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Our Galactic Guide to Kennedy Space Center

by Leap on July 21, 2022

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Summary

Ever dreamed of exploring the stars and traversing vast planets and distant galaxies? Then plan a trip to the John F. Kennedy Space Center. So much more than just a theme park, this NASA field center is home to a range of exciting activities and attractions that offer a glimpse into the world of space, science, innovation and imagination. It's here that famous launch operations such as the ones for Apollo and Skylab were carried out and where robotic and commercial crew missions are managed to this day. Since the dawn of America's space program, Kennedy Space Center has been where advanced technology meets humanity's passion to travel far beyond our own planet.

Kennedy Space Center - Entrance

Overview of Kennedy Space Center

One of 10 NASA field centers across the United States, and the launch site for every U.S. human space flight since 1968, Kennedy Space Center is a premier working spaceport that researches and develops innovative solutions for government and commercial space ventures needed for working and living on the surfaces of the moon and other bodies in our solar system.

What started as a drive-through tour of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station back in 1966 is now a 70-acre Visitor Complex where frogs can explore historical displays and exhibits that tell the rich history and awe-inspiring future of space travel. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex claims the elite distinction of being one of the few places on earth where the public can view a live rocket launch, but it's also the only place in the world where you can touch a moon rock, tour a NASA spaceflight facility, see the space shuttle Atlantis, get an up-close view of a real Saturn V moon rocket and meet a veteran NASA astronaut all in the same day!

Kennedy Space Center Location & Transportation Options

Kennedy Space Center - Entrance

Kennedy Space Center is located on Merritt Island in Brevard County — about 60 miles east of Orlando. The easiest way to get there from Orlando is a car, which will end up being about an hour-long drive via Highway 528 or State Road 50. Highway 528 is a toll road, so be prepared to pay around $8 round trip. Parking at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is $10 for automobiles, and the parking lot is conveniently located right in front of the entrance — no tram required! Take advantage of best-in-class service and reliability, fast check-in and the ability to pay now or later and bundle for maximum savings when you book a rental car through Undercover Tourist!

If you want to explore everything the Visitor Complex has to offer, you won't be able to accomplish it all in one day. (Hitting the highlights in one day, though, is completely doable!) If you want to book a hotel room, there are tons of affordable options just minutes away — all close to beautiful Atlantic beaches and nearby Port Canaveral.

  • Fairfield Inn by Marriott Titusville/Kennedy Space Center: 19 minutes away
  • Courtyard By Marriott Titusville: 10 minutes away
  • Cape Crossing Resort & Marina: 14 minutes away
  • Radisson Resort at the Port: 19 minutes away
  • Best Western Cocoa Beach Hotel & Suites: 22 minutes away
  • Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach: 26 minutes away
  • Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach: 26 minutes away
  • International Palms Resort Cocoa Beach: 28 minutes away
  • Beachside Hotel Cocoa Beach: 25 minutes away
  • Holiday Inn Club Vacations Incorporated: 21 minutes away

Kennedy Space Center Tickets & Hours

Kennedy Space Center - Tickets

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open Monday through Sunday weekly from 9 a.m. to either 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. depending on the season. Be sure to check the Kennedy Space Center's website for the hours of operation on the day of your visit. Entry to the Visitor Complex, however, ends one hour prior to closing. Save some green on a 1-Day admission ticket by purchasing through Undercover Tourist. This ticket includes the following:

  • Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour
  • Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex
  • Apollo/Saturn V Center
  • Space Shuttle Atlantis
  • Astronaut Encounter Theater featuring three shows daily
  • Heroes & Legends exhibit featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
  • Shuttle Launch Experience 3D films in the IMAX Theater
  • Journey to Mars exhibit
  • The Rocket Garden
  • Free WiFi available throughout the visitor complex

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has also introduced a new, two-day ticket which makes it possible for guests to visit for less than $45 a day!

Mission Zones at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is organized into Mission Zones, where attractions and tours are grouped together by chronological era. These zones give frogs an up-close, hands-on feel for the long and exciting history of space exploration — from its Hubble beginnings to its cosmically cool future.

Heroes & Legends

Kennedy Space Center - Heroes and Legends

Explore NASA's early space programs and see what inspired a nation to reach for the stars. Heroes & Legends is where frogs of all ages can discover what it means to be a hero through the stories of NASA's space pioneers.

  • Heroes & Legends Featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Presented by Boeing: Get an up close look at actual artifacts including a Redstone rocket and Sigma 7 capsule and embark on an awe-inspiring journey as you relive the thrills and dangers of America's earliest space missions. 45 minutes.
  • U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame: Learn all about the lives of the heroic frogs who dared to touch the stars through compelling displays that remember and honor brave American astronauts. 15 minutes.

Kennedy Space Center - Mission Control

  • Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo: Hear the inspiring story of the extraordinary team that made up Mission Control for the Apollo space program through their own testimony and the voices of Apollo astronauts and modern NASA flight directors. 45 minutes.
  • Rocket Garden: Marvel at the larger-than-life engineering feats of NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and programs and pay tribute to the genius scientists and engineers who turned dreams of spaceflight into reality at this garden of giants. Daily guided tours are available. 20 minutes.
  • Astronaut Encounter: Hear exciting tales from veteran NASA astronaut about their experiences living and working in space during this live presentation and Q&A session. 40 minutes.

Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other

Kennedy Space Center - Atlantis

Enter the permanent home of Space Shuttle Atlantis, an American icon that launched like a rocket and landed like a glider while transporting astronauts to space and back for 30 years and discover the legacy of NASA's Space Shuttle Program.

  • Space Shuttle Atlantis: See the groundbreaking orbiter spacecraft herself, one of three space-flown shuttles residing in the United States, displayed as only astronauts have seen her ... as if just undocked from the International Space Station. 45 minutes for shows and viewing of Atlantis.
  • Hubble Space Telescope Theater: Watch how dedicated astronauts fought to save the Hubble Space Telescope over the course of five grueling service missions and learn how the famous and complex instrument has answered some of our most basic questions about the universe. 8 minutes.
  • Astronaut Training Simulators: Learn to dock and land the space shuttle on these high-tech simulators that replicate the complex systems and components that make up Atlantis. 15 minutes.

Kennedy Space Center - Forever Remembered

  • Forever Remembered: Visit this permanent exhibit that displays personal items from each brave astronaut who perished during the losses of Challenger and Columbia and recovered hardware from both orbiters, as well as showcases how NASA has since emphasized the importance of learning from its past. 10 minutes.
  • ISS Triumph of Technology: Experience what life in space is like aboard the International Space Station as you travel between the Destiny and Unity modules before exploring Microgravity Theater and the carrying out simulated science experiments in space. 10 minutes.
  • Shuttle Launch Experience: Strap in for an exhilarating simulation of the space shuttle's eight-and-a-half-minute ascent into orbit and experience what veteran NASA astronauts call the next best thing to flying aboard the space shuttle. 30 minutes.

NASA Now + Next

Kennedy Space Center - Gateway: Interactive Spacesuit

Immerse yourself in the science of current and future missions and find out how NASA is currently paving the way for the exciting future of space exploration.

  • Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex: See the spacecraft of today up close and witness the visionary designs and cutting-edge innovations that will enable humans to eventually explore the outer reaches of deep space in the not-so-far future. 45 minutes.
  • Spaceport KSC: Enter the spaceport of the future and embark on one of four incredible journeys on this slow-moving motion theater ride that will enable you to explore our very own solar system, as well as galaxies lightyears away. Frogs must be 39 inches to ride. Child swap is available, as is a stationary Observation Bay to experience the full ride, minus the movement. 30 minutes.
  • Journey to Mars Explorers Wanted: Discover NASA's plans to journey into deep space, explore replicas of Mars rovers and test your interstellar savvy with interactive games and simulators in this out-of-this-world exhibit. 30 minutes.

Kennedy Space Center - MRVN

  • Mars Rover Vehicle Navigator: Meet MRVN, the newest concept vehicle designed for navigating the demanding landscape of Mars within which the next generation of space explorers could be traveling and working. 10 minutes.
  • Eyes on the Universe: NASA's Space Telescope: Travel back in time 13.4 billion years during this live presentation where frogs can view the farthest reaches of the universe in jaw-dropping 3D 4K resolution via the famous deep space images from the Hubble Space Telescope. 20 minutes.
  • IMAX Theater: Journey to the stars with one of the entertaining and educational space movies available daily in the IMAX Building. See the Daily Schedule once you arrive for show times. 60 minutes.
  • Mission Status Briefing: Catch a multimedia presentation where you'll learn more about NASA's commercial partners like SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, the brave astronauts and fascinating science experiments aboard the International Space Station and preparations for the future of deep space exploration, as well as updates on NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Check the Daily Schedule for showtimes and locations. 20 minutes.

Race to the Moon

Kennedy Space Center - Saturn V Rocket

Relive the wonder and excitement of the Apollo moon landings through interactive and engaging exhibits at this one-of-a-kind attraction and celebrate the unprecedented achievement of putting humans on the moon. The Apollo/Saturn V Center pays homage to the people and machines that made lunar dreams a reality and the future seem ripe with endless possibilities.

  • Saturn V Rocket: Walk beneath a real Saturn V rocket, a show-stopping giant that launched humans to the moon and one of only three remaining in the United States. Plus explore exhibits that take you through the rocket's assembly and celebrate the hundreds of thousands of people who helped build the massive machine. 30-45 minutes.
  • Apollo 8 and the Firing Room: Experience just how exciting and nerve-wracking it was in the firing room as the clock counted down to the launch of the first crewed NASA mission to the moon facing the actual consoles used during the Apollo Launches and feel the powerful Saturn V rocket lift off from the launch pad as it blasted into space. 20 minutes.
  • Path to the Moon: Marvel at the accomplishments of Apollo missions 7-10 and the state-of-the-art technology that kept all the astronauts safe while they traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to the moon. 20 minutes.
  • Moonscape: Behold the moment when famed Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong planted the American flag on the lunar surface and get an up-close look at the Lunar Module 9, the vehicle that sheltered humans on the moon and lifted them off the surface when the exploration was complete. 20 minutes.
  • Exploring the Moon: Leap at the chance to touch an actual moon rock brought back from Apollo 17 and explore the six Apollo landing sites to learn more about each mission, the astronauts and the fascinating items they left behind. 15 minutes.
  • Ad Astra Per Aspera: Honor the lives of the fallen Apollo 1 astronauts and learn how their legacies live on through the subsequent Apollo successes and beyond. 10 minutes.
  • Lunar Theater: Relive the heart-stopping final few minutes leading up to the first words ever spoken from the surface of the moon in a show that blends 3D theatrical elements with actual NASA footage and mission control recordings. 10 minutes.

Kennedy Space Center - Treasures Gallery

  • Treasures Gallery: Explore a vast and varied gallery of authentic artifacts of the Apollo moon missions, from Alan Shepard's moon dust-covered spacesuit to the Apollo 14 crew capsule. 15 minutes.
  • Moon Tree Garden: Reflect on the incredible achievements of humankind in a peaceful garden adorned with trees that are direct descendants of seeds that were taken to the moon. 15 minutes.

Planet Play

Kennedy Space Center - Planet Play

Designed for space explorers ages 2-12, Planet Play is a fully-immersive multiple-story play experience where the younger generation can map a constellation, climb a wormhole, walk on Saturn's rings and slide through an asteroid field via numerous interactive gaming and artistic elements. 30 minutes to one hour.

Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour

The only way to reach the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour offers one-of-a-kind access to restricted areas of Kennedy Space Center. Hear from local space experts in their fields and learn how NASA has joined commercial partners to prepare for the future of space exploration. This air-conditioned motor coach will take you closer to exclusive areas like the Vehicle Assembly Building and other operational facilities.

Tour availability and routes may be altered at any time with or without notice due to operational requirements. For example, during days leading up to a launch from Launch Complex 39A, the tour will be rerouted. The tour is 15 minutes long and concludes at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. It's also a 15-minute ride back to the Visitor Complex. Buses leave every 15 minutes and the last Bus Tour runs two and a half hours prior to park closure. Both the Apollo/Saturn V Center and Bus Tour are included in admission.

Kennedy Space Center - Bus Tour

Special Experiences at Kennedy Space Center

Make your day even more memorable with these additional experiences, not included in the price of admission.

  • Chat with an Astronaut: Sit down in a casual, small-group setting with the Astronaut of the Day who's here to answer your most pressing questions about what it is really like to live and work in space. The experience includes a continental breakfast in the morning or culinary samplings in the afternoon, one alcoholic drink per adult and a commemorative gift and lithograph. 45 minutes.
  • Launch Director of Space Shuttle Atlantis: Explore the space shuttle Atlantis with her last launch director, Mike Leinbach. Learn about the daring risks and thrilling rewards of the Space Shuttle Program from the man responsible for overall shuttle launch countdown policy, planning and execution activities for the final eleven years of the program. Three hours.
  • Astronaut Training Experience: Train like the next generation of space explorers who will travel to Mars in this exciting and immersive experience. Using top-of-the-line innovation technology, you and your team will work together to solve real-world problems using authentic NASA science. Feel what it's like to dock on the Red Planet, navigate the unique Mars terrain and perform spacewalks in a microgravity environment. Four to five hours.
  • Mars Base 1: Travel into the future and make your home on Mars Base 1. In this brand new attraction, you'll manage the Base Operations Center on Mars, harvest vegetables in the Botany Lab, program robots to optimize solar energy intake and adapt to the challenges of living in the Martian environment. Seven hours.
  • ATX Training Stages: Kick off your space exploration training and choose from three different training stages where you can navigate the Martian surface by rover or foot or experience weightlessness in a microgravity simulator. 30 minutes for each stage.
  • Cosmic Quest: Build a Martian habitat, perform scientific experiments aboard the International Space Station and launch NASA's next rocket in this interactive experience designed to engage and educate on NASA's current and future space science exploration endeavors. 30 minutes.

Kennedy Space Center Launch Schedule & Events

Kennedy Space Center - Rocket Launch Pad in Distance

Kennedy Space Center hosts a number of eye-opening events each year — including the ever-impressive rocket launches. Check out the Events Calendar to find out when the next launch is and what other events are coming up. If offered, launch viewing opportunities are sold as soon as possible after the launch's confirmed date and time are publicized. See a rocket blast off into space from the Main Visitor Complex, the Banana Creek Launch Viewing Area at the Apollo/Saturn V Center or the LC-39 Observation Gantry.

Dining & Shopping at Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center - Acai Bowl

Restaurants & Food

  • Orbit Cafe: Enjoy freshly-selected salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, dessert and more in this indoor eatery.
  • Space Bowl Bistro: Fuel up on refreshing açaí bowls or "build your own" savory bowls before your journey to Mars and beyond.
  • Moon Rock Cafe: Grab some grub at the Apollo/Saturn V Center and lunch among Apollo spacecraft and other lunar treasures.
  • IMAX Snax: Stock up on movie favorites including popcorn, candy and soda before your cinematic voyage into the stars.
  • Planet Play Lounge: While tadpoles play and learn, parents can enjoy a coffee, wine or beer in this comfortable, neon lounge.
  • Red Rock Grill: Order hot dogs and fries at this outdoor lunch stand.
  • Milky Way: Chill out with soft drinks, ice cream and Space Dots — perfect on a hot day!
  • Space Dots: Cool off with Martian Rocks flavor, exclusive to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Shops

  • The Space Shop: Discover what lies inside the world's largest store devoted to space memorabilia and NASA gear.
  • The Right Stuff: Stock up on moon landing souvenirs and Apollo program memorabilia inside the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
  • Shuttle Express: Take the final frontier home with you at this shop inside Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Additional Tips & Information

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a fascinating place to learn all about humanity's efforts to explore the vast universe we reside in. Because you can spend hours getting lost in all the exhibits, they provide several accommodations to make your visit as stress-free as possible.

  • Take advantage of the free on-site pet kennel. Complimentary water and food bowls are available in this climate-controlled facility, as well as waste bags. You must provide proof of current vaccinations from your veterinarian to board your pet here, as well as emergency contact information, a pet collar with ID tags and a non-retractable leash 6 feet or shorter and/or a carrying case or container.
  • Food and beverages in small, soft-sided coolers are permitted. Glass bottles or containers and outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted. All bags are subject to search for security.
  • Pick up a Guest Accessibility Pass for frogs in your party who may need special assistance. This pass helps crew members know you and your party may require assistance with sensory sensitive while at the Visitor Complex. It can be picked up at the Information center to the left of the main entrance. While the Guest Accessibility Pass won't guarantee immediate or priority bus/attraction entrance, it will help you obtain assistance from staff should you need it.
  • Wheelchairs, ECVs, single and double strollers are available for rent online and at the Visitor Complex. Wheelchairs are $10 plus tax, ECVs or scooters are $30 plus tax, single strollers are $8 plus tax and double strollers are $10 plus tax.

And with that, we are officially go for launch! Have you been to the Kennedy Space Center before? What tips do you have? What's your favorite mission zone? Let us know in the comments below!

Related: A Space Traveler's Guide to Walt Disney World Resort

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