Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is one of Florida’s top attractions, after the Orlando theme parks. The complex is located on Cape Canaveral, at the center of NASA’s spaceship launches (which you can see if you’re lucky!), and is the place for all things space and moon landing!
The last day of our Florida trip was spent visiting the Kennedy Space Center. This wasn’t on our original agenda, but I picked up a brochure at the hotel lobby, and the more I read the brochure, the more I wanted to go. As I’ve said in other posts about this trip, my kids aren’t into Disney stuff, so we were looking for things to do in Orlando that are not Disney.
I was particularly interested in the Dine with an Astronaut activity, which is an additional cost.
Kennedy Space Center Reviews
We had a rental car, so we did not need to take the bus from Orlando to the Kennedy Space Center, but I understand there is one. I thought I would share my tips for visiting the Kennedy Space Center with kids, especially those with sensory issues and disabilities. KSC is a one-hour drive from the Orlando area.
Kennedy Space Center was the highlight of our Orlando trip. You can plan your day so that you get relief from the sun and spend some time indoors. The highlight for me was seeing the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and I was so moved by it, it caught me off guard.
I’m a “Gen X-er,” so the Space Shuttle program was first launched when I was in elementary school and high school when the first one exploded. For the Atlantis’ first launch and landing, we had the TVs on in school and when Challenger exploded. It brought back so many childhood memories to see it sitting there. It’s amazing to see.
For planning purposes, many scheduled activities can cause anxiety for some families or kids. For example, you may have to leave one exhibit where your kids are having fun to make it to the IMAX theater on time to see the movie.
Where Is The Kennedy Space Center?
The Kennedy Space Center is located in Titusville, Florida, just 45 minutes east of Orlando. It takes just about an hour to drive there from Orlando.
The Space Center is located on a 140,000-acre barrier island. It was NASA’s space program launch headquarters from the beginning of the program in the ’60s until 2011.
Today, space shuttles continue to launch from the KSC. You can even see the launch pads.
However, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is now used as an educational destination. Think of it as a theme park for space lovers. They even have a shuttle launch experience, similar to the one at Epcot, and there are usually opportunities to interact with real-life astronauts!
Kennedy Space Center Tickets
Tickets to the Kennedy Space Center can be purchased online or at the center. They cost the same either way – note that if you purchase them online, you can skip the (sometimes long) line at the entrance.
The KSC offers 1 and 2-day admission tickets. 1-day passes are $75 for adults and $65 for kids (ages 3-11), and 2-day passes are $89 for adults and $79 for kids.
The 2-day passes do not need to be used on consecutive days, just within a 6-month timeframe, so if you’re going to be in the area, I’d consider taking advantage of it.
Each ticket includes the following:
- Gateway™: The Deep Space Launch Complex featuring Spaceport KSC
- Space Shuttle Atlantis® and the Shuttle Launch Experience®
- Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour
- Apollo/Saturn V Center
- Heroes and Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®
- Astronaut Encounter
- Planet Play
- Rocket Garden guided tours
- Journey to Mars
- 3D Space Films
- LEGO® Build to Launch
- Character Appearances
- Other scheduled presentations and films
Ticket exclusions are the Chat with an Astronaut program, extended bus tours, and the astronaut training experiences.
Is Kennedy Space Center worth it?
The Kennedy Space Center does a good job of informing and entertaining adults and keeping smaller kids interested. The one feature I did not like was not having the option to watch some of the educational films. For example, when you see the Atlantis exhibit, you have to start there.
The Apollo building on the bus tour dumps you into two film rooms without any other options. I enjoyed the trip and love history and nerdy stuff like this. But by the end of the day, I was on “educational film overload” and anxious for the film to end. It might be too much for some kids.
- They have strollers for you if you need them, even out at the Apollo exhibit.
- There are water play activities (Rocket Garden) if your child wants to cool off.
Is Kennedy Space Center indoors?
It is both indoors and outdoors. There is plenty to do both indoors and outdoors. If the weather is cooperating, it’s a nice mix of both. But I wouldn’t hesitate to go if it was raining. There is still plenty to do. I was getting worn out, but I could have used another hour or two. If you want to see it all, it’s a lot to do in just one day.
- The bus ride tour out to the launch pad is long. So if you have a small child or one who gets bored and if it’s not working out, you don’t have many options except to ride back. Wheelchairs can be accommodated everywhere, but make prior arrangements for the bus tour.
What Age Is The Kennedy Space Center Good For?
It may seem cliche, but the Kennedy Space Center is good for all ages. Yes, the older kids (and adults) will get more out of the visitor, but there are enough interactive exhibits to keep the smaller kids interested.
If you are visiting with small kids, I would consider that you may want to make it a shorter day and focus on seeing the top attractions as much as possible, in case the kids end up bored.
Dine with Astronauts Review
We chose the buffet lunch add-on, and you dine with a real astronaut. It’s a bit spendy for lunch, and younger kids may not fully appreciate it. But only a few hundred people out of the billions on the planet have ever gone to outer space, so I wanted to do this.
- Plenty of food options are available, but if you have specific concerns, check before going.
- They serve Tang at the Lunch with an Astronaut event. I thought that was a cute touch. That had fewer food options than other venues, so you may want to ask first.
- The Space Shuttle Simulator is not as frightening as they make it out to be. Both my kids loved it, and Brian said the Harry Potter Gringott’s ride at Universal is much scarier.
- We found many great educational and stimmy toys in the gift shops. LOTS of fun gift shops! Pace yourself.
- If you don’t want to do Dine with an Astronaut, they hold other meet and greets and photo opportunities without the meal.
2022 Update: Dine With an Astronaut is no longer available, but they are now offering a similar experience – Chat With An Astronaut. This experience is held twice daily and includes food (though it’s unclear if it’s a full meal, more likely just snacks) and still allows visitors to ask questions and learn more about space.
More Things To Do At The Kennedy Space Center
Of course, there are more things to do at KSC than just enjoying lunch with an astronaut (though that was a serious highlight).
Here are a few other exhibits and things to do at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex:
Shuttle Launch Experience
If you’ve ever seen a commercial for the Kennedy Space Center, you’ve likely heard about the Shuttle Launch Experience. It’s supposed to allow you to feel what it’s like to sit in a spaceship and launch off to space – similar to Disney Epcot’s Mission Space.
In reality, it’s much more low-key than Mission Space, making it more appropriate for kids to enjoy. After your prelaunch briefing, you’re strapped into seats for 8 minutes as you head “off to space.”
The line for this can be LONG, so be prepared if this is on your “must-do” list.
Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour
Your entrance to the Kennedy Space Center includes an hour-long bus tour that takes you to the launch pad, the vehicle assembly building, landing facilities, and the Cape Canaveral lighthouse.
[Note that they were not offering this bus tour due to COVID, and it’s unsure when/if they’ll bring it back. They currently offer a 20-minute tour that takes you to the Apollo/Saturn V center and past some launch pads.]
Apollo/Saturn V Center
This is one of the most popular areas of the KSC, where you get to learn all about the moon landings and see the Saturn V hanging above you.
It’s a self-guided exhibit, and you can see the original Mission Control room for the first crewed Apollo V mission. Very cool and interesting stuff, as it’s history that’s recent enough for some of us to remember.
If your schedule allows for time to see one of the IMAX movies held in the theater, take advantage of it. After all, NASA does have the OG space and moon videos to show!
KSC also schedules regular talks and Q&A sessions with astronauts who love to share their experiences with visitors. If you cannot enjoy lunch with an astronaut, this is a great opportunity to hear about first-hand space experience and get your questions answered.
Tips To Know Before You Go
- There are restaurants available. There are a handful of dining options available. You’ll find Orbit Cafe and Red Rock Grill at the Visitor Complex, and at the Saturn V/Apollo Center, there’s Moon Rock Cafe. You can find salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and other basic lunches. Nothing spectacular, but good enough to satisfy a hungry belly! You can also find Dippin’ Dots and “astronaut food” if you’re looking for a snack.
- You can pack your lunch. However, they also allow you to bring your lunch in. If you have a cooler bag, sandwiches would be easy and probably save you a decent bit of money!
- You need to pay for parking. Parking at the Kennedy Space Center is $10 per car.
- You probably can’t see everything. As I mentioned above in my Kennedy Space Center review, the center is HUGE, and you can spend an entire day here. Even so, you’re likely not going to be able to see everything, especially if you like to read all the information or watch movies. I find it better to focus on a few priority interests and then fill in the rest of your day.
- Download the app. Before you visit, I recommend downloading the Kennedy Space Center Official Guide App. It has many cool features, including info on upcoming launches, a map of the complex, and descriptions of each attraction to help you plan your visit.
- No large bags are allowed. Anything larger than a backpack is prohibited from the center, though storage lockers are available if needed.
Kennedy Space Center: Sensory/Disability Accessibility
- There are family restrooms and plenty of them!
- Lots of quiet places to retreat to if you need to regroup and have quiet time.
- There are many noisy activities and films, like blast-offs and such. It might be too loud for some kids. Each activity has a description in the brochure or online.
- Ramps and elevators are all over the place. Accessibility is not an issue.
- Plenty of indoor, air-conditioned activities if heat is an issue.
Is One Day Enough For the Kennedy Space Center?
Truly, it depends. One full day should be enough for most people, but if you’re interested in space, you may want to take advantage of their 2-day pass.
We arrived there just about when it opened (9 am) and stayed until closing. There were still a few things I would have liked to have done, like spend more time in the Atlantis exhibit and at the Apollo exhibit. Brian wanted to do the slide more.
Or, as in our case, we were way out at the Apollo exhibit (a 20-minute bus ride), and it was 5:00, and it was starting to shut down. We had to get on the bus and ride back, and then we had limited time left at the main center.
In other words, you cannot wander around at your leisure if you want to do many of the activities because they are at scheduled times.
Kennedy Space Center Discounts
We were able to find a multitude of discount options. The lobby of our hotel had them. We also found them online when checking things out on our phones. My MIL was able to get a senior citizen discount too.
Seeing all the history stuff was exciting and interesting to me. It made me very wistful and nostalgic. It made me wonder how we could return to that place as a nation since we all watched TV together to see men go to the moon. We collectively watched and talked about things that matter. And I miss that.
This trip was partly sponsored by Nickelodeon Resorts, Sea World Orlando, Legoland Florida, and Universal Orlando Resorts. All opinions are my own.
This post was originally published in 2015. I am updating to fix links and fun stuff like that.