RFA’s Complete Guide to the Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center is an absolute sensation. It’s not only one of the best tourist spots in Florida; it is also one of the best tourist spots in the United States — perhaps in the solar system…

Visit where the Apollo rockets were launched, where history was made, and where we take one giant leap into the future. It is the perfect tourist destination for anyone interested in astronauts and space exploration, making it a fantastic family day out!

Keep scrolling to learn more, or click on our article about some of the most amazing facts about KSC. Start planning your visit to the Kennedy Space Center!

The Purpose of this KSC Guide

Other than the official Kennedy Space Center website, we want Real Florida Adventures to be the top place on the internet for all things KSC.

We want to help, so if you have any questions about our Kennedy Space Center Tours or information in this guide, please feel free to contact us. We have a friendly team of experts waiting to help you have the best time possible in Florida!

The Difference When Visiting KSC with Real Florida Adventures

Here at Real Florida Adventures, it’s our privilege to take thousands of tourists each year to the Kennedy Space Center. You can visit the Kennedy Space Center on your own, but it’s so much better when you visit with expert guides. Our guides look after guests, which means that they aren’t just waiting in the minibuses. We get to see the amazement on everyone’s faces on each Kennedy Space Center tour!

If anything in this guide inspires you to explore KSC with Real Florida Adventures — the top-rated Florida tour company 😉 — check out our Florida Tours in and From Orlando, especially our #1 Kennedy Space Center Tour.

Where is the Kennedy Space Center?

First off, let’s find where on planet Earth the Kennedy Space Center is located… This vast complex of buildings, rockets, and other space-travel paraphernalia can be found on the relatively large Merit Island just off the east coast of Florida, close to Orlando.

KSC Location: Merritt Island, FL, United States

Approximately 50 mins away from Orlando by car, the Kennedy Space Center has been dazzling guests since 1 July 1962. It is easy to find by car, but it is even easier if you opt for our Transport from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center.

If you’re looking for a shuttle to the KSC, no one has more experience than Real Florida Adventures! Whether you’re a tourist not used to driving on US roads or you just want to relax and look out the window, our Orlando to KSC shuttle takes the pressure off driving to the Kennedy Space Center.

Getting from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center couldn’t be easier than with Real Florida Adventures. Please get in touch if you have any questions about our transport or tour packages.

Discover the History of the Kennedy Space Center

While going into the full history of the KSC would take up this entire page and then some, some of the key points in its first half-century of existence include:

  • September 1961NASA, along with the Army Corp. of Engineers, start negotiations for the acquisition of 80,000 acres of land to become home to “a large space vehicle launch facility”.
  • July 1962Launch Operations Center, what we know as KSC today, was officially activated by NASA, giving the burgeoning launch site the same standing as other agency field centers.
  • July 1963Construction of the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building starts.
  • July 1969The 36-story Saturn V rocket launched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins into space and the history books.
  • December 1972The 11th and final Apollo mission launches. To this day, it is the most recent human expedition beyond Earth’s orbit.
  • January 1986The Challenger disaster shocked the world and ground all shuttles for almost 3 years.
  • February 2003The Columbia disaster grounded the shuttle fleet for another 2-and-a-half years.
  • NowShawn Quinn, director of Engineering at Kennedy Space Center sees unlimited potential for NASA’s future.

Facts About the Kennedy Space Center

While everyone has heard of the Kennedy Space Center, how much do you actually know about it? This iconic facility is not only a hub for launching spacecraft but also a treasure trove of amazing facts and history that have contributed to humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.

The Kennedy Space Center is a Gateway to the Universe

As one of the busiest spaceports in the world, KSC continues to be a gateway to exploring the known (and unknown!) universe. The Center facilitates launches for NASA, commercial companies, and international partners, enabling us to discover worlds beyond our planet.

KSC has been instrumental in launching missions like the Mars rovers, the Parker Solar Probe, and the James Webb Space Telescope. As NASA’s primary launch facility for a wide range of missions, the Center continues to carve a pathway for the future of space exploration.

Discover the Center for Global Space Travel

But it isn’t just a center for NASA; it’s a hub for international cooperation in space exploration. Many international partners, such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), have used KSC’s facilities for their missions.

In recent years, KSC has played a vital role in the development of commercial spaceflight. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Boeing use KSC’s facilities to launch their spacecraft and conduct resupply missions to the ISS. Perhaps visitor trips to the stars will become commonplace in future!

Environmental Stewardship at Kennedy Space Center

KSC is home to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a vital habitat for wildlife, including alligators and manatees. This unique coexistence of space exploration and conservation underscores NASA’s commitment to environmental stewardship and makes for a great visit.

Crocodiles and NASA? The History of Animal Conservation at KSC

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a vast expanse of protected land that covers approximately 140,000 acres on Merritt Island, adjacent to KSC. Established in 1963, it was originally part of the land acquired by NASA for the Apollo program.

NASA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work in partnership to manage and protect this area. Their partnership aims to minimize the impact of space launches and operations on the refuge’s delicate ecosystems.

Today, the refuge is home to a diverse range of ecosystems, including saltwater estuaries, freshwater impoundments, marshes, and hardwood hammocks.

It provides a vital habitat for numerous species, including American alligators, manatees, sea turtles, bald eagles, ospreys, and waterfowl. It is also a crucial stopover for migratory birds on the Atlantic Flyway.

You can learn even more amazing facts about the Kennedy Space Center on our blog. Our deep dive includes a window to the past and future of the Center’s activities, an exhibition of the red planet — Mars — available to explore on your visit, and how astronauts were trained.

Is Cape Canaveral the Same as the Kennedy Space Center?

Perhaps you’re wondering what the difference is between the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. Both places are very famous for their contribution to space exploration.

While Cape Canaveral and KSC are often spoken about interchangeably, they are on separate islands that are side by side. So your confusion is completely understandable. Merritt Island is closer to the Florida mainland, then it is separated from Cape Canaveral (another island) by the Banana River to the east.

Both Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island are owned by NASA and are there to serve the space program, but they serve different purposes. The Kennedy Space Center is where the space shuttles launched from — including the world-famous Apollo rockets.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) is where the various unmanned rockets and satellites are launched from — including probes to other planets. Cape Canaveral is mostly closed to the public, but there are some historical sites that you can tour at select times of the day. Cape Canaveral is still active, with various other organisations leasing its use from NASA.

Where Do You Get Kennedy Space Center Tickets?

Buy tickets to the Kennedy Space Tickets here, with us. Real Florida Adventures has been selling tickets, transport, and tours to KSC for many years.

Of course, there are other ways to get tickets for KSC, but our range of transportation, tours, and tickets means that there’s something for every kind of visitor. Our customer-first approach is focused on quality, value, safety, and integrity.

If you’d like to know more about us, read our About Us page. In fact, rather than taking our word for it, read our TripAdvisor reviews, where we are the top-ranked tour operator in Orlando.

We also have a blog dedicated to Kennedy Space Center travel tips which can help to plan your visit. As always, we encourage you to check the Center’s opening times before traveling unless, of course, you choose a tour with RFA. Then, we’ll make the booking for you, so all you have to do is show up and enjoy!

The Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour

The Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour is a rite of passage for all visitors to the complex. Climb aboard the air-conditioned, very comfortable bus and receive a complete overview of the various buildings, vehicles, machines, and other structures that comprise the KSC.

The signature KSC bus tour is perfect for getting a sense of the Kennedy Space Center as a whole, and you get to see some truly legendary things that you would not have time to explore on foot alone, including Launch Complex 39B, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center, with its recreated moon landing and awesome full-size Saturn V rocket. For some, the highlight is the massive Vehicle Assembly Building — the 8th largest building in the world.

You can learn more about our #1 Kennedy Space Center tour on our website, including pick-up times and schedules, reviews from previous visitors, and availability.

Discover ‘Heroes and Legends’ — the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame

For many, it is the people behind the rockets and space shuttles that inspire awe. If this sounds like you, then the Astronaut Hall of Fame will likely be the highlight of your time at the Kennedy Space Center.

This excellently designed and curated space pays homage to the great heroes and legends that have played their part in humanity’s greatest endeavor: to leave our planet and explore the moon, the planets of our solar system, and beyond.

This exhibition doesn’t just tell you more about the real people behind the legends, it also includes items and artefacts that also played a part in their stories. Explore the history and future of the space age through the heroes that have made it all possible.

What Can You See and Do on a Visit to the Kennedy Space Center?

There is so much to see and do at the KSC after you have completed the bus tour. If you want to see everything, you will have to hussle. But that’s why this guide should hopefully help you figure out which areas and exhibits to prioritise.

There are lots of incredible activities at the center, which is why we always recommend a full-day tour. You’ll need a whole day to fully appreciate everything on offer!

The Gateway exhibition space features real spacecraft and technologies used by NASA throughout history — and now. If you’re most interested in the spacecraft at KSC, then this will likely be your highlight!

Gateway is located in an imposing new three-story, 50,000-square-foot building on the northeast side of the signature Rocket Garden.

Once entering, you’ll see a showcase of equipment and machinery used for the current generation of space exploration.

From rocket engines to interactive exhibits, Gateway also allows visitors to choose one of four boarding gates taking them to a simulated deep-space adventure for glimpses of Spaceport life. What will you discover: the red planet, daring explorers, cosmic wonders, or unchartered worlds?

Discover more things to do at the Kennedy Space Center in our blog, with a deep dive into all things Gateway: Deep Space Complex. This exhibition is one of the latest at the Center, featuring cutting-edge innovations from NASA and its commercial partners.

There are regularly updated exhibitions so we can’t say with certainty what to expect at different times of year (depending on when you read this). But here are some of the things you can look forward to:

  • The Gateway Exhibition
  • Gravity-defying Shuttle Launch Experience
  • The Heroes & Legends Center (described above)
  • The epic IMAX theater
  • And so much more!

Meet an Astronaut at the Kennedy Space Center

Meeting an astronaut at the Kennedy Space Center is an awe-inspiring experience that connects you with the pioneers of space exploration. As you stand amidst the colossal rockets and iconic launch pads, chatting with an astronaut adds a personal dimension to your visit.

These individuals have ventured into the unknown, conducting experiments, repairing spacecraft, and even walking on the moon. Their mere presence is a testament to the remarkable achievements of human spaceflight.

This out-of-the-ordinary experience is available on our Kennedy Space Center Chat with Astronaut Tour. If you’ve ever had a burning question for those who venture into space, now is the time to ask it! A photo opportunity is included, meaning you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

Planning Your First Family Trip to the Kennedy Space Center?

If you’re planning your first family trip to the Kennedy Space Center, we sincerely hope this guide has spurred you on and perhaps even helped you out with some useful information.

In our view, little else in Florida can offer families as good and memorable a time as a day out at the Kennedy Space Center. Kids and adults alike are inspired and awed by the out-of-this-world achievements of NASA, its scientists, engineers, astronauts, and the thousands of other people who have made the impossible possible.

Hopefully, this information will help you decide what is the best thing to do at the Kennedy Space Center. But, if you need a little more guidance, you can visit our blog for our favorite activities, including a rundown of our best-rated tours on TripAdvisor.

If you have any further questions about buying tickets or visiting, you can view the Frequently Asked Questions about the Kennedy Space Center section on our website. Answered by the experts at RFA, who have been conducting tours for more than 40 years, you’re bound to find the answers you need! If not, please do get in touch with our team for assistance.

If you’re not sure which of our KSC tour options are right for you, we’d like to summarise them below.

The #1 Kennedy Space Center Tour

KSC Ticket + Tour Guide + Transportation

  • Transportation from Oralando to the Kennedy Space Center
  • A full day’s tour of the KSC
  • Transportation back to Orlando at the end of the day
Private Kennedy Space Center Adventure

KSC Ticket + Tour Guide + Private Transportation

  • Private transportation from Orlando to the Kennedy Space Center, meaning you don’t share with people you don’t know
  • A full day’s tour of the KSC (this isn’t private as the center is open to everyone)
  • Private transportation back to Orlando at the end of the day
Kennedy Space Center & Airboat Ride

KSC Ticket + Tour Guide + Transportation + An Airboat Ride

  • Additional authentic Florida experience on an airboat
  • Transportation from Oralando to the Kennedy Space Center
  • A full day’s tour of the KSC
  • Transportation back to Orlando at the end of the day