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Kids on the Go – U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL

I am so happy to be guest writing for this series!  I have tons of local (Michigan) places I want to share, but funny enough, the first place I have gotten a chance to visit and blog on is out-of-state.  While on our summer road trip as a family, we made a stop at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL.

I had never been to the museum, and neither had the kids (Henry is 6, Honor is 3), but my husband had been as a child.  Here’s a short description from The U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s website

Visitors to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center will experience Huntsville’s role in the making of the moon rocket, the space race, the Apollo missions, learn about the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station and NASA’s future missions. Visitors may trace the evolution of humankind’s ventures into space and watch as tomorrow’s potential engineers, scientists and astronauts train in one of the Space Camp or Aviation Challenge Programs.

The Center boasts to be “the best space collection on the planet” and has over 1500 artifacts including the Apollo Lunar Rover, a Moon Rock, the Apollo 16 Capsule, “Rocket Row – Ancestors of Apollo”,  the Saturn V Moon Rocket, and the only “full stack space shuttle exhibit on earth”. Along with the museum, the Center has traveling exhibits (currently Mammoths and Mastodons) and an IMAX theatre.  They also have interactive simulators, such as the “SpaceShot” and “G-Force” (included in the price of admission).  It is the home of the famous Space Camp and also the Aviation Challenge, which have several different programs for children of all ages, families, groups, and teacher development.

Location:  Direct interstate access from I-65 and I-565 in Huntsville, Alabama.  The Center is located at Exit 15 off I-565.  The address is One Tranquility Base, Hunstville, AL 35805-3399.  For directions, click here.

Amenities:  free parking, restaurants, gift shops, wheelchairs, strollers, and dog kennels.

Hours:  Open 9am – 5pm daily.  Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Admission Price:

General Admission … Adults (13 & up) – $20, Children (6-12) – $15, children 5 and under are free

Stars Combo (admission & 1 IMAX movie)  … Adults – $25, Children – $20

Cosmic Combo (admission & 2 IMAX movies) … Adults – $30, Children – $25

(for the complete list of prices, including IMAX movies and types of discounts, click here.

Our experience:

We found that the Center was easy to find.  There was plenty of parking … and we went on a pretty busy Saturday during the summer.  There was a short line to purchase tickets when we got there, but it went fairly quickly.  Once at the counter we were happy to find out that our membership to our local science center would get us into the museum for free because they are both part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers Incorporated.  (So, make sure to bring your card if you have one!!! )  The Center was well air-conditioned and kept very clean. Staff were very friendly and helpful, but we did find that better and more signs would have helped us navigate the center more easily.

Since we were only passing through on our drive, we didn’t pay the extra to see one of the IMAX movies … so I don’t have anything to report on that experience.  Also, there is a restaurant called The Mars Grill located in the center, but we did not go or eat there … so I can’t report on the quality or prices.  They do have several vending machines for snacks and beverages, as well.

We spent the majority of our time in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration which houses the Saturn V.  The Saturn V, “restored to it’s Apollo readiness”, is suspended 10 feet above the floor and is 476 feet long, 90 feet wide and 63 feet high.  When I walked into this part of the museum I literally had chills … at the enormity and meaning of this man-made creation.

The Davidson Center feels like a very large hall … with the Saturn V hung above and many different displays along each side bursting with information about creating the Saturn V and the Apollo Space missions.  In one area there is a small play structure (for kids 46″ or shorter) … which my kids said was there favorite part.  I think they would have also liked the outside play area along Rocket Row … but it was so hot that day my husband and I distracted them before they even knew it was there. (it looked fun though!)

The gift shop has a large assortment of the usual clothing and accessories with NASA, Space Camp, and Space & Rocket Center logos … as well as space, robotic, and science related toys and books.  A couple of my favorite items included ones that had sayings like … “It’s not rocket science.  Oh, wait.  Actually it is!” and “I need some space.”

With the age and the interest level (not very high) of our kids, we were able to enjoy the museum for 2 to 3 hours.  It was fun, but I think they will get more out of it when they are older.  (And this made me & my husband very glad that we were able to get in free!)  That being said, it was an extremely pleasurable, worthwhile experience that I will remember fondly … and I hope the kids will too!

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