I just returned from another Disney World trip and did something I don't often do: venture off-site. My son and I took a day out of our trip to spend some time at Kennedy Space Center.
Here's some info to help you plan a visit during your Disney World trip...
Kennedy Space Center is located about an hour east of Disney World, near Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.
It takes about 6-8 hours to see the main attractions and with hours that are often 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., you'll want to get there when it opens to make sure you have enough time to see everything (especially if you only have 1 day to spend there).
Rent a car
The easiest way to get to Kennedy Space Center (and probably the cheapest) is to rent a car. For our visit, we rented a car on site at the Avis desk located in the Downtown Disney Hilton (we took an Uber from our Disney World resort to get to the Avis desk). There are other locations on-site as well.
Just be aware that some car rental desks will close early so you'll either need to return by that time or pay for more rental time so you can return your car the next day.
Be sure to consider the $10/day parking fee and toll roads when computing which method is best for you.
Book a tour
There are tours that include transport to Kennedy Space Center. Gray Line gets fantastic reviews and is reasonably priced.
Roundtrip Mears shuttles to Kennedy Space Center can be booked on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for $36/person.
A standard ticket includes a bus tour, IMAX films, exhibits, shows, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Full-priced tickets are $53 for adults and $42.40 for kids age 3-11 (those prices include tax).
Mousesavers.com has KSC ticket discount info which could save you some money on your visit.
Disclosure: complimentary tickets were provided to me by Kennedy Space Center.
Touring Kennedy Space Center
Whenever I venture outside of Disney World, it always takes me awhile to figure things out and see how to fit the puzzle pieces of the day together. We did some things right on our visit and learned from some mistakes.
The next time we visit, I think this is what we'll do:
- Leave Disney World about 90 minutes before Kennedy Space Center opens
- Drive to KSC, get parked, and be ready to enter when it opens
- IMAX 3D Space Film - I think this does a great job providing an overview of the space program and helps put everything else you see in perspective. You might assume that the theater will be large since it's an IMAX theater, but seating is limited so I'd arrive 15 minutes before show time. Check the show schedule you receive when you enter for times.
- General bus tour to Apollo/Saturn V - allow about 90 minutes or so. The bus ride is about 20 minutes each way. I'd suggest sitting on the right side of the bus as you face the front for views of things along the way, including alligators that the bus driver will point out if he/she spots one.
- Space Shuttle Atlantis with Shuttle Launch Experience - this building is located where you exit the buses from the bus tour. Allow 60-90 minutes.
- Lunch (info on food options below)
- Rest of the day options: visit the Rocket Garden, see the other IMAX movie, meet an astronaut, visit the children's play dome
Since KSC hours are limited and arriving in the morning is suggested, you'll likely end up wanting to eat lunch while you're there.
Kennedy Space Center doesn't appear to allow you to bring in much more than bottles of water so you'll probably end up eating at 1 of the on-site locations. Don't expect too much as KSC food isn't known for being super high quality and it's kind of expensive for what it is. My caprese sandwich came with spinach leaves instead of basil - not quite the same taste. 🙂
Here are the places to eat at Kennedy Space Center:
This indoor location is where we ate during our visit. All of the other areas appeared to only have outdoor seating and with temps in the upper 80s, we needed a break. The food was just OK but we managed to avoid the field trip groups by finding a quiet back room (a trick that often works at Disney World Quick Service restaurants as well).
Rocket Garden Cafe
The map for this location says "dine amongst some of the very same Redstone, Atlas, and Titan rockets that first put NASA astronauts in space. Enjoy a wide variety of chef options for breakfast and lunch."
The outdoor seating area here looked nice and this is the menu...
This location is open seasonally and has a window where you order your food. They serve fast food style items here.
Cool treats are available at this location (which was perfect for a mid-afternoon snack for us). You order your food here an outdoor window.
Moon Rock Cafe
This location is at the Apollo/Saturn V Center (where the bus tour takes you) so this would be a good spot to eat if you find yourself there during lunchtime. Seating is inside.
Lunch with an astronaut
For something extra special, you can eat lunch while hearing stories from a veteran NASA astronaut. Lunch is a buffet that begins at 11:45 and they actually serve Tang. 🙂
Tickets for this are $29.99 for adults and $15.99 for children. I would purchase tickets online ahead of time if you'd like to attend.
There are tours available for an additional cost that will allow you to see things up close. One of my regrets about our visit is that we didn't buy tickets for 1 of these ahead of time and by the time we arrived, they were all booked up.
The tour that I think sounds the most interesting is the KSC Up-Close Tour which takes you to the launch pad. People taking the free bus tour will see this along the way, but people on this special tour will actually get to stop to see it up close. Tickets for this tour are $25 for adults and $19 for kids (in addition to the regular admission). I'd highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time.
For families who are considering a visit, I would not suggest going with children under 5 because there are a lot of movies and exhibits to sit through and most of it will not be of interest to them. Even for kids age 5-7, I'd only go if I was sure my child had a good attention span, didn't mind standing to watch several films, and could handle the waits.
Are you considering a KSC visit? Or is there another non-Disney World location you'd like me to visit? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.