The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a unique tourist attraction that offers its guests a hands-on feel for space exploration. Guests have the opportunity to train like an astronaut, view one-of-a-kind artifacts and take tours of the inner workings of a real working space center. The Kennedy Space Center’s Heroes and Legends, featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, is a moving experience.
Why You Should Bring Your Kids to Kennedy Space Center
My most recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) was not my first. We’ve visited once before and I was excited to return. I wanted to see the new Heroes and Legends and Astronaut Hall of Fame. My nine-year-old daughter, Reagan, wanted to come along. My only hesitation was Reagan may not be as excited as I was. Would it hold her interest?
On our first visit a year ago, we rushed through as Reagan became quickly bored in every exhibit. Now she was a year older. Having moved to the Space Coast, our family has watched several satellites and at least one rocket launched into space. Would Reagan have a newfound interest in the space program?
Reagan’s father and I encourage her in STEM subjects at school. We have tried to impress upon her the great career options that will open up to her if she excels in those areas. Becoming a pilot like her Dad for one. She’s gotten used to standby travel benefits and will surely miss them when she turns 18. My hope was that learning more about some of the female astronaut inductees into the Astronaut Hall of Fame might inspire her a bit more towards that path. She may even become interested in the space program itself.
A visit to KSC can open up new possibilities to young minds. Who knows what it might stir in your child to do or become after seeing how space exploration has brought about so many advances in our lives? All because of the brave men and women who chose to go before us.
Heroes and Legends Exhibit
The brand new attraction at KSC, Heroes and Legends, takes guests deeper into the personal experiences and journeys of the brave astronauts. You’ll start in a theater where you’ll stand through a 4-D multi-sensory experience. Kids will love this but adults with motion sickness may choose to experience with 3-D glasses off.
After leaving the theater we entered the Heroes and Legends exhibit.
TravelingMom Tip: be sure to gaze upward at the Redstone Rocket suspended overhead.
Each area of the exhibit itself feels like you are entering a different part of a spaceship. These areas contain touch screens that play short films and highlight the different qualities of what it means to be a hero. Reagan played with the touch screens but didn’t really care to watch the videos for very long. I was spellbound watching a video about Gemini 9 and then getting an up close look at the capsule and other cool artifacts. The impact was not as great upon Reagan. She kept pulling me to move on, although she did note just how small the capsule was to hold two people.
We made it through the entire exhibit in 30 minutes or less. If your child is one who will watch all the videos and likes to read everything presented, you may spend an hour in this section.
Astronaut Hall of Fame
The Heroes and Legends exhibit will flow directly into the circular hall known as the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Here you’ll learn a little bit more about each of the inductees.
Holographic images of the inducted astronauts surround the perimeter of the Hall of Fame area. We were able to pull up the stories about each astronaut. We read about each one’s background and family via touch screens available around the center of the hall. The topics explained the challenges faced by the different astronauts. Reagan zipped through a few of them. You’ll really want to take your time with your child if you can and take in these astronauts stories – powerful.
Guests can also search by astronaut name, so if there is an astronaut in particular you want to research, it’s quite easy. My daughter recalled several recognizable astronauts (John Glenn and Buzz Aldren) so we pulled them up. Once we learned you could take a virtual “selfie” with the astronauts, Reagan was all over it. She chose John Glenn. A few short weeks later, he passed away at the age of 95. When I told her of his passing, she remembered she had taken a selfie with him and was glad for it.
There are quite a few female astronauts in the Hall of Fame, and I was pleased that Reagan wanted to know more about them. Only two women astronauts were honored at the Veteran’s Day Grand Opening event we attended, but many were already inducted and their stories were among those we read in the center of the room.
Will Kids Like It?
For sure kids will love the 4-D multi-sensory movie, which gives you the sensation that you are actually exploring space. They’ll also have fun exploring the different spaceship areas of the exhibit and imagining themselves inside the Gemini 9 capsule. Once inside the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the touch screens that tell the astronauts stories will hold their attention for a short while. And they’ll definitely get a kick out of taking a selfie with an astronaut!
Extra: Meet an Astronaut
During our visit we had the opportunity to have lunch with an astronaut. This unique dining experience is by reservation only and takes place in a room just big enough for about 50 people. An astronaut is present during the meal to share stories and answer questions. The buffet was decent-sized, but, in my opinion, the food was just so-so. It included healthy options such as chicken and fish, which I appreciated. Of course, my kid went for the pizza, macaroni and cheese and French fries. To the delight of all the adults (and the kids), orange Tang was also available!
Our astronaut appeared while we were enjoying our Tang and shared a slide show on an obvious topic – eating in space! He talked about the logistics of eating in space sans gravity as well as what types of food they ate, what he liked and didn’t like. Afterwards, we all had a chance to have our picture taken with the astronaut, which is then available for purchase separately.
The Astronaut Encounter is another way to meet an astronaut. It’s free and I’d highly recommend it (over the lunch). During Astronaut Encounter, you attend a presentation given by an astronaut in a theater. At the end of the presentation there is a question and answer session followed by a photo op. True, it won’t be in the intimate setting of the lunch and there will be a larger crowd, so you might not have the chance to ask a question. Still, I found this to be a good second option if meeting an astronaut is high on your list.
Will Kids Like It?
Kids will probably enjoy the buffet lunch, but unless they are already extremely interested in space travel, the discussion may not be terribly appealing to them. Skip the Lunch with an Astronaut and go straight to the Astronaut Encounter instead.
Will Kids Enjoy Heroes and Legends and the Astronaut Hall of Fame?
If your child isn’t all that into astronauts, don’t plan on spending an excessive amount of time at the Heroes and Legends Astronaut Hall of Fame. Other areas in the Kennedy Space Center complex are more exciting for kids who need lots of stimulation to be entertained. Plan to spend a majority of your time at the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. That’s where Reagan had the most fun on both our visits.
For families with children who really love to learn, enjoy science and are thoroughly interested in space travel, you will all love this new exhibit. It has been done really well and honors our brave astronauts as they should be honored.
Overall, plan on spending a full day (or even two days) to really see everything at Kennedy Space Center. Exhibits are very large and if you are lucky enough to have children that want to pour over every detail, you won’t want to rush. The KSC is located about 45 minutes from Orlando. It’s a great addition to any Florida vacation.