Last year I was lucky enough to visit Miami. It was only for a few (magical, memorable, brilliant) days but I was there alone and immersed myself in the Art Deco delights of South Beach. There’s no question that I enjoyed a holiday doing exactly what interested me but during my brief time in Florida, I spotted so many things that had me thinking “My kids would love that!” And the place in Florida with serious wow factor – outer space (almost).
Orlando, Florida is the theme park destination in America, boasting Disney World, SeaWorld, Legoland and Universal Studios amongst its attractions. But there’s one tourist attraction like no other – the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
Home to NASA’s launch headquarters, the Kennedy Space Center allows tourists the chance to tour launch pads, participate in astronaut training, walk amongst giant rockets in the Rocket Garden and even lunch with a real astronaut.
The centre hosts various activities and special displays during the year however the highlight is the Shuttle Launch Experience – a way for aspiring astronauts to blast-off as a guest ‘crew member’ on a space shuttle launch replication (note that kids must be taller than one hundred and twelve centimetres to ride the Shuttle Launch Experience – better to know before you go than face the disappointment of your little astronaut falling short!). Needless to say, the experience gives you a vertical and bumpy ride.
Early in 2013, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will become home to the space shuttle Atlantis, one of the four shuttles operating until the end of the NASA shuttle program. Atlantis launched successfully for the final time on 8 July, 2011 and returned to Earth on 21 July, 2011. By the end of its final mission, Atlantis had orbited the Earth four thousand, eight hundred and forty-eight times, travelling nearly two hundred and three million kilometres in space – that’s more than five hundred and twenty-five times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Mind-boggling stuff!
Tickets to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex are available online. Adults are US$50 each and children US$40. Packages are also available, such as the Astronaut Training Experience for families which includes half a day immersed in astronaut training, rides in realistic simulators and building and launching your own rockets. You also get the opportunity to meet a veteran NASA astronaut and work together to perform a space shuttle mission to the International Space Station in a full-scale orbiter mock-up and fully outfitted mission control. Now who’s more excited – the kids or the parents?! The Astronaut Training Experience package includes two day admission to the Visitor Complex and is priced from US$145 per person.