Your guide to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with toddlers and small children.
Thinking about visiting Kennedy Space Center with a toddler or preschooler?
Kennedy Space Center is a longer day trip away from our area. I have memories of going in a single day as a field trip in elementary school.
We recently visited Kennedy Space Center again with our three year old and a friend’s four year old. Below are some things I wish I had known before going to NASA with a small children.
I’ll be real, unless your toddler is in a space-phase, a lot of the Space Center will be a little old for them. But, there are still lots of fun things to do at Kennedy Space Center with toddlers and you can definitely fill 5-6 hours there.
You’ll also find an overview of things to do and logistical information you need for your visit (like how stroller-friendly it is).
Let’s blast off!
Tips for visiting NASA with toddlers & preschoolers
If you usually use a stroller or aren’t sure if your kid will manage walking all day, I’d definitely recommend a stroller. We wouldn’t have been able to do the Space Center with our three-year-old without one.
However, you have to leave your stroller when you take the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. They have strollers available at the center once you get there if you need.
The biggest implication for this is that your stroller will stay unattended at the main center for possibly hours. Bring a bag that you can throw all your stuff from your stroller in. We also bought Apple airtags for our stroller at theme parks.
2. Bus ride to Apollo/Saturn V
A lot of the tips you’ll find online suggest hitting the bus tour and Saturn Center right away in the morning. The bus tours out to the Saturn V area close mid-afternoon so the morning recommendation is so you don’t miss it and have enough time to explore.
In general, this is good advice but may not be the best fit for families with young kids. We didn’t heed this advice and waited an hour or so after opening to go (we went to the play center first so our toddler could enjoy it before it got overwhelming with big kids). By waiting a little on the bus tour, there wasn’t a big line waiting for the bus.
While the Apollo/Saturn Center is really, really, really cool, the historical significance was lost on our toddler. As seen in the picture below, our kid was most fascinated by the grate running along the floor under the rocket 🤷♀️.
It’s definitely worth a visit and they have fun stuff for little kids, like trying on astronaut outfits and sitting in a model moon rover. However, I don’t think families with small children need to worry quite as much about budgeting enough time as space nerds or those with older kids.
3. Play areas
Play Planet is a huge indoor play area for kids that is very well done. It has features for kids of all ages, including a smaller toddler area.
It is multiple stories and has cool interactive features, seating and drinks for adults, and well-done theming. We were able to accompany our toddler up climbing areas which helped him feel comfortable exploring more.
We went to Play Planet first thing in the morning to try to beat the crowds since our toddler can get overwhelmed by big kids running around. It was lots of fun and definitely an area for which you want to budget enough time.
For parents with young kids, be strategic about the IMAX movie you decided to see. There were two options when we were there and we opted for the shorter one because we weren’t sure if our kid could sit through the longer one.
However, the one we picked was much heavier on history education and interviews with old astronauts. It wasn’t the mind-blowing cool space shots to capture our kids attention like we remembered from our childhood of the Space Center IMAX.
If you’re not sure which option would be best, I’d recommend asking. I wish we would have done that before picking a show.
5. Kugel fountain
Don’t miss the Kugel fountain by the Orbit Cafe seating, near where the buses drop off. This fountain was a wonder for our three-year-old.
Bonus tip: There are a lot of tables around the fountain so it is also a great place to stop for lunch. We were able to get a few minutes to eat in peace while the kids played with the fountain.
6. Don’t bet on a rocket launch
Rocket launches are more frequent now that SpaceX is using the Space Center for launches. You could feasibly be visiting around the time of a launch, which is a very very cool experience. You can find the launch schedule here.
However, launches get scratched all the time. Don’t plan your whole trip around a launch or keep your toddler up for a 11pm launch, because there is a decent chance it won’t happen.
7. Space tragedies
Sadly, there have been tragedies throughout the history of the U.S. space program. The Space Center does a very lovely job of honoring the lost space heroes throughout the center.
Still, this is something to be mindful of if you’re bringing very small children who may not be old enough to understand the implications of these tragedies or have the composure to pay respects in these areas.
We almost accidentally went into a showing about a tragedy while we were in the Saturn V center when we were in a rush. The exhibits are also woven throughout the Space Center so your kid could happen upon them. We took turns walking through them alone since our child is still too young for the gravity of those areas.
Things to do at Kennedy Space Center with Toddlers
There is so much to see at Kennedy Space Center. I’d recommend reading the descriptions on the Center’s attraction website before your trip.
Below I’m going to highlight how the main attractions relate to young kids.
The Atlantis Center focuses on the space shuttle program. Atlantis is a must-do and a real highlight of a visit to the Space Center. Make sure you budget enough time for it.
The opening video you watch before entering is really cool and impressive. It was also short enough for our toddler. The ending of the video is amazing and you enter into the center where there is a lot to explore.
The Atlantis Center houses a simulator ride but the ride has a height requirement so likely off the table for toddler and preschoolers. You’ll also find play areas throughout this attraction, like clear tunnel bridges over the second-story (pictured below) and a big slide.
I don’t have a picture of the slide because our toddler got to the top of the slide and froze. You should know that it is hard to reach your kid at the top of this slide if they also freeze. I had to hang off a bar over the slide to reach him and eventually just had to push him down because I couldn’t get him off. Thankfully he ended up loving it.
Apollo/Saturn V Center
You take a bus tour out to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. The bus ride has a video tour playing during the drive and lasts about 15 minutes. The bus drops you off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
Once there, you can wait for a show as your entrance into the center. You can also opt to skip this and walk around to the front doors to enter immediately. We did this since our kids weren’t feeling another wait, and you can see a nice outdoor space and a view of the launch area at a distance.
Seeing the size of the rocket in person is very very impressive and that alone is worth the visit. You’ll also find lots to see throughout the center (like touch a moon rock!) so you could easily spend an hour or two there.
On the bus trip back, if you sit on the right side of the bus you can spot alligators in the canal (something we wish we knew before so we could have put our out-of-state friends on that side).
Play Planet is a really cool, multi-story play area for kids. It was a big highlight of our visit for our kid. We could have easily spent an hour or more there.
There are slides, cool interactive features and games, and a smaller soft toddler area. Adults can accompany kids which was much appreciated since our toddler was nervous to explore some parts alone.
They also had nice seating and an area where you can get drinks for adults, which is a very nice touch.
The Gateway Complex has many of the newer rockets and capsules, like a SpaceX rocket on display. The capsules are cool to look at but this attraction doesn’t demand as much time as Atlantis or the Apollo/Center V centers. We did this at the end of the day and got through it quickly because we were losing steam.
It is also home to interactive experiences which could be cool for older kids. We skipped these with our toddler.
The Rocket Garden is an impressive sight as you walk into the Space Center. Our toddler loved this part because it is very visual and tangible.
They also have model pieces of a rocket capsule that kids can climb on. There are also free guided tours of the garden.
There are IMAX showings happening throughout the day. They are around 20-40 minutes long and you can also buy concession snacks like a normal movie theater.
Honestly, I didn’t find the IMAX as mind-blowing as I did as a kid, probably because general movie theaters have gotten much bigger and nicer in recent years.
Heroes & Legends
Heroes and Legends is a homage to astronauts and their heroism. We skipped this exhibit with our toddler, it seemed too informational and heavy for his age (such as discussions of the dangers astronauts face).
Can you bring a stroller to Kennedy Space Center?
Yes, Kennedy Space Center is stroller friendly and I would recommend bringing one if your child is of stroller age (plus it’s nice to have someone to put all your stuff). It is a lot of walking and our three year old couldn’t have done a full day without the stroller.
That said, you have to leave your stroller when you take the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn center. This means your stroller is going to be unattended in a different part of the Space Center for at least an hour or two.
We bought Apple airtags to tag our stroller at theme parks. You should also have a bag to throw in all the stuff you have in your stroller to bring on the bus.
How long should you spend at the Space Center?
If you are going to read all the signs and really take in everything at the Kennedy Space Center, you could easily spend a whole day there.
Going with young kids probably means that’s not going to be the style of your visit. I’d say to budget at least 5 hours. You could easily spend longer if your kid wants to spend a lot of time in all the play structures.
Can you get food at the Kennedy Space Center?
There are a number of food options within the Space Center complex. You can also find toddler-friendly items like french fries and pizza on site. Compared to other theme parks, the prices of the food aren’t crazy expensive either.
That said, Kennedy Space Center allows you to bring in food so packing food is a good way to save money and time waiting in the food lines. You are also able to online order food to save time.
Can you bring food & snacks into the Space Center?
Yes, you can bring food into the Kennedy Space Center. We brought in a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a bunch of snacks for our toddler and there wasn’t an issue. You just aren’t allowed to bring glass containers or alcohol.
Should you do any add-on’s with toddlers?
Generally, I think the basic attractions included with admission are enough to fill a day for those with young kids. Personally, our toddler wouldn’t have been able to handle an extended bus tour or sitting through a session with an astronaut at this age.