There are certain places around the world that leave you speechless and it’s fair to say after visiting the Kennedy Space Center in Florida that this attraction certainly fits into this category. Whether you are an avid space lover or simply have an inquisitive mind about extra-terrestrial life, there is something quite magical about the space center in Cape Canaveral. Although there are many amazing experiences to enjoy, the Kennedy Space Center bus tour is undoubtedly the pinnacle highlight when visiting, given that you have the opportunity to get an up close and personal view of the launchpads and control center.
Having previously visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston, we were excited to see what the Kennedy Space Center had to offer. We quickly realized that Florida’s equivalent space center literally took the concept of astronomical exploration to another level. Unsurprisingly, we immediately fell in love with this attraction and knew that spending only one day there wasn’t going to be enough time to explore everything.
Although each of the NASA space centers across the United States offers a distinctive look at the history and future of space exploration, Kennedy Space Center is the ultimate location to visit if you have any interest in learning more about this intriguing topic.
I am not going to lie, after spending a full day at Cape Canaveral, I have suddenly become even more interested in upcoming rocket launches and future plans of implementing the concept of “space tourism”…who knows, we may be future “space travel bloggers!” Let’s take a look at why we quickly became so obsessed with everything the Kennedy Space Center had to offer. We are 100% convinced that you will be too!
Kennedy Space Center Information
The Kennedy Space Center is perfectly located to enjoy a day trip from Orlando. Forget about Disney World and Universal Studios for the day and head east to experience an amazing journey to the center of space.
Kennedy Space Center is located in Central Florida just over one hour from Orlando. If there is one tip we can give folks before heading to NASA’s flagship space center, “arrive early for a full-day experience at the greatest space adventure on Earth.”
The beauty of visiting Kennedy Space Center is that it’s so much more than just learning about space. With so many other attractions in the nearby vicinity, visitors may consider spending a few nights around Cape Canaveral, and just a short drive from Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach.
An intriguing feature of Kennedy Space Center that is frequently forgotten is that this is actually based on a nature preserve. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge covers 140,000 acres and just a small portion of this is utilized for the space center and visitor complex.
The rest of the space…well folks, that’s a natural habitat for an array of amazing wildlife including alligators, bald eagles and many other species that find this the perfect environment to call their home!
Distances from Nearby Locations
Orlando to Kennedy Space Center – 43 miles (45-60 minutes)
Fort Lauderdale to Kennedy Space Center – 198 miles (3 hours)
Tampa to Kennedy Space Center – 126 miles (2 hours)
Daytona Beach to Kennedy Space Center – 63 miles (1 hour)
Daily admission at the time of publication of this post was as follows:
- Adults – $50
- Children (Age 3-11) – $40
But the best deal if you are planning multiple visits is the annual pass option! Trust us when we say that you can easily get great value out of the following because there is no way you can experience everything in a single visit.
- Adult Annual Pass – $75
- Child Annual Pass (Age 3-11) – $60
Other pass options are available and we always recommend visiting the Kennedy Space Center website for the latest availability as prices are subject to change.
- Cars – $10
- Motorcycles – $5
- Oversized vehicles, motorhomes and RV’s – $15
Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour
Let’s start our adventure at the Kennedy Space Center by highlighting why hopping on the bus tour is the best way to start your experience while visiting Cape Canaveral.
After passing through a quick security check, we took the short walk over to the “bus tour” entrance and soon realized that this was obviously the highlight experience.
Be prepared to wait patiently because regardless of when you visit, there is always likely to be a sizeable queue. We had to wait over one hour before boarding our NASA inspired bus to begin our adventure to the launch pads and Vehicle Assembly Building. Is it worth the wait you may be wondering? 100% YES!!!
The drive out to the “secure” area offers the bus driver the opportunity to be your tour guide for the next 20 minutes. All drivers are knowledgeable and have insider knowledge of the best locations to spot wildlife.
There is a pretty strong chance that you will see an alligator or two wandering along the edge of the road and keep your eyes peeled for the bald eagle’s nest which will be on your left as you make your way out to the launch pads.
Don’t worry if you miss it on your journey out because you will have an even better sight on your return journey to the Visitor Complex, particularly if you sit on the right side of the bus.
Our tour guide did give us a little bad news as our journey started as she indicated to us that we wouldn’t be able to go all the way to the launch pads. She wasn’t “in the know” as to why and simply relayed that the powers that be told all drivers that day they could only go to the Vehicle Assembly Building. I did later find out the following given that we visited just a few days prior to the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch:
Now that rocket launches are once again taking place from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, safety protocols require an alternate tour bus route during days leading up to a launch. The alternate route includes viewing the Vehicle Assembly Building and the future mobile launcher of NASA’s Space Launch System. (Kennedy Space Center)
However, we were able to see both launch pad 39A and 39B from a couple of miles away and of course, the highlight experience was driving by the Vehicle Assembly Building where the shuttles are constructed before making their final journey to the launch pad.
Listening to our driver share stories about how long it takes to move these “vehicles” really puts into perspective the magnitude and scope of the many projects that has seen us go deeper into space.
Apollo/Saturn V Center
When you think about the history of space exploration, it’s fair to say that the Apollo missions will likely be at the forefront of many of your thoughts.
Whether that’s because of the initial failures or the tragic deaths of Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Ed White II during pre-flight testing of Apollo I, this series of missions is certainly iconic not only in space exploration but also the history of the United States.
Visitors to the Apollo/Saturn V Center have the opportunity to experience historic moments with Apollo 8 and the Firing Room and listen to the moments when “lift-off” successfully occurred. Take a stroll into the main area and appreciate the size of Saturn V, the largest rocket ever flown.
Saturn V is a 363-foot rocket that transferred astronauts from earth to the moon and is one of only three remaining in the nation. It’s no surprise that this is the focal point of the center and you can easily identify the three distinctive features that collectively make up the Saturn V rocket.
After spending time learning about the history of both the Saturn V and Apollo missions, head over to the Moon Rock Cafe where you can enjoy lunch from a variety of options.
With plenty of seating indoors and outdoors, this is definitely a great place to grab a bite to eat while sitting under the towering Saturn V rocket…it’s not every day you get to experience this as a backdrop for your lunch!
Other Attractions at Kennedy Space Center
Hopping on the bus to explore the Vehicle Assembly Building and get “up close and personal” with the area where these rockets take-off into space isn’t the only attraction at Kennedy Space Center. In fact, this is only one of many cool things to do and once you see all the other options, you will quickly realize why this place is somewhere you will want to revisit multiple times.
Heroes and Legends
Can you imagine having the opportunity to step inside one of the Apollo spacecraft or Saturn rockets and venture outside of planet Earth? There are very few people that have ever had this opportunity, many have sacrificed their lives while others have been fortunate to return.
All of these “heroes” can be honored inside the “Heroes and Legends” exhibit featuring the “US Astronaut Hall of Fame by Boeing”.
IMAX 3D Theater
Renowned as being the “next best thing than being in space,” the IMAX 3D Theater experience at Kennedy Space Center is the ideal opportunity to grab your favorite drink, a box of popcorn and relax while enjoying a journey into outer space.
Learn all about the projects the Kennedy Space Center is working on and how realistic it is to imagine life on another planet. Will we reach Mars by 2030? What is the “future” of space exploration? All of these questions and many more can be answered during one of the IMAX movies.
The times and movies will vary depending on when you visit but we had the opportunity to see either “Journey to Space”, “Journey to Mars,” or “Planet Earth”.
Perhaps the most iconic space vehicle to date is the Atlantis Space Shuttle. It ventured into outer space like a rocket and returned to planet earth like a gliding plane. This combination created an amazing vehicle that allowed us to make several trips to the International Space Station and secure the future of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Be prepared to wait for quite some time before entering the Atlantis experience. We queued for around one hour before having the opportunity to watch a series of videos about the history of Atlantis.
As you move from one room to the next learning about Atlantis, the pièce de résistance occurs at the end of the second short film when the front door opens up revealing the Atlantis Space Shuttle.
A number of interactive exhibits can be found inside the Atlantis experience, notably the “Fiery Ride Home,” a slide allowing you to find out the angle at which the Atlantis returned to space. There is plenty here for all the family to enjoy and you could easily spend your entire visit to Kennedy Space Center inside the Atlantis building.
If you have any interest in learning about the future of space exploration or perhaps want to revisit the history of this topic, visiting the Kennedy Space Center is undoubtedly the best place to experience this.
Whether you are intrigued by the thought of taking a bus tour to enjoy behind the scenes access to the launchpads or perhaps you prefer to stay near the Visitor Center to enjoy the history of the Atlantis Space Shuttle, you can be sure there will be plenty to keep you occupied during your visit to Kennedy Space Center.
Our final tip before visiting Kennedy Space Center is to be patient! Be prepared to wait because there are frequently A LOT of visitors wanting to experience the same exhibits. Don’t worry though because this is well and truly an experience that is worth the wait!
Have you visited Kennedy Space Center or any others around the United States?