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Tips for Visiting Kennedy Space Center with Kids!
Thinking about taking the kids to see “all the NASA stuff” at Kennedy Space Center in Port Canaveral, FL? Here are some tips to make your day go a little smoother and what exhibits are not to be missed!
What Made Us Decide to Check out Kennedy Space Center?
The majority of cruise vacations that we have taken have either departed from, or docked for a day at, Port Canaveral, FL. When you cruise into or out of that port, you might notice a large, rectangular shaped building looming in the far off distance. That building is the Vehicular Assembly Building (VAB for short) and it is the place where many of the rockets, space shuttles, etc launched by NASA have been constructed.
In all of the trips that we have taken to Florida, be it on a cruise or heading to Disney, we have kicked around the idea of visiting Kennedy Space Center many times. In the end, we always chose to save that visit for a time in the future when the kids were a little older. We didn’t really know what KSC had to offer and figured it was for the older kid/adult crowd.
Earlier this year we sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas on an 8-night Bahamas itinerary that was set to dock at Port Canaveral for a day.
We thought about heading to Disney for the day, or even Universal, but knew that we’d only have a few hours at the parks at best. We started looking at some of the other shore excursions that our ship was offering. There were actually a few different tour options for Kennedy Space Center. Some offered transportation but no guided tour. Some were half-day long tours. We booked a full-day guided tour of KSC.
What does the full-day guided tour of Kennedy Space Center from Royal Caribbean include?
This tour costs more than the general admission prices listed on KSC’s website, so it’s important to know what you will get by booking this tour versus grabbing a taxi or Uber and heading to KSC on your own. Here is a quick rundown of the basics of this tour:
1. Transportation IS included from the ship to Kennedy Space Center. You will board a bus in the parking lot by the ship. Your day will end by boarding a bus at KSC and being transported back to the ship.
2. You will be assigned a tour guide who will serve as your bus’s personal guide around KSC. Our tour operator was from Sunward Tours. He was great!
3. Your tour guide will adjust your group’s schedule as necessary. For example, during our bus ride out to the launchpads, we were turned around because apparently Elon Musk’s SpaceX company was getting ready to launch their rocket so they weren’t allowing buses. This meant we gained extra time to explore the rest of KSC and our tour guide adjusted our times for IMAX, lunch, etc, appropriately.
4. Lunch is NOT included in this shore excursion. YES, you are given time to eat. The price of your guided tour does not include lunch, which you will need to pay for on your own.
5. Keep in mind, one big benefit of booking your shore excursion THROUGH your cruise line is that if your tour is delayed for ANY reason when returning to the ship, THE SHIP WILL WAIT FOR YOU. Let me repeat that: THE SHIP WILL WAIT FOR YOU. If you go out on your own and you do not make it back in time for re-boarding, you’d better believe the ship will be gone and you will be up a creek (and out a lot of money). Sometimes paying more money for the ship’s excursion versus going on your own is well worth the peace of mind in knowing that your ship is waiting for you.
6. Any gratuity you wish to give to your tour guide is optional and at your own discretion.
Video highlights from our day at KSC:
Best Tips for Kids at Kennedy Space Center
Any shred of doubt that we had about our kids being excited about a visit to KSC was quickly eradicated when we told the kids about our plans. They could not contain their excitement and were bouncing off the ship’s walls in anticipation of GOING TO NASA. This was really exciting for us because they were downright giddy before the first tour bus even arrived at the port. Bob and I definitely fed off of their excitement and I think we were all smiles pretty much the entire day.
So here are some tips to make your day go a little easier and smoother, plus some absolute do-not-miss areas.
1. Kennedy Space Center is HUGE. Do not expect to “do it all” in one day. It would be nearly impossible to see and do everything at KSC in one day. It is an immense complex with many buildings and exhibits. You are going to have to pick and choose what you will see if you only have one day to spend there.
2. Expect a typical security and bag check at the front gates. We were allowed in with bottled water and snacks without issue. If you arrive before KSC has opened for the day, it’s best to get in line right away. The line grows pretty long as the initial batch of guests arrive.
3. Bathrooms and a food truck with snacks and coffee are available OUTSIDE the front gate. Have someone in your party hold your spot in line and take the kids for a bathroom break or to get a snack. The bathrooms and food truck were open and available before KSC opened for the day. Of course there are plenty of bathrooms and food options inside the complex but it was great to have them outside as well.
4. Don’t miss the original launchpad countdown clock! See the clock on your way towards the front gates.
5. There are many indoor exhibits at Kennedy Space Center, but don’t forget the sunscreen. Depending on cloud cover on the day of your visit, as well as how much time you spend outside, it’s always a good idea to have sunscreen or baseball hats and sunglasses on hand. We found that we spent more time indoors than outside during our visit. I put a little sunscreen on each of the kids’ faces before we entered KSC since I didn’t know how much sun we would get. Between the clouds and spending a lot of time inside, we probably didn’t need any at all that day.
6. I recommend trying to get on a tour bus to the launchpad immediately after arriving at KSC. One advantage of taking a cruise ship shore excursion to KSC is that you get to skip the public bus queue that takes you to the launchpad. If you are NOT on a private tour, however, I suggest heading straight to the bus queue. This line can get long (and hot!) during busier months, which will cut down on how much you get to see and do during your time at KSC.
Once you board the bus, your driver will hop on the intercom and give you some commentary as you drive. It is very exciting to approach the Vehicular Assembly Building (VAB). We were shocked to see how big this building truly is in person!
7. If you are luckier than us, you will get to see the launchpad via this bus. This bus then drops you off at the Saturn V Rocket exhibit. THIS IS A DO-NOT-MISS!! Inside this exhibit you get to see the original mission control equipment and you get to experience a simulated mission launch from mission control’s point of view.
This building spills out into the area that houses a REAL Saturn V Rocket. HOLY COW, that thing is HUGE! Walk along the Saturn V and check out the various exhibits along the way. Make sure you head into the museum area where the kids can touch a real moon rock, see the real Apollo 14 capsule, and check out other artifacts like Alan Shephard’s REAL space suit that he wore when he golfed on the moon!! This building also had a movie about the first moon landing (Apollo 11), but we skipped that one since our time was limited.
8. Hop back on the bus to be driven back to the main Kennedy Space Center complex.
9. IMAX movie was very very cool. It was also long (about 45 minutes). Consider your kids’ attention spans and decide if the movie may or may not be a good fit for them. The movie that we saw during our visit was all about life on the International Space Station and featured incredible footage of Earth, as taken by the astronauts living on the ISS. Note: the movie that we saw was a 3D IMAX movie. If your kids or anyone else in your party do not like wearing 3D glasses, skip this attraction.
10. Get to see the REAL (REALLY FOR REAL) Space Shuttle Atlantis. This entire building is a DO-NOT-MISS!!! Do not be deterred by long lines – the lines move pretty fast. This exhibit and the entire building is incredible. The entire bottom floor of the building is full of interactive exhibits, many of which are specifically designed with kids in mind. They are hands-on, engaging and EDUCATIONAL!!
If you can’t tell by the pictures and video, we had an absolutely incredible visit to Kennedy Space Center. We did not make it to at least 2 or 3 of the buildings at KSC simply because we ran out of time. (Clearly that means we are going to have to return for another visit in the future!) I will tell you that my kids are still proclaiming that this was the best place we have ever visited. They told us that they enjoyed KSC more than a day at Disney!!!!
Lily put together an entire Google Slide presentation (similar to Power Point) with pictures and information about KSC and presented it to her class.
Landon is now 500% obsessed with space, space shuttles, rockets, NASA and everything in between. I have been happily feeding this obsession with weekly trips to the library for more space books, YouTube videos from NASA, etc. THIS. IS. AWESOME!!!
My entire family wholeheartedly recommends a visit to Kennedy Space Center. This post is 100% NOT sponsored. We paid a tidy sum for the four of us to go on this excursion. We felt it was worth every penny and never imagined what this trip would inspire in our kids.
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