August 20, 2017

Exploring with Kids: Kennedy Space Center

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Kennedy Space Center is barely an hour from Walt Disney World, due directly east in Titusville, Florida. The last space shuttle may have launched in April, but there’s still so much to do at Kennedy Space Center, from a space shuttle simulation ride to daily astronaut encounters to monthly rocket launches.

We paid a visit to Kennedy Space Center on our recent trip to Orlando over Thanksgiving. Since I knew I did not want to spend every single day of our trip at Walt Disney World (though I do love everything about Disney), Kennedy Space Center was a great, educational option for us.

We left our vacation rental at 8:30 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving and arrived by 9:30 a.m., just in time to get some advice on attractions my daughters (ages 8 & 6) would enjoy most and catch the first showing of Space Station 3D, one of two IMAX movies. I was a bit concerned that the 45-minute movie would be too long to keep our attention, but it was just right and a great way to kick off the day.

Next, we tried out the Shuttle Launch Experience for ourselves. Designed by real-life astronauts, the wait was not long and it was worth it to go through the shuttle launch sequence first-hand, as well as feel the rumble of the shuttle and hear the sounds from inside the shuttle.

After we re-claimed our bearings, we checked out the Rocket Garden, a beautiful outdoor area with close to a dozen rockets on display, each with a plaque sharing more on each rocket and mission. We missed the tour, but they’re given at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day if you get a chance to go.

Finally it was time for the Lunch with an Astronaut program, which is what I had been looking forward to all day (for months, really). This program cost extra ($24.99 for adults, $15.99 for kids ages 3 to 11), but it was the highlight for me, and I honestly was surprised that more people did not opt in for this lunch.

First of all, the lunch was delicious. Yes, a basic buffet, but there were lots of kid-friendly options so we were all able to get our fill before astronaut J.O. Creighton took the microphone and shared his experiences with the space program. There was plenty of Q&A time after his talk, but honestly, I probably could have spent more time listening to him. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience.

After lunch, we went on the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour, which I highly recommend. It’s a two hour narrated bus tour across the grounds with various stops at facilities featuring short films and displays, even a moon rock you can touch. At the first stop you can climb the observation deck to see the space shuttle launch pads, and at the second stop you’ll learn so much about all the Apollo missions.

Once the tour was complete, we were ready to head back to Orlando, though we easily could have spent more time at the Visitor Complex. If you go, make sure to check out the rocket launch schedule. We were originally set to be there on a rocket launch day, but the launch got pushed back a day, so we missed it, but we still had a great day.

Quick note that contrary to popular belief, you do not need a separate ticket to view a rocket launch. The ticket is an extra $20 and you need to get there extra early to go through security and take a bus to a closer viewing location.  However, you can still see a rocket launch from the Visitor Complex, just for the price of daily admission. We bought our Kennedy Space Center tickets online, making it quick and easy to get in once we arrived for the day.

Have you ever been to Kennedy Space Center? As you can tell, we had a fantastic time and it was absolutely worth the one-hour drive. If you’ve been before, I’d love to hear about your experience.

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