This is actually two guest posts in one – bonus! Kim Lanicek recently took her family to visit Space Center Houston. Below you can read her 8-year-old son’s review, followed by Kim’s helpful tips for visiting the Space Center. All of the wonderful photos are courtesy of Kim.
We went to the Johnson Space Center. I had a lot of fun. There was a gigantic playscape as high as the roof. There are a lot of video games too. There is a tram ride on which we got to see the real Saturn 5 and the place where astronauts train.
– review by Brendan Lanicek, 8 years old.
DRIVE FROM AUSTIN: 290 east, then take tollway (TxTag accepted in Houston – $1.30 per toll booth… I believe I went through 4 one way with very little traffic) OR 610 south to Hwy 45 south, exit NASA Pkwy. Do NOT take HOV lane on 290. There is no exit for either freeway (please trust me on this). Parking was $5 (June 2011)
ENTRY: bring prepaid online tickets straight to door (no waiting in lines) and go through security. They say no food or drink, but my bag wasn’t checked quite thoroughly enough to exclude a few snacks.
FOOD: Lots of fast food options on 45 and on NASA Pkwy. If you are driving in from Austin, eat before you go in, because you won’t want to stop for food, plus the café prices are “out of this world!” We paid $4 for a slice of pizza and $2.50 for a pint of milk. I have no idea how much the giant sodas were, so we skipped them (not Pepsi fans anyway).
TRAM TOUR: 90 minute tour of entire JSC complex. It is an open tram, so if there is bad weather, then you may not find the ride very comfortable. EAT and GO TO THE BATHROOM before getting on the ride. There were few places to stop for either on the tour. If it’s hot, bring water and if it’s sunny, wear sunscreen. The tram tour includes 3 stops – mission control (old mission control, not the one currently in use), the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (my personal favorite), and Rocket Park, where you can visit the actual Saturn V rocket along with 2 others. You have to go through a metal detector to get on the tram and have your bag checked again. Overall, I think the kids (8½ & 5) were kind of bored with most of the tour. It was a lot of sitting & listening. They liked seeing the Saturn V rocket up close, though. It’s really massive.
MARTIAN MATRIX playscape: both my kids (8½ & 5) LOVED this and went back to it many times throughout the day. What I liked as a parent – SEATING right outside the main entrance and video cameras in some of the areas on the 3-story-high playscape. What I didn’t like – there were exits around the back and it was virtually impossible to see where my kids were *most* of the time or get their attention (like when I wanted them to come down!).
THEATERS: We saw a 25-minute film titled To Be an Astronaut and I think I enjoyed it more than the kids (I am a space nerd). It was fully appropriate for all ages.
GIFT SHOPS: There are 2 gift shops with all the usual stuff… t-shirts, jewelry, coffee mugs. We got astronaut ice cream (it’s really bad!) and lots of squashed pennies and quarters. Don’t know about these souvenirs? Visit http://www.pennycollector.com/ for more info on these fun, cheap collectibles.
Space Center Houston
1601 NASA Parkway