Last weekend we visited the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Tons of people recommended it as a “must visit” attraction on the east coast of Florida. Other than knowing that we would see some massive rockets, we really weren’t sure what to expect. Well, I am pleased to report that it exceeded out expectations. For anyone else who has the space center on their bucket list (if not, you really should add it), here are 7 Tips for Your Adventure in Space.
1. Plan to Spend the Day
The Kennedy Space Center is huge. Expect to spend all day exploring the exhibits. They are open from 9am to 6pm, and there is more then enough to keep you occupied all day long.
We tried our best to arrive at opening, but since we’re not good at doing the early morning thing (and we had an hour drive) we didn’t get there until about 10:30. We stayed until a little after 5:30 and had time to visit almost everything. That extra hour and half would have allowed us to see the few exhibits that we missed, and maybe even visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame which is located 6 miles from the main complex (admission to the Hall of Fame is included in the ticket price).
2. Start at the Beginning
The Space Center complex is made up of multiple buildings. When you first enter the building on your left is the Early Space Exploration Hall. Start your tour here.
Here you will learn about the Mercury Space Program dating all the way back to 1958. You can see the actual Mercury Mission Control Center, along with one of the original Mercury capsules. Also on display are artifacts from the Gemini Space program, including the Gemini Capsule that was launched into space on June 3,1966, along with a space suit from that same mission. This building is the perfect introduction for your journey through the space program.
3. Take the Guided Tour of the Rocket Garden
The Rocket Garden was one of our favorite parts of the entire complex. A dozen or so massive rockets are planted around the garden for optimal viewing. It was a blast getting up close and personal with these powerful giants.
We had just finished our self guided tour around the garden when an announcement was made about a guided tour. Drat! We missed it. While the signs in front of each rocket were informative, I wish we had timed it better and taken the guided tour. Hint: stop at the information counter next to the Early Space Building to learn when the guided tours start.
4. Bring Your Own Lunch
While there is certainly no shortage of places around the space center to get a bite to eat – places such as the G-Force Grill and the Orbit Cafe – unless you want to pay a premium for a moon rock burger and some solar fries, you’re better off packing a lunch. Here’s the catch…they don’t allow you to bring food into the complex. They do, however, allow you to exit the park and return without paying again (just be sure to have your hand stamped). This makes it super to easy to bring your lunch, leave it in the car, go retrieve it when the time comes, and set yourself up at one of the picnic tables by the entrance gate. And just like that you’ve saved yourself from a mediocre meal and about thirty bucks.
Or…you could follow our example and park your kitchen in the parking lot. Since we had the Airstream with us it only made sense to go back to the parking lot, make some sandwiches, and kick back on the couch for 20 minutes.
5. Don’t Skip the Bus Tour
Included in your ticket price is a two hour bus tour. Don’t skip it! Also, be aware that the last bus departs at 3:30 so plan accordingly.
The bus takes you around the launch sites, including the ones that are leased out to a private company called Space X. You will also travel past the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where NASA is currently constructing a rocket that will eventually take astronauts to Mars. The bus doesn’t stop at these areas, but the driver provides an informative running commentary about everything you see out the window.
After viewing the launch pads, the bus will drop you off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Here you are treated to a theater re-creation of the Apollo Launch and an up close view of the Saturn V rocket. The giant hall where the rocket is housed is filled with information about all 17 Apollo missions. You can see the Apollo 14 capsule on display, touch an actual piece of moon rock, view the transformation of space suits over the year, and much, much more. The only way to access the Apollo/Saturn V Center is on the bus tour, so be sure to make it a priority.
6. The Atlantis Shuttle is Mighty Impressive
If you want to see the actual Atlantis Shuttle (and trust me you do) then the Space Shuttle Atlantis Building is a must visit.
Allow yourself plenty of time to explore this exhibit. The experience starts with a short film about the shuttle program, after which you can view the shuttle up close, check out informative displays, strap in for the shuttle launch ride (which we skipped due to lack of time), and of course, have your photo taken in front of the Airstream Motorhome used to transport astronauts to the shuttle.
7. The IMAX Movie is a Must
There are two IMAX 3D movies that run all day. One is about the Hubble Telescope, and the other is called Journey to Space and tells the story of how the space shuttle program has set the stage for the deep space explorations to come.
We watched the second one and it was fascinating to learn about how they are building a rocket and training astronauts for this exciting new venture that will eventually take us to Mars and beyond. Again, admission is included with your ticket and the show times run all day, so you have no excuse not to see one (or both) movies.
A few more things to keep in mind:
» Admission is $50/adult, $40/kids 3-11, and $46/seniors & military. You can also buy a two-day pass for $75/adult or $60/child. That includes all the buildings in the main complex, the Imax movie, the bus tour, and admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame
» There are additional tours and experiences available for purchase, including three different “Up Close” tours, and the lunch with an astronaut experience.
» Parking is $10/ car or $15/RV. We brought the Airstream and had no problem finding parking.
» If you’re looking for RV camping nearby your closest options are the Jetty Park Beach & Campground or Carver’s Cove RV Park.