How to watch a SpaceX Launch at Cape Canaveral Florida
Step 1: Get to Florida
For this article, I am going to be speaking from my experience of the time I went to Cape Canaveral in a rental-car to watch the very first Falcon-Heavy launch from launchpad 39A, the very same launchpad used for the Apollo Moon missions. My experience may be amplified because this was no ordinary Falcon 9 launch, but the most anticipated launch of my generation so far (Falcon Heavy). If I had to guess, crowds for normal Falcon 9's will be much smaller but the logistics of your trip to Cape Canaveral will remain the same.
Home-Base for a SpaceX launch in Florida will be the small town of 'Titusville.' a rather uninspiring town but it had a Taco Bell, so what more could you ask for.
Step 2: Get there early
If you want a good/closest possible view of the launch, you will need to get there early. I arrived the night before launch-day along with tons of other people. The actual road to the launch viewing areas will be closed (no way around it, there are police there keeping it shut-down). The cops open the road very early in the morning on launch-day, around 5 or 6 AM. At this point there were probably a thousand cars all trying to get in at once to the single, narrow road. If you slept-over the night before, you get a spot closer to the front of the line of cars.
Step 3: Drive to the viewing area
Once you get into the line of cars, you will be heading due East on 'Max Brewer Memorial Parkway.' From here, roads that lead into the actual launch facilities will be closed off by police and you will only be able to go one general direction. East, then Northeast and you will come to a gate, similar to a National Park gate, where you will buy an entrance pass for roughly 10 bucks per car. After the entrance gate, drive straight East towards the ocean, as I got closer to the ocean I got my first glimpse of the Falcon Heavy, towering in the distance a few miles to the south, first time I've seen a real rocket in real life and it was spectacular. As you get to the coast, the road curves North/Northwest, continue on the road. (Playalinda Beach Road).
Step 4: Pick your viewing area
Now, on the East side of the road, there will be various parking lots to choose from. Depending on how early you are, these lots will be open or full. I believe I got there early enough to get in the third lot. The lots have enough room for roughly 100 cars. There are public bathrooms in each lot but nothing else. There are cops and rangers everywhere so you can't really park on the side of the road or anything without getting a ticket.
Step 5: Wait for T-Minus Zero
I waited along with all the other people at my viewing area, after all the waiting and chatting, we became pretty good friends. Bring food, water and a book or whatever you wanna do for hours on end. Plan for delays. If I remember correctly, the Falcon Heavy was scheduled for launch around noon. Two or three times it got delayed and pushed back several hours. The weather was beautiful and looked perfect, but the upper-atmosphere winds were not within acceptable limits. The launch got pushed back to the very latest-possible launch-window.
Step 6: Watch the coolest thing you've ever seen
Around 4:30 PM in the afternoon, after sitting in the hot Florida sun all day, the countdown started to get close to zero. There was so much anticipation now after the launch had been delayed all day. The anticipation and excitement of the crowd and myself was overflowing. The only person there who could get cell-reception was shouting out the countdown to the rest of us viewers. "T-minus: 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2..." Piercing light and smoke lit-up the sky. Being 3 miles away from the launchpad, we could see before we could hear.
The triple-booster Falcon Heavy thrust itself into the blue sky, angling towards the Atlantic. As the Falcon lurched off the launchpad, the sound of the 27 Merlin engines tore apart the heavens. The sound and the glowing-blaze of the fire was so beautiful, everyone on the beach that day was cheering with joy and I might have teared-up a little as well.
Being from Wisconsin, we don't have many rocket launches to watch and I am very glad I made the decision to head to Cape Canaveral for this historic day. A true special event that should be viewed by everyone before they die.
It took me 4 hours of dead-stop traffic to get the 10 miles from the viewpoint on the beach to Titusville, so allot a lot of time for your exit strategy...
Here is a video I filmed of my experience watching the Falcon Heavy launch: