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I love all thing engineering and NASA!
Kennedy Space Center is to research and space exploration like Coachella is for the music industry, the Indianapolis 500 for racing, CERN for particle physics, James Allison at MD Anderson for immunology research, the Louvre for art……..
Need I go on? Oh, don’t worry I will!!!
During the Magee Family Epic Roadtrip 2020, we got to visit Kennedy Space Center and it was FABULOUS! As a kid, my grandparents took a couple of us grandkids on an epic trip, and this is one place we got to visit. Our family trip brought back great memories and reminded me of my love for all things NASA and space exploration. I think my kids will always remember this too as a happy childhood adventure. (I even hope one of them joins NASA, SpaceX, or Space Force one day… a Momma can dream for her babies right?!)
Getting to the Kennedy Space Center is a cool ride in itself. We aren’t used to the lush Florida terrain and enjoyed the different vegetation on our drive. If we hadn’t been in a hurry, there were tons of points of interest along our drive from St. Augustine south to NASA like Daytona Beach, state parks, etc. This was only 2 hours without stops. If you are driving from Orlando, it’s about an hour or more depending where you are in Orlando. There are other options besides driving yourself from Orlando such as bus tours that from what I’ve read aren’t too expensive and generally include the admission price but check this with the tour you plan to book with. If you drive yourself like we did, parking is $10 per car, $15 for RV, and $5 for motorcycles. Check KSC Travel Information and Parking page for best routes to get there and parking fees.
Side note for moms or people with tiny bladders: First thing first was the bathroom stop before you enter the gate. OK, if you don’t have three kids in elementary school, then this might not seem like a big deal. It was such a blessing not having to wait until we were through the official entrance with tickets!
Some people can get through the entire space center in one day. We found out we are not those people! There is so much to see, do, and learn at NASA Kennedy Space Center. We walked through the Rocket Garden on the way to the bus tour – like walking among giants!
The Bus Tour
For the beginning of our adventure, the bus tour took us past historic launch sites and working spaceflight facilities. We found out there is an old launch area that now is used as an observation area for new launches and sometimes you can have dinner and a “show.” That’s a seriously awesome date night, right?!
One of my favorite things about the whole tour was driving past the world’s largest doors at NASA Vehicle Assembly Building. WOW! Ok, and I totally geeked out about seeing the different launch pads and got the above picture of the SpaceX launch pad. On the bus tour, there were also the alligators we spotted and a couple eagles chilling out by the side of the road. Plus, crawlers and the “highway” the crawler takes to deliver a shuttle to a launch pad. And learning about the water that is used to cool down shuttles while blasting off so everything doesn’t go up in flames literally. OK, OK, the bus tour rocks, you get it right? There is so much to see, the driver/tour guide has great insights, and the video is interesting. We really enjoyed the bus tour!
Apollo / Saturn V
We arrived at the Apollo / Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center and were first treated to a short informational video and then on to the Apollo 8 and the Firing Room Theater. It was cool to feel like we were in the firing room as the countdown ticked away and there was a blast off! Then it was on to the main building with all of the exhibits, interactive areas, lunar theater, cafe, gift shop, and more. By this time we were getting a big hungry and stopped for a bite to eat. There were a bunch of choices but we stuck with salads, pizza, and cake. YUM! I thought it was funny they also offer choices like Moon Pies! (This picture shows about half of the actual cafe area just FYI.)
One of my husband and my favorite things to see was the museum room with all of the actual artifacts of things that went up into space and came back. Like a lunar module and these “take me to your leader” space suits. SO COOL!
Just like MC Hammer used to say, “You can’t touch this(space stuff)!” which was such a bummer to me. I get it though. They are historic, important pieces of an epic amazing event and no one wants some grimy paws touching them that could cause them to deteriorate. Still… I wanted to try on those cool suits and hop into that module but was pretty sure the security would have sprung out of nowhere like ninjas coming out of the shadows and smacking my hands. Nevertheless, my overactive imagination was dreaming up Astronaut Cindy jacking a shuttle, blasting into orbit, and floating around in space completing some sort of dramatic world saving mission – a la SpaceCamp movie. (Now you’ve just had a peek into the “space” between my ears. LOL)
We spent a ton of time at the Mission Zone – Apollo / Saturn V. We didn’t even really see every single little thing but decided we had better take the next bus back to the main exhibit area because it was just about time to get to meet the astronaut that was on deck while we were there! Here’s where I really freaked out and acted like I giddy school girl. Forget rock stars! I totally flipped over Barbara Morgan who was in space with the stars!!!!!!!!!
Morgan has been to the International Space Station (ISS). She’s operated one of those crazy robot arms on the outside of the ISS. She’s flown in Atlantis. WAAAHHHHHHHAAATTT?! If you don’t freak out over this, you must have gotten to go into space yourself. The kids were so excited to meet an astronaut and we just happened to be in the largest NASA gift shop shopping around when … in she walked! They set up an area for autographs upstairs, and we got in line. My sons said meeting her was their favorite part of the day. It was mine too! She’s been in space, people! The training and commitment and coolness of being an astronaut is not lost on this momma. So cool.
Besides getting autographs from a real live astronaut, there was this fun little interactive area upstairs as well. Get a selfie made and then you too can “be an astronaut” thanks to photoshopping. LOL After your pic is made, it shows you floating around on a flat screen TV with other rookie astronauts hanging out in the store. Bon Temps! My kids had a great time looking at all the space toys, tshirts, jewelry, and even some tiny meteorites, oh and Lego sets that yes we purchased!
After picking up some souvenirs and the autographs, we headed to Mission Zone: Shuttle, A Ship Like No Other. Barbara Morgan rode on this amazing shuttle which they had in the exhibit hall. I loved how they had two different informational videos about the history about how this program came about and the last video was so cool how it transitioned us into the exhibit hall….
We spent a bunch of time in this building but didn’t get to check out every little thing because it was almost closing time! Oh how time flies. *pun intended* Our two youngest kids and I did get to ride the Shuttle Launch Experience ride (Don’t miss this!) and we all took the slides from one level to the next. The kids tried out the little International Space Station play area. And I tried soaking up all of the different exhibits. This was the last Mission Zone we had time to see before it was closed.
The Mission Zones
From KennedySpaceCenter.com – “Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is organized into Mission Zones where attractions and tours are grouped by chronological era. From the dawn of space exploration to current and ongoing missions, you can get an up-close, hands-on feel for the story of humans in space. Fuel your quest for inspiration right here.” There is so much more for us to get to see and are planning on a return visit on our next trip to Florida.
The Mission Zones we missed getting to see at Kennedy Space Center were Heros & Legends and NASA Now + Next. We also missed any of the add on adventures like Kennedy Space Center Explore Tour, Launch Director Tour of Space Shuttle Atlantis, Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour, Cape Canaveral’s Rise To Space Tour, Fly With An Astronaut, Astronaut Training Experience, Mars Base 1, Dine With a Astronaut, and Cosmic Quest. That’s enough fun that I’m thinking we’re just going to have to move to Florida to get to do all of these!!! Or we’ll just have to wait for our next Magee Family Epic Roadtrip.
“We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey.” – George W. Bush 2004