We recently stopped at the Kennedy Space Center for a day while traveling through Florida. It was an amazing visit, but one I wish I had prepped for a little better. Here are all the details so you can get the most out of your visit there!
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Kennedy Space Center is located on Merritt Island right off the eastern coast of Florida. It is about an hour east of Orlando and easily accessible from I-95. The area around it is beautiful and full of wildlife. We saw several roseate spoonbills wading nearby. There is a wildlife sanctuary on the island and the Canaveral National Seashore is close by so you may want to plan an additional day to enjoy those areas.
Plan Your Visit to Kennedy Space Center
Hours for Kennedy Space Center:
The space center opens 365 days a year at 9am and typically closes between 6 and 7pm. Check their website for specific closing times. If you are going at busy times of the year (school breaks, summer), then you would do best to get there when the parking lot opens at 8:30am. (Note: There is a $10 parking fee.) You can also buy your tickets ahead of time online to save time when you arrive (and $5 off each ticket at the time of writing). We went during the week in January and didn’t have to wait long for anything.
Appropriate Ages/Cost of Kennedy Space Center:
One of the things I did not realize until the night before is the Kennedy Space Center is kind of pricey! One day admission is Adults (12+): $57 and Children (3-11): $47. This package includes all the exhibits, a bus tour and iMax movies so it is comprehensive. If you make use of all that is offered, the cost is worth it, but if you have younger children that will not last the whole day or will be uninterested in some of the different offerings, then you may not get your money’s worth. I would suggest children ages 10 and up will get the most out of the visit and you may want to wait until these ages to go.
Note: for an additional $25 per adult and $20 per child, you can stay a second day. There would be plenty to do over two days and you could make your days a little shorter and more relaxed if you go with this plan. There are some motels and a campground about 15 -20 minutes a way on the mainland. If you are space enthusiasts, it is definitely something to consider, but not sure the average person would want to spend two days there.
Itineraries for Kennedy Space Center:
One of the great things about the Kennedy Space Center website is their list of itineraries for different ages and whether you are spending one or two days there. You can check them out here:
You will notice that some of what is included in the admission is not recommended for younger children such as the iMax, so that’s another reason I would suggest waiting until age 10. You can also add-on some experiences such as Dine With An Astronaut.
There are several rocket launch dates throughout the year and observing them from the visitor center is included in your admission. Sometimes, other viewing areas are open for a separate cost.
Food Options at Kennedy Space Center:
There are several restaurants throughout Kennedy Space Center, including a cafeteria out at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. There were many healthy choices and I don’t remember the prices being outrageous, although we had just come from Universal so it is all relative! If you get there early and get a parking spot close (or don’t mind extra walking), you could also bring a lunch and a have picnic.
Our Visit to Kennedy Space Center
Bus Tour to Apollo/Saturn V Center
We chose to start with the bus tour out to the Apollo/Saturn V Center where you learn about America’s several year effort to land a man on the moon complete with a simulation of being in the control room during the launch. This simulation was well done and made this trip an easy transition from spending time at Universal!
After the simulation you can tour the exhibits related to the moon launch including seeing several of the rockets launched over the years. Then, you just catch a bus back to the Visitor Center when ready. The bus tour plus exploration of this area took us about 90 minutes on a non-busy day.
Space Shuttle Atlantis
The bus tour drops you back off at the Space Shuttle Atlantis building at the Visitor Center. Make sure you enter the main entrance, not the gift shop so you don’t miss the ‘big reveal’! There is a short movie that builds your anticipation and then the movie screen lifts and you enter the main part of the building where the HUGE Space Shuttle Atlantis is hanging. You really don’t realize how big it is until you see it in person!
This building also has the astronaut training simulators and the shuttle launch experience (which was broken when we were there) so you will spend a lot of time in this building…at least 2 hours. We had to take a break for lunch and come back.
Other Exhibits and Activities
After spending another hour or so with the astronaut training simulators, our family’s brains were pretty full. The boys did not want to do an iMax movie so we continued on to our next destination. You could definitely add the Heroes and Legends and/or an iMax movie at this point to round out your day. The Rocket Garden is a great attraction if you need a break from the regular exhibits, too. Especially, if you have some children that just need to run around a little!
And while you are at the Space Center, make sure you keep an eye open for former astronauts! Most days commanders, pilots, or mission and payload specialists who have been to space do a presentation and question and answer session that is included with your admission. You can have a chance to shake hands and get his or her autograph as well!
Learn More About Space at Home
One tip I talk about in How to Plan a Family Field Trip is to read some books and/or watch some videos beforehand so that your children (and you!) will have background knowledge of the experience to build upon.
Check out Children’s Books and Videos About Space for ideas. I also linked a super fun planet project there that my oldest son loved when he was younger. This would be great to complete after your visit to Kennedy Space Center.
Have you been to Kennedy Space Center? What other tips would you add? Comment below!