Florida’s Space Coast is home to Kennedy Space Center and is only about an hour’s drive east of Orlando, but feels worlds away. The clogged traffic and throngs of families with mouse-ear hats give way to open road and sandy beaches. It’s a nice reprieve from standing in hot, sweaty lines.
We’ve taken the kids to Orlando many times (WDW, Universal, and now Tampa), but never to Kennedy Space Center over at Cape Canaveral. At ages 11 and 13, we felt it was a good time to visit, and it turns out they we all loved it. We stayed the night in Cocoa Beach so we could get some beachy fun in while we were there and it was a perfect break from Orlando. Cocoa Beach, Melbourne & The Beaches, Port Canaveral, Titusville, Palm Bay and Viera are all part of Florida’s Space Coast, so there’s plenty for families to enjoy. Come read why we had a great time and think you will also!
Disclosure: We were given 2 media passes to Kennedy Space Center. We purchased our own passes for the kids. All opinions about KSC are our own. This post also contains affiliate links that help support the site and allow us to bring you more awesome, family-friendly content. Thanks for reading!
Kennedy Space Center with Kids – Titusville, Florida
I had visited Kennedy Space Center when I was a kid and was filled with awe back then. I figure I was about our kids’ age when I did, and so much has changed. The biggest difference is the new ‘Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other’ zone. It’s an incredible exhibit paying homage to the 30 years of NASA’s shuttle program, including Hubble and the International Space Station, and is the permanent home to the Space Shuttle Atlantis orbiter.
What to expect when visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Once you’ve gone through the entrance and passed through the security checkpoints, you can explore the various ‘missions’ around the complex or you may get in line for the busses out to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. We recommend taking the bus tour early while the lines are short. This is the beginning of the ‘Behind The Gates’ Mission
Behind The Gates Mission Zone
During the tour, your driver will narrate some of the way and point out interesting things like various launch pads, some history and even some wildlife. We spotted an alligator on our trip and there is also a cool bald eagle’s nest that’s over 50 years old!
For other parts of the tour, you will watch a few videos about NASA and the space program at Cape Canaveral. The overall ride takes about 30-40 minutes, but you’ll want to allow 2-3 hours total to explore the Aplollo/Saturn V Center once you arrive there. There is a cafe there where we ate lunch during our visit and it worked out well.
The Apollo/Saturn V mission zone is awesome! You’ll watch a short film about the launch and then are free to explore different exhibits related to NASA’s Apollo program. Touch actual moon rocks, learn about the astronauts in each mission, and marvel at the sheer size of the Saturn V rocket. We loved all of it!
Once you’re finished touring, catch a bus back to the main visitor center where you can continue your tour. We went to the ‘Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other’ mission next. You can’t miss it – there’s a massive replica of space shuttle Atlantis sitting out front.
Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other Mission Zone
Inside, you’ll learn all about NASA’s shuttle program with a short film. When it’s over, the screen raises and like magic, you’re face to face with the Shuttle Atlantis.
Here you’ll learn about the shuttle and the missions it undertook including servicing the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope. Try your hand at some of the simulators that control the shuttle’s robotic arm, and climb in the cockpit to see what it’s like to fly. If you’re up for it, try the Shuttle Launch Experience which simulates the 8.5 minute launch into space.
Overall, the shuttle exhibit is incredible and really well done. Maybe I’m partial because it was my history and things I remember growing up, but it’s still awesome and the kids loved it.
After you’ve toured this mission head out to one of the others like ‘Heroes and Legends’ or take a stroll around the Rocket Garden. Docents give presentations throughout the day on the history of the rockets, so there’s lots to learn for kids and adults.
Planning you trip to Kennedy Space Center with Kids
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is immense and we didn’t get around to everything. You could if you tried, but just be sure you’re keeping track of the time. Families should budget a full day here if possible, and there is enough interactive things for kids that they won’t be bored.
Hours and Admission
As of this writing the base ticket was $40 for children ages 3-11 and $50 for adults. Active Duty Military cost $37/$46. Seniors 55+ are $46. If you had the time and could spend more than one day here, the multi-day admission is a pretty good deal at $60/$75.
The KSC Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. and closes typically at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. depending on the season.
Other things to see and do on Florida’s Space Coast
Cocoa Beach, Florida – Surfing Capital of the East Coast
We decided to stay a night at Cocoa Beach and play on the beach rather than drive back to Orlando, and it was a great choice. We stayed at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront which offered up perfect views of the ocean and sites right on the beach. For dinner, we found some fish tacos at Sandbar Sports Grill and then played on the beach until the sun went down. It was a great way to end the day.
A trip to Cocoa Beach wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the world-famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. From sunscreen to custom surf boards, they’ve got it all at Ron Jon. Get yourself one of their unique t-shirts and you’ll be all set.
Canaveral National Seashore
Just north of Port Canaveral is Canaveral National Seashore. This pristine coastline is a great place for families to play, have a picnic, watch a sunset, or even watch a rocket launch! During the summer months, check out their calendar and book a guided tour to see nesting loggerhead turtles on the beach. Sadly, we tried to get this worked into our schedule but couldn’t. Next time for sure!
Located in Titusville, this museum honors American astronauts, preserves the history of the American space program, and inspires a new generation of space explorers. The museum is open M-Sat 10-5.
Cocoa Beach and Florida’s Space Coast is a great way to get away from the chaos in Orlando, and we loved spending some time here. Have you been?
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