Skip to Main Content

Earthbound tourists do some capsule gazing.
Earthbound tourists do some capsule gazing.

Kennedy Space Center

Field review by the editors.

Titusville, Florida

Rockets, astronauts, outer space! It's easy to understand why 1.5 million people visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex each year, a number beyond imagining for some Roadside attractions. And it may seem like all of those people are here on the same day that you are, which can make for a long, long walk from your parking space to the ticket booths. Then there's the security gauntlet that you have to run -- where you have to pass through metal detectors, take off your shoes, turn on all of your smartphones and cameras, and throw away your nail clippers.

Rocket Garden grows in Florida's fertile space soil.
Rocket Garden grows in Florida's fertile space soil.

Admission is pricey -- although only about half of what it costs to visit Sea World -- to look at rockets that your tax dollars paid for (in contrast, the U.S. Air Force Museum is free). This is because NASA no longer runs the Complex. It was sold to a food service company a few years back, and the grittier aspects of a visit here have vanished. People may never actually have been allowed to run around on the launch pads in the early years, but we like to imagine that they were....

There's still plenty here to keep you busy for a whole day. The Complex itself sprawls across 70 acres, and then there's a bus tour that will haul your awestruck earth-bound butt to different parts of the Space Center -- including the Moon Rock Cafe, "the only place in the world where you can eat next to a moon rock." The Apollo/Saturn V Center has a recreated 1969 living room and street corner bar, where you can watch the moon landing on black-and-white TV. There's also a "Moon Tree Garden" with 12 second-generation Moon Trees grown from seeds hauled to the moon on Apollo 14 (Kennedy's first-generation Moon Tree was killed by Hurricane Irma in 2017). And there's a heroic -- frankly, somewhat Soviet -- sculpture of the three Apollo 11 astronauts, unveiled on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019. It was paid for by a mortgage company, which claimed that it was a risk-taker just like the moon men.

Kennedy Space Center.

Back at the entrance building, look for the "space person" in a space suit -- a nasty job in the Florida heat. Pose for a souvenir snapshot before walking to the Rocket Garden, where an Atlas, Jupiter, and Titan II cast cooling shadows, and replica capsules invite you to climb inside and experience claustrophobia. The Heroes and Legends building, opened in 2016, has the actual Mission Control Room used during the Mercury flights, and incorporates a revamped Astronauts Hall of Fame that had closed in its previous location.

The Exploration in the New Millennium exhibit has a replica Viking Mars lander and a please-touch-me "Martian rock fragment" (It's a tiny meteorite that scientists think came from Mars). A sculpture of a happy future space family stands near the exit, providing hopeful vibes as you head back out into the present-day heat.

If you've worked up an appetite, you can pay $$$ and have "Lunch with an Astronaut." This is a gang smorgasbord, not an intimate meal. The Visitor Center csaims that the guest of honor will be a "space hero," but this event happens every single day, so the astronaut will more likely be an anonymous Space Shuttle payload specialist who may never have actually flown, and who probably appreciates the free meal. Still, he or she will be more heroic (and interesting) than your usual lunch companions.

Back on your feet, the "Mars Base 1" and "Astronaut Training Experience" -- formerly "Mad Mission to Mars: 2025" -- are multi-hour "immersions" (again for extra $$$) that turn space science into infotainment for Disney-addled audiences. And for the less-committed, two IMAX theaters show you-are-there space movies for those of us who will always be here.

Apollo 13 still moves merchandise in the gift shop.
Apollo 13 still moves merchandise in the gift shop.

We preferred the big outdoor displays: the nine-ton "Constellation Sphere" that can be spun with one hand, and the ominous "Space Mirror," a 50-square-foot vertical black slab through which have been cut the names of every American astronaut casualty. Bronze plaques depicting the departed have been added since the last time that we visited, along with a weird mandala-like symbol that looks like a radioactive eye rising over a head of cabbage in orbit over a dead planet.

At the back of the Complex is the $60 million Shuttle Launch Experience, which is essentially a motion-master ride with bigger and louder effects ("If you stand within 800 feet of the shuttle at zero seconds," says the astronaut-narrator, "the noise alone will kill you"). Here, too, is a real Shuttle, Atlantis, housed in a separate building. Visitors can look but can't climb aboard -- or even touch -- the Shuttle, which is exhibited with mood lighting like a priceless work of art.

The gift shop at the Space Center claims to be the largest of its kind in the world. We were impressed by the 80-pound meteorite priced at $10,000. A wall of "Failure Is Not An Option" Apollo 13 merchandise is only a little less disturbing because that mission had a happy ending.

You can also find crystal Space Shuttles for $150, and oven mitts that look like moon gloves.

The manager told us that the best-selling item in the entire store -- which stocks over 4,000 items -- is the freeze-dried "astronaut ice cream." Buy some, and on the way out to the parking lot give it to the hard-working person in the space suit.

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

Hwy 405, Titusville, FL
I-95 exits 215 or 212. Take Hwys 50 or 407 east to Hwy 405. Take 405 east and follow the signs for Kennedy Space Center. The Visitor Complex is several miles within the Space Center, on the right.
Daily 9 am - dusk. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $57.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights
Roadside Videos
1966: Cape Kennedy Home Movie

1966 Cape Kennedy Home Movie.

Exclusive home movie clips of NASA's earliest public bus tour at Cape Kennedy Space Center.Go to video

Nearby Offbeat Places

The Shuttle Launch ExperienceThe Shuttle Launch Experience, Titusville, FL - < 1 mi.
Valiant Air Command Warbird MuseumValiant Air Command Warbird Museum, Titusville, FL - 7 mi.
Earth Boulder With Night SideEarth Boulder With Night Side, Merritt Island, FL - 7 mi.
In the region:
The Molecular Dog, Winter Park, FL - 41 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Florida

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Florida.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Florida Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

National Ballpark Museum, Denver, Colorado (Jul 15-21, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings