The Space Coast has so much to offer visitors. While some of the things are a little farther than just the Melbourne area nearest to Florida Tech, there are many places to visit, foods you can try and places to shop. So, take it from a native – these are some of the coolest things to do in and around Melbourne.
Looking for something to do? Just north of Melbourne are some of the best tourist spots in Florida. The Titusville/Cocoa/Merritt Island area is home to some truly awesome destinations like the Kennedy Space Center and Astronaut Hall of Fame, Ron Jon Surf Shop (which, by the way, is the largest surf shop in the world), the planetarium, and the Dinosaur Store. Go a little to the west and you have all of Orlando to explore, with its myriad theme parks (I recommend Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure), museums (like the Orlando Science Center), concert halls and more.
In and around Melbourne, you can also find so many fantastic local ethnic restaurants ranging from Indian and Asian, to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean and more. A fan of Caribbean food? Check out Hazel’s Caribbean Restaurant. Chinese? Try Hop Bo. There’s a Lebanese restaurant in University Plaza within walking distance from campus. I personally really love Hispanic foods, so some of my favorite restaurants are Garcia Plaza Bakery in Fellsmere (a Mexican market – super authentic and even more delicious), El Ambia Cubano (Cuban), and La Estancia de Luisa (Colombian).
Living in Florida, and especially along the coast of Florida, brings with it a lot of opportunities for nature lovers and adventurers. Between the lagoon, rivers and creeks, and the beaches, there are plenty of places to surf, windsurf, kayak, canoe and sail. And if you don’t know how, there are plenty of opportunities to learn. FIT even has a surf team, and a sailing club on campus that can teach people how to sail. The gym on campus also rents out canoes to students. All across Florida, Melbourne included, you can find parks, campgrounds and hiking and biking trails.
Also, Florida loves festivals. We have tons of festivals. Check out the Grant Seafood Festival in February or the Melbourne Arts Festival in April downtown. Fan of stars and space? The Dark Sky Festival in Harmony would be a good fit for you. Looking to check out a little bit of Florida culture? Check out the Frog Leg Festival in Fellsmere or Cracker Christmas in Christmas, Florida. (Just to clarify, “cracker” has a different meaning in Florida. In this case, it’s used as a term for a Florida cowboy because they used whips and dogs to herd their cattle. It is sometimes used for native Floridians as well).
You can go to the movies, which is cheap compared to other parts of the US, I’m told. Cinema World sells their tickets for $6 at night and you can watch a morning movie for $4 at the Oaks. You can go to one of the local malls, too, but one of the most popular places in Melbourne is Downtown Melbourne, which I’ve talked about a little already.
Downtown is within biking distance (or walking or running distance for some) of campus and is one of the few places in Melbourne you can easily walk around in from place to place. It has a number of cool little shops like Julie’s British Shoppe, Russian House, or the more eccentric Creative Energy and is host to a farmer’s market every weekend from 10 a.m. 3 p.m., which even comes on campus periodically. Downtown Melbourne is also one of the best places for nightlife locally, with Off the Traxx, Mainstreet Pub, Matt’s Casbah and more.
In addition to everything going on in town, there’s always something going on on-campus. You can go to a Residence Life event, go see a play, play on an intramural team, join a few clubs, watch some sporting events, go to the pool and more. Give it a little imagination and get up from your weekly Netflix marathon in bed and you’ll find plenty to do in the Melbourne area. If all else fails, Steak n’ Shake is always open! Good luck and have fun!