Who hasn’t wanted to fly through space or bounce on the moon? While my childhood fantasies also included fighting aliens, history had at least proven the feasibility of the first two.

That’s why we included the Kennedy Space Center as part of our Florida Northeast road trip. Unfortunately, the Center now only seems to host elementary school field trips and visitors seeking a break from Orlando, but I think it deserves more respect. The great space race wasn’t just Florida history… it’s a giant leap by mankind!

The Kennedy Space Center is divided into a handful of widespread areas; don’t expect an easy return to your car if you forgot something.

Kennedy Space Center - Visitor Complex - The Rocket Garden []
About to enter the Rocket Garden!
At the famed Rocket Garden—it’s really a garden scattered with retired rockets – we entered a free tours. The coolest part was walking the orange ‘catwalk scaffold’ and trying to imagine how the astronauts felt before they entered their shuttle. As one of the few outdoor exhibits, do this first. It was February before noon and I was already sweating as the Florida sun caused me to squint upward at the sky-pointing rockets.

Kennedy Space Center - Visitor Complex - Orange scaffolding walkway []
Pretending to be an astronaut about to enter the shuttle… except we’re on the ground

A bus is necessary to reach the Apollo / Saturn V center but instead of merely transporting guests, the bus doubles as a tour of the grounds. We passed some serious-looking government buildings, NASA’s famous vehicle assembly building (just see the pic) and the new SpaceX launch site with plenty of swamp land in between areas. It’s a different tour going to the Apollo/ Saturn V Center than going back.

Kennedy Space Center - Visitor Complex - NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building []
A quick glimpse of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
The Apollo / Saturn V center immediately made me feel small upon entry. The mighty Saturn V rocket hung suspended from the ceiling and stretched from one side of the building to the other.  In between gazing up at the rocket, we placed our hands on a transported moon rock and entered the side exhibits and shows.

Kennedy Space Center - Visitor Complex - Saturn V Rocket []
That’s one big Saturn V Rocket
After exhausting this center, the tour bus returned us to the main complex. The Space Shuttle Atlantis center—an obviously new wing—featured even more interactive exhibits and a well-done ride simulation of a space launch (that ending really made me feel like I was floating in space). The Atlantis Shuttle hovered at the middle as if it was paused mid-flight; the only thing amiss was its ceiling was peeled back to expose the small areas where its crew once worked. Nearby a touching memorial to the fallen Columbia and Challenger missions also highlighted the lives and hobbies of its crew; martial artists, cyclists, book lovers… normal people with normal likes responding to the lure of space.

I enjoyed imagining the lives of each shuttle, suit, and equipment before the items retired at the Center. The shows helped at supporting my imagination although there’s definitely a recurring ‘heroic’ theme as each climax featured the shuttle blasting off, fires blazing and smoke exploding followed by an epic score.

You can easily fill a whole day here. I even brought my own ‘healthy’ snacks—while the experiences here nicely cater to modern attention spans, the dining options are still stuck in the Pizza and Hamburger era.

Go ahead and complement that Disney magic with inspiring history, but others should visit as well. The Kennedy Space Center is still a museum yet it’s definitely one of the coolest ones I’ve been to and very respectful as well. Whether you’re my age, a young kid, or even an older person who remembers when man first walked the moon, you’ll come out wanting to play with rockets and pretending to fly through space

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