Photo courtesy Another Off the Wall Production, Inc. Launching a ball, launching a space shuttle -- at Space Center Houston, kids will learn it’s all a matter of physics.

Family Vacations in Texas: Space Center Houston

Where on Earth -- or any other planet, for that matter -- can you dock a space shuttle, touch an authentic moon rock, and watch an astronaut train for a space mission all in the same day? Space Center Houston, that's where.

Located in the Johnson Space Center complex, Space Center Houston was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering with both entertainment and education in mind. It's a perfect place for space buffs to get a close-up look at the country's space program. Younger children enjoy its expansive play areas.

Space Center Houston's interactive exhibits show what life in space is like. Did you ever wonder how astronauts perform simple daily tasks such as eating and bathing in zero gravity? The live demonstrations in the Living in Space module address those questions and many more. The hands-on exhibits demonstrate some of the daily chores that space exploration involves. Kids can attempt tricky tasks such as trying to land a space shuttle and maneuvering a robotic arm to pick up a minute object.

In Kids Space Place, would-be astronauts can take a simulated ride across the moon in a Lunar Rover and test their skills in a re-created Apollo command module. Starship Gallery offers the real deal: The evolution of crewed space flight in the United States is revealed with authentic artifacts from different space missions. You'll see the actual Faith 7 Mercury space capsule and the Gemini 5 spacecraft, as well as an assortment of memorabilia from other space missions. The Astronaut Gallery exhibit displays the largest collection of authentic spacesuits in the world.

The Martian Matrix is a five-story play structure that provides plenty of mazes, tunnels, and passageways that are just perfect for burning off that extra astronaut energy.

The Center's new Robotics exhibit is very popular with young engineering buffs. It allows children to design, build, and program their own robots. Families will also enjoy the virtual reality stations that transport visitors to a space station for a tour, including a simulated space walk. On the exciting Blast Off ride, visitors will experience the thrill of launching into space like a real astronaut.

Space Center Houston boasts the largest IMAX movie theater in Texas. The five-story screen takes you right into the experience of an astronaut undergoing training. For the true space aficionado, check out the Level 9 tour of the space center. Only 12 people per day are admitted on the escorted tour, which takes you right into NASA's control center and onto the observation decks of the neutral buoyancy lab. The tours are available for those 14 and older and include lunch with astronauts who are in training.

Tram tours to Johnson Space Center depart from Space Center Houston every half hour. Some popular attractions include a tour of Rocket Park, which holds a number of the massive NASA rockets that were used in the early days of the space program, and a visit to the Mission Control Center.

Space Center Houston isn't the only attraction in Houston to enthrall kids. In the next article, check out the biggest rodeo in Texas at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The bull riders and fine examples of livestock are sure to entertain.

Space Center Houston Information

Address: 1601 NASA Pkwy

Houston, TX

Telephone: 281/244-2100

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. weekends

Admission: $18.95 adults; $14.95 kids

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Houston: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Space City.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.