Titusville is a great place to stay for several days and with an assist from the Titusville Municipal Marina’s three-for-two discount through March 31, 2011, there’s no excuse not to do so this 2010/2011 cruising season. Let’s put it this way, we will long remember, and with big smiles, our visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the space center’s compare-and-contrast sibling attraction on the island. In this post, I’ll focus on the Space Center and tell you what I would have liked to know before we went.
The Kennedy Space Center is definitely one of the pricier Intracoastal Waterway side-trip attractions with ticket prices starting at about $33 for children and $37 for Seniors, the only good price news being that Seniors are 55 years old and up. If you’re not a pre-sold Space or astronomy nerd, one could quibble about the Space Center’s space race propaganda rhetoric and the privatization of the space center tours and its attendant corporate rhetoric. One could also quibble about the theme park aspect, complete with theme park standard food offerings and gaudy souvenir shops and theme park prices.
But don’t. Take off that purist cap and enjoy the wonder that we ever thought of putting a person on the moon and that astronomical knowledge is coming in faster than scientists can analyze through the Hubble Telescope that is bravely going where literally no human has dared to go. While some of the presentations are a little touristic-lite and the omnipresent in-your-face souvenir shops can be a turn-off, there’s plenty of substance (and NASA logo moon boot slipper socks!) left to make this worth the hefty $33 + ticket prices.
First, how the heck do you get there? We did not find any suitable public transportation, so our suggestion is to rent a car from one of three car rentals. Marina staff told us a taxi would cost about $60 round trip; we found car rentals on a week day ranged from $32 to $42 for a small no frills car. Rental car pricing has become as irrational as airline pricing, so if you are price sensitive, we suggest you call each of three car rentals and compare. All the agencies we called offered free pick up and return. We found the U-Save folks to be friendly and — big advantage over Enterprise — available on a Sunday. Internet deals abound with Enterprise, especially on weekends this winter, but beware the rental agent there who pushed us for insurance and misled us about internet pricing, so much so that we canceled our reservation on the spot and walked across the street and paid more at U-Save where we were treated right.
Visiting the Kennedy Space Center
We found that the basic Space Center entry ticket offered more than we wanted to absorb. The ticket is good for two days within a one-week period and includes the Astronaut Hall of Fame that you pass en route to the Space Center. In fact, it took us two visits to feel we had made a dent in all that is offered and we didn’t even set foot in the Astronauts Hall of Fame.
When you arrive, we recommend you check the schedule for the IMAX movies and the “Astronaut Briefing” where there is a live Q & A with a working astronaut who has participated in at least one space mission. Those are the items that require a little planning to fit in.
The two-hour introductory bus ride with stops at three main exhibit areas of the Space Center is core to the visit. It sets the stage. Your visit would also work well in reverse — see the IMAX movies and get fired up with the human drama, and then see the real physical objects whose stories you’ve just experienced.
3D IMAX and Space — Perfect Combination
Words cannot describe the experience of a 3D IMAX space documentary, which makes sense, or why bother making these movies. The Hubble telescope 3D IMAX is a real treat. What a gift to learn about the Hubble telescope in this way, its construction, repair and the sheer wonder of what it has been bringing us. This is great use of IMAX and 3D. Just a joy! The International Space Station 3D IMAX is also good and fun, but it would my second choice if I had time for only one. The movies are only 45 minutes and are on a rotation schedule, so check the schedule when you arrive so you can plan your visit.
A simulation almost as good as square waves on the Gulf Stream in a Northern blow!
Don’t miss the shake-rattle-roll Launch Experience. It runs every 9 minutes, so you don’t have to plan this one. It’s behind the cafeteria on the main campus where you first enter, a short walk from the IMAX. I once reluctantly escorted some young people to Epcot and please trust me, this is far better than any of those shake-you-up theme park simulations. This is really compelling and rattling. They aren’t kidding when they say empty your personal goods into a locker. The guy in front of me lost his base ball cap during lift off. It’s persuasive, fun, the narration is sometimes hilarious — and it gives perspective on what those fiery take-offs feel like from inside, minus the sensation of the G Force 800 pound gorilla on your chest. It also serves a boating purpose, which you may need as you approach the land of endless opening bridges — it helps put in perspective the frustration of waiting for a bridge to open on a breezy day during peak Intracoastal Waterway migration.
S/V Lady Jane