We decided to take a trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida over the weekend because we wanted to visit the John F. Kennedy Space Visitor's Complex. We have heard about it, of course, and seen pictures, but we wanted to see what it looked like in the flesh. We were not disappointed.
Rocks from Mars? Oh yes, this was going to be even cooler than we thought. I wish you could see the detail better for the rock in the middle. It, and the others like it, had such pretty chunks of silver embedded in them. This among other things was what greeted us when we arrived. My son was excited because he's all about Mars and how someday he thinks we may be able to inhabit it. 👀
We picked up a map (I've learned long ago not to bypass the maps when you walk into a big place), and took a picture by the Heroes and Legends Astronaut Hall of Fame that was just to the left when we walked in. Admittedly, we were far too excited about the big rockets on display all around us to go inside. We agreed to walk in on the way out. Sadly, that did not happen because we ran out of time, and again, another lesson learned...if you're next to it and want to see it, go inside while you're there so you don't miss it.
Can you see though, why we were distracted? This was our view, just a few feet to the right of where we were standing.
I mean seriously, we were eager to get over there and explore. The rockets we'd heard about in books, seen on TV, marveled at in conversations...were all just steps away for us to see in person. What a wonderful gift to us all that the KSC is in existence. We picked a rather rainy day to go, and a lot of these things to see are outside. Fortunately for us though, there were a lot of things to see inside too. One such area, when the first rain came shortly after we arrived was the lot for Junior Astronauts.
This was a covered dome area with lots of round picnic seating, and it's where we spent a good bit of time, out waiting a storm that was going by and dropping buckets of rain water.
No complaints from the kiddo though. This area had ropes to climb, rock walls, slides, etc.
One point of amusement and slight alarm for me was that there was a little hole where the pole goes into the slide (metal going into peach structure in upper right area of the photo above). A baby squirrel that passed me by and saw I had nothing to eat climbed that pole and went right into that hole. My son (the monkey hanging on the bar) immediately turned around, laughed and asked me if I saw what had just happened. I agreed I did and he scrambled inside to see if there was a squirrel to see. I told him to let me know and I'd alert staff so no child became endangered (in my mind I was picturing a squirrel stuck in there and a kid happening upon it, scaring it into biting). No squirrel. It was sealed off inside. I can only imagine the squirrel knew what he was doing and made his way back out the way he went in. This place was a lot of fun for the kids. There was a smaller area inside too, sectioned off for tot-sized kiddos.
There are so many things I could discuss about what we loved, but I have to say by far, it was the fact that so many things there were very interactive that could be classified as my favorite consideration of the park. When you are taking children to an educational facility, and this was a place chock full of history and information, ensuring the kids are engaged matters. KSP VC has done a great job in making sure kids are entertained from start to finish.
Rocks from Mars (not the same that I mentioned at the beginning of the post), were also on display.
The photos they had on the outside of the building really bring to life the enormity of the situation of visiting places outside of the planet where we reside. I mean really, who sits around and thinks, 'We can visit another planet. It is entirely possible.' Apparently many, many people, and the fact that they have collectively worked together in many ways over many years, to make it happen, is nothing less than astounding.
One thing we did take time to do, and that I highly recommend, was the NASA Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour. It took a bit of a drive to get us where we were going, but oh it was so worth it. This tour takes you through the otherwise restricted areas of KSC. We passed launch pads, stopped to take photos of one (while still on the bus), and learned a lot of history from the people on the TV monitors that played while we rode. We also saw the Vehicle Assembly Center and learned more about the competitive nature of the 2 big companies working there to expand/improve the space program. When we got to our destination, a lot of the things those televised tour guides had been talking about were right in front of our very eyes. It was nice to have that little bit of history given to us before we arrived.
|Control Center for Apollo Missions|
You can go anywhere you'd like while on this stop and get back on the bus that takes you back to where you started at any time (it's a short ride back because you don't go through the restricted areas you toured on the way there). We went to the movie clip of the first trip to the moon. It played for about 8 minutes on the walls up high while you stood. It was so strange to watch it and be so completely overcome with emotion as I was... I mean it's not like I didn't know the ending, or that they had a successful run, but just watching it I was so overfilled with happy for everyone involved, and for our nation.
It was truly a joyous journey and I'm glad they have brought it back to life for the new generation of people who might not understand what a big deal, what an amazing feat it truly was to send men to the moon. I mean come on... people send people to outerspace in a rocket, and they can communicate with them...even way back then in 1969! I have trouble getting cell phone reception sometimes, and they were running live TV to the moon. Just one of many amazing, amazing, amazing things we saw happening in that show.
Then we went up a few stairs to sit down and watch the actual footage from the day it happened. The photo above is from that part of the bus tour.
We walked around a bit and looked at the various things showcased and marveled at the inside look we were getting for all things space.
I also want to note that we went into 2 gift shops. One on the mainland and one here. This one had strawberry freeze-dried ice cream. As you can see, it had other flavors as well, we were just excited about the strawberry. Just outside of this area you could purchase fun photos if you wanted to...via a paper band they put on your wrist just before boarding the bus, and just after taking a couple of shots at the green screen. They superimposed your photo onto space scenes. We didn't buy ours (sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, and we'd just bought some in an entirely different location the day before), but we did take a look at them, and they did a good job blending the images into their backgrounds to make it look realistic. They were cute.
There were several places to watch an actual launch, and this is the one I preferred the most. It was just outside of the building with the gift shop (on the bus tour). There was only one group of bleachers here, so I'm guessing it is for elite viewing? I don't know, but they did say you can watch a rocket launch, first-come-first-serve, and if I lived anywhere near Cape Canaveral, I'd be all over it trying to get my space in that line. The next rocket launch, if you are interested, is June 24th, 2019. A good thing to note is that the bus tour does not run on the days (or immediately after) a rocket is launched, so be sure to check schedules prior to visiting for recreation purposes only (because you wouldn't want to miss this portion of the trip).
This is the view you see from those particular bleachers.
When we returned from the bus tour, we went to the area where the Atlantis "mission zone" is located. It's amazing to see something in person that you saw televised. It's also a wonder to hear how technology has changed and get a better understanding of space travel in general.
We also took in one of the free shows at the IMAX theater, with us choosing to see Apollo 11. We even purchased popcorn and drinks to make it an entirely authentic movie date. :)
It was getting closer to our 6pm closing time at this point in our visit, so we headed over to see the displays that had been to, or were talking about trips to Mars. The Mars Rover was huge and the wheels indeed clued you in to how different of a vehicle they had to prepare to roam across its surface (which again, if you think about it, is absolutely, stupendously amazing). I know I've already said it, but I am in awe over what people are able to do. It is far beyond any scope of imagination I could muster, and one visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will not only leave you full of admiration, but it will also add a hefty boost (pun intended) to your patriotism. So many people are able to do so many dreamy things, and our country has been a trailblazer in many ways, for a lot of those things when it comes to exploring space. There were other vehicles to see, along with photographs of them being used, inside of the building. You could also put together a post card to send home electronically that took your picture and put you on Mars, in a space station, in a space suit, etc. (fun!).
We could have spent all day in just this building, so I was glad we went into it last!! Like I mentioned earlier, my son loves all things related to Mars. It makes me smile because my generation was all about going to the moon (though I wasn't alive when that happened, it was the big event that took place closest to the year I was born), my son's generation has taken that for granted (that we can travel to the moon) and is all about pushing the boundaries to what the next big thing could be.
On the way out, we checked out the model above to see how it would feel to sit in it. I have to say my 11-year-old was far more comfortable inside of the smaller space than I ever would be. I complain if I have to sit in a car too long where the driver has the seat back, or I can't put mine back because someone is in the back while I'm driving. 😋
Just imagining being tucked in a single seat, upside down, for days on end was enough to make me want to stretch my legs. Guess I'm not prime material to be an astronaut (something I already knew). My hats off to each and every man or woman who has taken this route in life though. What an amazing career path to pursue, regardless of if you would be in the actual launching of a rocket or not (and on that note, let me backtrack to the movie of the landing on the moon, to note Neil Armstrong was so very generous to thank all of those people involved in he and his crew being able to land on the moon...authentic good manners were all over the place, and it was so refreshing to hear).
My advice if you haven't visited the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, is to come when they open and stay until they close. There is definitely enough to see and learn if you do.
Know Before You Go:
- The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located in Cape Canaveral, Florida, about an hour away from Orlando.
- There is a fee for parking. We drove a car and paid $10 for the day. The lot is not huge so even if you get there later in the morning, like we did, and have to park in the back, like we did, it's not that far of a walk.
- There is a kennel available during operational hours (no overnight stays). See conditions on website.
- There are places to buy food inside of the park, both in the traditional area and where the bus tours land.
- You can bring your own soft-sided cooler with food, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Most things are included in your admission price, including the bus tour to the otherwise restricted areas and the IMAX movies.
- You can pay for extra events such as 'Lunch with an Astronaut' or the 'Astronaut Training Experience'
- Check before planning to see if you will be there on the day an astronaut is doing a meet-and-greet; find out when a rocket might be launching; see what/if any special activities are planned.
- Be flexible. If you are planning to visit on launch day, know that it is not uncommon for a launch scrub to take place, which means there will be no launch for that day after all. Many factors affect whether or not the rockets can go.
- Bring an umbrella. If it rains your day won't be ruined, there are a lot of indoor things to do, but you have to walk outside to get from one to the other.
If you have more questions or are ready to buy your tickets, you can visit the
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex website.