If you are from Huntsville and have only ever visited the Space and Rocket Center on your 5th grade field trip OR as a means of entertaining visiting out-of-towners, raise your hand. If you are not from Huntsville and haven’t worked up the “why” to go yet, raise your hand…..now that all hands are raised…why are you missing out on such a great opportunity for your family? Despite your sentiments about the space program (and I know we live in a city passionate about its positions), the Center provides a wealth of knowledge about space, science, and history. I admit, until I had children, I qualified for the 5th grade field trip option. Now, we maintain a family membership, and, if rumor serves correctly, there is a deep discount on family admissions right now. Check it out.
There is not an installed traveling exhibit right now, which is kind of refreshing. The Space and Rocket Center has taken this opportunity to reorganize, and the entire main museum is dedicated to the story of Werner Von Braun. I am going to admit, that the kids were indifferent to all of the historical information and photos, but I was intrigued enough that I am actually considering a sitter and an adult night out at the museum. They have some fantastic displays and information for those curious about the space program and the role our city has played.
Because of the current reconfigurations, entry is not being allowed on the Davidson Center side. You have to use the main entry at the original museum. I am addressing this, because, after today’s visit, I recommend (if you are plus kids) entering at the main museum and walking over to Davidson to start. The Davidson Center offers a wide array of visual and interactive items to entertain the kids for a while. Be careful of the launch simulator as it is very noisy and only for the most brave of heart! The play place at the Center (see main photo) is a BIG hit with my children and could potentially provide 30 minutes – an hour of play time ALONE.
When you finish the Davidson Center, if the weather is nice, be sure to check out all of the rockets and machinery outside. There is a fun play place outside for the kids as well. There is a miniature “space shot” and a tunnel maze where the kids can burn off energy. Be warned, there are Dippin’ Dots at every corner and a well placed gift shop (outside…because all the stuff inside just is not enough). Your kids will want to spend money.
Once you make it back into the main museum, there are some interactive things for the kids, however, everything seems geared for kids 8/9 and older. There is an apache helicopter on display right now with a flight simulator. This is $5 a head. I am considering going back to try that. It looked very cool.
I was painfully pulled through the von Braun exhibit. The kids weren’t interested. I was. I’m glad I have a membership. Once through the old museum, the Smithsonian Affiliate area is set up in the old gift shop area and the gift shop has been reconfigured and moved…VOILA!…right at the (now) only entry. Clever. Also, be prepared for the “family space portrait” schpeel just past the gift shop. I hate feeling like I am being accosted upon entry to the museum, but I appreciate they have to make a buck somehow.
My final recomendation for your visit is to pack a picnic. The cafeteria was quiet and the outside areas are nice. The cafe at the museum does have pretty good food, but I spent $16 for a hot dog, hamburger, chicken nuggets, and fruit cup. If you want to get in and out as cheaply as possible, spring for the family membership, warn the kids ahead of time that you aren’t doing Dippin Dots or Pucker Powder (why, Pucker Powder, why?) and bring a cooler.
Have fun, and be prepared to go back again and again and again…there is no way to fit everything into a manageable morning or afternoon.
Happy ‘spacing out’ y’all!
Location: One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL 35805
Admission: $20/Adults; $15/children; Ages 3 and under free
Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM seven days a week
Christa Landingham and her husband are Madison County natives and life-long residents. They have boy/girl twins and two crazy puppers. She loves all things teaching, organizing, and supporting local small businesses. In her “free-time” she loves to garden, travel with her family, volunteer, and comb local thrift stores. Pearl Jam is her jam.