Explore the Kennedy Space Center with Kids & Family
By Chelle Koster Walton
You can experience the past, present and future of space exploration at the kid-friendly Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, have fun and learn a lot at the same time.
The space complex offers opportunities to meet astronauts, tour a full-size replica of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and watch stirring films in the larger-than-life IMAX Theater.
Educationally stimulating for adults and teens, most exhibits can also be enjoyed by the youngest of children.
The complex is multi-faceted, and the best way to tour it is with regular admission, which includes entrance to two IMAX theaters, a guided bus tour that takes you around the different visitor and launch pad observation areas, the opportunity to meet an astronaut and admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
The most recent additions to the campus include the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit and the Shuttle Launch Experience, a simulation of the sights, sounds and sensations of launching into space.
Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted features live theater, interactive experiences and large-scale multimedia presentations displaying the future of space travel.
At Kennedy Space Center, kids will enjoy the covered Children’s Play Dome, complete with a 1:5-scale Space Shuttle/Space Station Gym, where the preschoolers will be fascinated by the rocket parts and pieces. They also can climb into Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsule replicas in the complex’s Rocket Garden. Don't miss the gift shop for toy space ships or ice cream sandwiches, freeze-dried astronaut style.
Older kids will laugh as they learn in the Robot Scouts exhibit, a flashy, funny multi-media presentation they can walk through. With two IMAX theaters on-site, the presentations can vary, however the newest presentation includes “Journey to Space,” exploring plans for deep space exploration. Grab your 3D glasses and be prepared to be amazed.
Climb aboard the complex’s tour bus and travel throughout the Center to see the Vehicle Assembly Building, launch pads and crawlerway.
At Kennedy Space Center, kids can touch an actual moon rock (and dine next to it at the Moon Rock Café), gape at one of only three 363-foot moon rockets still in existence, and step into the Firing Room Theater for a shuttle launch re-creation and to engage in other interactive displays. The Lunar Theater presents a multi-media show culminating in the landing of a moon module. The theater presents a multimedia show culminating in the landing of a moon module. The Apollo Treasures Gallery showcases treasures from the Apollo moon missions, including Apollo 14 Commander Alan Shepard's spacesuit and the Apollo 14 Command Module, Kitty Hawk, along with a rare collection of spacesuits and other gear used by the Apollo moonwalkers.
Terrific for 'Tweens, Teens and Upward
Older kids and adults with an interest in space can immerse themselves in one-of-a-kind experiences including coming face-to-face with space heroes from past missions, who answer questions and tell personal tales of space exploration during daily Astronaut Encounter briefings. To take it a step further, reserve your seat at the daily Lunch with an Astronaut program for kids at the Kennedy Space Center.
Through a KSC Up-Close tour, you can experience up-close views of either space shuttle launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) or launch control center. The tour stops in between the space shuttle launch pads, offering a close-up photo opportunity, in front of the VAB and on the NASA Causeway where guests are surrounded by myriad rocket launch pads.
Want to experience a launch first-hand? No problem. Simply time your visit around NASA's next scheduled liftoff. Tickets for on-site viewing are available through Kennedy Space Center or you can watch for free from the beaches along A1A in Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. Go to www.kennedyspacecenter.com for ticket information and launch schedules. A word of warning: weather and technical problems often delay launches, so have an alternative activity planned.