Side Trip to Kennedy Space Center

Planning a side trip to Kennedy Space Center in January, and I am looking for some feedback on how to go about it. Would appreciate any advice in general, but I am also looking to answers for the following:

  • Definitely going to add on one of the tours. Does anyone have preferences on the KSC Explore tour vs the Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour?
  • What about the Dine with an Astronaut option? Will non-space-geek DW think it is stupid? :rofl:
  • Any tips on discounted tickets? I’ve found a couple of places on-line, but they seemed a little sketchy, and they currently only have tickets valid through Dec 2019 anyway.
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I’m interested in this too. Keeping an eye on launch dates TBA for July and August before I decide when to go.

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As a space nut, with a DH also a space nut, I’ll try and answer.

Kennedy is a two day destination. So if you are planning one day you need to be selective. It’s had a massive make over in recent years.

Decide what you want to see. Are you inspired by the pioneer astronauts, the Mercury 7, the moon missions? The Astronaut Hall of Fame is now onsite and in a separate, magnificent building. Some interactive stuff, some memorabilia.

The rocket garden has replica Mercury and Gemini capsules to (try) to climb in, some early rockets etc. The astronaut memorial mirror is sobering; I got very emotional the trip before last because I didn’t go over to spend a few minutes there.

Clearly Atlantis is a must-do. And it’s “on site”, at the space centre itself. There will be a queue to get in.

Then there’s the IMAX; yep, cool to see something space related on a screen like that but, we’ll it’s skippable for a first visit, unless you really have little interest in much else.

There are various hand-on type exhibitions, Mission to Mars for example, if that’s more your thing, the future of space exploration.

And the simulator, which is actually somewhat underwhelming if I’m honest. Especially if you’ve done Mission Space! Yes, the seats go back and the hatch doors open giving you a view of the earth up above you… Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, but with one day not essential.

And then there’s the Tours. The Explore KSC is the standard one. You go past or near the VAB, it’s huge, last one of the Launch Pads and to the Saturn 5 building. You start with a simulated mission launch from mission control, then go to the actual rocket. Impressive. The tour takes 2 hours, so you need to fit stuff around it.

However the Early Space tour takes you out to the original mission control room which is behind glass, from the days before it moved to Houston. And also past some of the early launch sites. I haven’t done the new updated tour, but DH and I did it many years ago on our first visit.

Dine with an Astronaut, well the food is meh to be honest. We did one with Al Worden, Apollo 15. Buffet meal, sitting at tables of about 10. The Astronaut speaks for a little while about his / her missions and life afterwards, then question time. I had a bundle of them, but settled on one. You do get a photo with them, and a chance to speak to them a little.

My suggestion for one day:
One of the Tours - whichever inspires you
Atlantis
Hall of Fame
A stroll around the rocket garden and 10 minutes to pay respects at the memorial.

I also recommend the website, the KSC one not NASA. They actually have a tool a bit like TP. It gives you the different things to do, with a time estimate and you can build an itinerary. And it also has suggested itineraries for a one or two day visit.

What I would also say is that you can upgrade your ticket as you leave to two days for very little, I think it was $15 two years ago.

Or just plan to go back again next time and do some more. I could not ever visit Florida and not go. And it’s why we keep deciding on WDW and not DL.

Feel free to ask questions. Go look at the website first though!

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This is great info, thanks!

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Wow! Thanks for all the great info!

Great info here! Thanks! I am also bookmarking the whole thread!

Thank you!

We’ve been twice during our Disney excursions, but not in recent years. @Nickysyme has great info about the tours, I don’t have anything to add there.

However, we did see a launch. On one of our visits, we had only 1 possible day to be there- the first day of the launch window, it was one of the last Space Shuttles (Atlantis) flights so quite a big deal- and non-refundable tickets. I rolled the dice, bought the tickets anyway and unbelievably, it went off without a hitch. We were a mile away and still, the ground shook, the contrails going up through the atmospheric layers were amazing, well I could go on and on but…

Long story short- if you can see a launch, do it. It’s just thrilling! If you could at all schedule that at the beginning of your trip, to allow for delays (the tickets for the launch are for the launch, not for a date), that would be the best option. We got extremely lucky. If you don’t buy launch tickets, but one happens while you’re in FL, there are places to park off KSC property (kind of far away across the water) but you can still see it. https://traveltips.usatoday.com/viewing-locations-kennedy-space-center-launches-63315.html

One thing we were not lucky with- the drive back. Oh. My. God. We should have taken a clue from the people who were tailgating after the launch. Instead we were stuck in traffic for hours. I think it took 5-6 hours to get back to WDW. We had no idea. I don’t know if a SpaceX launch generates that kind of attendance, but be forewarned.

Regarding Lunch With an Astronaut- those people are so impressive and interesting you don’t have to be a space nerd to enjoy it. I thought it would be a big yawn, too, but I was wrong. They do indeed have The Right Stuff. (Among other things, I learned how out of shape I was. Our astronaut was in his 70’s and looked maybe 50).

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We (two adults) did a day trip from Orlando to Kennedy in 2008, and one day was more than enough, even with the bus tour. We even had time for a relaxed dinner at a pub on a pier in Cocoa Beach. I wonder how much things have changed there since then that you need two days? Or is it if you’re really a hard-core space enthusiast you need two days?

Well if you have a look at everything I listed, the Tours take 2 - 3 hours each, and is the only way to see the Saturn 5. If you skipped that, you could still fill a day.

Atlantis is new, and that will take about 90minutes to get through the queue, the pre show and the shuttle itself. The Hall of Fame used to be totally separate and a lot of people skipped it because it was on the causeway back to the mainland.

And a lot of the hands-on stuff has been added, like Mission to Mars.

If you have no interest at all in space exploration, why would you go? But it isn’t just for space nerds. It has definitely been taken up several notches, especially for families and those who have grown up with the Space Shuttle.

Also there has been a rekindling of interest and nostalgia recently with First Man. Here in the U.K. it showed for weeks in multiple screens. At our local IMAX, it showed six times a day for a month, they don’t do that unless people are still going to watch it!

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We thought it was awesome! We went to the bus tour first as it gets busy. We were there for our spring break but there were some local school groups there to just an FYI.
We did almost everything there but not all and were there basically all day.
I purchased our tickets online at ticketsatwork.com
Oh and I thought security was brutally slow like Epcot.
Enjoy your day!

Do you know how far out they schedule launches? We are going in June, but I only see March launches on the schedule.

I think that’s really variable, but it’s definitely a shorter window than it used to be. Some of the March launch dates weren’t even finalized by the first of the month.

The best thing you can do is keep checking and try keep a flexible schedule.

Which is really hard to do now that everything at WDW takes so much planning. You’ll definitely need a little bit of luck, too.

We went last August and loved it. We drove and stayed from open until close. My parents went on the greyhound bus from Disney and did the lunch with an astronaut and a tour. They very much enjoyed it but when we compared notes, we actually did a lot more than they did. As in, they never got to Atlantis, which for me was the best bit. It’s definitely worth spending time on the website to prioritise. From memory, we managed to do both imax shows, Atlantis, the KSC tour out to Saturn X, the simulator, rocket garden and mission to Mars. Plus we ate lunch under the Saturn X which we thought was super cool. We had planned to leave mid afternoon for the beach but we’re loving it so much so we stayed till the end.

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One thing I forgot to mention is you can sign up for emails, which means you will get launch alerts too!

As mentioned above, you do need to be flexible though. As much for the fact that on Launch day, normal access is suspended. So you might need to alter plans whether or not you plan to watch.