Road Trips and Destinations

Best Things to Do at the Kennedy Space Center


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Saturn V rockets

On the east coast of Florida, only 45 miles away from Orlando, about halfway between Miami and Jacksonville, lies the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC). It is home to two launch pads, one of the world's longest runways and the nation's third largest building, the Vehicle Assembly Building. Since 1962, this site has witnessed a lot of America's space program and is still engaged in mankind's quest to conquer space. Notable missions launched from the KSC include the Space Shuttle and Apollo missions and the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, but there were of course many others. When the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, the KSC reached its 50th anniversary on preparing new missions and continuing its educational efforts.

The KSC offers a great day out for both adults and children with multimedia displays, hands-on exhibits, IMAX films, spacecraft and artifacts, face-to-face encounters with astronauts and bus tours of launch pads and other restricted areas. As there is so much to see, we've come up with our list of the best things to do.

When to Go

You can go year round, however the best time is between December and April when the weather is around mid-70s to low 80s. In the Summer it averages in the 90s and it's also the busiest time of year. Hurricane season runs from June to November, so best to avoid that too if possible.

How to Get There

From Jacksonsville on Interstate 95

Travel South along I-95 to Exit #215 (SR 50). Turn left (east) onto SR 50, then turn right (east) on to SR 405 and follow the signs for Kennedy Space Center. You will travel approximately 11 miles on SR 405. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on your right.

From Miami on Interstate 95

Travel along I-95 to Exit #212 (SR 407). Head east/north on SR 407 until it dead ends into SR 405. Turn right (east) on SR 405 and follow the signs for Kennedy Space Center. You will travel approximately nine miles on SR 405. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on your right.

From Orlando on State Road 50

Travel east on SR 50 until you pass under the I-95 overpass. At the next intersection, turn right (east) onto SR 405 and follow the signs for Kennedy Space Center. You will travel approximately 11 miles on SR 405. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on your right.

How Long Should the Trip Be?

We recommend one full day at the Kennedy Space Center and half a day at the US Astronaut Hall of Fame. If you have two full days then also spend a half day at the Astronaut Training Experience.

What to See and Do

Day One - Kennedy Space Center

  1. KSC Tour - The first one starts at 10 AM and they depart every 15 minutes. They last about 2.5 hours. The self-guided tour on NASA buses covers a lot of the 219 square miles (570 km2) of the complex and make sure you do not miss an inch of it. Highlights include the space shuttle launch pads at the LC-39 Observation Gantry and the massive Saturn V moon rocket and an earth-shaking Apollo 8 launch at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
  2. Grab some lunch at one of the cafes in the visitor center.
  3. 3D IMAX movies - Watch stories as they are projected on gigantic 3D IMAX movie screens. Space Station 3D, narrated by Tom Cruise and filmed by 25 astronauts and cosmonauts, takes you from earth to the International Space Station and Hubble 3D, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio covers the story of the Hubble telescope. Allow 1 hour per movie.
  4. Atlantis - Coming Summer 2013 - The home of Atlantis is scheduled to open in July 2013. The new 90,000-square-foot interactive Atlantis exhibit will tell the story of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program and what lies ahead in space exploration.
  5. Shuttle Launch Experience - Step into the simulator for a vertical shuttle launch. Allow 30 minutes.
  6. The Rocket Garden - Visit rockets such as Redstone and Titan, and capsules such as those from Mercury and Apollo missions, as lighting different features of the fuselages gives the display a more dramatic look, making it simply beautiful. Allow 15 minutes minimum.
  7. Astronaut Encounter - Meet a NASA astronaut to hear first-hand what it was like to live in space and of course you get to ask questions. Allow 30 minutes.
  8. Spend the night at a campground or RV park near the Kennedy Space Center.

Day Two - US Astronaut Hall of Fame and Astronaut Training Experience

  1. U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame - see a range of astronaut artifacts and personal memorabilia, and watch the Earth as if you were in space with a stunning three-dimensional exhibit.
  2. Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) - get immersed on hands-on realistic astronaut training, using mission and training simulators and having the chance to meet and work with a veteran NASA astronaut. It's a half day program that runs in the morning or afternoon. You check in at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. ATX costs $145 per person and you have to be 14 and older. This is not included with the KSC General Admission.
  3. If you're staying in the area, spend the night at a campground or RV park near the Kennedy Space Center.

Admission

$10 to park your car and $15 for an RV. General admission is $50 per adult and $40 per child (ages 3-11) plus tax. The center opens at 9 AM and closes at 5 PM.

Admission includes IMAX space films, all exhibits and shows, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame if used within seven days.

Insider Tips

It is advisable to check the launches and landings schedule beforehand, either to plan your trip accordingly or to be aware of the possibility of viewing such a special and unique event during your time in the area.

Knowing a little about the attractions will help you decide which ones are best for you and your family. For instance, some tours and attractions may not be suitable for young children who could get bored or tired, and others may be absolute musts for teenagers and space-enthusiasts, such as the ATX program or the Shuttle Launch simulation. What's more, you can also consider other space-related facilities in the area, such as Brevard Community College's Planetarium and Observatory or the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville, and there are many other types of attractions nearby such as amusement parks, zoos, National Parks, and of course the beaches. Florida does know how to keep visitors entertained.

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Photos

Shuttle Launch Pad, Kennedy Space Center
Space Shuttle Launch Pad seen from KSC Bus tour
Vehicle Assembly Building, Kennedy Space Center
Vehicle Assembly Building seen from KSC bus tour
Apollo Mission Launch Control
Apollo Mission Launch Control
Apollo Command Module
Apollo Command Module
Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center
Rocket Garden *
Lady on Multi Axis Trainer on Astronaut Training Experience Program, Kennedy Space Center
Multi Axis Trainer simulates the disorientation one would feel in a tumble spin during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere *
* Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center
 

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