On September 18, 1965, during the race to space between the United States and the Soviet Union, an anomaly occurred (I learned that NASA likes the word anomaly over mishap during my recent visit to Florida’s Space Coast) that would change America’s view over its space program and have international implications for nearly half a decade.
“There’s been a final stage misfire…He won’t be able to maintain orbit.”
And from Brigadier General Wingard Stone, these fateful words:
“This is General Stone. We have an emergency. Stardust 1 is coming down. Alert the 7th Fleet.”
Thus, the search and discovery of Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson occurred, thanks to a “Jeannie” in a bottle.
From this point on, the world would get to know Cocoa Beach. The pilot for I Dream of Jeannie aired on NBC, and the show would continue for five seasons; Cocoa Beach would be mentioned on the show 81 times (Cocoa Beach: A Television History).
For A1A travelers leaving Port Orange, A1A joins US 1 for the first time. It is close to another 60 miles before A1A recontinues its signage designation; here travelers, after leaving Titusville, will soon travel eastward on the Martin Anderson Beachline Expressway. Though scenic, this section of A1A feels more like interstate highway travel until crossing Merritt Island and passing through Port Canaveral and the city of Cape Canaveral; once entering Cocoa Beach, expect to experience beach traffic while heading south.
The usual fare of shops, restaurants, and lodging are all along Cocoa Beach. The highlight, of course, is the flagship Ron Jon Surf Shop, the world’s LARGEST; it is impossible to miss and a required stopover if just passing through Cocoa Beach. Hopefully, you will plan to stay in the area for at least a couple of days—there is much to see and do, especially for nerdy space fans (please take this as a compliment).
As for Cocoa Beach and I Dream of Jeannie, let’s be clear. The show was filmed entirely in California, with the cast and crew making only two appearances in Florida (thanks Wikipedia). There are even visual references on the show to Cocoa Beach where mountains can be seen in the background.
In case you didn’t know, the only mountains in Florida are Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, but we’re not going there.
On the show, Nelson’s home is mentioned as being on 1020 Palm Drive, Cocoa Beach, Florida. I saw this on Fandom’s “I Dream of Jeannie Wiki” page; I should have read the one comment from a Fandom user on August 20, 2016.
“Stupid website with no real info that I was looking for. Get off the web!“
I went on a wild goose chase trying to find the house in Cocoa Beach. On Google Maps, I entered the street name and found one, in Hermosa Beach, California. I entered the street name and Cocoa Beach, and found 1020 Palm Lane. I went to that location—not the house. My determination led me to North Palm Drive and 1020 Park Drive, both in Cocoa (not Cocoa Beach).
Much to my dismay (and lack of thoroughness), I discovered only later that the actual house exterior, located in California, was also used for other shows. As listed as #10 on MeTV’s “15 things you never knew about ‘Father Knows Best'”:
“Originally built on the Columbia Pictures backlot in 1941 for the film Blondie, a cinematic adaptation of the popular daily comic strip, the Anderson house was recycled again and again over the years. It was Mr. Wilson’s home in the Dennis the Menace TV series. After some remodeling, it turned up as Anthony Nelson’s abode in I Dream of Jeannie. The place also pops up in Hazel, Bewitched, The Monkees and The Partridge Family.”
1020 Palm Drive is fictional.
While this search took me off A1A for almost 10 miles, it did get me close to Rocket City Retro, which along with vintage stuff from the Mid 20th century, has Jeannie painted along with other historical figures as part of its wall art.
Feeling duped and defeated over not finding the house but emotionally elevated a bit after finding Rocket City Retro, I figured it was time to enjoy a frosty treat at I Dream of Yogurt, listed as one of seven stops in Jacksonville Magazine’s “I Dream of Jeannie Tour of Cocoa Beach, Florida.”
As an English teacher, I would always mention to my students that when performing research, try to use current sources. I should have followed my advice, as the article was written on May 1, 2014. A video by JL and Teresa on YouTube’s DIS Unplugged I Dream of Yogurt/The Trip, posted on March 11, 2016, however, convinced me that, with all its atmospheric allusions to the show, this was a must stop,
And I wanted some yogurt. So I entered “I Dream of Yogurt” on Google Maps. Nothing to be found. I followed with a Google search and found this phrase:
I was ready to take a walk on a long pier and drink at the Rikki Tiki Tavern, but one more chance to feel a sense of accomplishment was available just off A1A. Google Maps would lead me to I Dream of Jeannie Lane, next to the beachside Lori Wilson Park.
Lori Wilson Park, along with its connection to the lane honoring Barbara Eden and her role as Jeannie, is a beautiful spot for beachgoers. Along with the beach are hiking trails through coastal hammock, protected dunes, and many amenities. There is also a large, free parking area.
I Dream of Jeannie Lane was named in 1996; the historical marker was added in 2012. The street sign isn’t your normal height—I’m sure this was to prevent it from disappearing into the hands of thieving souvenir collectors.
The lane is also near the start and finish lines of the 10K portion and the finish line for the half-marathon route of the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon (last year’s October 21 10K run was done virtually due to COVID-19/ a half-marathon course was not used). Past runners could register for the Jeannie Division and run dressed as Jeannie, or the Major Anthony Nelson Division and wear a military uniform. Race finishers receive a hand-painted Jeannie Bottle Medal.
Separate from the run itself, the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon also hosted a look-a-like contest. Eden, then 84 years old, officiated the awards ceremony for the run in 2015, the year the show celebrated its 50th anniversary.
This was not Eden’s only visit to Cocoa Beach. On August 31, 2015, Mike Gaffney wrote “As ‘Jeannie’ turns 50, star Eden recalls magical visits to Cocoa Beach” for the Viera Voice:
“Eden visited Cocoa Beach twice in 1969: once just before the launch of Apollo 11 and a second time with Hagman to publicize an episode in which Nelson married Jeannie.
“During her first visit, Eden stopped by a motel where reporters were interviewing Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was just days away from becoming the second man to walk on the moon.
“‘Buzz walked out and just scooped me up in his arms, and he still had his flight suit and all his equipment on,” Eden said with a laugh. “It was fun and the press had a field day.”
“Eden also took part in a launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, pressing a button at Complex 43 that fired a weather rocket into space.”
This leads me to the last site on the I Dream of Jeannie tour.
Located at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station are the facilities for the Air Force Space and Missile Museum. The Sands Space History Center, located just outside the south gate to the station, is available for all to visit free of charge; however, to see the I Dream of Jeannie exhibit at the entrance to the Complex-26 Blockhouse, you have to take a pre-planned tour to gain access.
Kennedy Space Center tours are currently not available due to COVID-19, but Cape Canaveral Lighthouse & Spaceflight Exploration Tours does offer tours—awesome tours. They offer several options, but the Lighthouse and Spaceflight Tour, offered Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., will provide you with a unforgettable experience.
Of course, you are not going to spend $60 a person just to see a tiny I Dream of Jeannie wall exhibit; this 10-person tour gives you access to the Canaveral Lighthouse, launch sites for the Mercury and Apollo missions, the Complex-26 Blockhouse, and other historical sites connected to America’s space program.
Props to our tour guide Shelley and her driver, Jeremy. They were phenomenal.
The tour begins at Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral; a bonus for those taking the tour on Saturdays—Exploration Tower’s first floor gift shop and seventh floor observation deck are open free of charge.
Oh yes, you can also get your photo with Jeannie on the tour.
The last stop on this I Dream of Jeannie tour, which should have been my first (I didn’t make it here actually), is the Cocoa Beach Chamber Tourist Center; along with a chance to better plan a Cocoa Beach visit, the center has a “big pink genie lamp.”
By the way, Barbara Eden turns 90 on Monday, August 23, 2021. Just sayin.
And one last thing….