Kennedy Space Center Guide
Published on 07/18/22: Any rocket and space fans out there? We love watching the Cape Canaveral launches from St Pete! So much so that we wanted a behind the scenes look. While my #LovingStPeteDayTrips series typically only includes destinations within a 2-hour drive, I’m making an exception for the Kennedy Space Center! Drive time should be less than 2 1/2 hours for most of us around the Tampa Bay Area. Posting this while there’s still time left in the summer for a quick trip.
Book the one day or two day pass to the Kennedy Space Center?
I’ll start by saying our only regret is not paying the extra $14 for a 2-day pass. When booking online, you have the option of a 1-day adult pass for $75 or a 2- day pass for $89. Children ages 3-11 are $65 for one day and $79 for a 2-day pass.
While only $14 more, we recalled how we felt on day two of the Disney/Epcot summer heat, so booked just 1 day for Kennedy Space Center. Here’s where we miscalculated. A large portion of the exhibits and activities are indoors and thus air conditioned! Plus, we found an incredible 3 story indoor kids play area with sofas, comfy chairs, beer taps and wine. Colt could have stayed in this area itself for a couple hours…and the feeling was mutual with his parental units.
Easy Arrival and Entry
We arrived around 10:30am, 90 minutes after gates open. Despite arriving later than we planned, we were pleased to find parking within a few minute walk of the gate. A welcome relief, though realize going on the weekend will be more crowded. Additionally, we had pre-purchased our tickets online, allowing us to walk right in after scanning our QR code from our phone. Easy, I simply opened the email confirmation!
Take the bus tour!
After arrival, I’d suggest hopping on the bus for a trip to the Saturn V building. This bus tour is included in your ticket, yet I suspect some overlook what’s likely a ‘top 3’ activity at the space center. We had zero line for the bus and enjoyed the 20 or so minute air conditioned and narrated ride. You’re then dropped off at the Saturn V building where a couple hours can be spent. We spent around 90 minutes in the essence of time. Between the exhibits, restaurant, interactive activities, the time can fly by at the Saturn V area. Make sure to head outside and check the picturesque waterfront, including mangroves, wildlife, plus bleachers where you can watch rockets launch if you timed your visit accordingly.
Atlantis Shuttle Pavilion
Once you return from the bus tour, I’d visit the Atlantis Space Shuttle pavilion, which includes the shuttle launch experience. We ran out of time for the shuttle launch, though heard it was great. Back to my regret for not coughing up the extra $14 for a 2 day pass. The Atlantis area also houses the real deal shuttle, suspended for viewing with cargo doors open. Incredible. I won’t spoil it, but the way the Atlantis is introduced “brought chills” to Amy. Not sure if there are multiple entrances to the suspended shuttle, but the main path we took is quite the grand entrance (after watching a short video).
Mars Display, Hall of Fame and IMAX Movies
From the Atlantis pavilion, immerse yourself in the trip to Mars displays and take a look at the Hall of Fame area. During this time, be mindful of the IMAX movie schedule and take in at least one of the two movies. We didn’t have time for either, though hear the Journey to Space movie should be first on your list. We noticed a popcorn and concession stand outside the theater, which is sometimes all I ask for in a movie. Popcorn.
In addition to the IMAX movies, you’ll find a number of other videos in theater type rooms around Kennedy Space Center. One of the more moving videos was the Apollo launch history. We’re very familiar with the success of the space program, though sometimes that may overshadow the failures and lives lost along the way. You’ll sit in the “control room” and watch the Apollo [?] launch, with your seats shaking as it roars into their air. Another moment where Amy said her emotions almost got the best of her.
Lodging While at Kennedy Space Center
While this can certainly be done via a day trip, it could make for a long day and you’ll be rushed, similar to us. We opted to stay overnight in Orlando and then make the 50 minute drive to the space center. We did this simply because there’s lots to do in Orlando that Colt enjoys. Between laser tag, themed restaurants, cool hotels with lazy rivers, you name it. However you could certainly also make this a beach trip, by staying in for instance Cocoa Beach.
In summary, a few tips:
1. Purchase tickets online.
2. Purchase 2 day passes for the extra $14 if you have rocket and space lovers in your family. Or if you think you’ll spend a decent amount of time at the 3 level playground that serves beer and wine.
3. Take the bus tour to the Saturn V building.
4. Bring reusable water bottles.
5. Per a couple of my follower’s comments on social media, the $25 Explore Tour is well worth it! You’ll visit the observation decks, a couple launch pads and more. Link above to book.
6. Prepare to spend some $ at the gift shops, or do as we sometimes do. “Let’s take a picture of it and you can show Santa in December”. Colt’s often okay with this idea, then forgets 2 days later that he wanted said item. Is that bad parenting? 😂
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