When we found ourselves in Port Canaveral, Florida last week for an afternoon and evening, I went back and forth about how we should spend our time.
I researched. I went through different scenarios. I changed my mind a million times.
Just ask my co-workers.
We ended up at the Kennedy Space Center, the official US launch site for every NASA human space flight since 1968.
Nick had heard it mentioned as one of the options, and looked over at me, and gave me a slight nod.
I got the message.
And, I didn’t find out until after the fact, that he recently did a report on NASA and the space program.
So luckily I made the right decision, even though now, nearly a week later, I still wished I could have made one of the other options work. A story for another day.
Very easy to find, and only ten minutes from Port Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center is on spacious grounds with plenty of easily accessible parking. You can purchase tickets ahead of time online or when you arrive. If you plan to go, be sure to check the web site first because they frequently offer discount codes. And if you plan to visit more than once within a year, it pays to get the annual pass.
Although the facility is pretty spread out, it wasn’t such a vast area that Madeline and her little legs couldn’t handle it (and, well, we know she’s good for at least three miles).
The tour is self-guided, although you can also sign up for a guided tour to get a more detailed visit out of your time. One of the helpful features on their web site is an interactive menu to plan your visit. A few clicks indicating how long you plan to visit for, and if you are attending with children (and their ages), and it generates a personalized plan. And this would have been a helpful feature to discover before we visited, for sure.
There was a lot of reading for me to do to Madeline, but it was also well augmented with a lot of visual artifacts as well, so she didn’t find it boring at all. Which is good because Nick and I were all about soaking up the history.
If you plan your visit right, you can book a lunch with an astronaut, which sounds totally fun. There was one astronaut there for a lunch and a talk while we were there, but we were too pressed for time to stay for it. There are also two movies available for viewing (with popcorn for purchase, natch) in their on-site IMAX theater.
I think my favorite part was the Rocket Garden, where you can get up close and personal with real-life rockets, and climb in and explore just how cramped their quarters are.
There was an accompanying video to go along with it, highlighting the different areas of the room and their functions.
At the end of one of the exhibits, there was an interactive area where you could take a picture of yourself in a space suit (and choose the background location) and e-mail it to yourself. We did one for each of the kids. Fun feature, but we’re still waiting for the e-mail to arrive.
My only negative take-aways were two things:
- Unfortunately, their new Angry Birds exhibit. It just opened a week ago, and after standing in a long line, I thought it was completely lame. I hate to say that, but I’m being honest. When you get in the main door, the first thing is a family photograph. The second area was was a carnival type slingshot game where you fling birds against four other competitors to see who can hit the most targets. There are a few computer-generated games and puzzles and a laser tag area. Just seemed completely out of sorts with the serious aspect of the rest of the Space Center, but I suspect it was to compete a bit with the area competitors of Disney World, Universal Studios, and the like. But it can’t. It won’t be able to. And it shouldn’t try. They’re just not on the same playing field.
- You will not be lacking for a nearby concession stand. I swear it felt like every other exhibit was a food concession area of some sort, whether it be a ice cream space dots vendor, a food truck, or a cafeteria-style area, it was a bit overkill.
There were at least two gift shops that we saw while we were there. One is Angry Birds themed, and the other was near the front entrance. Although they don’t give an AAA discount, the prices were fairly reasonable. Nick chose a t-shirt (hooray for practical souvenirs!) and a postcard. Madeline went with a sweatshirt (since her Mom forgot to pack her any sweaters for our week-long trip) and a huge super ball, which I thought she was choosing for herself, but she was buying it for Nick. Love that.
And you know, since we collect them, that we were thrilled to find a pressed penny machine!
Last week, the topic of payphones happened to come up when Nick was around, which was, of course, met with the question, “What are payphones?” Man, did that instantly age me. So how appropriate that we saw one there.
If you find yourself in the area, the Kennedy Space Center is steeped with such history that it is a must-visit, and definitely one of those places that is on a general United States bucket list.
Done and done.