7 Out-of-This-World Tips for Visiting Space Center Houston

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Pack your gear and grab your kiddos for an out-of-this-world adventure just five hours from the Dallas area. The Space Center Houston is the perfect family destination for children of all ages. It is the only place in the world where visitors can see real-life astronauts, train for missions, touch an actual rock from the moon, try to land a shuttle, and experience a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA.

Mom and son at NASA Space Center Houston

I have visited the Space Center three times with my boys, and have learned several tricks to help ensure your experience is out of this world! Here are my seven tips for visiting the Space Center with kids.

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1. Buy Tickets Ahead of Time

Just like NASA’s astronauts, to get the most out of your trip you need to plan in advance, or as we like to say in our family, “prepare to launch.” First, I recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time. They are less expensive if you buy them online versus when you arrive. Also, there are specific experiences that must be booked several weeks prior to your visit.

Child steps on Mars rocks at NASA's Space Center Houston museum2. Book Experiences Early

From tram tours to moon rocks, there are many things to experience at Space Center Houston. My boys love Mission Control Center. The only way to visit the iconic Mission Control Center is to purchase an exclusive tram tour with your general admission ticket. There is a limited quantity available, so I recommend booking it at least two weeks prior to your visit. Otherwise, you’ll be left saying “Houston, I have a problem,” instead of getting to see this historic location that oversaw the first lunar landing. We made that mistake our first time and had two incredibly disappointed children.

For all of you parents with kids that are space enthusiasts, it might be worth the extra cost to purchase “Breakfast with an Astronaut.” This unique opportunity will allow your kiddos to get a real astronauts perspective about traveling into space. They can even ask them questions! This experience is pricey at $100 for an adult and $80 for children, however your general admission ticket is included. As an added bonus, you get to skip the long lines to enter the museum when it officially opens.

Space pod in outer space

3. Avoid the Gift Shop Black Hole

If your kids are like mine, they are going to want to buy a million souvenirs at the gift shop. Avoid paying for over priced items by purchasing a few things ahead of time and bringing them with you. I made this blunder my last visit and ended up spending $80 on a toy rocket, and $30 on astronaut ice cream! If you plan ahead of time, you can purchase the same type of toys and freeze-dried space treats from Amazon or Walmart for half the price!

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4. Get There Early

Ready for lift off? To ensure you are able to see everything the Space Center has to offer, I advise arriving when it opens at 10:00 a.m. Some of the coolest things to see aren’t at the actual museum. They are located at the neighboring NASA Johnson Space Center and are accessible by tram only.

Astronaut Training Center at the Space Center Houston

My kid’s favorite experience is the tour of the Astronaut Training Facility. Here, you get to see where NASA astronauts train for current missions and where engineers design the next generation of space exploration vehicles. In order to visit this facility, you must see guest services when you first arrive, and secure a free boarding pass to take a tram to the facility.

You can also board a tram to George W.S. Abbey Rocket Park. Here, you get to see the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever flown! NASA used the colossal Saturn V rocket during the Apollo missions that sent the first Americans to the moon. This tour is included in a general admission ticket, but accepts guests on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early.

Space Center Houston Rocket in George W.S. Abbey Rocket Park at Space Center Houston

In the museum’s main building, there are a variety of live presentations and movies throughout the day. I advise downloading the Space Center’s app. Here, you can view the exact times and locations of the shows.

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My kids were over the moon for the “New Perspectives” presentation that gives you a glimpse of what an astronaut’s life is like aboard the International Space Station. They even call on volunteers from the audience to help demonstrate what it is like to exercise, eat, and sleep in space. My son got to experience what it is like to ride a bike in “outer space”!

Child does bike-riding simulator at Space Center Houston.

5. Skip Less-Than-Stellar Simulators

I would skip the two simulator experiences. Although you are in a cutting-edge facility, these virtual reality simulators are less than stellar. The technology is old, and we were not impressed, especially since they are an extra $8 – $10 a person.

Two men look up at the astronaut training facility at Space Center Houston

6. Pack Snacks

When traveling at warp speed all day, hunger will soon follow. Make sure you pack a refillable water bottle and some snacks, otherwise you are going to pay a fortune at the Food Lab.

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7. Find a Landing Pad 

That’s astronaut talk for a hotel. An all-day visit to the Space Center typically ends in exhaustion. The last thing you want is to embark on a five-hour drive home. I suggest booking a hotel nearby. Located directly across the street is the Marriott Courtyard NASA Clear Lake. Also, just minutes away is the Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake.

If you are looking for a family road trip that will transport you to another dimension of fun, I highly recommend a visit to Space Center Houston!

Laura Riley
Laura is a mother, children’s book author, journalist, and teacher. Her love for story telling began at Ball State University where she studied broadcast journalism. Upon graduation, she went on to work for affiliate NBC and Fox News stations. In 2021, she was able to fulfill a life-long dream of becoming an author when she published her first book,The Legend of the Stinky Sock. As a junior high journalism teacher, Laura feels privileged to share her passion for writing with her amazing students and hopes to inspire a new generation of reporters. Laura grew up in the Chicago suburbs and currently lives in Flower Mound with her husband and two boys. For more about Laura visit her website LaurarileyAuthor.com or follow her on Instagram.


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