Friday, March 9, 2012

Kennedy Space Center

Thursday morning, just after midnight, we woke our children with a song. We had them all packed and ready to go and they didn't have a clue where they were going or how long they would be gone. As we left home for this family adventure, we told them we wanted to give them something special this year for their birthday! We wanted to give them memories that would last. When I was seven, my parents surprised me with a trip to Orlando. I will never forget those moments and I wanted my children to be able to look back, years later, and remember this special time. 
 We stopped for breakfast and told them they were going to Kennedy Space Center. Then we told them they were going to have Lunch With An Astronaut!!! Logan was thrilled. Sam didn't have a clue until we said he would see rockets. He started asking questions and it was obvious, he couldn't wait to get there! We checked in and recieved our tickets. I brought a stroller in because Sam has never been to an all-day park and I was worried about him being able to handle the walking and the excitement! I looked at the map and was happily surprised to see it wouldn't be too hard on him. The park is laid out well and everything is close to command central, which is what I'll call guest services! We decided our first stop would be the Space Shuttle Launch Simulator. It was educational and really cool! We went through a pre-launch briefing, and then we were guided by veteran Space Shuttle Commander Charlie Bolden as he took us through a step-by-step shuttle launch sequence. We were surrounded by video screens and experienced a light and sound show I won't forget. We learned so much and in a short amount of time. He made it fun and made me feel like a kid again. I never grew up wanting to become an astronaut, but I found a little part of me was thinking how cool it would be to have that opportunity! The simulator has seats that are generous in size and will accommodate most. After fastening my seat belt, I went on an unforgettable journey! Logan rode twice and I was able to watch him from the viewing platform once. There, they have a seat for those that are motion sensitive!
Dine at the Orbit Cafe or have a snack at the Milky Way. If you want a special treat, have Lunch With An Astronaut! It wasn't as intimate as I thought, but Apollo Skylab Astronaut Jerry Carr made sure to visit with each and every one of us! When we entered the room, elegant tables draped in white tablecloths were set and towards the back of the room, I noticed the buffet tables. The mouth watering aromas were torture until we were invited to serve ourselves. It was an all you can eat, finer dining experience I would never have expected. We had a fresh Tossed Garden Salad with Iceberg Lettuce, Grape Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Home-Style Croutons and assorted dressings and there was also a Marinated Vegetable Salad lightly tossed with a Red Wine and Thyme Vinaigrette. The Chicken Marsala was the star of the show for me. Grilled Chicken with light Marsala sauce, it was moist and the creamy sauce was so good, I could have eaten it with a spoon! Logan's favorite was the Cannelloni, Lamb and roasted Eggplant stuffed Pasta with light Tomato sauce. I wasn't sure if he would like it when I helped him put it on his plate, but he ate it all and went back for seconds. Sam had Penne Pasta with Meatballs and homemade Marinara. He ate most of it and seemed to enjoy it! My husband had a little of this and that and told me that he was also surprised by the wonderful food! I never expected it to be so wonderful! The Seasonal Vegetables and Garlic Bread (I made myself stop at one but I wanted to take them home with me) were complimented each main course! The Assorted Pies, Cakes, Cookies, Brownies, Pudding and Jello disappeared quickly, but the servers kept them coming. One of the servers even brought me a Chocolate Mousse when I couldn't seem to get my hands on one! All the servers were friendly and eager to please. This alone could have made this experience worth it. They were that wonderful! Seating is limited so make your reservation in advance!

 If you decide to dine at the Cafe, there is plenty of seating outside. You'll have options, but we favored the area below. A fountain featuring a giant globe marked with constellations was the focal point and heavy (I don't think they'd blow away in a hurricane) tables and chairs surrounded it. Lush landscaping and the sound of water made this the ideal place to relax. Even though it was right in the middle of it all, it was a peaceful stop!
 We cooled off with the most amazing IMAX experience! The Hubble 3D was kept even my three year old entertained. My children enjoyed "reaching for the stars" and the gorgeous Hubble photographs seemed to come alive. Thanks to Imax, we were able to go into these dramatic pictures and see them in a way I'll never forget. it was the best hour of the day!
 Logan and Sam enjoyed The Rocket Garden. Here, they were able to climb aboard Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules! We explored and watched as Logan and Sam tried to imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut!
 We toured the Astronaut Memorial and saw the giant Space Mirror Memorial. It was beautiful and sad. Surrounding this polished black granite reminder, we found other memorials and read about each astronaut and their accomplishments. It was a wonderful tribute to those who sacrificed their life to help our nation. Here, make a donation and share their stories with your children so they will never be forgotten.
For kids under 48 inches, they have an awesome Children's Play Dome! Here, they can lift-off in spacecraft, climb a moon rock wall, crawl through rocket tunnels and slide to the surface of the moon. It's shaded and large enough to accommodate a large number of aspiring astronauts!

 Don't forget to take the KSC tours and see the giant launch pads! The bus tours leave every 15 minutes and it's included with admission! You'll experience the historic Apollo 8 launch and marvel at a massive 363-foot-long Saturn V moon rocket at the Apollo/Saturn V Center! Also, don't forget to see the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame! Admission tickets include a second day free for use at the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame (if used within seven days) so you can enjoy two wonderful, relaxed days instead of trying to do everything in one day. We didn't go, but we hope to make it back before the end of our trip! If you are visiting Orlando or Florida's Space Coast, make time to visit. It's worth it! This was my husband's fourth trip and he said it keeps getting better and better!
Disclosure: My family was given tickets to Kennedy Space Center and Lunch With an Astronaut. Honest opinions given. Please feel free to contact me via email if you have specific questions that were not answered above. I hope you enjoy your trip!

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