Tips for Planning a Day Trip to Kennedy Space Center

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Go Inside a Simulated Space Shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center

Go Inside a Simulated Space Shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center

“What are the must-see highlights at Kennedy Space Center?” my brother recently asked. We visited KSC as kids and now 30-plus years later he was planning a visit with his family this summer.

Although not intentional, their visit coincided with the Kennedy Space Center’s 50th anniversary (happening now!) and access to view space shuttle Atlantis during the Vehicle Assembly Building Tour, a KSC Up Close Tour.

My nephew will be a freshman in high school this year, my niece is a tween and both my brother and sister-in-law are engineers so the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville, Florida, was a perfect vacation activity for a family who appreciates science and learning. In fact, they had something in common with an astronaut the day they visited. They work for the company that manufactured space shuttle windows and the astronaut thanked them for making nice windows with a view.

Me (Right) with My Brother and Sister at Kennedy Space Center, Summer 1981

Me (Right) with My Brother and Sister at Kennedy Space Center, Summer 1981

Explore the Attractions
So what should a family of four see and do when visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex? In order to maximize their time for a one-day visit, I recommended:

Arrive at 9 a.m. when the complex opens and hit the attractions such as the Shuttle Launch Experience, Astronaut Memorial, tour the Rocket Garden and the IMAX movies, Hubble 3D and Space Station 3D.

Lunch with Space Shuttle Astronaut Scott Parazynski, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Lunch with Space Shuttle Astronaut Scott Parazynski, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Raise a Glass of Tang
Listen to an astronaut recount tales of being in space during Lunch with an Astronaut. Yes, this buffet lunch includes Tang and other beverages.  This is such a cool opportunity to ask an astronaut anything you’d like – I once asked if he experienced jet-lag. After the meal and talk, participants have an opportunity to meet and have their photo taken with the astronaut.

Take a KSC Up Close Tour to See a Space Shuttle in the VAB for a Limited Time

Take a KSC Up Close Tour to See a Space Shuttle in the VAB for a Limited Time

Ride a Bus, Earn Serious Bragging Rights
The KSC Up Close Tours offer up serious bragging rights. They cost $25 per adult and $19 per child ages 3 – 11, in addition to KSC admission. These tours typically sell out so plan ahead and book in advance.

I recommended my family take the 2-hour Vehicle Assembly Building Tour which provides access into the VAB (did you know it’s one of the largest buildings in the world? One VAB equals 3.75 Empire State Buildings! Source: NASA) In addition to going inside the VAB, a highlight is seeing space shuttle Atlantis as it’s being prepared for its permanent home at KSC.  This tour should be around at least through Summer 2012.

Another tour option which they passed on but I heard is seriously cool is the Launch Control Center Tour. Visitors tour the Firing Room 4 where 21 shuttle launches were  controlled, see the main launch countdown clock and see the “bubble room” – the room where Kennedy Space Center staff viewed launches through the wall of interior windows.

Another new, cool tour they could have taken is the Launch Pad Tour which takes visitors inside of Launch Pad 39-A, the location of Apollo Saturn V moon rocket and space shuttle launches. This is the first time in 50 years  NASA is permitting the public to tour this main launch pad.

Astronaut and Space Shuttle Salt & Pepper Shakers from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Space Shop- So Cute!

Astronaut and Space Shuttle Salt & Pepper Shakers from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Space Shop- So Cute!

Grab a Space Souvenir
At the end of the day stop by the world’s largest space store, the Space Shop. Grab everything from freeze-dried ice cream to NASA collectibles. I love the astronaut and space shuttle salt and pepper shakers I picked last year. If you didn’t join an astronaut for lunch, visit the Space Shop toward the end of the day for a meet-and-greet and autograph session.

Be Inspired at the Astronaut Hall of Fame

Be Inspired at the Astronaut Hall of Fame

Reach for the Stars at Astronaut Hall of Fame
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is awesome to learn about the how and technology involved with space exploration and the Astronaut Hall of Fame  is made for dreamers. It shares the human side and demonstrates determination and inspiration. Right now, the Hall of Fame is open until 7 p.m.

Yeah, this is a lot to pack into one day and if you have the time, KSC admission allows a visit to the Astronaut Hall of Fame the next day. Actually, a second day admission is valid within seven days.

3…2…1…who’s ready for a blast off to the Kennedy Space Center?

See Launch Pad 39A During a KSC Up Close Tour

See Launch Pad 39A During a KSC Up Close Tour

About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Located less than an hour’s drive east of Orlando in Brevard County, the Kennedy Space Center is a must-see attraction when visiting Florida. (The drive is about three hours from my home in North Port.) It opens daily at 9 a.m. (closed December 25) and certain launch days. Admission includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour (not the tours mentioned above), Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and all exhibits.

Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia, open from noon until 7:00 p.m. daily. Parking, wheelchairs, strollers and pet kennels are free of charge.

Admission is $45 + tax for adults and $35 + tax for children ages 3-11. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Commander’s Club Annual Pass is $58+ tax for adults and $46 + tax for children ages 3-11.

Here’s something I’ll be taking advantage of – now through December 31, 2012, adults pay  $50 for an annual pass in celebration of 50 years of Kennedy Space Center and Americans in Orbit!

For additional information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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7 Comments

  1. Awesome tips on visiting KSC! And awesome vintage pic of you with your brother and sister:)

  2. Thank you! I’ll be visiting again in September – can’t wait!

  3. Great information! I’m planning a trip to the center in December. I’m going with my 81-year old mother and was wondering how much walking is involved.

  4. Thanks for some awesome usefull tips. My family and I will visit KSC at the end of August, so a print of your tips is already in the travel bag 🙂

  5. Enjoy your visit – KSC is an amazing place!

  6. There is some walking but many places to rest, too. Enjoy your trip!

  7. Nice round up. I dare say you noticed quite a change in the displays since your first visit all that time ago.

    I recently paid my first visit and have now seen many of these exhibits you mention. The shuttle launch experience was probably my favourite (a fabulous experience) and I really liked the 3D cinema film too.

    The shuttle Atlantis exhibit is now on display and is a great way to really appreciate the size of these space ships.

    What did strike me as a little odd was the presence of an Angry Birds exhibit. I guess with the KSC being self funded they have to get some form of sponsorship income.

    Great to read of your experiences, do you plan to return?

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