What to do at the Weekend:
Visit Kennedy Space Center
This is part three of our summer Florida series, our visit to Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.
We spent the day on the Eastern coast of Florida learning about the amazing history and future of space flight.
Kennedy Space Center (Centre)
What is Kennedy Space Center?
So, some of you (although admittedly not many) might be wondering what Kennedy Space Center is, beyond being a place that involves space in some way.
Well, here’s a very brief history for little context.
A few years after Dwight Eisenhower founded NASA all the way back in 1958, the organisation purchased land on Merritt Island on the Eastern side of Florida.
There, NASA established a purpose-built Launch Operations Center.
It is this Launch Operations Center that would eventually become the Kennedy Space Center we see and know today.
Tours of Kennedy Space Center have been happening on the site since 1964 and today the site has grown to contain over 700 facilities and buildings across 144,000 acres.
Why is it Called Kennedy Space Center?
After reading the previous bit, you might wonder why isn’t it called Eisenhower Space Center?
Well, President John F Kennedy can really be credited with setting out America’s vision and ambition for space flight in his famous “we choose to go to the moon” speech.
Following Kennedy’s death in November 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson renamed the launch center in honour of the late president.
Getting to and Parking at Kennedy Space Center
If, like many visitors to Florida, you are staying in the Orlando / Disney area, you are going to need a car to get to Kennedy Space Center.
Kennedy Space Center is located almost exactly due-East of Downtown Orlando.
If you are staying on International Drive, it’s a really easy drive that will take you around an hour in normal traffic conditions.
You can check out the location as always at the top of the blog post.
Parking at Kennedy Space Center
Unlike the theme parks (such as Universal Orlando), parking at Kennedy Space Center is a little more affordable.
The parking charges are:
Motorcycles – $5.00
Automobiles – $10.00
Oversized vehicles, motor homes or RVs – $15.00
Further travel information can be found on the Kennedy Space Center travel information section.
What is there to do at Kennedy Space Center?
Think of Kennedy Space Center as a museum and you will be about right.
It’s a really cool place, full of amazing things that you just don’t see every day.
Most things here are one-of-a-kind.
So, here are our five best things to do at Kennedy Space Center.
The Kennedy Space Center Tour Bus
First stop for us, the tour bus.
Head over to the Bus Transportation spot on your map (you can download a copy of the Kennedy Space Center Map here) and board one of the tour buses.
Depending on how busy it is, you might have to stand and wait in line for a little while.
They are fairly regular though, so you won’t have to wait long.
This 15-20 minute bus ride takes you over to the old launch control building.
This is the actual building where the early missions to the moon were controlled and coordinated.
During the tour you will see historic launch sites and get a behind the scenes look at operations on site.
You’ll get a flavour for the past, present and future of America’s spaceport.
Vehicle Assembly Building
As you make your way over to the Race to the Moon exhibit on the tour, you’ll pass the famous Vehicle Assembly Building.
Inside this building, they used to make prefabricated components of rockets and shuttles, so as you can imagine, it’s pretty huge.
So huge in fact, it’s one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, is the largest single-story building in the world, and is the tallest building in the USA located outside urban areas.
Saturn V Rocket
It’s an absolute must-see during your visit.
If you’ve hopped on the bus tour, you’ll end up here.
Actually located at the end of the tour and interactive exhibit, you will be treated to an amazing up-close view of the Saturn V rocket.
A true feat of engineering, you’ll walk beneath a real Saturn V rocket – the same rocket that took humans to the Moon.
At 111 metres long, it will take your breath away. The scale of this machine has to be seen to be believed.
If you remember one thing from your visit to Kennedy, it’ll probably be this.
The Heroes and Legends Hall
This is right near the entrance – as soon as you enter the visitor centre, it’s straight in front of you.
Learn and experience everything there is to know about the dawn of the space age and astronaut pioneers.
You’ll see genuine artifacts from the lives of the astronauts and the historic missions that they were a part of.
The highlights of this exhibit include:
- A Redstone rocket suspended overhead
- Sigma 7 capsule
- Gemini 9 capsule
- U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
- A incredible theatre presentation experience
The Atlantis Shuttle
In a similar vein to the Saturn V rocket, this one is not to be missed.
This is another exhibit that you will likely remember above all other experiences during your visit at Kennedy Space Center.
Head towards the building with the giant rocket boosters and huge orange shuttle fuel tank outside for this one.
Inside, you’ll ascend up a walkway towards the upper levels of the building.
At the top, you will likely have to wait for the next presentation slot (unless your timing is amazing).
This exhibit stories the amazing history of the space shuttle through various video presentations.
The Scale of the Shuttle is Incredible
At the end, the projection screen goes up and is a really cool unveil of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Like with the Saturn V, the size and scale of the shuttle will take your breath away.
It is an unforgettable experience.
The space shuttle Atlantis is displayed in all her glory, rotated 43 degrees with payload doors open and Canadarm extended.
This gives the impression of the shuttle being docked to the International Space Station (ISS).
Go see it.
The Rocket Garden
Finally, take a walk in the rocket garden.
The rocket garden is definitely one of the most iconic and photographed areas of Kennedy Space Center.
Visible directly from the entrance, you can see the tops of the rockets as you are walking up from the car park.
Most of the rockets in the rocket garden are real but never got shot into space.
It’s a visually striking area of the Space Center and likely one of the first stops in your visit.
What we thought of Kennedy Space Center
We really liked it and spent a good five hours there.
Kennedy is full of exhibits and artifacts that make history come alive.
We also love that you can really feel the history ingrained into the fabric of the Space Center.
It feels like a site of historical significance.
We would say, you probably need to have at least a passing interest in space flight and/or American history to appreciate Kennedy Space Center to the fullest.
Having said that, you would struggle to come away from here without learning something and at least being impressed with the amazing exhibits.
Everyone always mentions the Saturn V Moon Rocket!
As a super-nerd and a lover of all-things to do with space, Ben loves this place and has been coming here since he was seven years old.
Unlike a lot of the attractions that Florida is known for, this is an educational experience rather than one for thrill seekers.
How Much Does the Kennedy Space Center Cost?
Admission prices start at $75.00 plus tax for adults and $65.00 plus tax for children.
There are additional bolt on packages that include Chat with an Astronaut at $50.00 per adult.
Also, you can do an enhanced bus tour called “KSC Explore Tour” at $25.00 per adult.
Is this good value for money?
Yes and no in our view.
If you are on holiday / vacation and have planned it into your visit, this is worth doing.
It’s probably not somewhere you are going to return to again and again, but as a one-off, it’s worth seeing.
Especially if you are into space flight and American History.
Having said that, we are under no illusions that under normal circumstances this is a very expensive day out.