you’ve booked!
Get in touch with them today for a free, no-obligation quote!
Here are some of our picks for Disney World locations that are positioned to offer some of the best views of rocket launches. Of course, you’ll still need the weather (and the rocket) to cooperate.
And please remember to be a responsible and respectful Guest. Always follow the instructions of Cast Members. Don’t try to access our recommended viewing areas during times when they’re closed. Don’t jump over fences, trample grass, or climb onto walls to get a better view. And of course NEVER try to sneak into any backstage or restricted areas.
Now, on to the list!
1. World Showcase Lagoon (EPCOT)
Thanks to ample standing/sitting room, wide-open vistas, and relative ease of access, World Showcase Lagoon at EPCOT is the best spot at Disney World to watch a rocket launch.
Many spots along the west side of the Lagoon (Canada through Morocco) will offer decent views as long as you have an unobstructed view of the eastern sky.
For the best views, we suggest watching from an area known as United Kingdom Lochside. This small terrace along the waterfront behind the United Kingdom pavilion’s Yorkshire County Fish Shop is delightfully secluded and usually quite peaceful.
Alternatively, try the Terrace des Fleurs, a waterfront terrace near International Gateway and the France pavilion.
Both spots have a good number of benches and offer a generally unobstructed view across the lagoon. Regardless of which you choose, the rocket should appear in the general area behind the Mexico and Norway pavilions across the water.
2. EPCOT Area Resorts
Crescent Lake between Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts also offers some nice viewing opportunities.
We recommend watching from a pedestrian bridge that spans the canal on the west end of the lake. To access this bridge, start out on the BoardWalk — take a left at Atlantic Dance Hall, then take a right to reach the bridge over the canal. Alternatively, you might try viewing from the lighthouse dock at Yacht Club.
3. Magic Kingdom Area Resorts
You’ll also find good viewing areas along Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake near Magic Kingdom.
There are several good viewing spots along the beaches and boat docks behind Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower. There are observation decks atop both buildings, but those require dining reservations and/or special event registrations — and the hours are not very conducive to launch viewings.
Across the lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, try the boat dock for another viewing spot — just look back towards the Contemporary Resort. You may also have some luck at the Resort’s beach, though some islands in the lagoon might block part of your view.
4. Disney Springs
Thanks again to a large lake, Disney Springs affords some decent viewing opportunities.
Check out the areas near Cirque du Soleil and the House of Blues water tower, or pick a spot along the waterfront walkway behind Jaleo and House of Blues.
You can also try to watch from atop one of the Disney Springs parking garages — not elegant, but elevated.
A really unique opportunity would be to watch from mid-air aboard the Aerophile tethered balloon ride, though timing your ride accordingly would prove all but impossible.
5. Mission: Space (EPCOT)
While not necessarily an outstanding view, it’s hard to argue with the symbolism of watching a rocket launching at EPCOT’s Mission: Space attraction. Stand facing the front of the pavilion, at least as far back as the monorail track, and the launch will rise from behind the building, adding another swoosh and swoop to the already-kinetic façade of the pavilion.
6. Space Mountain and Tron Lightcycle Run (Magic Kingdom)
Much like watching at EPCOT’s Mission: Space, watching near Space Mountain is more about the overall theming than the view. You’ll have a rather obstructed view here, but it’s still neat to say you saw a real rocket launch while you were in Tomorrowland.
You’ll also be giving a subtle nod to history; when Apollo 11 went to the moon in 1969, a large TV screen was set up in Tomorrowland at California’s Disneyland to allow Guests to watch. Magic Kingdom in Florida was still two years away from opening at that point.
7. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
You’ll find an even-more obstructed view — but even richer theming — on the surface of Batuu, AKA Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This land is so tightly-packed that you’ll be hard pressed to find a good view, but try to make your way towards Oga’s Cantina; from there, look back towards the Millennium Falcon, and the shuttle sitting atop Docking Bay 7. You just might see a rocket in flight around launch time.
For a less-obstructed view, skip the Star Wars area and instead head toward the front of the park. You can catch a view from just inside the main entrance near the Mickey obelisk at Crossroads of the World, or step outside the gates and look towards the water.
8. Flame Tree Barbecue (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
If you like the idea of enjoy some barbecue ribs with your rocket launch, may we suggest grabbing a plate and a seat at Animal Kingdom’s Flame Tree Barbecue? After you get your food, head down the trails to the seating areas and keep going until you reach a covered seating area at the water’s edge. You’ll have a lovely view of the water, Expedition Everest, and just maybe a spaceship.
We would have ranked this choice higher on our list, but the fact that the pavilion is roofed does mean that you’ll need to be seated at the tables right along the edge to have a decent view. Those tables are popular because of the view they provide — rocket or no — so they might already be filled by the time you arrive.
9. Disney Moderate Resorts
A few of Disney’s Moderate Resorts provide good lakefront views which are conducive to rocket launch viewing, but they’re less convenient to reach if you’re not already staying there.
If you’re staying at Caribbean Beach, try the beach at the Aruba section, underneath the Skyliner path. Note that the Disney’s Riviera Resort across the way might block some of your view.
At Coronado Springs, try viewing from the Casitas area not far from Maya Grill, though Gran Destino Tower might be partially in the way. Alternatively, try the bridge that connects the Maya Grill area with the Three Bridges Bar & Grill / Villa del Lago — just make sure to head far enough out along the bridge to get a clear view.
10. Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (Magic Kingdom)
For a truly unique (though slightly obstructed) view, try climbing the steps of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse at Magic Kingdom.
One particular area near the top — shown around the 7:00 mark in the video below — offers a clear view toward the east, the perfect direction to watch a rocket launch. And because you’re about 60 feet up, you’ll be above most near-field obstructions; that said, the opening is partially blocked by some of the tree’s leaves and branches. But if conditions are right, you’ll have a good shot at seeing the rocket with Cinderella Castle, Space Mountain, and the TRON Lightcycle Run in the foreground.
There is not much room at all in this area; it’s more of a walking path than an observation deck. People regularly stop here to briefly gawk at the castle, but standing around waiting for a rocket launch can cause some jams. If you find you’re creating an obstruction, please be considerate of your fellow guests and move along.
Also note that the treehouse is not wheelchair accessible; it has 116 stairs from bottom to top, and there is no elevator. Those with mobility concerns will likely want to pick a different spot.
11. Theme Park Parking Lots
While certainly not home to the most compelling views, Disney’s vast guest parking lots at the four theme parks are still wide open and flat. Of course the downside is that it’s Florida, they’re giant asphalt heat islands with little shade, there are no restrooms or refreshments, and they require a parking fee. But if the timing is just right — or you have a high tolerance for heat — then by all means give it a shot. You’ll likely want to make sure you have a theme park reservation in case they’re turning away cars at the gate on a busy day.
Honorable Mention: Pandora — the World of Avatar (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
You’ll notice we mentioned several other space-themed areas such as Mission: Space, Galaxy’s Edge, and Space Mountain, but we left out Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
While you might be able to catch a glimpse from there, this area of the park is so densely forested that you’re less likely to have a clear view. If you want to give it a shot, try the elevated entranceways to Avatar: Flight of Passage. You could be able to catch a quick glance of the rocket as it sails behind the floating mountains — fleeting, but fascinating.
Rocket launches are notoriously finicky. If you’re interested in watching a rocket launch from Disney World, lots of things have to work out in your favor. It’s not impossible, but you’ll need a bit of luck.
Rocket Launch Schedules
If you want to see a rocket launch from Disney World, there obviously needs to be a launch scheduled while you’re there.
Launch schedules change often, so it can be difficult (and unwise) to schedule a vacation solely around a rocket launch. Consider any launch that happens during your trip to be a nice treat rather than something to plan everything around.
To find the latest launch schedules, check the Kennedy Space Center calendar (click the toggle to show only rocket launches). For longer-range schedules, unofficial sites such as Spaceflight Now are a good resource, but note they also list launches from locations other than Florida.
The time of the launch also is an important factor. If you want to watch from inside the theme park, the launch will need to happen during park hours. Nighttime launches are spectacular, but limit your viewing options.
Delays and Scrubs
Last-minute technical issues can cause a launch to be delayed. Most rocket launches happen during a “launch window,” a period of time which may last from just a few minutes to several hours.
With millions of dollars worth of payloads and sometimes even human lives at risk, it’s not worth the risk to force a launch to happen if something is in doubt. If an issue can’t be fixed in time, the launch could be “scrubbed” — canceled and moved to another day.
If you intend to watch a launch, make sure you have a way to get status updates.
One of the easiest ways is to watch YouTube livestreams on your mobile device. Not only does this provide you with the latest information, but it also helps to pass the time while you’re waiting.
Spaceflight-focused Twitter accounts are also a good source of information on launch day, and you don’t need a Twitter account to follow along. We like the accounts of CBS Space News, Spaceflight Now, and NASA Spaceflight (which, despite the name, is not run by NASA).
Weather and Range Issues
Even if everything is fine technically, there can be other issues.
Sometimes there are range violations, which means that there’s a problem somewhere along the would-be flight path of the rocket. For example, boats and airplanes can inadvertently stray into danger zones.
Bad weather can also be a problem, whether at the launch site or along the rocket’s path of travel.
Storms over the ocean can prevent rescue/recovery watercraft from getting into position prior to launch.
Apollo 12 was actually struck by lightning (twice!) after launch, nearly dooming the mission. Upper level winds can also cause delays, even if it’s not windy at ground level.
The U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron posts Launch Support Forecasts prior to each launch, showing the percentage probability that bad weather will force a launch to be delayed or canceled.
Even if the launch happens, you still need a clear line of sight to be able to see the launch.
To watch a rocket launch from Disney, you’ll need to have a clear view of the eastern sky with no obstructions such as tall buildings. Even trees that are too close can block your view. The best spots are those which offer a large open area in front of you, such as a lake or parking lot.
Once you’ve picked your spot, you’ll need the local weather to cooperate, too. It takes surprisingly little in terms of clouds, fog, or haze to block the view of a rocket launch from 60 miles away.
As we mentioned above, Disney World is about 60 miles away from the space coast. If you have access to a car — and don’t mind a bit of a drive and paying a few tolls or parking fees — you can make a day trip over to the coast and potentially have a truly unforgettable experience. Being closer means you might be close enough to see the rocket itself — not just the fireball and vapor trail. If you’re really close, you’ll be able to hear it and maybe even feel the rumble.
Of course making a day trip out of it means an increased risk of having wasted time and effort should the launch be delayed or scrubbed — but if the rocket does launch, you’ll have quite the memorable close-up view.
It’s also worth noting that for the highest profile launches, traffic jams can be legendary.
When the first-ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launched in 2018 — the most-anticipated spaceshot since the Space Shuttle era ended — it took us two or three hours to make the trip to the coast (normally only around 60-90 minutes). Getting back to Orlando after the launch took four hours!
Heavy traffic isn’t a dealbreaker for the trip, but make sure you plan accordingly with snacks, drinks, and bathroom breaks.
If you do decide to make the drive, here are a few of the top spots along the Space Coast.
To reach most of these sites from Disney World, you’ll likely find it’s easiest to start by taking the Florida 417 toll road. You can reach it from Osceola Parkway or from Epcot Center Drive / World Center Drive — following the airport icons on the Disney road signs should get you headed in the correct direction.
From the 417, you’ll need to take the Beachline Expressway (Florida 528) toll road to reach the coast. Once you’re near the coastline, you can keep going straight to reach Port Canaveral via US A1A, or veer onto I-95 or US-1 to reach points further up or down the coast.
Tolls should be less than $10 each way — and you can save a bit by using a SunPass, CFX E-Pass, or a participating agency’s toll transponder device.
Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex
For the absolute best possible view, you can purchase a launch viewing ticket at Kennedy Space Center’s main visitor complex.
Several different launch viewing options are offered, including general grandstand-style tickets, special viewing area tickets, and occasionally special event packages for milestone launches.
Before you purchase, make sure you carefully read the policies about what happens should the launch be scrubbed — there are typically no refunds, and in some cases your ticket might not even be good for the next attempt!
One major advantage of this venue is that you can also enjoy plenty of other attractions and activities at the Space Center during your visit; that goes a long way toward not feeling like the day was a total wash should the launch be scrubbed.
Canaveral National Seashore
The beach equivalent of a national park, the Canaveral National Seashore offers 24 miles of undeveloped coastline. It’s among the most pristine of the beaches near Disney World and is a great place to see a launch should it fall during operating hours.
There are three beach areas: Apollo Beach, Klondike Beach, and Playalinda Beach.
Apollo Beach is the northernmost of the three and offers a Visitor’s Center with restrooms, showers, and picnic areas.
Playalinda Beach at the southern end of the seashore has fewer services (only chemical toilets and even cell phone service is iffy), but it’s the closest of the three to Kennedy Space Center with the major launch pads about one to three miles away. That makes it, in our view, possibly the best place with the best viewing — if it’s open.
If you’re planning to catch a launch from here, it’s critical that you check ahead; depending on the mission and flight path, some areas of the seashore may be closed for safety reasons. Visitors must pay $20.00 per vehicle to enter the park (valid for seven days).
Jetty Park at Port Canaveral is a popular spot to view the rocket launches, thanks in part to an extensive pier that gives as many people as possible a front-row view.
The park also boasts a waterfront campground which is a great option for those traveling via RV.
Be sure to check ahead for infomation about parking and operational details.
Space View Park
Titusville’s Space View Park offers a unique viewing spot which, despite being 10-15 miles away, offers a direct view of the launchpads across the Indian River.
While you’re waiting, you can explore several informative exhibits on the history of space travel. Parking’s free, and there are fast food restaurants within walking distance, making this a great option to view a launch.
Exploration Tower (currently closed)
You might have heard about an observation deck at Port Canaveral. You’re likely thinking of Exploration Tower, which is currently closed due to a long-term maintenance project.
When the tower is in operation, it offers special launch viewing experiences from a seventh-floor observation deck.
Your Cruise Ship
Yes, really! This is another of those cases where the timing has to be exactly right — but if your cruise schedule and the launch schedule work out so that you’re onboard the ship, in port at Port Canaveral, during a launch, you’ll have one heck of a view.
If you’re sailing on a Disney Cruise from Port Canaveral (and presuming your ship is docked at Disney’s usual terminal), just head up to the pool deck and look north. In the distance you’ll see NASA’s humongous Vehicle Assembly Building, and the launch pads will be a bit to the right of that.
If your cruise from Port Canaveral begins or ends on a launch day, make sure you plan ahead for heavy traffic and ensure you have plenty of time to get where you’re going.
Other Space Coast Beaches and Viewing Sites
There are plenty of other spots to watch from — check out this list of suggested viewing spots published by Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism.
We hope you enjoyed reading our tips and tricks for finding the best places to see a rocket launch while at Disney World. Enjoy your vacation, and keep watching the skies!
Whatever your central Florida destination, get in touch with the Orlando attractions experts at The Vacationeer! They can book your Disney or Universal vacation, handling tickets, dining, and hotel reservations so all you have to do is pack!
There are plenty of reasons to use a travel agent, not the least of which are that they offer FREE planning services and your trip won’t cost you anything more than if you’d booked it yourself!