A day trip from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center
By Helen Wright
There is so much to do in Orlando, visitors are spoilt for choice. With four Walt Disney World theme parks, two Universal theme parks (with the additional, Epic Universe coming soon), SeaWorld, Gatorland and so many other local attractions, you will have no problem filling your days with fun. However, there is one ‘outta this world’ place you don’t want to miss. Orlando to Kennedy Space Center is just over an hour’s drive and Kennedy Space Center, Florida’s Nasa facililty, is also a ground-breaking, themed park that will have you reaching for the skies.
Take a trip from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center
With the launch of Artemis-1, the new space rocket, there has been a lot of TV and news coverage about space travel, so Finn and I were both really excited to visit the place where the rockets actually take off. Finn has also been studying the solar system at school, so it was a great opportunity for him to do some real-life learning.
You can save money on tickets to Kennedy Space Center by booking in advance from the UK. One-day tickets from attractiontickets.com were £63 for adults and £54 for children aged 3-12 (under-3s are free). It’s a digital ticket, so you can download it to your phone, or print it, and then head to the park whenever you want to go. There is no requirement to reserve days at Kennedy Space Center in advance.
Getting to Kennedy Space Center from Orlando
Getting to Kenendy Space Center from Orlando is so easy. It’s pretty much one straight road from the tourist area of Orlando to Kennedy Space Center and took 1hr 10 mins to drive. It’s usually an hour, according to Google Maps, but we hit a bit of traffic. If you’ve never driven in the USA before, it’s actually pretty simple and enjoyable to drive in the USA. Take a look at our post on driving stateside for lots of tips and advice.
If you have a bit more time to enjoy the area, consider staying at Cocoa Beach for a few nights. The area has lots of fun attractions, a gorgeous beach and lively nightlife. We have a dedicated post about Cocoa Beach and Florida’s Space Coast. Follow us on Instagram for updates.
How to get from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center without a car
There are coach transfers available from Orlando to Kenendy Space Center and attractiontickets.com also sell Kennedy Space Center tickets with a transfer included. These are £122 adult and £113 for children.
What is Kennedy Space Center Florida?
Kennedy Space Center Florida is one of the USA’s most unique and popular tourist attractions. I went as a child, but I hardly remember my visit. Orlando to Kennedy Space Center is such an easy trip, and I was excited to go back as a grown up and take my own kids. It’s essentially an epic ‘live action’ museum that has so much to see and do. All the while, real life rockets are being prepared for missions on the same grounds. It’s very unlike anywhere else I have ever been.
What is there to do at Kennedy Space Center?
There is SO much to do here that we didn’t actually get around to doing everything in one day, so if you are coming from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center, make sure you are there for opening time. We started at Gateway (The Deep Space Launch Complex). Inside was a huge interactive showcase of space science through the years and predictions on how space travel will be in the future. The room is very exciting, with a rocket suspended from the roof, moving features, cool futeristic lighting and lots of tangible exhibits and games for little brains to explore.
What I liked about this, and in fact Kennedy Space Center as a whole, was the wealth of museum-style information and facts for older kids and adults, alongside fun and interactive games and exhibits for younger children. As I read about the different temperatures on each planet, Simon and the kids played with a thermal imaging wall.
Outside, you can take a tour of the Rocket Garden. This is a display of giant rockets all used in NASA’s Mercury, Gemini or Apollo programs. This is a really cool place to start, as you get a real sense of how enormous these vessels are as they tower above you.
You can also explore the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and there is a show about America’s earliest space missions. I loved this, but the kids were desperate to go outside and see the real deal. You can also meet an astronaut during a live presentation at the Universe Theater, (included with your general admission), but unfortunately we managed to miss the time slot. I think because my kids are young (age 3 and 5) they were probably expecting a man in a space suit, rather than an actual human anyway…
Bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center
With Kennedy Space Center being an active NASA launch facility, obviously much of the 177,000 acre complex is off limits to the public. However, as well as all the attractions and shows at the front of the park, guests are given a closer look at the spaceport via a bus tour around the facility. During the tour, we drove past the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, which was housing Artemis-1, the brand new space rocket! The space craft had been brought inside for protection during the recent Huricane Ian and was still there. The doors to the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building are the largest in the world, standing at 456ft tall to allow for, well, space rockets to be assembled and stored inside! Pretty awesome to see up close.
We also got to see Crawler 2, a huge caterpillar-style vehicle that is used to transport rockets from the Assembly Building to the launch pad. Despite being only 4-miles away, it will take ten hours to drive Artemis-1 back to the pad for take-off. Check out this cool blog all about the crawler (which was built in 1965 for the Saturn V moon launch and remains mostly unmodified to this day! If it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it, right?).
Can you get off the bus on the Kennedy Space Center bus tour?
Obviously in the restricted areas involving the ongoing launches and equipment, you are not allowed to get off the bus. However, the bus drops guests off at the Apollo/Saturn V center and this was one of our favourite parts of the park.
The Apollo/Saturn V Center has some of the best exhibits, so don’t miss the bus tour as this is the only way to get there. The last bus will be advertised at the front of the park and at the bus station (the last bus leaving on the day we visited was at 3pm, due to the time it takes to get to the area and enjoy the attractions).
Explore the Apollo/Saturn V Center
The star attraction here is getting to stand under the massive Saturn V rocket. At 363 ft long, this is the largest rocket ever flown into space. 13 Saturn V rockets were launched between 1967 and 1972, this is one of only three remaining in the United States.
The rocket is suspended from the ceiling and it’s such an epic sight. You are absolutely dwarfed by it and the kids couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw it! It’s cut into three bits so you can see how the compartments go together. So incredible!
The hanger also has smaller exhibits, all relating to the Apollo/Saturn launches. One of things we loved was getting to touch a real piece of moon rock. It was probably the tiniest thing at the centre, but one of the most fascinating. There is a room showcasing how astronaut suits have changed over the years, a reconstruction of Neil Armstrong’s Moon Landing and an immersive experience showing what it was like to be in the firing room during the launch of Apollo 8, the first crewed Saturn V mission to space.
We decided to stay at the Apollo/Saturn Center and get some food because where else would you be able to sit beneath a real rocket and eat lunch?! The Moon Rock Café has general theme park staples, like hot dogs and chips, but we got a large pizza and shared. It was surprisingly delicious!
Do you need a whole day at Kennedy Space Center?
If you want to do everything, and especially if you have different aged kids that might want to explore different things, you might not even get to see it all in one day. We certainly didn’t! Our kids were in the play area for an hour and even then we couldn’t get them out! The bus tour to Apollo/Saturn V takes approximately two hours, including getting there and exploring the complex. Before you know it, the sun is setting and you’re making your way to the exit.
If you only have one day for Kennedy Space Center, I highly recommend getting there for opening time and expect to stay until the park closes. When we visited, closing time was 5pm. There are no fireworks or shows – unless there is a rocket taking off, of course! That would be a pretty amazing show to get a front row seat of.
What age is best for Kennedy Space Center?
This is such a tricky one! We are a family aged between 3 and 41, and we all loved it! We were gutted when the park was closing and han to make our way to the exit. I think it would be brilliant for teenagers too, although obviously I am not speaking from experience there.
For younger children, it probably does depend on the child. Isobel (3) is quite an active kid and will play with cars and vehicles alongside her dolls. She loves doing anything different and is quite easily entertained in any place. Stereotypically, maybe some little girls might be bored without princesses and pixie dust, but Kennedy Space Center has definitely done a great job of creating attractions and exhibits that are immersive and appeal to all ages.
What is there for younger kids at Kennedy Space Center?
The standout zone for younger kids is definitely the spectacular Planet Play. This indoor soft play centre is included with the admission price and is an epic space-themed, zany playground for ages 2-12. Think, slides with moving projections on them, climbing through the solar system, dancing on Saturn’s rings and family competition computer games. You could easily spend two hours just playing in here and for the grown-ups, it’s a welcome break from the heat and Florida sun outside.
During our visit, there was also a Lego-based play area where you can build spaceships and rockets from Lego and children can do some hands-on learning about the space programme at Kennedy Space Center. Adults and children alike can also enjoy space-themed movies in the IMAX theatre.
NOTE: The LEGO Build to Launch exhibit is only at the visitor complex for a limited time, so check the website for more details.
Are there rides at Kennedy Space Center
Spaceport KSC is a new 4D attraction taking guests into the ‘airport of the future’ or a galactic space port. Live ‘windows’ show rocket launches and landings happening outside. This simulator starship has been created for guests to experience the sights, sounds and feel of a journey through space. There are four trips to choose from – Cosmic Wonders, Daring Explorers, Red Planet or Uncharted Worlds. I would have liked to have ridden all four, but each had a 20-minute line. Not a terrible wait time individually, but Isobel wasn’t tall enough to ride (height restriction is 39 inches) so it wasn’t fair to keep her waiting over two hours! Finn enjoyed the ride, but it’s as intense as you might imagine, so once was probably enough for a five-year-old.
You can also ride the Shuttle Launch Experience, another computerised simulator, similar to Star Tours at Walt Disney World, this time depicting a space shuttle’s eight-and-a-half-minute ascent into orbit! ‘Astronauts’ are prepped for a prelaunch by veteran space shuttle commander Charles Bolden.
Not really a ride, but another fun attraction is the Astronaut training simulators inside Space Shuttle Atlantis. Are you up to the challenge?
We really had a fantastic day and it is well worth the drive from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center as part of your Florida holiday. This place is just cool – and on top of that, we all learned a hell of a lot too! Absolutely fascinated by space travel (even more so than before) and we will absolutely go back on our next Florida trip – can’t wait!
Take a look at visitspacecoast.com to find out what else is going on in the area and find out about special events, including rocket launches.
For more on Kennedy Space Center, visit kennedyspacecenter.com
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