Kennedy Space Center Tours, Tips and Family Review

Kennedy Space Center Panorama

Kennedy Space Center is inspiring, educational, exciting and a BLAST!

Located on the east coast of central Florida, the Kennedy Space Center is about a 45 minute drive from Orlando. Even though we have our own space shuttle to view in Los Angeles, the Kennedy Space Center has a lot more to offer families and is a nice break from the Orlando theme parks. Selling your kids on the idea of spending the day at the space center might not be as easy getting them to head over to Disney World, but once they are there it will be tough to get them to leave.

Although our family had only planned on spending a portion of our day at the facility, we ended up staying there from open to close and still had not seen everything we had wanted to. The Kennedy Space Center has plenty of things to see and do for visitors of all ages and before you know it you will be scratching things off your itinerary as the hours fly by. To our surprise, the Kennedy Space Center along with Epcot were our daughter’s favorite two days on our Orlando family vacation.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Sign

Kennedy Space Center Highlights

  • Space Shuttle Atlantis
  • Lunch With An Astronaut
  • IMAX Theater
  • Astronaut Training Experience
  • Shuttle Launch Experience
  • Apollo/Saturn V Center
  • KSC Bus Tour
  • Children’s Play Dome

Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour

On our trip to the Kennedy Space Center, we had made the trip with two other families. My family was the only one that had opted to take the KSC Up-Close Explore Tour while the other two families chose to take the regular KSC Bus Tour that is included with admission to the visitors complex. While the the regular KSC Bus Tour provided our family friends with plenty of information and stops around the Kennedy Space Center, our Up-Close Explore Tour offered us extra stops along the way and had a former NASA employee as our tour guide with an insiders knowledge.

Our 2 hour bus tour included stops at the NASA Causeway for views of the launch pads, the Space Shuttle landing facility, the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Saturn V rocket was assembled and where the Space Shuttle’s were mounted to their external fuel tanks, the Mobile Launcher Platform that sits atop a Crawler-Transporter as well as the famous countdown clock for the NASA launches.

Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Control Center

Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB was used for the Saturn V rocket and Space Shuttle programs along with the four story Launch Control Center which supervised the launches. The Vehicle Assembly Building bay doors (in gray) are the largest doors in the world at 456 feet high. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad

One of the launch pads that we saw on our bus tour. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

NASA Crawler-Transporter and Mobile Launcher Platform

On our bus tour, we passed by one of two Crawler-Transporters that has a Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP) atop it. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Apollo / Saturn V Center

At the conclusion of the KSC Bus Tours, guests are dropped off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center to spend as much time as they want before hopping on another bus back to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The center is dedicated to the Apollo Program (1961 – 1972) which used the Saturn V rockets to bring man to the moon and safely back to earth. In total, there were 9 Apollo missions to the Moon with 27 astronauts aboard and 12 of those walked on the Moon’s surface. As of today the Saturn V rocket is still the only space vehicle to bring humans beyond low Earth orbit.

Apollo launch control room

Prior to entering the Apollo/Saturn V Center, you will relive an Apollo launch inside this launch control room. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

As we entered the building, we were truly amazed at the size of the fully restored Saturn V rocket that was hanging above us. The huge rocket, the size of a football field or two space shuttles, is sectioned off into its stages of flight and fills the massive room from end to end. Seeing pictures and videos of these rockets do not do it justice and seeing one in person easily gains the respect it deserves. Along with the impressive rocket above us, the center is also filled with many interesting and educational exhibits from the Apollo program. Among the dozens of exhibits and displays around the center, our family favorites were a simulated firing room during the launch of Apollo 8 and being able to touch a real moon rock. Other cool exhibits include an Apollo command/service module, a lunar module, a NASA astronaut van, a lunar rover replica, multiple space suits and much more. You need to watch your time in here as you can easily spend too much time and have to nix other things back at the visitor complex due to time constraints.

NASA's Saturn V Rocket

At the Apollo/Saturn V Center you get to stand under the massive 363-foot Saturn V, the largest rocket ever flown. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

NASA Lunar Module (LM-9)

An unused Lunar Module (LM-9) on display at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit

Even though we have our own Space Shuttle Endeavour to view in Los Angeles, our family was really looking forward to viewing the Space Shuttle Atlantis (OV‑104) at the Kennedy Space Center. On our way inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis building, we were in awe standing/walking under the 184-foot-tall replica of the space shuttle stack which includes the external tank and solid rocket boosters. After tearing ourselves away from the space shuttle stack we entered the Space Shuttle Atlantis building and walked up the ramp to the wonderful movie that depicted how the Space Shuttle was conceived and the steps it took to bring it to life.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Building

The beautiful exterior of the Space Shuttle Atlantis Building with the replica external tank and solid rocket boosters. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

At the end of the movie, the movie screen lifted up and we were staring at the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis through the remaining see-through screen. After a few moments, the final screen was lifted and we got to walk right up to the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle is suspended just a few feet away from the walkway in a rotated flight position angle that gives you a great view of the entire shuttle with its payload bay doors open and the Canadarm extended above the walkway. It is truly one of the most awe inspiring sights I have seen and the sense of pride I felt was pretty overwhelming. Over the first few minutes, I was walking my daughter through the different sections of the shuttle and telling her about various shuttle facts and the memories I had about watching the many shuttle missions over the last three decades (please, no old man jokes).

Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center

A magnificent view of the entire Space Shuttle Atlantis can be had on the main viewing floor with additional views above, below and all around her. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center

The display of the Space Shuttle Atlantis allows guests to view her in almost any angle and is visible from three different floors above and below her. | Photo Courtesy of the Kennedy Space Center

Space Shuttle Atlantis Nose View

As you can see here, visitors can get very close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis while walking around the walkway. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Space Shuttle Atlantis Side View

From the bottom floor, you get a good view of Atlantis’ side and wing that dips below the main floor. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

To go along with the display of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, there are over 60 multimedia presentations, displays and high-tech simulators to bring the space shuttle program to life. Among the dozens of displays of this 90,000-square foot multi-story exhibit are the Shuttle Launch Experience which simulates and actual shuttle launch, a slide that simulates the steep angle of the shuttle during landing, the Space Shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), tires used during the last shuttle mission (STS-135), a space shuttle main engine (ssme), a Hubble Space Telescope replica and plenty more interesting and engaging artifacts that will have you entertained and in awe for hours.

Space Shuttle Main Engine RS-25

A Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) is on display while the surrounding display tells visitors that the engines were colder than Pluto but their exhaust was hotter than molten metal. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Space Shuttle Landing Slide

This slide allowed visitors to slide down at the same degree and slope that the Space Shuttles landed. Fun and educational. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch Video – STS-132

Lunch with an Astronaut

The Kennedy Space Center offers a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience that is truly unique and thoroughly enjoyable. The Lunch with an Astronaut gives you the chance to listen to the stories and experiences of a real life veteran NASA astronaut while enjoying a tasty buffet lunch. After hearing about their space exploration stories, you get a chance to ask questions during a question and answer session and then you will wrap up lunch by meeting and getting a photo with your astronaut.

For our luncheon, we had the honor to meet with and listen to the stories of Winston Scott who had flown on two space shuttle missions (STS-72 on Endeavour and STS-87 on Columbia) in the late 90’s. We enjoyed listening to his stories, his answers to the crowd’s questions as well as meeting him in person after the lunch. It was a wonderful lunch and our daughter was just as excited as her dad was to meet a real NASA astronaut.

NASA Astronaut Winston Scott

Winston E. Scott was a mission specialist on two space shuttle missions and was our NASA astronaut host for our lunch at the Kennedy Space Center. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

NASA astronaut Winston Scott and the Filipowicz family

At the conclusion of our lunch we had the honor of meeting and posing for a photo with retired NASA astronaut Winston Scott. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Shuttle Launch Experience

The Shuttle Launch Experience that is located in the Space Shuttle Atlantis complex was quite gripping and provided our family with a truly thrilling and unique experience of what it would be like to be in a space shuttle orbiter during take-off. After a short introduction video, we entered and strapped into the custom-designed crew cabin of our shuttle and prepared for our launch. Once we were vertically positioned, we counted down along with our launch clock and anticipated our space shuttle’s eight and a half minute ascent into orbit. As our shuttle launched we felt the g-force, heard the roar of the rockets and watched out of our shuttle “window” as we hurtled through the sky. The entire time while in the shuttle simulator, we actually all felt as if we were in an actual launch. It was a great hit for kids and parents alike.

Shuttle Launch Experience Crew Cabin

The crew cabin of the Shuttle Launch Experience. | Photo Courtesy of the Kennedy Space Center

Why We Recommend Kennedy Space Center For Families

  • Space Shuttle Atlantis
  • Bus Tour of Kennedy Space Center
  • Apollo / Saturn V Center
  • IMAX Space Station Movie
  • Angry Birds Space Encounter
  • Lunch with an Astronaut
  • Shuttle Launch Experience
  • Educating kids about our space history
  • Inspires kids and adults
  • Great gift/memorabilia shops

Kennedy Space Center Photo Gallery (52 Images)

  • NASA Globe
  • Space Shuttle External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters
  • NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis
  • Space Shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit

Tips for the Family Visit

Our first tip for your visit is to plan ahead on what you want to see and do during your visit. With the large amount of things to see and do at each part of the Kennedy Space Center, you can easily lose track of time and fall behind schedule.

The Kennedy Space Center has plenty of places to buy souvenirs and although some items are carried at multiple stores, each store had unique items that we did not see at other stores. Have a look around each store to make sure you and the kids are not missing something you really want.

We highly recommend the Lunch with an Astronaut experience, but if you do miss out on that, you can still meet the astronaut later in the day signing memorabilia at the gift shop.

Visit the Kennedy Space Center website for more information and to plan your visit. See our interactive Orlando Tourist Map for more family friendly points of interest.

We were provided media passes to the Kennedy Space Center for the purpose of reviewing it on our blog. Regardless, we would only recommend places, activities or services that we would use/visit personally and that we believe will be good for our readers.

About Joe Filipowicz

I have a passion for finding fun things to do, good restaurants and places to stay while traveling with my family and friends. Since it takes a lot of research and exploration to find these family friendly places, I wanted to share my findings with others to make it easier for them to plan their next getaway.

One thought on “Kennedy Space Center Tours, Tips and Family Review

  1. Sebastian Fernandez Ellero

    Very informative Review Joe. I am a space fan so I think I’ll do a day and a half visit to the KSC. I don`t want to miss anything!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *