The Kennedy Space Center has been hurtling humans and shuttles into space since 1968 and is still a primary site for NASA launches. Parts of the sprawling campus are open to the public with daily tours offering opportunities to interact with real astronauts, test your skills with a simulated space flight, and see artifacts from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
The campus is made up of several “mission zones,” all accessible with admission. See the Rocket Garden, filled with historic engine replicas and full-size Titan rockets; the Space Shuttle Atlantis; and the Early Space Exploration Hall, where you’ll find hands-on exhibits highlighting the pioneers of spaceflight and the global race to the moon. On-site bus tours depart every 15 minutes and narrate a two-hour route to several launch sites, including those used by the techy space explorers at SpaceX, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where you can navigate astronaut artifacts and walk beneath a 363-foot (110-meter) rocket from the Saturn V mission. Visit on a day trip from Orlando, or opt for an Ultimate Space Pass that includes a tour of NASA’s launch headquarters, lunch with an astronaut, two IMAX movies, the Shuttle Launch Experience, and free time to experience the center’s exhibits and galleries.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get to the Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center visitor complex is adjacent to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Titusville, 45 minutes from Orlando by car, on the eastern side of the Intracoastal Waterway. There is no public transit to the center, but several tours include transport to the Space Center from Orlando. There’s plenty of on-site parking, though only multi-day tickets include the cost of parking.
When to Get There
Because there’s so much to do, it’s best to arrive as close to the daily 9am opening time as possible. Closing times vary seasonally between 6pm and 8pm. The center is seldom crowded (except on launch days), but you can avoid large field trip groups by visiting on a weekend.
How to See a Rocket Launch From the Kennedy Space Center
To count down and feel the rumble of lift-off just a few miles away from a real launching rocket, you’ll have to time your visit just right, as only a handful take place each year. The visitor center offers the closest viewing stations for shuttles and rockets blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, and has four designated spots for lawn chairs (some of the spaces require tickets, which typically go on sale two weeks prior to launch).