Photo: Rheinhard Link CC
HIGHLIGHTS OF KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral is just over an hour from Orlando and makes a fantastic day out if you are visiting the Florida theme parks. The theme parks are awesome, but here at Kennedy the amazing sights are for real. Forget Buzz Lightyear, here you can meet astronauts who have flown in space, see a space shuttle, visit a rocket garden and experience the best that NASA has to offer the visitor.
Visiting the Kennedy Space Center is a unique experience and was one of the highlights of our Florida trip. The center gives a fascinating perspective on the history and the future of space travel. But more than the rockets, the shuttle, the telescopes and the spacecraft, what lingers with you is the spirit of adventure, of ambition, of the ceaseless quest to know more about our universe and through that our own planet and ourselves. The stories here are of human endeavour, of incredible successes and catastrophic failures. This, combined with the opportunity to speak to astronauts and hear first hand their inspiring and moving stories, make this an unmissable and unforgettable experience.
Kennedy is still a working rocket launch site. If you check the Space Center calendar in advance, you may be able to visit when there is a rocket launch. As I write this it’s three days till the next one. Kennedy Space Center’s blog tells you how to watch a rocket launch here.
The centre is divided into mission zones. It’s safe to say that the highlights of our trip to Kennedy were the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Astronaut Encounter.
SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS
This is a must do. If you do nothing else at Kennedy, you have to see the Atlantis Space Shuttle, one of only 3 shuttles in the US which flew in space. You watch a film about the shuttle first and I won’t spoil the surprise but the way the shuttle is revealed to you is a piece of showmanship in itself. The shuttle is positioned with its payload doors open so you can see inside. If, like me, you grew up watching the shuttle launches on TV you will really appreciate the opportunity to get close to this iconic and extraordinary spaceship. As well as the Atlantis itself, there is an excellent exhibition telling the story of 30 years of space shuttle history and the role the shuttles played in the future of space travel and exploration.
You can experience what it was like to take off in a shuttle at the Shuttle Launch Experience, a simulator ride that astronauts say is the nearest thing to actually being in a shuttle take off. My children loved this. They also liked a slide that demonstrates the angle that the shuttle glides on to earth when landing. The shuttle launched like a rocket but landed like a plane and the slide was a great way to teach kids about shuttle landings! They also enjoyed exploring the model of the international space station that children can crawl around inside.
Astronaut training simulators were another popular attraction with my family, where you can carry out some of the tasks needed to operate the shuttle and engage in its work. We enjoyed trying to do the repair tasks to the shuttle with the massive space gloves on – quite a challenge!
Forever Remembered is a tribute to the crews of the shuttles that were destroyed, Challenger and Columbia. A poignant and inspiring exhibition remembering the bravery and dedication of the crews and telling their personal stories. I found this very moving.
The Hubble space telescope story is also told in the Shuttle mission zone.
MEET AN ASTRONAUT
Yes, you get to meet a real, bona fide astronaut who has travelled in space. How totally amazing is that? Who doesn’t want to meet an astronaut? #Awestruck.
The astronaut in residence when we visited was Wendy Lawrence. Commander Lawrence gave a fascinating overview of her career, her desire to travel in space, the gruelling training that she underwent, including her time at Star City in Russia. Commander Lawrence talked about 4 missions which she flew and the 1,200 hours she spent in space, including on the International Space Station. At the time, it was a few days before Tim Peake was due to return to Earth in a Soyuz space capsule and hearing Wendy talk about her returns to earth in Soyuz was very timely. There was time for questions and you could have your photo taken with Commander Lawrence afterwards. She also signed autographs in the shop later.
The astronaut encounter is included in your ticket. There are optional extras of attending a lunch with the astronaut and a guided tour of the Space Center with an astronaut..
The schedule of astronauts is here if you want to see which astronaut will be there on the day of your visit.
These were our favourites at Kennedy but there is so much more to see. Other attractions include:
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER BUS TOUR INCLUDING MOON AND APOLLO EXHIBITS & LUNAR THEATRE
If you want to find out more about the Apollo landings, this is the tour for you! This bus tour also visits the Moon and Apollo exhibits, the lunar theatre and Saturn V. You can only visit these on the bus tour.
The tour takes you past the famous vehicle assembly building to the actual launch pads. When there are rockets launching the tour takes a slightly different route – Kennedy is still a working rocket launch site. The Apollo 8 section of the tour includes the story of the Saturn V rocket and the actual consoles used to launch Apollo 8. Exploring the Moon explains the Apollo missions and includes rockets and lunar modules and space buggies. In the Treasures gallery you can see spacesuits actually worn in space, amongst other gems. The Lunar theatre tells the story of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the experiences of the handful of astronauts who have actually walked on the moon.
Saturn V is a highlight on this tour. 13 Saturn rockets were launched but this is one of only 3 remaining in the US.
NASA NOW AND NEXT & JOURNEY TO MARS
Mission briefing – participate in a briefing about NASA’s current and future space missions. Find out about the mission to Mars and play interactive games and about NASA’s programmes to explore deep space.
Click here to see the current Imax programme. The films they show here are narrated by past and future astronauts and include footage from the International Space Station.
A garden planted with space rockets! Wander amongst rockets from the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury missions. You can walk across the actual gangway they used to board Apollo 11.
HEROES AND LEGENDS
This new attraction features the US Astronauts hall of fame, a 4D theatre and the Gemini 9 space capsule, amongst others. Here you can find out the stories of the astronauts who have flown in space.
You’ll find your own favourites at Kennedy Space Center, stories of exploration that resonate with you. Have a wonderful visit. I’ve no doubt we’ll be back one day. Space exploration continues and the stories of the future are being made right now.
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*I’ve used the American spelling of Kennedy Space Center.
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We went to the Kennedy Space Centre when I was a kid and I loved it. I would love to go back as an adult.
Really enjoyed visiting Kennedy Space Center but it was also a long time ago now, Would definitely love to visit again! I do remember it being an amazing experience though! Thanks for sharing
I’ve never visited the Kennedy Space Center, but have always wanted to! I had no idea you got to meet an astronaut as well. Hopefully I can make it there sometime in the near future!
KSC is so cool. I live pretty near and get to go up and do live SM for them during special events. I’m always impressed with the number of visitors who are still intrigued by our space travels. Lunch with an astronaut is my favorite activity. 😉
WOW that’s amazing you are very lucky. We didn’t pause for breath let alone lunch there is a lot to do there!
I always wanted to go here as a kid! This would be so awesome to take my daughter to now. It seems like a great learning experience.
So interesting place to visit. Great post
Great post and helpful tips! We are heading to Orlando in May and planning a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center. Really can’t wait! Thanks for sharing, this is so helpful as we plan out the visit #MondayEscapes
Kennedy was really fantastic, well worth a visit. Surprisingly poignant.
This is awesome I have taken my kids here and they really loved it and there is so much to learn and see and so interactive! Super article!
Yes there is so much to see and do I really would have been happy to do 2 days there. I’ll have to go back!
We go to Florida often but we still haven’t had the chance to visit Kennedy Space Center. I think we’ll have to schedule it in our plans for our next trip. #mondayescapes
I’d really love to go to a rocket launch if possible!
My husband has been to the Kennedy Space Center but I have not. We are hoping to take the kids there next year, and I am so excited about it. Great post! #mondayescapes
Its totally awesome you will love it. We didn’t get to do everything and we were there all day!
We didn’t make it to the Kennedy Center when we visited Florida but would love to do so next time! Looks like you had a blast!! (See what I did there 😉 ) #mondayescapes
😉 It’s definitely worth a visit, meeting an astronaut was amazing for us all never mind the children!
I love the fact you got to meet a female astronaut. There can’t be all that many of them, I’ll bet. What a fascinating place to visit. I’d love to see a rocket being launched! #MondayEscapes
So much to see and meeting an astronaut would have had my kids asking a zillion questions. What a great visit #MondayEscapes
We’ve been in the area a few times but haven’t gone to the Space Center yet. We have to make it happen! Sounds like a cool experience.
It looks even better than I remember it. Fabulous photos. Are most of them your own? I really hope I can take my boy one day soon #mondayescapes
All the space shuttle Atlantis photos are mine, a few of the others aren’t, where I’ve indicated. It’s a wonderful place! Thanks for reading.
It look so fantastic, I so wish we had managed to get there when we visited, thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes
I’d absolutely love to go here with my kids. I live in Florida but have yet to visit! Looks like a great afternoon, thanks for sharing 🙂
We went to Cape Canaveral in 2010 and even mingled with the alligators nearby. What a place!
This looks so fun! I think it would bore my wife to tears though! haha
I didn’t get chance to visit KSC when we went last year but remember it as a child and I loved it. It really is a very special place. Thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes
I would love love love to do this. I was a bit of a space geek at school. How amazing to meeting Wendy Lawrence! I really hope I get to follow in your footsteps one day #mondayescapes
I have to say that it really was totally awesome. We just watched Apollo 13 with the kids yesterday and we were still talking about Wendy!
We went back in 2013 and while I wasn’t excited to go, it was pretty cool, plus I had my Jeannie in a bottle moment haha #wkendtravelinspiration
I’m intrigued, what was your Jeannie in a bottle moment?
There was a little pod outside so I climbed inside of it – that was about it. haha Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!
I’ve been to Florida many times but I never made it to the Kennedy Space Center. Rocket scientist hubby would have loved to go but it never worked out. I would love to see a launch. The rocket garden looks very interesting.
What a fabulous place to visit! We hope to palna family trip to DisneyWorld next year and now I’m going to see if we can include a trip to the Kennedy Space Center as i know my oldest grandchildren will find it so interesting. Thansk for all your ideas.
It’s well worth a visit, it’s so close to Orlando and is amazing!
Haven’t had the opportunity to visit Kennedy Space Center yet, but it looks very interesting.
The Kennedy Space Centre would be very interesting and informative for sure.
David and I took our boys to Kennedy Space Centre many years ago. We loved it. This is a great place for families.
This is someplace I really want to go to! Very informative and inspiring article, thanks for linking in this week, #wkendtravelinspiration!
We went years ago on our first road trip and a lot of the details of the place had gotten lost in the recesses of my mind. Enjoyed reading your post and am adding a link to it on our post about that trip! Thanks for sharing!!
Have a great trip!
Wow, oh wow! So much history! I love how interactive everything sounds, perfect for kids (and kids-at-heart!), it really helps kids better engage with history, and really appreciate it. And it’s so awesome to be able to actually meet an astronaut, and I love that you got to meet a female astronaut, which is especially cool.
This looks great – not someplace I would have considered, but now I want to go!
I think it would be so cool to visit the Space Center especially as a Houstonian and see how it compares to Space Center Houston here. I haven’t been to the one here in yeeearrsss but this is making me want to revisit!
I kind of got more into space as I grew up (which may be a little strange) but I guess now that I understand more about how difficult it is, I’m much more impressed. The Kennedy Space Center is on my list of places to go though, once I get to the east coast! #WanderfulWednesday
I love the Kennedy Space Center 🙂 Great memories from my childhood… we used to go to the beach at sunrise to see the rocket launch from my grandparents’ home in more southern FL!
I’d love to see a launch! 😀
So I’ve seriously lived in Houston my whole life, and I really consider myself a bad Houstonian because I still have never been to the Nasa Space Center, and my grandmother actually worked for Nasa! It looks like they really do pack as much as possible into the center, and give you so many opportunities to learn all about space and the space program!
Your grandmother worked for NASA – wow! We loved our visit, you are right, they pack a lot in!
I just watched the passengers the other night, so I’m on a bit of a space kick :P.. This looks like such a cool place to visit and I’d definitely have to try the simulator ride! What fun 😀
I would absolutely love to visit the space center – and how awesome is it that you can visit during an actual rocket launch??? Childhood dreams come true!!
This must be such a fascinating place to visit 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
This is a great place to visit! Awesome idea, Jo!
This looks like an experience not to be missed. Such a lot of clever, talented people involved in the space missions. Sounds like a pretty hand-on visit, too. #CulturedKids
Wow! Worth visiting Florida for all on its own. Like you I grew up watching all those space missions and they fascinate me. Thank you for linking up #CulturedKids
It’s such an amazing place – with so much to do that you could go back and back! My son was lucky enough to go to space camp here a few years ago and that was an experience he’ll never forget. #culturedkids
Space camp would be a truly amazing experience!
I’ve always intended on taking the kids here when we are in central Florida and haven’t ever gotten around to it. Looks like it’s something we should add to our time the next time. We’ve been to the US Space & Rocket center in Hunstville, AL and really enjoyed that so I am sure we would love it.
I am fascinated with space so I would love to visit the Kennedy Space Center. It would be neat to see Atlantis and the tour sounds great. I think I would really learn a lot. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Such a neat place! I visited in highschool and don’t remember too much other than the freeze dried ice cream in the gift shop. You’ve made it sound like a super fun destination!
They still have the ice cream!
We are hoping to get back to Florida in the near future and this place is high on our list! Laurence loves space related stuff and this would be a fantastic place for us to visit. Sounds like you had an amazing visit!
This sounds incredible. I’m not sure I’m that fussed by visiting Disney but I’d been keen to come here if we ever make it to Florida. I’m sure my kids would love it. Am really impressed that there’s always an astronaut there to meet. #theweeklypostcard
Really enjoyed this post. Such an interesting place to visit and educational too, we like that! Would like to visit and have pinned your post for reference later. #TheWeeklyPostcard
Fascinating, and great photos! Living in California there is not too much of a draw to get me to Florida, but if I ever make it that far I will definitely put this on the shortlist. #TheWeeklyPostcard
I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger launch live in school because Christa McAuliffe was a teacher and my teacher thought it an amazing thing for her to be going into space. I can remember the tragedy viscerally. I am still mesmerized by the space program despite that and we love visiting the Air & Space Museums in D.C. and have also visited the NASA center in Houston. I have no problem with kids learning about real life at an experience like these. Thanks for sharing – what a great day out! #FarawayFiles
Yes I can remember watching the challenger launch as well and the horror of that day. We’d love to visit the air and space museums in washington – I’d have to drag my husband out at closing time!
As a family we would absolutely LOVE to visit the Kennedy Space Center – we’d easily spend a day there. One of my sons is really into physics and space so it would be a dream come true for him. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
Jo – I see this experience in my future and I am very glad of that. What a fantastic and inspiring activity for the whole family. I love that you get to meet a female astronaut! Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles
I love the Kennedy Space Centre! I spent the day there when I was in Orlando last year! Such a cool day out. I definitely geeked out over seeing a real spaceship! haa