Blasting Off at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, in Cape Canaveral, Florida

If you’ve looked through my blog at least a little bit, you’ll probably notice that I’ve been to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, a few times over the past two years. However, I haven’t ever been to the visitor center as a real tourist – until recently.

My work was able to get me a “free” ticket to the visitor center (I’ll call it KSCVC for short – “Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex”) so I drove down from Jacksonville to the Cape for a day trip. I went during the week when school was still in session so it wasn’t too busy but this place can get PACKED. I’ve been on launch days (yes, real rocket launches!) and some visitors come hours in advance to get a good spot or pack everything into their day.

This place is like an amusement park for aerospace nerds – with real rides! I could easily see it taking a full day or two to explore, see and partake in everything there is to do at KSCVC. There’s rides, so many exhibits, movies, play areas, rockets, tours to go onto the space center, meeting an astronaut or launch director, astronaut training, driving or walking on Mars simulations/training – and even more.

Because there’s so much to do at KSCVC, tickets are pricey. I was honestly shocked at how expensive tickets were. They’re more expensive than the Johnson Space Center Visitor Center in Houston, Texas – but there’s so much more to do at KSCVC. 1-day admission tickets are $75 for adults, $65 for kids; 2-day are $90 for adults, $80 for kids; plus, you have to pay extra for parking (I think that it’s $20-25?). Yikes. But, when you consider how much there is to do and see (and the fact that everything here is REAL and priceless and one-of-a-kind that you’ll never see anywhere else in the world), I think that it’s fair. It’s still not as expensive as a 1-day ticket to Universal Studios or Disney World.

When you first enter after parking, there is a security checkpoint where visitors walk through a metal detector and get their bag searched. Nothing too intense.

When you first walk in, you’ll find the rocket garden. This “garden” is home to replicas and real rockets throughout history. There are a few spacecraft, capsules and things that you can go into to take photos or interact with, which is fun for kiddos.

To the left is the “Heroes and Legends” exhibit, home to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. There’s a short pre-show before entering, and then you can walk through this exhibit and discover if your favorite astronaut has been inducted into the Hall of Fame yet.

Inside this exhibit, visitors can also learn about the history of spaceflight and how NASA got to where it is today. There are historic rockets and space capsules, and a recreation of the historic Mercury Mission Control.

The newest exhibit at KSCVC is the Gateway exhibit. NASA’s Gateway program is a lunar outpost that will orbit the Moon – basically, like a smaller International Space Station for the Moon. This exhibit has taken this concept of future and next-generation spacecraft by adding a bunch of newer and commercial aerospace innovations inside. There’s a section for SpaceX with a used Falcon 9 rocket (seen hanging from the ceiling in the image below) and SpaceX Dragon capsule; Boeing Space with their Starline capsule; Sierra Space with a Dream Chaser spacecraft (seen hanging from the ceiling); NASA and Lockheed Martin Orion capsule (seen in the front right, with the green ring around it); and a section dedicated to next-generation payloads like life science and 3D printing experiments (fun fact: my current company actually supports this section).

The Gateway exhibit also has rides! There are four or five in total, all with different themes and levels of intensity. Basically, you sit in a bench that moves and bounces along with a large immersive screen in front of you. The Mars journey is the most intense, but there are others where you’re soaring through a nebula or galaxy.

Speaking of Mars, there is an entire “Journey to Mars” exhibit. This exhibit highlights many of the satellites, spacecrafts and rovers that have journeyed to the Red Planet, but also highlights the challenges that comes with bringing humans to Mars. There’s a show with a live educator who tells visitors all about Mars and the various Martian missions. I really loved the section about the Mars rovers!

One exhibit that I surprisingly really enjoyed was the “Nature and Technology” exhibit. It’s probably one of the smallest exhibits, but it has so much interesting information on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is where the space center resides and protects a lot of the nearby environment and wildlife. There’s also information about the original Native Americans who lived in the region, the first settlers, a historic lighthouse on the island, and so much more.

Probably the crown jewel of KSCVC is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. It is home to the real-life space shuttle, which flew to space 33 times. After two brief pre-shows (where I always get slightly emotional), Atlantis is revealed.

When I first visited, I was super excited to see Atlantis HOWEVER, much to my delight, there is also a full-size mock-up of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)! If you’ve been following me for a few years, you’ll know that I worked with the HST public communications team for a while and this space telescope has such a special place in my heart.

If you go downstairs in this building, there is so much to see and do – there’s another playground for the kiddos, VR experiences like driving a Mars rover or walking on Mars, but most importantly, is the “Forever Remembered” exhibit. This exhibit, without fail, makes me cry. It is dedicated to the astronauts who lost their lives on the Challenger and Columbia disasters. There are a few tokens from their lives, real-life pieces of the space shuttles, and an artwork display with notes from children and adults from throughout the world.

Continuing on to pull on your heartstrings is the The Astronauts Memorial Foundation memorial. It is a beautiful wall of polished marble with the names of all the astronauts and pilots who lost their lives during service. This includes astronauts from Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1, but also astronauts and pilots who lost their lives in plane crashes or other tragic accidents. It’s heart wrenching to see the full list but I am glad that they are forever remembered. I always take a moment to stop here for a moment of silence.

Other exhibits and experiences that visitors can explore but I won’t go into detail on (otherwise this blog will never end) is the IMAX theater, Mars Rover, a whole building dedicated to an indoor playground, and the Astronaut Training Experience. KSCVC also boasts as having “the world’s largest space shop.” There’s also the bus tour section, where you can get a tour of the space center and see a real Saturn V rocket. There are a few different restaurants in case visitors get hungry from walking around all day, and I believe that there’s also an ice cream shop!

And that’s a roundup of my favorite things at the KSCVC! I am, of course, a huge aerospace nerd so I 10000% recommend visiting, but I understand that it’s not for everyone (but I do think that there’s enough cool things to do that everyone will still enjoy it, even if they’re not huge nerds!).


Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to KSCVC? What do you think that you’d like most? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!




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