Info: Cost to enter for the day is approximately £50 per person for the base entry but there are plenty of add ons to pre purchase on different tickets. Travel time is around 90 minutes from Orlando area and is easily combined with an evening in Cocoa Beach.
After a dozen visits to the Sunshine State we split into two parties. One drove us across towards the Atlantic Ocean and dropped us off for the first time at the Kennedy Space Center whilst the rest of the party went shopping and chilling out.
It is hard to describe the remoteness of the location for Kennedy Space Center. The whole landscape is flat with a low tree canopy. The field of vision afforded to you shows ever changing weather patterns forming against the blue sky. Signs for this major tourist attraction are hard to find and of course we got lost en route and ended up near Cocoa. So Cocoa Beach, Cocoa, Cape Canaveral, Port Canaveral and the Space Coast are talked about as if they are on top of each other.
Traveller beware….all of these destinations are on the same side of Florida and about the same distance, approx 75 miles from Orlando but they are at least 30 minutes apart from each other. In fact Kennedy Space Center is on the north half of Merritt Island that itself sits between Cocoa and the mainland. There is a wildlife sanctuary to the south. Port Canaveral, the cruise port for Orlando and the Caribbean is on the southern tip of Cape Canaveral again about 15 minutes from the Space Center.
The welcome sign brings a sigh of relief that your journey is ending but there is another 15 minute drive to the car park. It is massive. Eventually you catch a glimpse of the fuel rockets that were jettisoned from the Shuttle launches and the tips of the rockets in the Rocket Garden. There are places to drop off near to the ticket booths.
There is a count down clock (apparently between real countdowns it times the next time the water fountains spurt) and a NASA globe to have your picture taken by an appointed photographer.
So once inside there are plenty of pavilions with exhibits and shows with different explanations of space discovery. You can opt to have lunch with an astronaut as well as take other tours for purchase. We opted to join a short guided tour explaining the different rockets on display in the garden.
In short the main attraction is the bus tour so head for that first. There is a narrated 40 minute tour that has videos from astronauts and officers detailing previous missions and their history. The bus takes you in view of 5 different launch areas but the main attraction is the SLS mobile launcher building. The American flag painted on the front of it is 21 stories long but looks tiny against the back drop of the world’s largest single story building by volume.
The road is wider than an eight lane highway and the gravel is specially selected to grind down but it hasn’t any iron in it so won’t cause an explosion of the fuel tanks of the rockets that are transported along it by giant caterpillars.
You see the SpaceX building as well as launch control. There are canals and a railway weaved through the area as well as lakes and a viewing area. I think we take space travel for granted and what with all the science fiction we have been exposed to just take it all with a pinch of salt.
The bus drops you off at the Saturn exhibit and the main feature is a whole Saturn rocket that was the system for the Apollo missions in the late 1960s into the 1970s. So you enter at the end of a 36 story rocket laid out on its side suspended from the ceiling.
There are moon landers, space suits, moon rock to touch, camper vans that transported astronauts to the launch pads and all the emblems respectively hung from the ceiling. There are restrooms, refreshments and a store here.
Tip: There is a new much larger store back at the complex with the same stock and prices so no need to carry your purchases around for the day
We joined a short tour which was very informative before taking any available bus back to the visitor complex. Even this journey was over 15 minutes between points.
The second bus drops you off at the Atlantis Exhibit which has a huge venue of it’s own. Outside are the fuel and rocket boosters that powered the shuttle missions into space.
There was another film to watch and then a surround cinema experience about blasting into space that the far screen rises into the ceiling to reveal the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis suspended in the huge hall. It was very well displayed and there are plenty of interactive displays and a ride to experience here.
We didn’t get time to see the Imax shows nor meet an astronaut but saw the main exhibits. So up for consideration is another visit when we next go to the Sunshine State.
Tip: This is an all day activity so plan ahead. Parking is $10 for the day but free after 15.00 hrs.