A Family Tour of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

    By Carrie McLaren

    There’s a rush of adrenaline even as you arrive at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Children to adults, there’s something magical for all when it comes to learning about space exploration and standing face to nose with a space shuttle. It’s where education meets fun.

    Rocket Gardens

    From your first view of the Rocket Gardens, you can imagine what it felt like to soar into space aboard one of the massive rockets on display here.

    Little ones will enjoy crawling inside capsules from eras gone by. Free, guided tours are offered daily.


    Explore the Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

    - Carrie McLaren for VISIT FLORIDA


    Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center.

    - Gary McKechnie

    Lunch with an Astronaut

    For a real treat, sign your family up for the daily ‘Lunch with an Astronaut’ encounter. This 90-minute experience features a buffet-style lunch and a personalized presentation from one of NASA’s acclaimed astronauts. At the end of the event, there’s a brief question-and-answer session along with time for family photos with the astronaut.

    This experience describes what it’s like to live in space – eating, exercising, sleeping and training while weightless. No topic is off-limits. There is no age requirement for this encounter and it’s perfect for self-proclaimed ‘space geeks.’ For an updated listing of participating astronauts, check out the appearances page.

    Space Shuttle Atlantis

    There’s nothing quite like standing beside a space shuttle, and Atlantis offers visitors a look like no other. Rotated off the ground at 43 degrees, this exhibit includes a fascinating look at the people and places of NASA’s shuttle program and features hands-on activities for all ages.

    Try on astronaut gloves, sit in the pilot’s seat and examine the controls required to fly into and out of space. It's a massive exhibit that deserves an extensive amount of time.

    Be sure to gander the mission patches from previous shuttle launches adorning the walls. Many are autographed by the astronauts themselves.


    The new $100 million dollar home of Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

    - Peter W. Cross

    Shuttle Launch Experience

    For thrill-seekers, you can’t get any more real than the Shuttle Launch Experience. Climb aboard this simulator and get ready for blast-off, then experience the thrill of orbiting the Earth.

    For a bit tamer experience, try the IMAX Theater, featuring movies filmed by astronauts while in space. You can also get a close look at images captured by the Hubble Space telescope. 


    Astronaut Thomas D. Jones speaks to visitors in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

    - Peter W. Cross for VISIT FLORIDA

    Watch a Launch

    If you’re interested in seeing a launch during your visit, there are numerous options and official watch areas. The NASA Causeway, the LC-39 Observation Gantry and the Apollo/Saturn V Center are located within the secured areas of Kennedy Space Center, and a viewing area at the main Visitor Complex.

    Costs vary depending on locations. Many of the locations also include live launch commentary, putting your family in the middle of the action.

    For another unique view, check out Jetty Park, just south of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This beachfront park provides fantastic views – and, of course, the beach.

    Be sure to visit the Complex launch website for updated information on schedules for upcoming launches. Keep in mind that weather and technical difficulties may cause a launch to be scrubbed (astronaut lingo for ‘delayed’), but a takeoff is definitely worth trying to include in your schedule.

    Fun for All

    As you wrap up your day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex, be sure to treat your family to astronaut ice cream. This freeze-dried treat requires no refrigeration and is something that my family looks forward to each time we visit the complex.

    If you go…
    Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex