Nothing could beat a night launch...
Thanks for an interesting article. I did the same thing at the visitor centre a couple of months ago, except that it was scrubbed at the last moment ! Can't really complain I suppose because it was scheduled to go before my holiday started, but it was certainly a big disappointment after a very early start, and I was back in the UK when it finally took off.
The launch that really took my breath away was a night launch at 4:07am. I've just looked it up and can't believe it was way back in 1997 ! I watched it from a memorial park just north of Titusville. As Gordon notes, you're totally unprepared for just how bright the flare is: TV and films don't do it justice at all, you have to see it with your own eyes.
But the thing that literally made everyone gasp was that a very dark night suddenly turned into daytime sunshine ! It was an instant sunrise and the whole area turned into Technicolor, just like a John Hinde postcard. It really was stunning, all the more so because it was so unexpected.
About 30 seconds later the eerily silent movie suddenly came alive with a thunderous roar. A few minutes afterwards Atlantis had become a bright star as it headed downrange, the sunshine was turning to twilight, Atlantis slowly faded away and then everything was in darkness again.
Absolutely awesome, and it's very sad that there won't be any more.
On another note, the KSC Visitor Centre used to be very good, everything being free except for the bus tour which was brilliant and inexpensive: many guides had worked there and their knowledge and enthusiasm was outstanding.
Sadly, they now charge about $48 for admission for what is now a small and somewhat mediocre theme park. And the food is very expensive and utterly awful...