Tuesday, January 22, 2013


10 Tips to Make Space Center Houston Better ~ Houston, TX

For years, my family has been dying to visit Space Center Houston, the Official Visitors Center of NASA's Johnson Space Center.  This summer we finally took the plunge and made many mistakes. Luckily, we learned from them and were able to bring you the Top 10 Tips to make your visit to Space Center Houston Better!
1. Arrive when they open. Heck, before they open if you can.  There is so, so much to do here, that you could spend an entire day and not see all there is to see.  Granted, not every exhibit/show is for every age group, but most guests spend four to six hours.  If you can, we recommend that you plan to spend the whole day here.

2. Pick up a Show Schedule when you first arrive and take the time to plan your day.  There are many time offerings on all the attractions, but you will need to plan them out if you want to see them all.  My suggestion is that you pick what you really want to do and do them first.  As the day passes, the center becomes busier, making wait times for the attractions even longer.

3. Do the Tram Tours First.  There are two tram tours that take you to the heart of Johnson Space Center, pointing out to you where history was made.  Do them first as the lines can be long waiting to join a tour, they are not air conditioned (best to go in the morning during the summer), and they are really good.  My kids and I were fascinated by the tours.  
 4. If you can, try to do both tours.  Currently, the Red Tour takes you to the Astronaut Training Facility where you can see a mock-up of the International Space Station (above) and space vehicles for astronauts to train on (you can actually see this happening at times).
 The Blue Tour takes you to Mission Control, the historic room that brought Apollo 13 back home, cheered as a man stepped on the moon for the first time, and watched in desperation when the Challenger exploded. This by far was my favorite part of the entire day.  The guide does an excellent job of pointing out all the important and notable features in the room.
 Additionally, both tours take you to the Saturn V facility.  Inside, you can walk the entire length of one of three surviving vehicles built to launch American astronauts to the moon.  It is massive and again, you stare at it in wonder, knowing it is a National Treasure.

If you did take both tours, you can just stay on the tram the second time,  not get off to see the Saturn V facility, and head back to the Space Center.  Both Tram tours are excellent, and depending on what you wanted to see and time you had, you can certainly skip one.  But only one.  A visit to Space Center Houston is not the same without a tram tour.
 5. Starship Gallery Museum is a Must See. Your tour begins with a very touching movie that dips a toe in the history of the space program - it was perfect for all three of my kiddos.  The actual museum houses amazing artifacts such as Gemini 5, the Apollo 17 Command Module, and a Skylab Training module that you can walk through and experience what living in space would be like.  The highlight of the museum for most of the kids is the chance to touch a piece of the moon.

6. Not all the Shows Need to Be Seen.  As I have a 3 year old, we were not able to see all of the shows.  We were able to choose the ones that interested us and tried to make it work with the time schedule (see Tip 1 and 2).   We did see a fantastic presentation on the Mars rover, Curiosity, that held my kids attention for the first 15 minutes or so. I was fascinated by it, of course.  You have to remember who you are there for and try to do the activities that work for everyone.
 7. Relax and take a break from the science at the Kids Space Place. My son had his eye on this 5 story play place ever since we walked in and patiently waited to get to play here. By the time we did, everyone needed time to run & play.  What I loved the most was the bleachers set up right across the entrance to it for weary parents to rest.

At the time (after lunch), it seemed to be full of bigger kids and with adults not allowed, this can be a problem for the smaller ones.  Luckily my daughter loves to play Big Sis and played the entire time with my little one.

The Kids Space Place also contains a lot of fun, hands-on activities, such a weight-lifting on different planets, driving a rover on Mars, and building a rocket.  It was a great time for the kids to run and get some energy out.
8. Bring a stroller for the little ones, as there can be a lot of walking.  I always like to bring it, as I can store all my stuff......

9. Bring snacks.  The food court does have a lot to choose from, but it is pricy for just a piece of pizza.  You are better off eating small snacks and then heading over to the Kemah Boardwalk for dinner.
10.  Don't rush it.  Let the kids explore what interests them.  There is so many hands-on things for the kids to do here, from shuttle simulators to seeing how astronauts live in space.   I ended up following them at their pace.  There was so much to see and do and touch, that they never ran through any of the exhibits. If the plan from Tip number 2 falls through and you don't get to see everything, it's ok.  Let the kids guide the way here.

Here are some other great places to visit in Houston:
Kemah Boardwalk

Texas Travel Facts for Space Center Houston:
Location: 1601 NASA Parkway, Houston, Texas
Hours: Weekdays: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
             Weekends: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm             
Admission: Adults: $22.95
                    Children (4-11): $18.95                    
                    Purchase your tickets online and save $5 per admission
Recommended Time: 4-6 hours 
Good to know: Admission is good for all day; Children must be accompanied with an adult and supervised at all times; stroller friendly; parking fee

My family and I were invited to visit the museum and were provided admission. I was not financially compensated for this post.  All opinions of Space Center Houston are strictly my own based on my experience. 

1 comment:

Terri @ Travel 50 States with Kids said...

Great post! We went there years ago and really enjoyed our visit. It's wonderful to have advice from someone who has been there and done that.