7 Tips for Your Kennedy Space Center Adventure – WatsonsWander

7 Tips for Your Kennedy Space Center Adventure

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.

Your space exploration adventure starts 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.

Early space: artifacts from the Mercury & Gemini Space Missions

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.

A garden that is out of this world

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.

The VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) – A launch pad leased to Space X – One of the mobile launch pads used to transport rockets

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.

The Saturn V Rocket – Space suit from the 1960s – Rocket power! – The Apollo 14 Capsule

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.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis

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.

A Rocket, an Airstream, and a Space 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:

Don’t forget your freeze dried ice cream!

» 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.

Amanda
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38 comments

Great pictures!
Thanks for the info on the new IMAX movie. I still enjoy the Hubble movie. I went there today, but too crowded for me. I go most every week and still enjoy it. The Hall of fame is very informative and really done nice. Thanks.

How cool that you get to go every week! It certainly is the kind of place you could return to over and over again. The new IMAX is worth checking out. I loved learning about the Mars program.

Great tour, thanks for sharing. We went there years ago, but I don’t remember seeing all you did. Perhaps it wasn’t all there back then. Looks like we need to go back.

I think some of the exhibits are new. There was even one still under construction, so they must add new stuff all the time.

I was there as a kid many years ago — my dad’s company built the doors for the VAB and he wanted to show it to us. All I remember is that it was enormous! Eric just told me he wants to go there next winter when we’re in Florida. Thanks for the great tips, Amanda!

We learned the at the VAB is the largest single story building in the world. How cool that your dad was part of it! You should definitely make a return visit.

Thanks for the write-up. I was just about to cross this off our list because we were just at Johnson Space Center a few months ago but this looks much more awesome! Plus, the Airstream..duh.

Yup, I would go just to see the Airstream 🙂

We went in February and there was risk of rain (but also a launch scheduled) but crowds were not overwhelming. I would not want to visit during pay months. We saw almost everything except the bus tour – we just ran out of time to see everything in one day.

Food at the rocket cafe was mediocre but they had an efficient ordering system using terminals. Great tip about leaving food in a car cooler for later.

IMAX movies were great but remember to wear contacts if you are a glasses wearer (3D glasses fit poorly over your regular glasses) – I forgot.

Shuttle exhibit was fantastic, but the simulator ride inside was disappointing.

Whoops typo… “visit during pay months” = “PEAK months”

Great tips! It was busy when we visited, but the crowds were not overwhelming. I think getting the two day ticket is not a bad idea, since we too didn’t have time to see everything. Oh, and good to know about the launch ride. We skipped it because we ran out of time. Now I don’t feel bad 🙂

We visited the Kennedy Space Centre in January – great time. The only disappointment was the 3D IMAX film about the Hubble (in part because I really don’t like 3D films). The time would have been better spent in the Early Space Exploration hall which was closed after we left the film. The Apollo/Saturn exhibit was excellent. I’m still in awe of the Saturn V rocket.

We didn’t see the Hubble film, but I agree that the Early Space Exhibit is better than any 3D film. We also loved the Apollo/Saturn exhibit. The rocket was amazing and we were so thrilled to see it up close and in person.

Thank you so much for this post!! We went today with a 3.5 year old and he had a blast! We started at Atlantis and stayed there for quite awhile. He was a little bit bored with the movies, but loved the space shuttle and all of the exhibits. We had lunch in the cafe which was quite good. Turns out we probably could have brought our own sandwiches in, but it wasn’t worth it to us to try to keep things, cold etc. The rest of the day we went from exhibit to exhibit and he loved every minute. He even did a fantastic job in the Hubble IMAX movie. We thought the bus ride would be too much for him as he’s super young, but there was more than enough to fill his day without it. We’ll catch it next time. I was hesitant to bring him at such a young age, and your post really cemented our decision to go. Thank you.

So happy to hear that you had such a great time! I think they do a great job of making sure the exhibits are fun for the entire family. Skipping the bus was probably a good idea. Most likely he wound’t have enjoyed the tour, although seeing the Saturn Rocket was pretty amazing.

We are headed there in a couple of day and will be staying at the jetty park rv campground. My question is without a car how does one get from the campground to the space center?

I would suggest you call the campground and ask if they provide transportation.

Thank you very much for your post. This is very helpful!

We are going next week and are excited. Do you recall if the buildings were cold due to the AC? I am very cold natured (I wear jeans to the movie theater even if it’s the dead of summer) and am wondering if I should wear jeans when we go. Thnak you for any help you can give!

It was kind of cool day when we visited so I’m pretty sure I was wearing pants anyway. I do remember that it was very chilly in the Imax theater so I think pants would be a safe bet.

If money was no object and you had a full day and a half day what would you all suggest. ( I am quite space geeky ).

I think any of the options that allow you spend time with an actual astronaut would be very cool!

I appreciated your tips, we went today! We had a great time. A couple of additional tips…our group wore greenish blue today and some of those that the shirts were more green disnt work well with the green screen tech of the photo pass. I also wish KSC gave out more clear info as you entered about where the photo ops were…the photo people didn’t seem to understand what I was asking about if there was more than one and where they were. We had one photo op before boarding bus tour to apollo, and 1 in the bldg for the Atlantis. Supposedly there was at least 1 or 2 more. They wanted us initially to buy the pics after bus tour but I did finally get a better answer after wasting time in line that there was the one in atlantis so I could choose my pics after that phot using the same photo band.

Second added tip was that we did the last showing of the 3d imax movie a beautiful planet starting at 630 (on an extended day til 7pm) …the movie goes to 715 so we actually go to stay past closing and meander slowly out taking pics of the space station mural and the rocket garden.

It is true, there is a lot to see and we didn’t get there until 1140 so misse dout on a few exhibits but what we did see was awesome, especially the bus tour and the Atlantis ( we had been to the discovery at the smithsonian a couple yrs ago so it really tied in to see it at a different angle).

We were actually going to ajip the imax due to kids being tired and hungry but decide to do that last show …so glad we did!

Kennedy Space Center Discount Tickets – Tips – Save Up to 55% Off

Visiting The Kennedy Space Center – Discount Admission, Tips & More

The Kennedy Space Center is among the premier attractions in all of Florida. And arguably, on the entire East Coast!

Located less than an hour’s drive east of Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex should definitely be part of your Central Florida vacation.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is an educational and inspiring destination with something of interest of everyone in the family. A visit here makes for a day well spent!

Check out our helpful guide for visiting the Kennedy Space Center. It’s packed full of ways to save on admission, tips for visiting, other nearby attractions, and much more.

How to get Kennedy Space Center discount tickets?

We’ve got you covered – Kennedy Space Center admission is available with the below Go Orlando cards, so you can choose the attraction pass that’s right for you:

1. All-Inclusive Pass – All you can do. Includes admission to dozens of attractions.

2. Explorer Pass – Choose as you go. Includes admission of up to 5 attractions.

3. Build Your Own Pass – Select the attractions you want to visit prior to visiting.

See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.

Tips for Visiting the Kennedy Space Center

  • Consult the map before you go. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the centerpiece of the sprawling Kennedy Space Center. The center also includes the shuttle runway, the assembly building, and launch pads. It can help if you orient yourself with a Kennedy Space Center map prior to your visit.
  • Dress comfortably for the Florida weather. Much of what you’ll see is in air conditioned facilities, but you will spend some time outdoors viewing exhibits. In summer, dress in light clothes with layers. Always remember to wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be doing a good deal of walking.
  • Check the launch schedule. Even though the shuttle program has ended, there are still frequent launches of unmanned rockets from the Space Center. By checking the launch schedule ahead of time you can anticipate the size of the crowds you may face during a launch. Make sure you have tickets ahead of time.
  • Do a little homework. Doing some research prior to your visit can really enhance your experience. You are visiting an area where significant events in world history took place. It is an area where heroes were made and where people gave their lives for the sake of space exploration. A little preparation will make your experience even more inspiring.
  • Allow enough time for your visit. There is a lot to see and do here. Don’t try to rush your visit into a couple of hours. Plan your visit and take your time to take in the sights and history. Most visitors report spending upwards of four hours here.
  • Plan on grabbing something to eat during your visit. The Kennedy Space Center is pretty isolated on Merritt Island. You’ll likely want to plan on eating at the Visitor Complex.

When is the best time to visit the Kennedy Space Center?

Depending on your preferences, visiting when a launch is scheduled may be the best or the worst time to visit. Launch days at the Visitor Complex provide some exceptional views but also bigger crowds.

The Space Center will adjust its hours by a small margin on launch days to accommodate the larger crowds who make the visit.

Off season in this part of Florida is generally January & February and September through late November. Crowds are thinner, the humidity is down, and the weather is generally cooler in the off-season. Plus, hotel rates are lower and restaurants are also quieter.

Summers, on the other hand, can be quite humid and hot, and even more crowded due to visiting families. Florida is also known for its brief showers during summer afternoons. But don’t let this discourage you from visiting the Kennedy Space Center. There are plenty of indoor exhibits to explore while the weather passes.

Because the Kennedy Space Center experiences its peak visitor period during the middle part of the day, arriving early is a good idea, especially in-season.

What is there to do at the Kennedy Space Center?

There is so much do to and see here that we’re sure you and your family will have a great visit.

Here are a few of our favorite things to do!

Rocket Garden

One of the most notable exhibits at KSC is the Rocket Garden. You’ll get to walk up to and around the bases of actual rockets that were used throughout the space program.

Rockets are mounted upright with the exception of the largest, a Saturn IB, which is mounted sideways.

Space Shuttle Atlantis℠ Exhibit

The not-to-be-missed Space Shuttle Atlantis Display brings you up close and personal with an actual space orbiter, left in the condition it was in following its last flight.

Housed inside an impressive 10-story, 64,000-square-foot facility, this is the Kennedy Space Center’s newest exhibit and has attracted massive crowds in recent months.

Shuttle Launch Experience®

The Shuttle Launch Experience is a unique attraction designed with the help of astronauts, NASA experts, and attraction-industry leaders. It’s intended to simulate what it feels like to be a part of a space shuttle launch, and is definitely a must-see part of the Kennedy Space Center.

The attraction has four simulators, each accommodating 44 “passengers.”

NASA Now + Next

This exciting segment of your experience offers a peek into what the future holds for NASA and their ambitious goals. You’ll learn about current missions to the International Space Station and upcoming ventures into deep space, including trips like the recent one to Mars.

You’ll also find plenty of interactive exhibits, simulators, and games that help you imagine what it would be like for a manned craft to visit Mars.

Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour

General admission to Kennedy Space Center includes a bus tour that departs every 15 minutes.

These air conditioned coaches will take you from the Visitor Complex past some of the most iconic sights of the Space Center, including the famous countdown clock that ushered in so many historic flights.

Astronaut Encounter

Be sure to catch an Astronaut Encounter, hosted by a real life astronaut multiple times daily.

Over 30 of the 500 men and women who have been in space make presentations throughout the year.

You’ll get to see their individual perspective on the space program, and learn about what it was really like to be a part of the NASA family — now and in the past!

IMAX® Theater

Immerse yourself in the NASA experience with a visit to the IMAX Theater. As of winter 2018, their two current shows are “Journey to Space” (narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart!!) and “A Beautiful Planet” (featuring footage of Earth from the ISS).

Astronaut Memorial

Take time to reflect at the moving Astronaut Memorial, a tribute to those that made the ultimate sacrifice in space exploration.

Known as the Space Mirror Memorial, it is located just behind the IMAX Theater.

Children’s Play Dome

If the kids still have energy to burn, then a visit to the Children’s Play Dome is in order. It’s a unique space-themed playground designed for young explorers.

There is something for everyone at the Kennedy Space Center. It is well worth the short drive to the Space Coast if you are planning a vacation in Central Florida.

A Little History

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex had extremely humble beginnings, starting with just a few displays on card tables in a trailer in 1964. During that time, self-guided car tours were allowed on Sundays and were limited allowed on site from 1 pm to 4 pm only.

In spite of those limitations, a quarter of a million vehicles made the tour that year.

In 1965, $2 million was authorized to build a more permanent visitor’s complex, called Spaceport USA.

By 1969, attendance reached 1 million annually.

In 1971 an additional $2.3 million was invested.

In 1995, Delaware North Companies was selected to operate the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Today, the complex is completely self-funded, using no government or taxpayer funding.

Under the management of Delaware North Companies, The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has made major improvements in recent years, making it even more attractive to families.

Major recent improvements include The Shuttle Launch Experience, which opened in mid-2007. This 44,000-square-foot, 60 million dollar attraction puts visitors through a simulated shuttle launch.

In June of 2013, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex celebrated the grand opening of the Space Shuttle Atlantis Display. This amazing facility houses the actual Atlantis Space Orbiter as it would appear in flight.

What attractions are near the Kennedy Space Center?

  • Ron Jon’s Surf Shop – This is the largest surf shop in the world and the flagship store of the famous Ron Jon shops. This impressive 52,000-square-foot store is open 24 hours a day along the shores of Cocoa Beach, south of the KSC. Even if you’ve never thought about surfing, this remarkable store is worth a visit when in the area.
  • The Cocoa Beach Pier – The historic Cocoa Beach Pier has been updated and upgraded with shops, dining and drinking options, and even a game room. Walk out and grab a fishing rod or just sit and enjoy a cold beverage. You just may catch a cruise ship or two coming in or out of Port Canaveral.
  • The American Police Hall of Fame and Museum – Located in nearby Titusville, this attraction features classic police cars and motorcycles, hundreds of police badges from around the world, and even the costume from the film Robocop. Police officers are admitted free with ID.

Where is there to eat neat the Kennedy Space Center?

Once you’re off the island itself, there is a wealth of dining options for you to choose from. Options include everything from sumptuous seafood to bold BBQ. You’ll also find tacos, pizza, burgers & hot dogs, Cuban food, and much more. If you’re just looking for something fast and inexpensive, there are also options like Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and IHOP.

Is the Kennedy Space Center the same as Cape Canaveral?

  • The Kennedy Space Center is not the same as Cape Canaveral. The Kennedy Space Center is located on Merritt Island, adjacent to – but separated from – Cape Canaveral, by the Banana River.
  • Cape Canaveral, known as Cape Kennedy between 1963 and 1973, is a former launching site.
  • The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is located on Cape Canaveral itself, but is different from the Kennedy Space Center.
  • The Air Force Station is accessible via a tour, the ‘Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour,’ which departs from the Kennedy Space Center.
  • Please, note, tickets to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are not included in the Go Orlando pass and must be purchased separately.

Save on Tickets with a Go Orlando card

Remember, the Go Orlando® card is the best choice for maximum savings and flexibility, which includes Kennedy Space Center tickets, plus admission to your choice of other top attractions.

Save up to 50% on top museums, tours, and activities vs. paying at the gate. Visit multiple attractions for one low price.

Kennedy Space Center Tips and Hacks for Families – Tips For Family Trips

Kennedy Space Center Tips and Hacks for Families

Florida / May 3, 2016 by Katie / 7 Comments
This article may contain sponsored content or affiliate links.

Hello!

When you travel, do you enjoy sprinkling a little education into your entertainment?

If so, the Kennedy Space Center is the perfect Florida destination for you. The Space Center is the perfect blend of learning in a fun environment. My kids knew we were there to learn about space travel, but we had so much fun playing that we felt like we were at an amusement park.

What to expect at the Kennedy Space Center

Plan to spend at least 6-8 hours at the Kennedy Space Center. We stayed 7 hours and felt rushed at the end because we had a long drive ahead of us and needed to leave to get on the road. Plan to spend the day so you don’t miss anything. The space center reminded me of Future World at Epcot with plenty of buildings, exhibits, and things to do to entertain the whole family for many hours.

I will admit that I was a little wary of the $50 ticket price for adults, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that all the main exhibits, tours, IMAX movies, bus tour and more are included in the ticket price. There are ticket upgrade options you can purchase, such as lunch with an astronaut, but I felt like we got a complete experience with the basic ticket and it was nice to have it all included. I feel like we definitely got our money’s worth here.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit

We loved the Atlantis exhibit. The first part is a guided, walk-through video tour that tells the story of Atlantis, and then you enter a hands-on exhibit where you can see the space shuttle Atlantis and play with dozens of interactive exhibits to help you feel what it would be like to be an astronaut. My kids loved the hands-on exhibits and I had to drag them out when it was time to go.

At the end of the Atlantis exhibit, don’t miss the Shuttle Launch Experience. This is the only “ride” at the space center, and we loved it. Kids must be 44 inches tall to ride. They give you enough safety warnings to scare people away, but my tall four-year-old loved this ride and wasn’t scared at all.

The family selfie before we blasted off to space at the Shuttle Launch Experience.

Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour

My kids were sad that I pulled them away from the hands-on activities at Atlantis to get on a bus tour, and a few of them were grumpy for the first part of the bus ride. But the tour guide, video tour, and looking for alligators as we drove soon distracted them and we enjoyed the bus tour. The bus ride is 40 minutes, and you will see the Apollo 8 launch pad and learn many the details about the NASA space program and launch sites. The bus stops at the Saturn/Apollo V center where you can view the massive 363-foot-long Saturn moon rocket. My kids all loved touching a moon rock at the Saturn/Apollo V center. Plan on 1.5 to 2.5 hours for the bus tour, depending on how long you stay at the exhibits. There is a cafe in the Saturn/Apollo V center in case you are there over lunch time. Buses run continually to take you back to the Kennedy Space Center, which is a direct 10-minute ride.

The bus tour will be the highlight for someone who wants to experience the history of NASA and the space program, but my younger kids would probably tell you this was their least favorite part of the day.

Rocket Garden

When the bus tour and Atlantis exhibit get busy, the rocket garden is a great place to explore. Kids can climb in many replicas and pretend to be astronauts, while you read about each of the many rockets in the garden. It was hot on a sunny afternoon in the rocket garden, but I’ll bet this part of the space center is beautiful at night.

There are many other smaller exhibits, buildings, play areas, cafes, and restaurants to explore as you enjoy your day at the space center. Be sure to take in at least one of the two IMAX movies that are included with your ticket price. We saw Journey to Space in the afternoon and loved the chance to sit down, cool off, and learn more about space travel.

5 tips to make the most of your visit to the Kennedy Space Center

  1. Arrive early. I cannot stress this enough, but this is my #1 tip for any amusement park, and it holds true for the Kennedy Space Center as well. Arrive 15-20 minutes before the 9:00 a.m. opening so you can park, get in line, and be there when the gates open. We arrived at 8:30, got a great parking space, and were able to take plenty of pictures before we started. We caught a photo op with an astronaut with no lines. When the gate opened, we nearly had the place to ourselves. We there over spring break so it got very crowded as the day wore on, but that first hour we enjoyed so much without waiting in any lines.
  2. Book tickets online. You can save time at the gate if you book your tickets online in advance. Many hotels in the area also sell advance tickets if you want to buy them at your hotel. Seniors, military, and educators may be eligible for a small discount on admission.
  3. Start at Atlantis. I asked several different employees what their best strategy tips were to enjoy the Kennedy Space Center with the least crowds. Everyone suggested that we make sure to get on the 10:00 a.m. bus to the launch site. So we headed straight to Atlantis at 9:00 a.m. as soon as it opened and spent one hour doing the Atlantis tour. You really need two hours to do the Atlantis building, but after all the warnings about long lines, we left after one hour to do the shuttle bus tour of the launch sites and returned to the Atlantis building after lunch.
  4. Do the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour in the morning. Arrive as close to 10:00 a.m. as possible. We didn’t wait in line at all, but later in the day the lines were lengthy to board the tour bus. Make sure kids use the restroom before since the initial bus ride is about 40 minutes long and there are no restrooms on the bus. As you enter the bus, you will have the best views if you sit on the left hand side of the bus as you walk on (right hand side once you are seated).
  5. Bring food and snacks into the Kennedy Space Center. I didn’t know if I could bring food, so I left everything in the car. My kids were starving by the time we finished our bus tour and I wished I had packed granola bars and snacks. You can bring a soft-sided cooler into the Kennedy Space Center. (This cooler bag is my favorite road trip purchase and saves us hundreds of dollars in fast food when we are on the road.) Since we had a great parking space, I ran back out to the car and brought our lunch inside. There are plenty of cafes and a variety of food options at the space center for those who want to purchase lunch.

How else can we help?

The Kennedy Space Center is a great place to stop before or after a cruise out of Port Canaveral. There are plenty of hotels nearby that offer discounted or free cruise parking, and you can add a stop at the space center to extend your fun. The space center is a one-hour drive from Orlando.

Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets to the Kennedy Space Center for the purpose of review. I happily paid for my children to visit with me. All opinions are my own.

Ten Tips for a Successful Day Trip to the Kennedy Space Center, wayward

wayward

Keeping with our New Year’s Resolution to travel more within our own state, we made the trek down to Cape Canaveral, Florida to visit the Kennedy Space Center. I’d dreamed of attending Space Camp as a young girl, but missed out on the opportunity (though I guess not for good, since there is such a thing as Adult Space Camp). The desire to see rocketships, learn about astronauts, and the ability to touch a moon rock called us to drive down the coast one Sunday morning in January. We did some research before our trip, but once we arrived, we discovered that there were better ways to structure our trip. Here are ten tips to maximize your day at Kennedy Space Center:

1. Buy tickets in advance through a discount program, if possible. We purchased our tickets through AAA; after tax the total for two adult admissions was about $94. If we purchased online through the KSC website, we would have paid $112. Check with your local branch if you’re a AAA member, or with your employer as some workplaces offer discounted attraction tickets.

2. Eat a substantial meal beforehand. We ate a hearty breakfast before entering the Visitor’s complex and shared a lunch once inside. Meals are less expensive than at other attractions like Disney and Universal Studios, but food quality is bound to be better on the outside. You can also bring your own picnic, and eat outside of the gates mid-day (a handstamp gets you back in).

3. Arrive early. We got on the road a little later than expected, and as a result missed out on the IMAX films. Once you arrive, be sure to pick up a daily schedule at the park so you can determine viewing times.

4. Be ready to walk and spend time outdoors. My Fitbit congratulated me on walking 10,000 steps (about five miles) within the complex. Many of the exhibits are inside, but there is quite a bit of distance between the first building and furthest building. The Rocket Garden is located outdoors as well, and you’ll definitely want to spend time walking around it. Dress accordingly, and bring an umbrella during the summer to combat our afternoon summer rains.

5. Take note of the final bus tour departure time, and don’t miss it. On the day we went, the last bus departed for the Apollo/Saturn V hanger at 3:30 p.m., and the bus is the only way to access that area. You’ll also ride by the launch pads and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where the space shuttles are assembled. Don’t miss the large doors meant to accommodate the shuttle’s transfer out of the building, vertically.

6. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, turtles, and wild hogs when riding the bus – we saw all three during our visit. Selecting a seat on the right side of the bus will net you the best view (unlike in the earlier photo).

7. Do a little space research before visiting. We were surprised that none of the exhibits we saw seemed to cover much information about space itself. We expected that the majority of the KSC would be focused on launches and NASA’s space projects, but we never really saw information about why space travel is important.

8. Many of the building’s entrances require you to enter through a timed film-showing, but ask the staff to allow you to skip the films if you wish. While we sat through each one (and the majority were interesting), we saw several folks exit the theaters early via the theaters’ exit doors. If you’re short on time or there mostly for the physical objects (rather than the majority CG films), you may want to just slip out when you have the chance.

9. It may seem obvious, but make a point to see the exhibits you are most interested in first. You may be surprised how interesting you find some of the other exhibits, which wouldn’t leave much time for the things you came to see.

10. Reserve well in advance if you plan on watching a rocket launch. KSC provides more information here, and you can view the launch schedule on their site as well. Most launches seem to occur on weekdays, so there wasn’t one on our visit. We did get to see the VIP launch area on the bus tour, and it seems like a great location to view a launch.

*Bonus Tip: See Swampy, the World’s Largest Alligator on your way in or out of KSC via SR 50 at Jungle Adventures (address: 26205 E Colonial Dr, Christmas, FL 32709). You won’t regret it.

Kennedy Space Center is located about an hour east of Orlando, which makes for a perfect side-trip if you’re in the area. If you decide that one day’s visit won’t be enough, KSC offers multi-day passes as well. Carpool if you can, as the park charges for parking.

17 Spectacular Kennedy Space Center Tips (Your Ultimate Guide)

17 Spectacular Kennedy Space Center Tips (Your Ultimate Guide)

When you think of the John F. Kennedy Space Center you think of the illustrious history of the space program here in America.

From the first man on the moon to the mission to Mars, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has been a cultural staple for many of us.

This American launch site has been used by NASA for human space flight since December 1968.

In celebration of the 50 th anniversary of the Moon Landing, I thought it would be great to partner up with Kennedy Space Center to bring you the best tips to conquering your day. These tips can be applied to your solo trip too.

As always, the opinions I express in this article are my own!

17 Pro Kennedy Space Center Tips

1 – Buy Your Kennedy Space Center Tickets Online

I always recommend buying your tickets online for any attraction in Florida.

I say this because it starts your day off on a good note since you won’t have to wait in the line to purchase your KSC tickets.

Your tickets can be bought on the official website where you’ll be able to print them out at home or pick them up from Will Call at the Visitor Complex.

Once you have your printed ticket from home, all you have to do is walk directly to the turnstiles and start your space adventure!

Hipster Power Tip: Please remember that online ticket purchases are valid for 120 days from the date you choose for one visit.

Can I buy tickets at Kennedy Space Center?

However, if you’re going on a busy day, then I recommend purchasing them online first.

How much does it cost to go to Kennedy Space Center?

Single day admission cost:

  • Children$47 (age 3-11)
  • Adults $57
  • Active Military rates at $41 for children and $50 for adults
  • Senior Citizen $50 (age 55+)

2 – Know Where to Buy Kennedy Space Center Discount Tickets

The prices on the official website are pretty good, but you may luck up on possible Kennedy Space Center discounts and deals using Groupon.

Groupon Kennedy Space Center Florida

KSC is pretty good about running great deals, but on Groupon you can find additional excursions to spice up your trip.

Ventures such as, the Kennedy Space Center Helicopter Tour which will give you a 30-minute helicopter flight over the Visitor Compex!

3 – Download the App

Map out the day prior to your visit by downloading their app.

This is a great way to make a note of your must do’s and it’s also a wonderful way to help you see and experience as much as you can if you’re only there for a short visit.

Having the park app will allow you to view the map and get familiar with the layout of the Visitor Complex.

Kennedy Space Center App Features:

  • Available for free in both the App Store and Google Play
  • Has the Visitor Complex map in the app
  • Answers your frequently asked questions
  • Has descriptions of the shows and attractions
  • Gives information on guest services, dining and shopping
  • Keeps you updated on rocket launches
  • Allows you to maneuver your way around the Visitor Complex and the Apollo/Saturn V Center

Downloading the app is one of the top Kennedy Space Center tips I wish I knew before my trip.

4 – Have the Kennedy Space Center Address Handy

Before you leave your destination, it’s always good to have the address on hand.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex address is Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953.

Is Cape Canaveral the same as the Kennedy Space Center?

The Visitor Complex is located in the city of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Therefore, Cape Canaveral is not the same as Kennedy Space Center.

5 – Use the Map to Plan Your Day

It can be overwhelming stepping foot into this incredible visitor complex, that’s why I recommend going over the KSC map before you get there.

Kennedy Space Center Map

It will help you:

  • Get familiar when the layout of the Visitor Complex
  • All you to map out your day
  • Plan what time you want to do the bus tour and when you want to have lunch

6 – Know the Kennedy Space Center Hours

The Visitor Complex opens at 9 a.m. EST every day of the year and mainly closes at 6 p.m.

This time can go up to an 8 p.m. closing time, depending on the season.

7 – Map Out How to Get from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center

Here are my most basic Kennedy Space Center directions from Orlando.

If you’re coming from the theme park area or Orlando, then you’ll want to:

  • Get on the FL-528 E from I-4 to FL-3 N/N Courtenay Pkwy in Merritt Island (about a 45-minute drive or 47.5 miles)
  • Take exit 49 from FL-528 E
  • Continue on N Courtenay Pkwy. Drive to Space Commerce Way (about a 10-minute drive…or 8 miles)

Does Kennedy Space Center provide transportation?

The visitor complex does not provide transportation to and from Orlando.

You can use one of the tours mentioned earlier that provides transportation by searching Groupon.

8 – Be Prepared to Pay for Parking at Kennedy Space Center

The parking lot is adjacent to the Visitor Complex. It will take you about a 5 to 10-minute walk from the lot to the front gate depending on where you parked.

It was an easy walk for me and a much simpler process than the theme parks.

How much does it cost to park at Kennedy Space Center?

  • Motorcycles – $5.00
  • Automobiles – $10.00
  • Oversized vehicles, motor homes or RVs – $15.00

9 – Know Exactly What the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Is

The Visitor Complex is an out-of-this world experience dedicated to showcasing the major accomplishments made through the space program.

It is divided into Mission Zones where the attractions and the tours are organized by chronological era.

What to do at Kennedy Space Center

  • Astronaut Encounter
  • Free Bus Tour
  • IMAX Theaters
  • Lunch with an Astronaut
  • Rocket Garden
  • Space Shuttle Atlantis Attraction

It is here where you’ll get a hands-on interactive treat as you go through attractions and experiences presenting the many periods of time and achievements.

How long does it take to go through Kennedy Space Center?

You should expect to spend at least 6 hours at Visitor Complex.

I recommend the full day (9 hours) if you truly want to see everything.

KSC Mission Zones

As mention above, KSC is split into Mission Zones. Let’s go through them all.

Heroes & Legends

This area allows you to learn about the pioneers of NASA’s early space programs along with the famous Rocket Garden. It’s one of the newest additions to the Visitor Complex and has an amazing exhibit that walks you through each era of a typical astronaut’s life.

Hipster Power Tip: Be sure to stand on the second row to get a great view of the amazing film that you’ll watch in the second portion of the attraction in the Heroes & Legends building.

There’s even a spectacular U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® for you to explore.

Also, make sure you walk around the majestic Rocket Garden to view the actual rockets of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

Time needed for Heroes & Legends zone: 30 minutes

Behind the Gates

This area is where you get to see the historic launch sites and working spaceflight facilities. You do this by jumping on the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour.

Hipster Power Tip: Sit on the right side of the bus to get the best views of the tour, including those famous Florida alligators.

Don’t worry about any additional costs, the bus tour is included with your admission.

Time needed for the Behind the Gates zone: 1.5 hours

Race to The Moon

This is my favorite area of KSC. Once your bus tour of the historic launch sites is over, you’ll be dropped off at the Race to the Moon area.

The bus tour is the only way to get to this area which showcases the July 20, 1969 celebration of when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

This whole section is dedicated to legends of the Apollo era. It is here where you’ll be able to see the actual size of the Saturn V moon rocket!

It’s one of the most breathtaking things to witness.

You’ll also be able to learn more about the Apollo history with real artifacts and interactive games that will blow your mind.

Make sure you plan to spend at least one hour inside the Apollo/Saturn V Center, basking in all of the history.

Time needed for the Race to the Moon zone: 2 hours

Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other

My other favorite area of the Visitor Complex takes you on a journey through NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. Outside the Atlantis complex is a 184-foot space shuttle stack, with an external tank and two solid rocket boosters.

Outside the Atlantis complex is a 184-foot space shuttle stack, with an external tank and two solid rocket boosters.

You actually have the opportunity to revel at the awe-inspiring American icon, shuttle Atlantis.

The shuttle Atlantis now has a permanent home at the Visitor Complex and you can see it up close!

The way the Visitor Complex presents Atlantis to you will send chills up your spine.

So, I will not spoil the big moment for you!

Hipster Power Tip: If you’re brave enough, then experience what an astronaut goes through on an actual shuttle liftoff on the Shuttle Launch Experience . This is a must do attraction!

This zone also has some amazing hands-on simulation and games to help you truly become an astronaut.

Activities such as:

  • a gigantic slide to mimic a space shuttle landing
  • the opportunity to test your skills at performing a spacewalk
  • hearing stories from the Space Shuttle Program workers
  • exploring modules and microgravity of the International Space Station

Time needed for the Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other zone – 2 hours

NASA Now + Next

This is the area where the two main IMAX theaters are. Here you can watch Journey to Space 3D and Touch the Stars: The Journey Has Begun 3D.

Hipster Power Tip: Be sure to get a photo in front of the Mars Rover Vehicle Navigator®

The goal of this zone is to teach you the lessons learned of NASA’s past missions and where the space exploration program is going next!

Time needed for the NASA Now and Next zone: 2.5 hours

10 – Keep Track of the Kennedy Space Center Launch Schedule

If you’re super luck, you may be able to catch a one-of-a-kind launch experience. There’s nothing like watching an actual rocket launch so close by you.

The power of witnessing an actual launch rumbles your soul!

No theme park attraction can compare to this world class adventure!

Kennedy Space Center Rocket Launch Schedule for 2019

SpaceX Falcon 9 Starlink
  • When: NET May 2019
  • Where: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station SLC-40
  • Mission: According to Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX is set to launch the first piece of their Internet satellite constellation system atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
  • Learn more here.
Commercial Crew SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (CREWED)
  • When: TBD July 2019
  • Where: Kennedy Space Center LC-39A
  • Mission: According to Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX will send two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, on a test mission to help prove the systems meet NASA’s requirements for certification to carry astronauts to the ISS and back.
  • Learn more here.
Commercial Crew Boeing Orbital Flight Test (UNCREWED)
  • When: NET August 2019
  • Where: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station SLC-41
  • Mission: According to Kennedy Space Center, The Commercial Crew Boeing Orbital Flight Test will launch the Boeing Starliner spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad 41. No astronauts will be on board for this demonstration mission. This launch is in preparation for the return of human spaceflight to the Space Coast of Florida.
  • Learn more here.

Hipster Power Tip: Remember that all launch times and dates are subject to change without notice. Be sure not to plan your whole trip around a shuttle launch date as it is always changing.

Kennedy Space Center Launch Viewing Areas

LC-39 Observation Gantry

This is the historic area where Apollo astronauts launched to the moon and is the closest viewing area to the launch pads of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Here you’ll get outdoor bleacher seating plus a shaded area if you don’t want to be directly in the sun. The Lc-39 Observation Gantry is 2 to 5.5 miles from launch pads.

Includes: Live launch commentary, snacks and refreshments

Cost is $49 in addition to the Visitor Complex admission ticket

Banana Creek Launch Viewing Area

This viewing area is 5 to 8 miles away from the launch site and is adjacent to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Hipster Power Tip: Kennedy Space Center recommends that you bring sun and insect protection for this location.

A great perk about the Banana Creek location is that if the Apollo/Saturn V Center is open, then you’ll be able enjoy the theaters, dining and shopping experiences inside.

Plus, you can view the Saturn V up-close.

Cost is $20 in addition to the Visitor Complex admission ticket

Main Visitor Complex

Viewing a launch from the Visitor Complex is included with your admission ticket. The viewing area is located next to Space Shuttle Atlantis®, which is 7 miles away from the rocket launch area.

Here you’ll get bleacher and lawn seating, so sun protection is recommended.

Cost is included with your admission ticket

11 – Stop by Kennedy Space Center Gift Shop

The Space Shop is absolutely incredible!

I pride myself on leaving theme parks with my money still in my pocket, but not at this Kennedy Space Center Gift Shop.

…and probably not you either.

The newly renovated shop opened on June 29, 2018 and is “The World’s Largest Space Shop” at 15,372 square feet!

I spent a lot of time walking throughout the massive store filled to the brim with space memorabilia and NASA gear.

There are so many things to see and do inside this interactive shopping adventure such as, walking in the steps of NASA astronauts across the original Apollo 11 gantry located on the second floor.

You can find the space shop at the center point of the Visitors Complex.

Other Places to Shop at Kennedy Space Center:

  • The Right Stuff located at the Apollo/Saturn V Center
  • Shuttle Express ® located inside Space Shuttle Atlantis®
  • Information (yep, that’s the shop name) is located right at the visitor complex entrance

12 – Try Space Food at Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center offers four restaurants and three snack stands at the Visitor Complex. I will say that the food is not anything to brag about.

It’s pretty much your standard amusement park fare, which will hold you over while on your trip.

Hipster Power Tip: There are vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy choices available at all restaurants.

Kennedy Space Center Restaurants and Dining Experiences

  • Dine with an Astronaut – This is one of the key highlights at Kennedy Space Center where you can dine with an astronaut. I wasn’t able to do it, but it is on my must do list for my next visits.
  • Rocket Garden Café – Serves standard breakfast and lunch sandwiches.
  • Moon Rock Café – Offers standard sandwiches and burgers. This café is located in the Apollo/Saturn V building.
  • Orbit Café – Serves salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and desserts.
  • Red Rock Grill – Offers hot dogs and beer in an outdoor lunch stand next to Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted.
  • Rocket Fuel Food Truck – Serves snacks and coffee near the entrance of the Visitor Complex.
  • Milky Way – Probably the highlight of my day. Here you can get a delicious waffle covered with all of the tastiest sweet treats your heart can imagine. This is the ice cream shop of the Visitor Complex that serves soda, ice cream and Space Dots ® .
  • Space Dots ® – You can get the famous ice cream dots right next to Space Shuttle Atlantis.

13 – Have Your Kennedy Space Center Itinerary Ready to Go

  • 8:50 a.m. – Arrive at Kennedy Space Center
  • 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. – Explore Heroes and Legends Area
  • 9:50 to 11:50 a.m. – Watch the IMAX 3D space films (be sure to arrive 15 minutes before showtime)
  • 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. – Have lunch with an Astronaut
  • 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Do the Bus Tour and Apollo/Saturn V Center (a must do)
  • 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Discover the Space Shuttle Atlantis with the Shuttle Launch Experience
  • 5:05 p.m. to 5:35 p.m. – Visit the gift shop
  • 5:40 p.m. to 5:55 p.m. – Get an ice-cream waffle at Milky Way, relax,
    or revisit your favorite areas
  • 6:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. – Take any last-minute photos

I hope you like my one day visit guide. You can read the recommended itineraries from Kennedy Space Center here!

14 – Do a Kennedy Space Center Tour

There are a variety of different Kennedy Space Center tours that range from day trips from Orlando or helicopter rides.

Kennedy Space Center Helicopter Tour

On this tour you’ll get a great birds eye view of Kennedy Space center.

This includes the launch pads area, Visitor’s Complex, Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit, and so much more!

Kennedy Space Center Tours from Orlando

Groupon also offers a variety of day trip tours from Orlando to the Visitor Complex just in case you don’t have a vehicle on your Disney vacation.

15 – Know the Best Days to Visit KSC

You may be thinking, “when should I go to Kennedy Space Center?”

The best time to visit KSC is in October, November, January, February, or May during the weekday.

What are the Crowd levels?

The worst time to visit Kennedy Space Center is on launch days, on major holidays, during the spring and summer break season.

16 – Know What to Pack

While preparing for your day at the Visitor Complex, you should know what basic items to bring with you.

  • Disposable Rain Ponchos or rain jackets
  • Tickets
  • Download ThemeParkHipster App
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Simple first aid supplies
  • Camera
  • Small snacks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand wipes
  • Downloaded Park Map
  • Sunglasses
  • Umbrella
  • Hat for sunny days
  • Portable Phone Charger
  • Personal Hygiene Products
  • Cash
  • Water mist sprayer

Is food allowed in Kennedy Space Center?

Per the website, food and beverages packed in small, soft-sided coolers are permitted. Glass bottles or containers are also not permitted.

Beer is for sale at select locations and no outside alcoholic beverages are permitted.

Are backpacks allowed at Kennedy Space Center?

You are allowed to bring in your own backpack. Just remember that all backpacks and bags will be inspected by security.

What should I wear to Kennedy Space Center?

Lightweight clothing such as shorts, leggings, comfy shoes, a t-shirt, a hat, and sunglasses are all perfect for your trip.

17 – Know What Hotels are Near Kennedy Space Center

When planning your KSC trip, you’ll need a hotel that’s close to all the Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach action!

There aren’t too many hotels or resorts I can recommend that are near the Visitor Complex, but these are my picks for now.

Final Thoughts and KSC Review

There you have it! My top Kennedy Space Center tips. Overall, I had one of the best days ever visiting KSC.

Before you decide to go on your own space journey, I want to give you some pros and cons of my visit.

  • Easy layout to navigate
  • Wonderful to view the Atlantis up close
  • Love the tribute to all of the wonderful people of the space program throughout the years
  • The Rocket Garden is visually intoxicating and enchanting
  • A super fun bus tour (line looks long, but goes fast because the buses are large and are constantly going)
  • Lots of indoor attractions (great for beating the Florida heat)
  • Amazing IMAX 3-D presentations
  • The Shuttle simulation is phenomenal
  • Food and drinks are reasonably priced
  • Not too many shaded areas to sit under outside
  • Food is average
  • The bus tour takes out a big chunk of your day
  • No exhibition showing the contribution of African Americans or women to the space program

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide to doing Kennedy Space Center like a pro.

Remember to arrive early, explore space, and capture your own adventure!

Have you ever been before? If so, let me know what your favorite memory is in the comments section below.

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Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!