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Do you want to walk underneath a Saturn V moon rocket, see Atlantis up close and meet a real astronaut? Well you can in Florida! This guide shares the best Kennedy Space Center tours from Orlando, what to expect when you arrive and, if you want to fly solo, how to get to Kennedy Space Center from Orlando independently.
Where is Kennedy Space Center?
Kennedy Space Center is located at Merritt Island in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
It is 54 miles from International Drive in Orlando and takes around 55 minutes to drive by car.
How to Get to Kennedy Space Center From Orlando
There are three ways to get to Kennedy Space Center from Orlando.
Firstly, by car and using the fee-paying parking lot at Cape Canaveral and then accessing the space center complex and exhibitions with a pre-booked admissions ticket.
The second option is to book a seat with the Gray Line Orlando and City Sightseeing Orlando who travel to the Space Coast every day for around $60 return.
This does not include entrance to the center or lunch.
Pick ups around International Drive are specified at the time of booking and leave around 7:30-8:30, returning 12 hours later.
The journey from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral takes just under one hour and the ride includes a NASA TV show to get you in the mood and a driver with stellar Dad jokes for entertainment.
Alternatively, you can take one of the many Kennedy Space Center bus tours from Orlando which include the journey, entrance fees and access to exhibitions.
We’ll discuss them below.
Kennedy Space Center Tours – Orlando To Cape Canaveral
If you are looking for a door to door tour from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center there are lots of options to choose from.
Grey Line Tours Bus + Kennedy Space Center Entrance Ticket
Although this may feel like the cheapest option it actually works out the same as the roundtrip tour below.
The bus journey is $60 return and the entrance fee is $61, totally $121 per person.
This option is a 10-12 hour day trip and offers full access to Visitor Complex, Bus Tour, IMAX Theater, shows, and Apollo/Saturn 5 Rocket Center
Other features of the admissions ticket include a ‘skip the line’ ticket and free cancellation 24 hours before the entry date.
→ Reserve your entrance ticket here.
Kennedy Space Center Day Trip with Transport from Orlando
The next option is to purchase a combined ticket which includes a pick up from Orlando and the admissions ticket to Kennedy Space Center Complex.
With this ticket everything is organized for you so you don’t need to go through two separate companies to build your out of this world day out!
The bus collects visitors from a variety of accesible locations such as ICON Park on International Drive and the Universal Boulevard.
To start the day you will be given an orientation tour by a guide when you arrive, then you are free to hop aboard the Shuttle Launch Experience and experience what it is like to visit the moon through cinematic video.
Remember to wear comfortable shoes, pack sunscreen, water and snacks and money for lunch.
This Orlando to Kennedy Space Center return tour lasts 10 hours.
Reserve your tour ticket here.
Orlando to Kennedy Space Center and Airboat Tour
This tour is similar to the above option where you are collected from a stop in Orlando and dropped off at the space center but it also includes a Florida airboat experience so you are get three activities inclusive!
The airboat ride sails through the flora and fauna of the swamps where alligators live.
After you’ve glided through St. Johns River and Lake Poinsett at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, you will spend the day exploring the Kennedy Space Center where you can enjoy an exclusive Space Shuttle Atlantis tour and bus tour to Saturn V Center.
Reserve your tour ticket here.
Kennedy Space Center Tour and Dine with an Astronaut
If you’d like more time with an expert who is willing to answer all your burning questions about space you can book this tour which includes a communal, buffet lunch with an astronaut.
Not everyone who visits the space center gets to take part in this experience so take note of all the questions you want to ask the NASA astronaut just in case you get starstruck when you are asked!
There is usually time to get an autograph with the astronaut too.
The tour includes bus return pick up and admission tickets.
Reserve your tour ticket here.
Kennedy Space Center: Astronaut Training Experience
Go a step farther than lunch and train to be an astronaut at Kennedy Space Center!
This 5/5 Orlando activity equips trainees for a mission to Mars while learning about science and engineering.
Astronauts work with the crew on to launch and land on the moon by simulation.
They’ll also get the chance to do the moonwalk!
Reserve your tour ticket here.
Kennedy Space Center Personal Review
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Centre has a useful exhibition map on display, advice on how to best use your time and the duration of each of the attractions on offer.
Unfortunately, I just missed the Journey to Space in 3D at the IMAX so aimed for the Journey to Mars; Explorers Wanted film, at 10:30 instead.
It was enjoyable but aimed at kids instead of me, the 30+-year-old super-nerd.
The film ended at 10:50 which left me with about an hour until the big lunch date, annoyingly that didn’t really give me enough time to visit any of the other exhibitions so I went for a walk through the Rocket Garden and took some pictures of the complex to kill time.
I stumbled on a suited astronaut character and got a couple of pictures.
I had skipped breakfast, either out of excitement or for an extra ten minutes in bed, I’ll let you decide, and could not wait any longer so I bought a reasonably priced ($6.99) very tasty breakfast burrito.
Lunch with an Astronaut
At 11:45 I headed over to the Debus Conference Center where the lunch with an astronaut was due to take place.
I was greeted at the entrance by a really nice older dude called Germany but not before I got a picture with the character astronaut.
I was flying solo so was shown to a table with four Brits and three North Americans.
After some quick pleasantries, we ate a buffet-style lunch with chicken, salmon, spicy beans, salad, pizza etc.
Drinks included tea, coffee, and Tang of course… a favourite with the astronauts!
Tang is the official astronaut drink consumed in the space station; it is basically sugary orange squash, which was a little too sweet for my palate but I am pleased to say that I’ve tried it.
Buffet and Tang time over, Cpt. Jon McBride, the retired veteran who has been in space for 8 days, 5 hours and 23 minutes, took centre stage whilst wandering around the room.
He presented a slideshow and spoke about his astronaut friends as well as telling us about the perils of drug use (strange).
He was charming and explained a few things about daily life aboard the International Space Station.
For example, he told us he had experienced sixteen sunsets and sunrises in a mere twenty-four hours because the Shuttle/ISS orbits Earth at 17150 MPH but as a seasoned nerd I already knew his facts and I guess I was hoping for some information from a more personal level.
For example, what was his parents/wife reaction when he first said he was going to space?
Did he cry the first time he saw Earth in all her glory from 400 miles up? I think I would!
Cpt. Jon McBride took a couple of questions.
What’s your favourite food in space?
Green beans and Mexican eggs. All freeze-dried then “reconstituted with water before consumption.”
Mmmmmm sounds great. I’ve tried astronaut ‘ice cream’. It was OK!
Another question from an Aussie dude:
Why has the space program been mothballed?
Politics says Cpt. Jon McBride. He hinted that it is not that expensive to run the programme in relation to the money spent on other areas.
He stated that NASA’s annual budget is merely 1% of the weekly interest America earns in GDP.
He thinks that the government’s priorities are all wrong. Can’t argue with that.
A few North Americans murmured about wasting money on war but that’s a whole other blog post.
I had a list of questions prepped but didn’t have the chance to ask; damn.
I had my journalist pants on and was hoping to bust a few conspiracy theories wide open!
Atlantis, At Last!
We were given the opportunity to have our picture taken with him…for a fee.
I body swerved that as I still had loads of exhibitions to squeeze into the afternoon.
I said my goodbyes to my new friends then headed for the other delights the Space Center had to offer, beginning with the newly completed $1 million retirement home for the Space Shuttle, Atlantis!
I was very impressed with this.
The exhibition began with a short projection movie, which concluded in a pretty special way. I won’t spoil the surprise!
Next up was the main room, where Atlantis sat proudly in all of her glory.
The world’s first reusable spacecraft is truly an engineering marvel.
Smaller than I’d anticipated but makes sense when you think about the fuel required breaking free from Earth’s gravity.
With the cargo doors wide open the Shuttle reminded me of a giant Ford Transit, basically just a giant delivery truck/work van with its small passenger cabin and large payload section, albeit a thoroughly impressive one.
There was also a realistic, so I’m told, launch simulator, and because it was low season I went straight to the front of the line.
If I’d had more time, I’d definitely would have had a second go!
Spaceports, Airports for Space Shuttles!
A really cool aspect of the day was the bus tour of the launch facilities which took about forty-five minutes.
The tour took us around the shuttle assembly building, an impressive building built for the Apollo missions.
This building is a beast, big enough to contain three and half Empire State buildings!
We also had the chance to see the newly refurbished Launch Complex 39A, which in the past has been the launchpad for many important launches such as Apollo.
39A is now leased to Elon Musk’s company, Space X for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches.
The home of space shuttle launches, Cape Canaveral, was looming in the distance, which was cool; it has been on my hotlist since a family visit to Florida in 1997.
We were staying in a villa; all of us huddled around the television watching the NASA channel as the space shuttle Discovery was coming in for a landing.
Little did we know the shuttle was about to pass directly over our heads!
As it did, there was a massive Sonic Boom, this is caused when the sound barrier is broken!
My poor unsuspecting Gran was floating in the pool and got such a fright that she fell off her inflatable.
Oh, how we laughed until we remembered she couldn’t swim. Cue, my best Hasselhoff impression!
Back to the…Present
The bus tour dropped us off at the Saturn V Center which houses an impressive array of memorabilia including The Moon Lander, which was driven by Neil Armstrong on that trip to the moon, several space suits and a moon rock, which just looks like dusty granite.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable day at the Kennedy Space Center; I recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in Space.
Review by Craig, a self-confessed space geek.
FAQs About Kennedy Space Center?
Where is the Kennedy Space Center?
Kennedy Space Center is in Florida. It is located at Merritt Island in Cape Canaveral.
How expensive is a visit to the Kennedy Space Center?
This really depends on what type of package you purchase. The most affordable option is to drive to the center and buy a basic entrance ticket.
What time does the center open?
The center opens to the public at 9am. Closing times vary.
Can you take your own food?
No, food is available on the premises.