Cocoa Beach, FL | Kennedy Space Center

Take a journey to Mars, have lunch with an astronaut, walk among rockets and get up close to a space shuttle.

“I want to be an astronaut when I grow up!” is something young children around the world have said for decades. There’s something about space that ignites curiosity and wonder as we imagine being launched from the Earth’s atmosphere into the vast universe where worlds are waiting to be discovered. The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral is the perfect experience for anyone who wants to explore space without leaving on a rocket ship.
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The Attractions

DSC03052 - CopyUpon entering the Space Center, visitors can explore the newest addition to the attraction, Heroes and Legends, featuring the new U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, now with nearly 100 astronauts. This experience brings to life the fascinating stories of the country’s first astronauts while also allowing guests to vicariously experience the thrills and dangers of America’s earliest missions through high-tech special effects like simulated holograms and augmented reality.

For fun family photos, visit the Rocket Garden, with rockets that reach more than 100 feet tall, and climb into the cramped quarters of replicas of the rocket capsules. Free guided tours of the garden take place throughout the day.

The Astronaut Encounter is a unique opportunity to hear a veteran NASA astronaut speak about his or her experiences in space. Speakers throughout the year include commanders, pilots, mission specialists, payload specialists and others who have launched, landed and lived and worked aboard the space shuttle and/or International Space Station.

In Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted, live shows and interactive exhibits explain what NASA’s current and future plans are for the next giant leap of space exploration. A wonderful exhibit for aspiring astronauts, this interactive multimedia exhibit includes games and simulators that let guests see if they may have what it takes to be a part of NASA’s future.

Two 3D screens at the IMAX Theater show films throughout the day. The “Hubble 3D” explores the powerful story of the Hubble Space Telescope, while the “Journey to Space” show explores NASA’s past, present and future projects. Both films are narrated by famous voices you may recognize.

The KSC Bus Tour is packed with information about NASA’s history from your knowledgeable driver, while a video gives a glimpse of the future of space exploration. See the impressive Vehicle Assembly Building, pass by a mobile launcher as you learn about the logistics of moving a rocket ship to a launch pad, and drive by the launch pad where many astronauts’ moon walking adventures began.

DSC02994The Bus Tour takes visitors to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where you can re-live the anticipation and excitement of the very beginning of the Apollo program and the launch of Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon and the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket ship. An introductory video in a large, darkened theater sets the scene for a thrilling and intense presentation of actual audio from the Apollo 8’s launch in the Firing Room Theater. Guests exit the theater to yet another “Wow” moment as they are standing directly under a Saturn V, the largest rocket ever flown. With additional attractions, dining options and a gift shop, plan to spend at least an hour at the Apollo/Saturn V center before catching the bus back to the KSC complex.

Few would deny that the Atlantis exhibit is the highlight of the Space Center. Indeed, your family could easily spend two to three hours taking the tour and exploring more than 60 interactive exhibits here. Start with a two part video that explains the inception and creation of the craft that launched like a rocket, flew in orbit like a spacecraft and landed on a runway like a glider. After the dramatic revealing of the shuttle, enjoy the photo opportunities and then let the kids discover the exhibits, including a fun slide down to the lower level, where kids can burn even more energy through flight simulators, the Shuttle Launch Experience, and more. Learn about the building of the International Space Station, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and fascinating facts about how astronauts eat, sleep and live in space. The exhibit also includes a touching tribute to those astronauts whose lives were lost in two different missions.

Extras

For those truly passionate about space (and those with some extra time), several options are offered at an additional cost that give you an even more immersive experience. Up close tours of the Launch Control Center and important landmarks throughout the KSC complex show visitors even more behind the scenes action. Lunch with an astronaut gives visitors an opportunity to hear personal stories, ask questions and have photos taken with a veteran NASA astronaut while enjoying a buffet lunch.

Family Tips

  • The Space Center can take an entire day to enjoy, especially with children. Plan to pace yourself, and prepare for a rigorous security screening before entering. Multiday pass options are available if you really want to take your time to enjoy all the center as to offer.
  • Regardless of where you are in the complex, there’s always a water fountain or a restroom nearby, including several family restrooms.
  • While the Florida heat may be intense in the warmer months, the indoor exhibits are air conditioned, providing welcome relief for everyone.
  • If you want the kids to burn some energy, head straight to the Children’s Play Dome or the Atlantis exhibit where there are a number of interactive exhibits specifically for children. There are also several dark and quiet spaces in the Atlantis building if you have a tiny one who needs a stroller nap.

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