Even if you live in the Washington D.C. area with access to the wonders of the National Air & Space Museum, a visit to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is awe-inspiring. KSC is the real deal: a working spaceflight facility where spacecraft is being built, tested, and launched. With new virtual reality exhibits, astronaut encounters, and real rocket launches happening more and more often, KSC is entering a new age of space exploration that everyone can be excited about.
While in Cape Canaveral we were also lucky enough to see an actual SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch -- a huge thrill and well worth doing if you can time your trip around it. Below is a view from the live feed, which we watched on an iPad simultaneously with our view from the ground. From our vantage point a few miles away the rocket looked a lot like a sun rising at night, accompanied by a low rumbling and roar.
Tip: You can purchase tickets from KSC to view upcoming launches up close or you can get a good view from any of the space coast beaches or Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral. For more information see KSC's blog about viewing launches at https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/blog/03/how-to-watch-a-rocket-launch.
Even when there isn't a launch planned there are plenty of rockets to be seen like the immense Saturn V rocket (top) and the collection in the Rocket Garden (below). Standing beneath these giants is the best way to feel the enormity of the rockets and appreciate the effort it took to build and launch them into space.
Another highlight of the trip was seeing the retired space shuttle Atlantis which has its own building full of interactive activities. We especially liked experiencing what lift-off felt like for the shuttle astronauts in the Shuttle Launch Experience. What does lift-off feel like? Strapped into the simulator you will feel a very realistic bumpy, teeth-chattering roar upwards, but not to worry--it is not the kind of VR experience that drops your stomach on the floor. It's fun but not scary and is appropriate for kids. Tip: This is a popular attraction, so I recommend visiting it first before the lines get too long.
The kids also enjoyed other smaller VR exhibits that allowed them to "put on" a virtual pair of astronaut gloves and make repairs to a virtual space station. For an even more realistic experience kids aged 10-17 can challenge themselves with Space Walk Training (30-45 min, $40), Mars Exploration Simulator Training (45-60 min, $40), or a full day Astronaut Training Experience (8 hrs, $175).
Throughout the visitor complex, everything is modern, clean, and designed to keep your visitor mission on track. Even lunch was relatively high-tech, with a streamlined computer ordering system in the Orbit Cafe and spacedot icecream outside.
After lunch, the hot afternoon hours are the perfect time to settle into a space film in the IMAX Theater and then visit Journey to Mars, a presentation of what NASA is doing now to explore Mars with interactive games, simulators, and mock-ups of Mars rovers.
To top off the day, we took a bus tour of the facilities (included with admission) that brought us up close to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), which is one of the biggest buildings in the world, launch pads, 2 massive crawler-transporters, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Tip: Allow 2 hours for this tour. The bus ride itself isn't long, but it takes time to line-up for the busses coming and going and you will want to spend about an hour with the movie and exhibits at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
Now that the Apollo 50th Anniversary is approaching, there has never been a better time to visit. To celebrate the historic moon landing, KCS is planning new exhibits in the Apollo/Saturn V Center, astronaut encounters, special events, and a ceremony in July.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is about an hour east of Orlando in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Partly to serve the large number of cruise passengers sailing from Port Canaveral, there are a lot of reasonably priced hotels in the Coco Beach/Cape Canaveral area, but its also easy to make a day trip from the Orlando area. Recommended itineraries are included on KSC's website. To start planning your trip visit http://bit.ly/2QK718g or call 855.433.4210.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and do not reflect those of the Kennedy Space Center. For purposes of this review, our family received complimentary passes to the visitor center. All rights reserved to GoKidTrips.com (c) 2019.
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