A quick visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (one of the Space Coast’s most popular attractions), which lies right outside of America’s Spaceport, Kennedy Space Center and it’s a must do for visitors and residents alike.

Below you’ll see a bit of a scratching of the surface as far as exploring the KSC Visitor Complex as we don’t want to give away all of the secrets and fun.  You need to stop by for a visit to see it all for yourself.

There’s no missing the entrance to the parking lot as it’s themed after the pair of giant crawler transporters that have taken rockets and space shuttles from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) out to the pair of launch facilities NASA has used for decades (SLC-39A and SLC-39B) and back.

You can tell as you’re walking up to the entrance to the complex that you’re in for a treat as you catch your first glimpse of the Rocket Garden.

The photo ops you’ll have as you walk around the Rocket Garden are numerous and the crown jewel, a massive Saturn V, lies horizontally in the back.

One of the newer attractions, Heroes and Legends, is the first building you’ll see and it’s typically the first stop for visitors.  There’s a pair of shows that you’ll watch before going through the rest of the building.

Hanging right in front of you is a Mercury Redstone rocket with the Sigma 7 capsule.

You’ll also get to see how Mission Control for the Friendship 7 mission was set up.

This is the Gemini 9 capsule.  You can walk around it and imagine just how brave astronauts Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were to go into orbit on board.  Read more about the mission here.

A nice tribute to the original Mercury Seven astronauts who were picked to man the series of Mercury missions.  Read more about them here.

Take some time to walk around the Astronaut Hall of Fame and yes you’ll recognize many of the names on the plaques that line the walls.

Gateway: The Deep Launch Space Complex is the next building you will likely walk into after exploring the Rocket Garden and the first thing that will catch your attention is the enormous SpaceX Falcon 9 booster hanging from the ceiling.  It flew twice including one mission as a side booster on the Falcon Heavy test flight.

You’ll also see the capsule used for the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), the first SpaceX Cargo Dragon capsule, a replica of Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane, a mockup of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule and much more.

Getting hungry?  Dining options at the KSC Visitor Center have improved nicely over the years and Orbit Cafe is the place to go for lunch.

Orbit Cafe also offers mobile ordering on their website so that you skip the line and not waste any time getting back to exploring!

Not a bad burger at all and there are quite a few other options on the menu.

You will want to head out on the “Behind the Gates” tour right after lunch or even before (as there is another option for dining out at the Apollo/Saturn V building) to make sure you’re not stuck in line too long waiting for the bus on the way out or on the way back.

This tour is included with your admission and you definitely don’t want to miss out on all that you might see.  You’ll board one of the KSC Visitor Center buses and then head out onto Kennedy Space Center itself.  Along the way you’ll learn a bit about KSC, you’ll drive by the new facility SpaceX is building to support its launches and then you’ll continue to head out to the monstrous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

We’re not going to get into all of the details regarding the VAB (that’s one of the reasons you go on the tour), the path you take around it or where else you might go before stopping at Apollo/Saturn V building as all of that may vary based on many things.  You will definitely see Space Launch Complex 39A as well as Space Launch Complex 39B, but it will most likely be from a distance.  If you’re lucky, you may see a SpaceX Falcon 9 sitting upright at SLC-39A and you can’t miss the new tower that is being built there for the enormous Space Starship Super Heavy rockets.

Later in 2024 you may be lucky enough to see the next SLS rocket sitting at SLC-39B for the upcoming Artemis II mission that will take astronauts on a trip around the Moon.

This is one of many photos that I took of the SLS and Orion capsule that were used for the Artemis I mission in November of 2022.

You will most likely drive around the VAB and there’s no telling what you might see as you go around it.  The Mobile Launch Platform will probably be out there, they may have some of the high bay doors open and you should see one or both of the Crawler Transporters that have been used for decades to take rockets and space shuttles back and forth between the VAB and both SLC-39 pads.

Here is CT-2 during the first rollout of the SLS and Orion capsule used for the Artemis I mission.

After you finish your tour of KSC, you will head over to the Apollo/ Saturn V Center.  Plan on spending at least an hour there and maybe up to a couple hours.  That means you need to plan for a couple hours away from the visitor center itself when you are working out your plan for seeing everything.

You’ll start with a presentation after you get off the bus and enter the building.

Then you’ll move into the Firing Room where you’ll relive the Apollo 8 mission which was the first crewed launch to use the huge Saturn V rocket.

The first thing you’ll see once you leave the firing room is one of three remaining Saturn V rockets left in the world.  To top it off, it’s hanging directly above your head and it’s separated into its three stages.  Standing underneath it, you realize just how massive of an undertaking it was to build and launch these giant rockets that put the first and only humans on the Moon.

There are dozens of other exhibits surrounding the rocket so make sure you take the time to look at each one during your visit.

If you start getting a little grumbly in your tummy, there’s the Moon Rock Cafe inside the building.

Inside the Apollo Treasures Gallery you will find prototype and actual spacesuits, actual artifacts from moon missions and the Apollo 14 crew capsule that is pictured above.

After you finish exploring the Apollo/ Saturn V Center, it’s time to board a bus back to the KSC Visitor Center and you’ve still got a whole lot to see.

As you get off of the bus you will be dropped off right in from of the building that houses Space Shuttle Atlantis and that’ll be your next stop unless you’ve already been inside.

On your way walking through the building you’ll see several quotes along the walls and some amazing photos.  Then you’ll enter the first of two rooms where you’ll see a pair of video presentations.

Once you enter the main room, you’ll be staring directly at the nose of Atlantis and yes it’s quite awe inspiring.  Personally, I’ve seen all of the remaining space shuttles in their “retirement homes” and Atlantis is the one that truly takes your breath away.

You’ll spend quite a bit of time exploring this level of the building before heading down to the ground floor one of three ways.  Those would be by elevator, down the long winding ramp or down the slide.  Yep, the slide.  Don’t ask questions, just do it.

There’s a whole lot of history regarding the shuttle program in this building so make sure you take the time to read everything.

It’s pretty cool to see the “Astrovan” on display and you can look right inside where dozens of astronauts rode on their way to the pad.

The Forever Remembered memorial is another must see as it is a permanent reminder of the loss of the crews of both Challenger and Columbia.

There’s so much more to list that you’ll want to experience inside this building, but again, we’re saving some of that for you to find when you visit.

Now that you’ve seen as much as you can before the visitor center closes, it’s time to stop by the world’s largest space gift shop and purchase some souvenirs.  There’s everything you could think of to buy and you really can’t leave without picking up a pack of “astronaut ice cream”!

As stated at the beginning, this is a brief description of what you will find when you visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.  If you don’t plan accordingly, you will likely miss out on some of what is there to see and yes it’s a good idea to get there when they open so that you aren’t as rushed to see everything.  You may even be there when the next launch is scheduled to go up and you can’t get a much better view!

Back to In the Spotlight