The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is the quintessential Huntsville, Alabama attraction. Learn about space flight, the history of space exploration, and even how to become an astronaut at this award-winning museum. Check out this guide to the visiting Rocket City’s most iconic museum.
Are you looking to discover the wonders of space and explore the history of the U.S. space program? With a visit to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, you can do just that!
As the largest spaceflight museum in the world, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center offers an awe-inspiring look into the world of space exploration. From its replica rockets to its collections of original artifacts and interactive exhibits, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center provides an unforgettable experience for everyone.
Here’s what you should know about this incredible place and what to expect from your visit.
Welcome to the Rocket City!
Here in the Rocket City, we don’t have a skyline, we have a spaceline. I even have the t-shirt that says it.
So how did this small, quiet town jump from being a cotton mill town to the watercress capital of the world to being the Rocket City?
About the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
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. Huntsville really took off from there.
After that came Explorer 1, the Marshall Space Flight Center, the Apollo Lunar Landing Program, and the Saturn rockets.
During the final months of working on the Saturn V rocket, von Braun began working on a new project: a permanent exhibit showcasing the space program. This became the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, which opened in 1970.
Explore the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has one of the most extensive collections of space artifacts and displays including rockets, engines, spacecraft, and simulators. A visit to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is one of the most iconic things to do in Alabama, and you won’t want to miss it!
Main Building Exhibits
The main building houses part of the museum’s permanent collection of over 1,500 space artifacts as well as changing exhibits. From exhibits on pop culture to space jewelry to hands-on science displays, you never know what new and exciting exhibit you’ll find when you visit!
This is also where you’ll find the indoor rides and simulators. Try out the indoor rock climbing wall, the “Hypership” simulator, the kids’ play center, and more.
The main building also features the state-of-the-art INTUITIVE® Planetarium for an 8K digital planetarium and digital dome experience. There are both daytime and evening planetarium shows, full dome movies, and educational events.
Outside you’ll find a number of rockets and missiles that helped put Huntsville on the map.
Rocket Park displays the evolution of the U.S. space program from the Saturn I rocket to the Mercury Atlas to the Redstone Rocket.
Shuttle Park displays the full-scale space shuttle in launch configuration. It is the only full-stack shuttle exhibit in the world. The Pathfinder shuttle was used for tests as the stand-in for the Enterprise shuttle. It sits stacked on top of a giant orange external tank and is flanked by solid rocket boosters.
There are a variety of other interesting displays outside, from military hardware to a mock-up of the Apollo 11 lunar landing site to aircraft used in astronaut training.
The real fun takes place outside in the form of rides. The G-Force accelerator simulates a 3G force on your body by spinning you around. The Moon Shot shoots you 140 feet into the air, giving you an idea of what it’s like to be shot into space.
Outdoor simulators are operational when temperatures are between 45-101 degrees or 50-101 degrees for the Moon Shot, so keep this in mind when visiting during the winter.
Davidson Center Exhibits
The Saturn V Hall at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration was built to house the suspended Saturn V segments, separated into the rocket’s stages with the engines exposed.
This is one of only three authentic Saturn V rockets on display in the world; it was built as a dynamic test vehicle, but was never launched. (The other two are displayed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and at the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando.) The rocket displayed upright outside, towering over the Davidson Center, is a replica and is the only vertical display of the Saturn V in the world.
The exhibits inside the Davidson Center take you through the journey of America’s Space Race, the latest technological innovations, and artefacts from the Apollo program, including the original Apollo 16 capsule.
This exhibit hall features more hands-on activities and simulators as well as a KidSpace play area.
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is home to the illustrious Space Camp program. Space Camp promotes science and math learning among children, and a few space camp graduates have even gone on to become astronauts.
But Space Camp isn’t just for kids! Adults can experience a special adults Space Camp program, and families can bond through a family Space Camp program.
The program focuses on astronaut training techniques, simulations, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and rocket basics. Each program is adjusted for complexity and difficulty for different age groups.
A few simulations you’ll experience are the Multi-Axis Trainer, the Moon Gravity Simulator, a shuttle launch and landing, taking a spacewalk, and more.
Hiking and Biking Trails
The Space & Rocket Center even has some hiking and mountain biking trails you can explore! As you drive toward the museum on Tranquility Base, follow signs for Aviation Challenge to find the public parking lot and trailhead for these trails with interested art pieces made from airplane cockpits and more.
Read all about the U.S. Space & Rocket Center trails here.
Things to Do at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Attend Special Events and Programs
In addition to touring the museum, you can attend a planetarium show during the daytime or attend the Cocktails & Cosmos evening planetarium experience.
The museum also has tons of extra simulators and trainers. Learn to fly an F-18 Super Hornet in the Flight Simulator Experience, climb aboard the Discovery Shuttle simulator or the Discovery Shuttle Mission Control, get a virtual reality experience of the Apollo 11 moon landing, train like an astronaut with the Underwater Astronaut Trainer Adventures, or simulate a spacecraft tumble with the Multi-Axis Trainer.
Find an Out-of-This-World Souvenir at the Gift Shop
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center gift shop has nearly any space-related souvenir you could want. From clothes to toys to anything NASA-related or Space Camp related. You can also get some great Huntsville memorabilia and locally-made products.
The gift shop is located at the front entrance and you don’t need to buy a museum ticket to shop.
Eat at the Space & Rocket Center’s Dining Facilities
The Mars Grill is the main lunch room, offering meals like hot dogs, burgers, and chicken tenders as well as snacks like chili cheese fries and cookies. The grill is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There is also a concession stand for the INTUITIVE® Planetarium that serves fresh popcorn, sodas, and candy.
Visiting the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Location: 1 Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL 35805
Admission: Tickets to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center cost $30 for adults, $20 for children ages 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under.
Additional activities have additional costs. For a show at the planetarium, it costs $12 for adults, $10 for children, $9 for members, and free for children 4 and under. The Apollo Virtual Reality Experience costs $12 for all ages or $10 for members. The Multi-Axis Trainer costs $12 for ages 7 and up or $10 for members. The Flight Simulator costs $12 for ages 7 and up or $10 for members. The HyperShip costs $10 per person or $8 for members.
DIVR+ starts at $35 for each participant or $25 for members. Sea TREK costs $79 for each participant or $69 for members. And the SCUBA Experience costs $150 for each participant.
The museum offers a variety of discounts that can be purchased on site at the ticket desk.
Hours: The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Parking: There is free parking at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Space & Rocket Center FAQ
How long does it take to tour the U.S. Space & Rocket Center?
Plan to spend 3 to 6 hours at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. How long it takes to tour the entire museum depends on your speed exploring. If you want to complete all the activities and fully explore the museum, plan to spend a whole day there. Many people will spend 3-4 hours touring the museum.
How much does it cost to visit the U.S. Space & Rocket Center?
Tickets to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center cost $30 for adults, $20 for children ages 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under.
How much does Space Camp cost?
For children ages 9-11, the 6-day Space Camp costs $1,499. For children aged 12-14, the 6-day Space Academy costs $1,499. For children aged 15-18, the 6-day Advanced Space Academy costs $1,699. For adults, the 3-day Adult Space Academy costs $649. Also for adults, the 6-day Advanced Adult Space Camp Academy costs $1,699. For families, the 3-day Family Space Camp costs $649 per person.
Where to Stay in Huntsville, Alabama
Find the perfect place to rest your head on your visit to Huntsville, from the top rated accommodations to unique stays you can’t get anywhere else.
There are also some great hotels near the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The Marriott is the closest hotel, within walking distance from the museum. The Drury Inn & Suites is just across the interstate. The Hilton Garden Inn and the Extended Stay America are both just a mile away.
More Things To Do in Huntsville, Alabama
Just can’t get enough of the Rocket City? Check out these other things to do in Huntsville.
- Huntsville, Alabama for Space Fans: The Perfect 1 Day Itinerary
- Take a Free Mural Tour of Huntsville, Alabama
- 5 Places to Be Nerdy in Huntsville, Alabama
- Mother-Daughter Weekend in Huntsville, Alabama
- Comparison: Kennedy Space Center vs. the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Ready to visit Huntsville, Alabama? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Get Familiar With the City: Check out my Ultimate Guide to Huntsville to help plan your trip!
- Book your flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Huntsville using Hotels.com.
- Get Packing: Make sure you’ve packed everything you need with my packing list resources.
Have you been to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama? Tell me about your visit in the comment section below!