Kennedy Space Center isn’t right around the corner, but it’s the perfect place to go for a day trip. It’s an easy drive, and the reward is amazing – I took the kids and both of them came home talking about how much they wanted to be astronauts. So how do you survive? Here’s ten things to know.
1) Explore the Rocket Garden
The Rocket Garden, which is towards the front of the Kennedy Space Center, is the perfect place to start your visit. Exploring the garden, you can compare the sizes of the different rockets, as well as the capsules. Children (and adults) can sit in the capsules and see just how tight the Gemini and Apollo capsules really were.
2) Go See Shuttle Atlantis
After the Rocket Garden, your next step should be Shuttle Atlantis. After a short movie showing its design, you go into the room, and get to see Atlantis. There is also a model of the Hubble Space Telescope, and a mock-up of the cockpit. There is also a small international space station to crawl through and explore. Be careful, though, because the way out is glass tunnel that is two flights up. Some kids got scared and had trouble getting through it.
3) Go Back In Time
A bus tour takes you to the Apollo Rocket Center. There, you can see a launch control room, Saturn V rocket, and Apollo module. In addition, you can relive (or experience for the first time) the landing on the moon. Make sure you plan your bus trip, as you’ll need to take it there and back.
4) Meet an Astronaut
Each day, a different astronaut does a presentation and question & answer session at the Kennedy Space Center. Sit down and talk with someone who has been in space; payload specialists, pilots, and other travelers in space will pose for pictures and talk about their experiences. This is better for older kids.
5) Take in a Movie
Kennedy Space Center has an IMAX theater showing two different movies – Journey to Space, and A Beautiful Planet. Each one is 40 + minutes, so don’t plan to see both in one day.
6) See the Farthest Reaches of Space
If you’d prefer to see something in 3D, take a look at Eyes on the Universe. This live presentation shows you images from the Hubble Space Telescope and looks at the future of deep space exploration.
7) Plan to See a Rocket Launch
This is an exciting time in space in this area. SpaceX and ULA are sending rockets up at least once a month. Kennedy Space Center offers programs including commentary, souvenirs, photos, food, and some of the closest viewing of the rocket launches that you can legally get. Ticket prices for launches vary so plan accordingly.
8) Talk to the Docents
When we saw the Shuttle Atlantis, we took a few minutes to talk to the docent sitting nearby. He had helped build the shuttle. Throughout Kennedy Space Center, and in addition to the astronauts, you’ll find employees and volunteers who helped design and build the rockets, and who made other contributions to the space program. Talking with them will unlock new connections to the program and bring out many interesting stories.
9) Leave a Little Time to Play
Right next to the Rocket Garden is a playground. Towards the end of the day, it had a few kids on it, all playing around and pretending they were in space. The playground is designed with a rocket theme and it helped fuel the children’s imaginations.
10) Plan to spend money.
Despite the fact that it’s owned by the US Government, Kennedy Space Center is self-funding, which means that tickets can be expensive (although you do get a discount if you have a Brevard County address). In addition, throughout the center, you will find Cosmic Quest kiosks. Cosmic Quest, which is available for an additional fee, allows participants to attempt challenges throughout the center.