If you’re looking at visiting space centers in the U.S., you might find yourself wondering: What’s the difference? Today I’m going to compare the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama to help you decide which to visit.
There are tons of space and aviation museums all across the United States. So what makes each one special and stand out from all the others? Are they all just displaying the same things?
Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama are two top space centers in the country.
Find out the difference between these two space museums, what makes each one unique, and which one is best to visit.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a press pass to visit KSC. On the other hand, I grew up in Huntsville going to the Space & Rocket Center. All opinions are my own, and I try to provide you with an unbiased look at both of these museums!
Brief Overview: Kennedy Space Center
The Visitor Complex is a collection of different buildings displaying space artifacts like rockets, space suits, a moon rock, space capsules, astronaut memorabilia, and more.
At Kennedy Space Center, you can meet an astronaut, learn to land the space shuttle, see real rockets, and even experience a simulation of a shuttle launch yourself.
You’ll also find one of only three authentic Saturn V rockets on display in the world at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
The behind-the-scenes bus ride is probably the space center’s most popular attraction. This tour takes you past the gates at NASA to see historic launch sites and operational spaceflight facilities. You’ll get to see the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, the crawler-transporter, and the massive Crawlerways used to transport rockets.
Read more about visiting Kennedy Space Center here.
Brief Overview: U.S. Space & Rocket Center
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama has one of the most extensive collections of space artifacts and displays. At this museum, you’ll learn about space flight, the history of space exploration, and how to become an astronaut.
Why is there a space museum in Alabama? Because Huntsville became a hotspot for space and missile research beginning in 1941 when Redstone Arsenal was created. In 1950, German scientist Wernher von Braun developed the Redstone Rocket, setting the stage for the U.S. space program.
The space center has rockets, engines, and spacecraft on display. There are also simulators and rides that show you how things like 3G force work.
You’ll also find one of only three authentic Saturn V rockets on display in the world inside the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. Outside is the only vertical display of the Saturn V in the world, though this is only a replica model.
Space Camp is every kid’s dream. The program focuses on astronaut training techniques, tailored by age level. And guess what — adults can go to Space Camp, too! Graduates from this program have even gone on to become real astronauts.
Read an in-depth guide to visiting the U.S. Space & Rocket Center here.
Comparison: Kennedy Space Center vs. the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
As you can see, there’s a lot going on at both of these space museums.
In fact, they have a lot of similar displays. Did you notice that they both have one of only three authentic Saturn V rockets on display? (The third is at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.)
Both museums are science and history museums filled with great information. They both have rocket gardens where you can see the evolution of space vehicles.
You can take behind-the-scenes tours at both museums. Kennedy’s is included in your ticket, and you get to see launch facilities. The Space & Rocket Center offers a bus tour of Marshall Space Flight Center where you’ll get to see where NASA is building the next generation of rockets.
What Kennedy Space Center Does Best
Kennedy Space Center is a bit more polished and almost amusement park-like in its display. You have separate “Mission Zones”, or buildings and areas that highlight certain topics. You may have to queue up before entering these zones to watch a video or a multi-sensory experience.
The experience at Kennedy is more astronaut and space-flight centered. It is where launches happen, after all. So if you’re interested in the Apollo missions, astronauts, the space shuttle, and the future of space travel, Kennedy Space Center is the place for you.
It’s also a very kid-friendly museum. It’s like Disney for space geeks with all the simulations, rides, interactive exhibits, and astronaut training add-ons.
Kennedy Space Center is a whole day destination in itself.
What the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Does Best
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is great for the history of the Space Race before anything got off the ground. It has such in-depth information about the development of rockets and missiles as well as satellites and space shuttles. The focus here is really on Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists that birthed the U.S.’s space program.
This museum has the only full-stack shuttle exhibit in the world and the only vertical display of the Saturn V in the world.
Space Camp is the Space & Rocket Center’s crown jewel. This illustrious program focuses on astronaut training techniques, problem solving skills, and rocket basics. It’s mainly geared toward kids, but there are programs for adults and families, too!
While the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a great museum, you probably won’t spend all day here. It’s more of a 3-4 hour visit.
Which Space Museum Should You Visit?
Which museum you visit really depends on what you’re looking to get out of it.
Are you interested more in the moon landing and the future of space, or do you want to know the history and details behind the Space Race? Do you want to go to Space Camp specifically? If you want to do astronaut training simulations, which museum offers more intriguing simulators for your taste?
Both space centers compliment each other. So really, is there any reason not to visit both?
More Itineraries for Space-Lovers
- 2 Days on Florida’s Space Coast: A Fun Itinerary
- Huntsville, Alabama for Space Fans: The Perfect 1 Day Itinerary
- Alabama Hikes: U.S. Space & Rocket Center Trails
- Top 15 Nerdy Spots in Atlanta, Georgia for Geeks to Hang Out
- 5 Places to be Nerdy in Huntsville, Alabama
Ready to take a vacation? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Find cheap accommodation: Use my tips for finding cheap accommodation for travel every time.
- Book your flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Pack for your vacation: Make sure you’ve packed everything you need by checking out my packing list resources.
Did you find this comparison of Kennedy Space Center and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center helpful? Let me know in the comments!