Updated: May 21, 2015

Visiting NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Most of the work that NASA has done over the past 50 years has happened in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center, located on the east coast of Florida less than 1 hour from Orlando. Whether it is the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, or Apollo Moon Missons, it all happened, and is happening, right here. It makes an easy day trip if you are visiting DisneyWorld. In fact, it makes a nice mix of something historic and educational thrown into the normal theme park mayhem that most vacations entail -- so if you have the time, definitely consider spending a day at KSC during your next Orlando trip. Why visit? What is there to do there? Keep reading -- this guide will give you the basics you need for a fun and enlightening visit to Kennedy Space Center -- tickets, times, tours, maps, activities, etc.

Kennedy Space Center Facts: Tickets, Hours, Tours

Where is Kennedy Space Center located? How do I get there? Is there a map? Of course, the first step is getting there. Below is a map of the Kennedy Space Center Area:

Located near Titusville, FL, you get to Kennedy Space Center by crossing over Hwy 405. From Orlando this means taking the 528 to SR407, which dumps you right into 405. If you are coming down from the Daytona Beach area, take I-95 south to exit#215, which is SR50. Head east and you will quickly see the sign for SR405 heading to Kennedy. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open daily except for Christmas, and that will be the first stop on your visit. It is open from 9AM to 6PM everyday. How much are Kennedy Space Center tickets? It costs $38 for adult tickets and $28 for children (age 3-11) -- tickets are good for 2 days.

With admission to KSC, you get access to the Kennedy Space Center Tour which takes you via bus to the International Space Station Center (where you can walk thru a full-size model of the Habitation Module), the Launch Complex 39 Observation Gantry where you can see two of the Shuttle launch pads, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. KSC offers two other paid tours. The first is the NASA Up Close Tour ($21 for adults, $15 for children ) where you get to go behind the scenes and see the giant Vehicle Assembly Building, Shuttle Landing Facility, NASA HQ, and the gigantic Crawlers that move the shuttles around. The tour lasts about 2 hours. It's a bit pricey if you are bringing a family, but if you are space fans it might well be worth it. This tour normally sells out, so you are advised to buy tickets in advance. Ticket info here. The other paid tour is Cape Canaveral Then and Now (ticket prices same as above) where you'll visit launch sites for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the Air Force Space & Missile Museum, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. It lasts about 2.5 hours.

Things to do at Kennedy Space Center

The official website is KennedySpaceCenter.com if you need additional information. Most people spend at least a few hours at KSC when they visit. There are a variety of museum attractions, movies, and tours to take, all of which take time. The Visitor Complex is where your visit begins. There are 2 giant IMAX movie screens here with space related films that change regularly -- Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D, and Space Station 3D were playing there recently. There is no charge to see the films beyond the admission price. There is an outdoor rocket garden, with lifesize models of all the famous launch rockets standing vertically. There is a shady playdome for kids. There are daily briefings from real astronauts. Check out the new Shuttle Launch Experience, where you'll get an idea what it is like to be an astronaut onboard the Shuttle during launch as your chairs tilt back into vertical launch position for liftoff! You won't hit the 17,000MPH speeds the real astronauts do, but you will have fun. And there is Space Shuttle Plaza with a full scale shuttle model to check out. From here, you'll also catch the buses that take you on the tours mentioned above. Included in your admission ticket is access to the hangars where you can see the real Saturn V rockets that launched the Apollo missions -- the largest rocket ever made at over 360 feet. You'll feel like a mouse standing next to it. Plus you can go see Launch Complex 39 and the International Space Station Center -- all with air-conditioned buses to protect you from Florida heat and humidity. Oh yeah, we forgot to mention it is hot in Florida, especially in summer -- plan accordingly! In our opinion, there really is no need to spend 2 days at KSC. We recommend an early morning arrival to beat some of the heat, spend an hour or two at the Visitor Complex and catch an IMAX film, then get on the bus to go see LC39 and the ISS Center. If you have time and don't mind spending a little extra money, we really like the NASA Up Close Tour, which will take you 2 more hours. Kids of all ages seem to love the rockets and shuttles -- they may not even know they are learning about science and history while having so much fun.

Space Shuttles Launches and Landings at Kennedy Space Center

Where does the Space Shuttle land? Where does it launch? Where can I see a Space Shuttle Launch calendar? All of the Space Shuttles are housed and launched from Kennedy Space Center. They normally land there as well, though they can also land in California if weather problems keep them out of Florida. You can see the official NASA launch schedule here. For example, this year there will be Space Shuttle Discovery launch on May 31, and a Space Shuttle Atlantis launch on August 28th (they also list information on other NASA rocket launches from Cape Canaveral). For many people, hearing and feeling the thunder of launching rockets into space is the thrill of a lifetime. If you can schedule your Florida trip to coincide with a Shuttle launch, go for it. You used to be able to camp and watch Shuttle launches from your car or RV right on the Kennedy Space Center grounds. A limited number of tickets are available to view a launch from both KSC Visitor Complex and a premium, restricted-area viewing site just 6 miles from the launch pad -- you have to call 321-449-4400 for information and purchasing. These tickets runs about $50 for adults and $40 for kids. There are a number of other good spots nearby where you can view the shuttle launches from, away from the restricted KSC land. One good spot is in Cocoa Beach, along Road A1A right at the coast. The raised sections of Hwy 528 where it crosses the Indian River or the Banana River. In Titusville, Hwy 1 along the Indian River is another popular viewing spot. Obviously, follow all traffic and safety rules -- in general, follow what the crowd of locals is already doing, they've probably been out there many times for launches. For more information on suggested places to view space shuttle launches, visit: LaunchPhotography.com/Shuttle_Launch_Viewing.html --they also have some cool launch photos to give you an idea of what to expect.