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Space Coast - Cape Canaveral

Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral brings to mind rocket ships and moon launches, but it was named in 1513 by Ponce de Leon, who called it Cabo de Cañaveral, which means "cape of weeds" in Spanish. Today, a chunk of the peninsula has is a national wildlife refuge, as well as the home of NASA. It's exciting for kids to see the actual launch sites where they blast the space shuttle into orbit. The Space Coast is an easy day trip from Orlando.
    Kennedy Space Center
     

The Kennedy Space Center is a working space facility, and the visitor complex includes launch pads, rockets, exhibits of space exploration, past and present. The Kennedy Space Center has plenty to see and it's spread out, so allow lots of time for your visit, don't rush through things. There are picnic tables near the entrance and cafes inside the complex.

      Tip: First thing, get on the bus for the Kennedy Space Center Tours with three stops – the Observation Gantry, Apollo/Saturn V Center and International Space Station Center,
Kennedy Space Center
   

Apollo/Saturn V Center – Saturn V rockets, the largest rockets ever made, were used for the Apollo moon landings. At the center, it's impressive to stand underneath the actual gigantic Saturn V rocket, and service and command modules for the moon landings! Kids can also touch a real moon rock, peer into a full replica of the lunar module cockpit (it's cramped), watch dramatic movie presentations with historical footage from the first moon landing in 1969, and pilot a miniature Mars Rover. This exhibits truly captures the spirit and triumph of space exploration.

      The bus also stops at the LC 39 Observation Gantry, with views of shuttle launch pads, the International Space Station Exhibit, where NASA prepares the modules for the space station.
     

Shuttle Launch Experience – In this launch simulation, feel like the astronauts when they take off in the space shuttle at 1000 mph, the sensation of g forces, and once orbit is achieved, a view of the earth and stars. A very realistic experience for us, without all the training it takes to become an astronaut.

      Shuttle Explorer – Explore at your own pace a full-size replica of the space shuttle, from the cockpit on the upper level (and type of space suits worn by the astronauts) to the lower cargo bay.
      Astronaut Encounter – Kids can ask a real shuttle astronaut questions, half hour Q& A session, several times daily. Check the schedule near the entrance.
      For an additional fee, there's also "Lunch With an Astronaut," something special (reservations required).
      IMAX theaters – Several shows daily, with special 3-D where you'll feel like you're standing on the moon too.
    Robot Garden – Not a garden at all, but here are actual Mercury, Gemini and Apollo rockets. Standing in the shadow of such giants, kids can imagine just what it took to launch the rockets into space. Sit in an actual space capsule (perfect size for kids). Next door is the Children's Play Dome, a playground for little kids with climbing structures, tunnels and slides.
     

Tip: the Kennedy Space Center is in the middle of a wildlife refuge. On the bus tour, en route you might see alligators, egrets, herons, and bald eagles. There's also sea turtles on the beach and manatees in the waterways.

alligators
 

Midway Airboat Rides – At Midway, take a 1/2 hour or 1 hour ride through the St. Johns River waterways. Skim over the water and grassy land, where you can see bald eagles in the cypress trees, white egrets in the air, great blue herons in still lagoons, and best of all, alligators in their natural habitat.

    The day we took the ride, numerous alligators were sunning themselves on the river bank, and we came close enough to two large "bad boy" alligators to hear them making hissing noises.
      Parents and kids will also enjoy the chance to hold a baby alligator (don't worry, it can't bite).
Fort Christmas
 

Fort Christmas Historical Park – In 1837, during the Seminole Indian Wars, a fort was founded on this site. Today, visit a replica of the log fort, with blockhouse, powder magazine and storehouse for army rations and supplies, plus rustic pioneer homes, and exhibits about homesteaders and Seminole Indians. (Fort is open Tuesday - Saturday.)

kids books kennedy space center moon landing
     
Moon Landing  
Moon Landing
Richard Platt, David Hawcock

Journey to the moon with the Apollo astronauts, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969. Rockets, space capsules, space suits, 3-D lunar lander, and the moon itself pop-off page, plus fun facts about the space program and Apollo crews. (Pop-up book)

 

     
The First Moon Landing
Thomas K. Adamson, Gordon Purcell, Terry Beatty

Dramatic events of July 1969, when three astronauts blasted off to the moon from Cape Canaveral, in a graphic novel format. (Easy reader)

 

 
The First Moon Landing
     
Team Moon  
Team Moon
Catherine Thimmesh

Fabulous NASA photos and original accounts the people who worked behind the scenes on the day the astronauts landed on the moon – flight directors, engineers who built the lunar modules, computer software experts, space suit testers, four hundred thousand people in all. Good for older kids.
(Illustrated chapter book)

 

More children's books on other Florida pages
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