I've been down for three launches at the Cape, but only saw two of them. On one trip it rained for several days and then there was a technical problem, so I ended up driving back home without seeing it :(
I think its worth it to go to one of the viewing sites at KSC, but they are only available if the launch is during regular operating hours. Outside of that, free viewing can be had from Titusville and Port Canaveral (Cocoa Beach). I've seen shuttle launches from Static Test Stand (no longer available) and the NASA Causeway. Here are some pics of a launch from the Causeway - you may recognize a few folks in these photos:
May 12, 2009 launch from the Causeway
This is just SE of the bridge in the middle of the Causeway. There were shuttles on both pads
at the time. This was post-Columbia, and it was a mission to Hubble instead of the ISS. The second shuttle was stacked on the other pad in case it was needed quickly for a rescue. The best KSC viewing site depends on the pad being used. Here's an annotated map of KSC
The Nov 15 launch is from 39A, but is after hours, so I suspect all the KSC locations will be closed. It looks like they will switch back to LC-40
for the Dec 4 ISS resupply, which is an afternoon launch. In that case, the LC-39 gantry is best for viewing the launch, followed by Causeway. You can see LC-40 from the Causeway in this photo
- its the white tipped lightning towers between the middle and right-hand buildings. LC-41 is the pad on the left (Atlas 5 launches). I think Causeway is slightly better for also seeing the 1st stage landing as its closer, but depends a bit on direction. The landing pad is at the place marked LC-13 in the annotated map above. The Saturn-V visitors center is also an option, but not as good. It does have the advantage that you can hang out in the very cool museum while waiting for the launch! Saturn V (Banana Creek) is the best place to see 39A launches - just 3.9 miles away. That's the place to see (feel) Heavy. Or Playalinda off-site, but that's farther from the 1st stage landing pad.
I'm not as familiar with the off-site viewing locations, but I found this page
that seems to have good info. Also here is the official KSC page for launch viewing
. Night launches are awesome, so well worth seeing even if you have to be off-site. Over water is best. It looks like Port Canaveral/Jetty Park is best for seeing landings, although the pad itself is not visible from anywhere. Seeing that first stage flying right back at you will be unnerving!
I would *love* to see a Falcon launch and landing sometime! Very jealous. Heavy would be even cooler, but the first Heavy launch is likely to have delays - they'll be especially careful with the maiden flight. There's a Delta IV Heavy launch in July from 37B. In my opinion, the best part about seeing a launch in-person is the noise. The shuttle launches were like someone punching you in the chest repeatedly. The closer you can get, the louder it is. The KSC sites are fun because they have countdown clocks and audio from launch control - at least they used to. Also you have to be bused in. Its a good scene. Bring snacks, drinks, shade.
As far as things to do down there, going to the KSC visitor's center is must-do. Take one of the bus tours - go out to the LC-39 viewing gantry if you can, and don't miss the Saturn V facility. Space Shuttle Atlantis is there. You can easily spend a whole day there or more...if you like spacey things. Eat green jello in the cafeteria - its traditional!
The viewing gantry tour might not be available during The Nov 15 launch with a vehicle on the pad - the gantry is only a mile from the pad. But if you go to the Dec 4 launch and aren't viewing the launch from Gantry, you can take the tour out there a day or two before to get a close look at LC-40. Maybe even during the pre-launch engine firing?
The beaches themselves are nice, so take time just to hang out by the water and build sand castles. There is good public beach access all over Cocoa beach and down the coast. Go to Playalinda Beach north of the Cape for a quieter experience. Be sure to visit Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. If you need something with "Ron Jon" printed on it, this place will have it. Its famous. Its not a bad shop really. Get some gifts for folks back home. I got my favorite pair of sunglasses there, now long since broken.
I can recommend taking a kayak tour through the mangroves. We did one right in Cocoa and saw loads of manatees and birds. The manatees may be seasonal. It was well worth it. Contact info for the place we went on page 4
. There are many others. Also there are tours from Titusville through the various wildlife refuges and the national seashore. Lots of birds.
Rob may be interested in visiting Daytona Speedway in Daytona Beach. There are daily tours, and if you go on the right weekends there are various driving experiences
on the track. Looks like Nov 16, 17, 18 is one of them.
You might be able to find some boating/sailing excursions or just boat rentals. Wind surfing? The water may be too cool by now, but maybe not. If you like fishing I'm sure you could find a daily charter. Eat some seafood down there. Gulf shrimp - mmmmmm.