Updated: December 2021
Can we launch this post with some space pun jokes…?
How do you know when the moon is going broke? When it’s down to its last quarter. 🌙
Why couldn’t the astronaut focus? He kept spacing out. 🚀
Why do we have to keep the Earth clean? Because it’s not Uranus. 😆
Ok, are you still here? Cool, cool. I’ve always geek’d out on space stuff, too. I was the kid that wanted to be an astronaut. I make a wish on shooting stars. Astronomy class made me giddy. I’ve literally cried while looking at the moon. It all just amazes me. So living on the east coast of Florida is a pretty neat experience when you’re the girl that loves outer space. I’ve been watching rocket launches for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex as a child, teenager, and multiple times as an adult. Every experience has been different though. Now in the middle of a pandemic, there’s a handful of things to know before visiting Kennedy Space Center.
The KSC Visitor Complex website has a great FAQ section and I always advise checking out their website for updates before going, but this sweet little list will knock off some top tips and advice for visiting in 2021.
Things to Know Before Visiting Kennedy Space Center in 2021
1. Buy your tickets in advance.
Like most attractions in Florida, buying tickets in advance is to your advantage. Not only do they typically offer a slight discount when you buy in advance, but one of the first things to know before visiting Kennedy Space center in 2021 (during a pandemic) is that you’ll need to reserve the exact day you’re visiting.
In previous years, you were able to buy tickets online and go within 120 days of that purchase. However, in order to keep up with their physical distancing and crowd control policies, they limit the number of people that can go into the Space Center every day. This requires them to know exactly how many tickets are sold each day.
While the tickets are currently the same price online through kennedyspacecenter.com as it is at the front entrance, buying your tickets even a day or two in advance should secure your spot for the day. If you want to browse for discounted tickets, know that the Space Center offers a Military discount and typically a free Educator Pass, but rarely has discounts on the normal daily ticket. Some websites like mousesaver.com will occasionally have discounted ticket information, but I haven’t seen any on there for KSC in a long time.
Also note that parking is $10 per vehicle.
2. You’ll want to take advantage of the full day.
As with any other theme park or crowded attraction in the area, one of the best things to know before visiting Kennedy Space Center is their daily operating hours. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is NOW (December 2021 update) open daily from 9:00am til 5:00pm. I always suggest arriving before you think you need to. You’ll want to spend the whole day there.
**Hours are extended December 26-30 and KSC will be open until 6:00pm.**
With your tickets purchased and your date confirmed, get there before they open to avoid wasting part of your time in parking or security lines. Kennedy Space Center opens its doors about a half-hour before opening, but between paying to park, parking, walking to the entrance, and going through security, you’ll be happy you arrived a little before opening time. There’s a lot to see and do at the main visitor’s complex. You’ll be amazed how quickly time passes when you want to stop at all of the attractions, check out an IMAX movie, walk through the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and more. The last thing you’ll want to do is rush through everything because you didn’t give yourself enough time. It’s better to arrive early and leave when you’re ready than feel like you missed out on super stellar exhibits.
RELATED: A Local’s Travel Guide to New Smyrna Beach, Florida (One Hour Away From Kennedy Space Center!)
3. Download the app.
By planning ahead of time and checking out things to know before visiting Kennedy Space Center, you’ll be able to download the KSC app before going! I totally missed this and didn’t download it until halfway through our day at the Visitor’s Complex. When you download the app, you’ll be able to check out all of the things that they have to offer during your visit. The map will easily allow you to get the lay of the land in your head and scope out things that are important to you. Whether it’s favoriting attractions, making a full game plan for the day, or just checking out the restaurant’s menu, you’ll be totally prepared for your day at KSC.
4. Earlier this year, several special attractions and tours were unavailable. As of December 2021, many of these things are returning!
I have to admit, when we visited in January 2021, I missed seeing certain areas like the Saturn V Rocket and the entire Path to the Moon section, but luckily it’s all reopening now! The Apollo/Saturn V Center is open again, but it does require a transportation ticket because you get there by a KSC bus. Don’t worry, the reservation is required but admission is included in your daily ticket.
**Beginning December 20 through January 2, bus transportation reservations are not required in order to take the bus to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. During this time only, simply queue at bus boarding to go behind NASA’s gates and see the largest rocket ever flown!**
Other great attractions, like Encounter with an Astronaut, are open again, too! This is so important in your list of things to know before visiting Kennedy Space Center! Hooray for everything slowly feeling “normal” again.
TWF TIP: With that said, Nick and I also agree that you can skip the Guided Walking Tour. We were hoping to get a more behind-the-scenes experience with extra fun facts or a VIP feel through the attractions. However, we were guided like sheep through the complex. We didn’t get to linger on certain attractions long enough, and we ended up doubling back throughout the complex as soon as it was over so we could see and do things we really wanted to do.
5. Prepare for Florida’s weather.
Florida’s weather is perfectly unpredictable which is why it makes my list of things to know before for visiting Kennedy Space Center. Pay attention to when you’re going and what that means for the day. Our summer months are part of our wet season. Maybe you’ll be getting wet from a standard afternoon thunderstorm rolling through. But even on the sunniest summer day, you may get drenched from the amount of sweat that’ll be pouring out of you from the heat and humidity.
When packing up for your day at the Space Center, be mindful of the weather and what that means to you. Pack up an extra poncho or bring along an umbrella. In the summertime, you’ll want to wear minimal clothes while you’re outside, but the attraction buildings will feel cold once you have the A/C hit all of that sweat. Bring a light layer like a flannel or light jacket.
Our trip in January was beautiful. We had clear skies and temperatures in the 60’s. However, I was still cold when we went inside the Atlantis building. Like, freezing. The buildings are so large that it does make it hard for them to regulate the temperature perfectly.
TWF TIP: If you need a mid-day break from the unbearable heat or afternoon thunderstorms, head to the theater. Grab a popcorn or candy and stay for one or two of the 20-minute IMAX movies!
6. This isn’t Universal, so don’t go just for the simulator ride.
Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex isn’t a theme park. If you’re looking for thrilling rides, characters, or big theatrical shows, this may not be for you. It’s a more entertaining, educational experience that’s rich with history and science. They do a great job making it a space for younger kids, but not necessarily toddlers. Teenagers might get bored if they don’t find outer space to be as cool as Harry Potter. I’ve always appreciated it the most as an adult. It has a really special atmosphere for anyone that’s attracted to space exploration and science.
TWF Tip: If the simulator ride has a line longer than about 20 minutes, skip it. I know this might be hard for some of the pre-teens wanting the exhilarating experience of the rocket simulator, but this isn’t Disney World or Universal. The ride is very mediocre. I swear, you’d think a business that’s incredible enough to build rocket ships could do a hell of a job on a simulator ride, but it leaves a lot to be desired. If the kids are adamant about getting on the ride, there’s plenty more for the parents to check out in the Atlantis building while you wait.
7. Know your photo ops.
In today’s world where snapping the perfect photo seems to be the most important part about remembering the day, go ahead and make a mental note of where you want to capture that perfect moment. Even though you aren’t able to see some of the epic attractions beyond the main visitor’s complex, you’ll still be blown out of this world with some of the photo opportunities.
The Weekend Fox Favorites (most are sprinkled into this post):
• Snap a photo at the front entrance next to the NASA globe with John F. Kennedy’s quote behind you.
• Stand next to the Mercury-Atlas and Gemini-Titan II rockets in the Rocket Garden.
• Look up at the giant astronauts on the wall outside of the Heroes & Legends Astronaut Hall of Fame building.
• Turn your iPhone upside down to get the entire outdoor Atlantis display in your photo.
• Wait for the initial crowd to disperse before getting a full photo of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
• Keep an eye out for blogger-worthy painted walls throughout the visitor’s complex, too! There are a few of them!