4 ways to celebrate the Apollo 11 mission’s golden anniversary

(BPT) - For those of us who were glued to the television during the launch of the legendary Apollo 11 mission that first landed man on the moon, it may be hard to believe that it’s been 50 years since mankind’s greatest leap.

And although fifty years have come and gone, the nostalgia, energy and pride surrounding the record-breaking spaceflight are still in full swing on Florida’s Space Coast. Here, back where it all began half a century ago, the Space Coast is planning an epic, once-in-a-lifetime tribute to the Apollo 11 mission, which will commemorate the historic 1969 journey of the mission and its crew.

Most of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 mission takes place from July 12 through July 16, honoring the incredible accomplishments of the U.S. space program and its astronauts through a series of one-of-a-kind events and other public activities. With a jam-packed schedule filled with memory-making space fun, vacationing families and space enthusiasts alike will find something to get excited about on Florida’s Space Coast this July.

Hit the virtual links.

Join current and former American astronauts on the virtual links in honor of the first man to play golf on the moon, Alan Shepard, at the Astronaut Golf Tournament July 12 at Drive Shack, in Orlando. Enter the longest-drive and closest-to-the-pin competitions and get a chance to take a shot with a replica of the club Shepard used on the lunar surface.

Party like it’s 1969!

At the Astronaut Walking Pub Crawl July 12, adults can have a Friday-night blast partying with astronauts while sampling libations at popular local watering holes throughout Cocoa Village. You could win a prize for "Best Space Dressed" if you wear your favorite space outfit.

The next day, cheer America’s space heroes at the Astronaut Parade, featuring U.S. space explorers riding through the city of Cocoa Beach in Corvette convertibles, plus members of various Apollo families passing by in Teslas. The procession wraps up with a public street party. Also on July 13, musician Alan Parsons headlines the Celebrating Apollo Outdoor Concert that evening at Cocoa Riverfront Park. The band Edison’s Children, which includes Rick Armstrong (son of Neil Armstrong), is the opening act.

Talk space talk.

July 14 is packed with amazing panel discussions about space, including some revealing personal accounts about the early days of the U.S. program. Join relatives of Apollo astronauts for a “Families of Apollo” kickoff brunch and hear stories about what that era was like for family members. Next, a “Women in Space” panel will examine the contributions by women to space exploration. It will be followed by a fascinating “Future of Space” presentation by astronauts and industry leaders.

The evening of July 14 features a one-of-a-kind, exclusive opportunity: a private, VIP preview of the newly transformed Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Expect some serious mingling with astronauts, and if you can’t make it to the private viewing, the public grand opening is set for the next day.

July 16 will be dominated by the evening’s Apollo 50th Gala, which will pay tribute to the first moon landing, while looking ahead toward the next giant leap in space exploration. Proceeds from the gala, which will be held at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, will benefit the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Aldrin Family Foundation.

Catch a rocket launch.

What could be more thrilling than seeing an actual rocket launch in person? There are nearly a dozen launches scheduled for the remainder of this year, including three in July alone. You can plan your trip around one of the launches listed online, but keep in mind that weather and other factors might occasionally lead to launch delays or postponements. Many of the beaches and local parks along the Space Coast’s 72 miles of pristine coastline are ideal for viewing a launch, while also enjoying some fun in the sun with your family.

The countdown is on! More details about all the Apollo 11 anniversary events, including ticket information, are available at https://www.spacecoastlaunches.com/apollo50/. To learn more about the wide variety of attractions and the calendar of activities on Florida's Space Coast, go to visitspacecoast.com.