Space Coast vacations just aren’t complete without a trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, just east of Orlando’s most popular attractions and theme parks. NASA’s launch headquarters is the only place on Earth where you can meet a veteran astronaut, tour launch areas, see giant rockets, view the Shuttle Atlantis, train in spaceflight simulators and even view an actual rocket launch.
When my daughter’s middle school class was learning about astronauts and space, I felt this was the perfect time to take a family trip to check out these must see Kennedy Space Center exhibits.
The space coast of Florida is where it all began. This is where astronauts dared to attempt the impossible. Where men embarked on mysterious missions that put footprints on the moon. Where rockets still soar into orbit. The Kennedy Space Center has long been our nation’s gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. My daughter had many questions, as anyone would, and our trip to the Space Center gave us all the answers we were looking for.
Our Top 7 Exhibits
1. We were very excited to actually be standing in the same room as the Space Shuttle Atlantis and believe me, it’s huge! We learned that Atlantis spent 307 days in orbit and traveled 125,935,769 miles in space. That’s a lot of miles!
2. The Space center offers two incredible 3D IMAX Theater presentations (with Leonardo DiCaprio narrating) that capture the breathtaking images of the Hubble Telescope and life aboard the International Space Station. You can leave Earth without ever leaving your seat. Our family loves IMAX presentations and these are not to be missed and are great for all ages.
3. The Shuttle Launch Experience combines the detailed accounts of an astronaut’s experience with the expertise of design engineers to produce a true-to-life experience. This realistic simulation of the space shuttle’s eight and a half-minute ascent into orbit is amazing. The cabin’s 44 passengers see, feel and live the powerful journey to 17,500 mph, and when the bay doors open, it reveals a breathtaking view of Earth. Our daughter especially loved this exhibit and recommended it to her friends.
4. The Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted combines live t
heater, interactive experiences and large-scale multimedia presentations that help us learn about the future of space exploration and about the people behind the technology that makes it all possible. Our family enjoyed the hands-on activities here, both fun and educational.
5. Rocket Garden – Here you can experience the Mercury-Redstone, Atlas and Titan rockets that first put the NASA astronauts in space. These rockets must be seen in person to get the full experience of just how amazing they are. We climbed aboard the Gemini and Apollo capsules and got a first-hand experience of how cramped America’s astronauts really were. Pretty amazing as you will see in our photos.
6. Astronaut Training Experience – Here you can put yourself to the test and see if you have the “right stuff” to become a NASA astronaut. I can speak for myself and say that I do not have the right stuff! You can also hear first-hand from a veteran NASA astronaut, experience a space shuttle mission simulation and perform hands-on space exploration activities. Kids and grown-ups alike will love this activity as our family did.
7. Astronaut Memorial – This memorial honors the 24 U.S. astronauts who gave their lives for space exploration. We felt this exhibit was important to share with our daughter and she was very interested to learn more about these important people and the history behind them. At the time of our visit our daughter was 12-years old, so we felt she was old enough to enjoy this exhibit. Personally, I feel kids younger than 10 may become bored and uninterested in this attraction.
Other Exhibits and Activities at Kennedy Space Center
These are the things we simply didn’t have time to experience, but wish we could have:
- Lunch With An Astronaut – You can actually meet an astronaut in person and have lunch together. It includes a presentation by a veteran astronaut and a question and answer session with audience. This is at the top of our list next visit!
- Apollo/Saturn V Center – Here you can see the largest rocket ever made, touch a moon rock, and watch as the magical journey to the moon is brought to life once again.
Activities for Young Children
- Children’s Play Dome – For children under 48” tall – Adventures for the ‘junior astronauts’. Lift-off in a spacecraft, climb a moon rock wall, crawl through rocket tunnels and slide to the surface of the moon. A fun spot for the little ones to enjoy.
- Angry Birds Space Encounter – A comprehensive, interactive attraction that lets young children experience physics and space exploration. This exhibit is included with general admission.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Kennedy Space Center and many of our questions were answered that day. My daughter also enjoyed sharing information with her teachers and classmates at school. There is much to do at the Space Complex so allow time for a full day of exploration. Our family is planning a return visit so we can enjoy the exhibits that we did not have time to take part in, such as Lunch With An Astronaut!
Have you visited the Kennedy Space Center, and if so, what was your favorite exhibit?
If You Go:
The Kennedy Space Center is located at SR 405 Titusville, Florida.
Open daily: 9 am – 5 pm
This post was written by Paula Schmitt.