If you’ve ever dreamed of being an astronaut or just marvel at the accomplishments of American’s space exploration program, there is no better place to feed your interest than NASA’s launch headquarters at Kennedy Space Center, just 45 minutes east of Orlando, FL. Exciting attractions, inspiring exhibits and hands-on experiences let you become part of the space program, in the footsteps of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride.
Kennedy Space Center Tour
Every visitor should start with the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) self-guided bus tour. NASA buses depart every 15 minutes from the Visitor Complex for a panoramic view of the space shuttle launch pads, a presentation of the historic Apollo 8 launch and a massive moon rocket. Visitors can get off the bus and stay at a stop as long as they like and most people spend about two and a half hours. The KSC Tour is included in the general admission fee ($45/adult, $35/age 3-11), but special interest, in-depth guided tours are available at additional cost. Travel Maestro tip: If you plan on taking multiple tours, time constraints require a two day visit and the annual pass ($58/adult, $48/child) is your best bet.
Meet a Real Astronaut
A highlight for all ages is the opportunity to meet a veteran astronaut at the daily Astronaut Encounter briefings. Hear what it is like to live in space first-hand from one of few people who have done it. There is time for discussion, questions and pictures and they even entertain questions about human spaceflight by email before or after your visit. You can also have lunch with an astronaut (additional ticket required) and hear their inspiring stories. KSC maintains a calendar of astronaut appearances for your planning.
Kennedy Space Center Attractions
Possibly the most hair-raising attraction at Kennedy Space Center is the Shuttle Launch Experience. Get a pre-launch briefing from a veteran astronaut; ascend the gantry and then strap in for a life-like simulation of the sights, sounds and sensations of the Space Shuttle’s vertical launch and earth orbit in the one-of-a-kind simulator. The pre-show is open to all guests and there are no age restrictions for the simulator, but you must be 44 inches tall. Travel Maestro tip: An Observation Room is available for anyone who does not want to experience the simulation.
At the Visitor Complex, enjoy two 45-minute 3D IMAX® films: Space Station 3D, narrated by Tom Cruise, and Hubble 3D, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. You can also experience stunning images of deep space from the most powerful telescope on earth in Eye on the Universe: The Hubble Space Telescope exhibition. Learn about the future of space exploration with live theater, interactive experiences and multimedia presentations in Exploration Space®: Explorers Wanted. There is also fun for junior astronauts (under 48” tall) in the Children’s Play Dome where their imaginations can soar in the space-themed playground. Six miles west of the Visitor Complex is the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame with excellent exhibits of personal stories, astronaut memorabilia and simulator rides.
Finally, don’t miss the hallmark of the KSC Visitor Complex, the Rocket Garden, where eight vintage rockets are arranged with dramatic lighting that brings them to back to life. Climb aboard the tiny living quarters of replica Mercury and Gemini capsules and reenact the exhilarating countdown and launch at the Apollo 11 gantry arm and capsule model. Travel Maestro tip: Check the daily schedule for free tour times.
The Kennedy Space Center is a full day experience (6-8 hours) and there is no charge for parking. All of the attractions mentioned are included in the general admission ticket except those noted. Only service animals are permitted in the exhibits, although free kennel service is provided for pets. Wheelchairs and strollers are available at the Visitor Complex for a nominal rental fee. To plan a trip dedicated to the Kennedy Space Center or add a visit to your next Florida vacation, contact Covington Travel’s expert advisors and take off!