One thing I love about our area is how close we are in all directs to so many great family destinations. Our family is always looking for quick weekend getaways around Jacksonville that won’t break the bank or cause a lot of stress. In addition to searching for new and undiscovered spots, we always focus on three main criteria for our weekend trips: proximity, affordability and entertainment.
For Labor Day, we decided on Kennedy Space Center, located in Cape Canaveral. Close enough to Jacksonville – we got there in less than three hours, even stopping to eat – the Space Center is situated about 20 minutes east of I-95 near Titusville. Proximity? Check.
While accommodations in the area are quite affordable (especially near the interstate), entry into the Space Center is a bit pricey. Adult tickets are $50 and children are $40, with no Florida resident discount. Once the sticker shock diminished, we resided to buy the tickets and take snacks to avoid extra in-park costs. Affordability? Eh. However, the entertainment factor is where Kennedy Space Center really shines – as well as justifies the drive and ticket prices. From the main entrance, visitors are taken on an imaginative journey, almost literally to the moon!
That being said, don’t expect roller coasters, dancing astronauts or kiddy rocket rides. They don’t have any of it. Their cartoonish attractions are limited to a pretty large covered Children’s Playdome and an Angry Birds Space Encounter play area.
Other than that, Kennedy is a feast for the curious imagination with its visual exhibits and authentic rockets and shuttles. You also won’t need to plan for a punishing 10-hour day like some other Central Florida attractions (I won’t name names). You can see everything (including at least a dozen separate exhibits), eat and relax – all within about four hours.
Also unlike the Orlando theme parks (again, no names), Kennedy is devoid of excessively long lines and ridiculous crowds as well as the tacky commercialism to which our kids are constantly exposed. The Space Center exists primarily to educate, and secondly, to entertain. But, entertain it does. Both of my kids, even my short-attention-span kindergartener was thoroughly delighted the entire time. The best part for us was watching their childhood wonder ignite at the sheer size of the rockets and the realization that people do actually go into space!
Also, with the exception of the Rocket Garden (which is a popular image of standing old school rockets from the space program’s early days), most of the park is indoors, so weather will have a minimal effect on your fun.
There are optional admission upgrades, one of which allows you to have lunch with a real astronaut. This option might be great for older kids who can ask questions and behave themselves during a meal! We had plenty of fun without upgrades.
After perusing each exhibit, we had trouble narrowing down our favorite. The consensus? Don’t miss the IMAX theater, which is included with admission and shows 3D movies featuring real missions in space. These movies are informative for parents and entertaining for kids. They are also great for younger ones because they run less than one hour! The movies put into motion what the kids are learning about in the exhibits – and in three dimensions to boot. Other must-see attractions include Early Space Exploration (start here!), Space Shuttle Atlantis, Exploration Space, and the Shuttle Launch Experience.
At the end of the day, all of us were fulfilled and inspired – and the kids were happily exhausted. A great trip for all.
Have a baby in tow? No worries! Even your youngest will be enchanted by the giant shuttles and whimsical planetary imagery. Although the exhibits require some reading with technical information, the Space Center does a great job of catering to kids of all ages and adults alike.
It may take a bit of saving for the admission, but it’s worth the trip. I would recommend staying over in a hotel, but it is certainly feasible as a full, one-day trip. Start planning your family’s Kennedy Space Center trip now and prepare to blast off!
About the Author
Cathy Eng is a writer and mother to daughter Marlee, born in 2007, and son Kingston, born in 2009. A Smoky Mountains native, Cathy earned a journalism degree from the University of Tennessee before migrating south to Jacksonville. After five years in corporate communications, she left the business world to do more important work as a new mom. Cathy later embarked on her freelance writing career and launched a resume writing company Resume Rocketeer. She loves balancing the craziness of motherhood with the fun of freelancing – and helping other moms with everyday ideas and solutions. Her website is cathyengwriter.com.