The only way to see the working end of the Space Center is by taking a guided bus tour. Three tours are offered, representing the past, present, and future of the space program. All tours leave from an efficient bus terminal at one end of the Visitor Complex. The buses are much like regular city buses except they have much larger windows. No food is allowed aboard the buses and the only beverage allowed is bottled water, which is available for purchase at the Visitors Complex and each stop of the KSC Tour. It’s not a bad idea to bring some, especially in the warmer months.
The KSC Tour, included in the price of admission, visits the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island. This tour is quite clearly the star of the show, with continuous departures starting at 10:00 a.m. and continuing until about three hours prior to closing. There are two stops on this tour and you can stay as long at each of them as you wish because the buses run continuously. This system has obvious advantages but the downside is that crowds can build up, making the bus loading process slow and chaotic. So it’s best to take this tour early in the day.
There are also two “special interest tours” that cost an additional fee. The Cape Canaveral Then & Now ($21 adults, $15 children) has one departure daily and the NASA Up Close ($25 adults, $19 children) has about five or six; each of these tours is limited to a single busload, about 50 people. On a one-day visit you will be able to take only one special interest tour in addition to the KSC Tour, not both.
The ticketing procedure is also somewhat cumbersome. You must first purchase your tickets at the Ticket Plaza, then proceed to the Information counter in Information Central to make your reservations for a specific departure time. In the case of the Cape Canaveral tour, there are additional security procedures that require signing in and showing photo ID such as a drivers license. Foreign visitors should bring their passport. Failure to follow these procedures can result in confusion at tour time; you may even be denied boarding.
There is one thing that all tours have in common: they all finish up with visits to the Apollo/Saturn V Center and the International Space Station Center (ISSC). For that reason alone, I have given all tours the same five-star rating.
Special Note: Because of the steady stream of commercial launch activity at Cape Canaveral, the Cape tour is sometimes curtailed or unavailable. And during times of heightened security, both of the special interest tours may be cancelled.
Another unpredictable element, in terms of what you will see, is the wildlife at the Center. Alligators, sometimes jokingly referred to as part of the security system, are sighted frequently and there are bald eagle nests along the tour routes.
The standard narration on the tours will be supplemented — or interrupted — whenever the driver feels it’s time to add his or her own commentary or release a late-breaking news bulletin (“Wild hogs on the left!”). Foreign language narration, in French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, is available on tape on a first-come, first-served basis.
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