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8 Places You Can Visit to Celebrate Apollo 11’s 50th Anniversary This Week

9 minute read

As the country prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s mission to the moon, a number of destinations with links to the historic journey are holding events to commemorate the occasion.

From the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. to Kennedy Space Center in Houston, plenty of sites are offering the chance to celebrate Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the moon, 50 years ago as of July 20. From a multimillion-dollar auction of an Apollo 11 flight manual to celebratory rocket launches and musical concerts, festivities commemorating Apollo 11 are taking place all week.

Looking for a great way to celebrate the Apollo 11 anniversary? Here are eight places to visit over the next few days.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (Washington, D.C.)

Located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive aerospace museums.

With many exciting space and air travel exhibitions, as well as several fascinating IMAX experiences to choose from, the Air & Space Museum has everything you need to celebrate and explore a long history of space travel. And on July 16, the museum will have Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit on display for the first time in 13 years. The museum will also have discovery stations for hands-on learning, including lunar rocks that visitors can handle.

Although the museum is currently under renovation, it remains open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET. Admission is free, and digital museum guides are available for $7.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly, VA)

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the companion center to Washington’s National Air & Space Museum, and admission to this satellite center is also free. A big draw here is the Discovery, the third Space Shuttle to visit space. Launched in 1984, the Discovery has completed 30 successful missions, the most of any other NASA orbiter, the agency says.

The center’s current exhibitions include Space Science (where visitors can learn about the scientific roles specific space objects perform), Application Satellites, Human Spaceflight, and World War II German Aviation.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. ET. There are youth and adult digital guides at the center for $7.

Space Center Houston (Houston, TX)

Houston, we have a really cool place to explore!

This national historic landmark just finished renovations on its newly restored Apollo Mission Control Center. This project included a restoration of the iconic mission control room, which has been redesigned to look as it did in 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The makeover makes visitors feel as though they are stepping back in history as screens project the exact images from the night of the moon landing. The Control Center can be accessed through purchase of the NASA Tram Tours or Level 9 VIP Tours.

The center is also home to over 400 exhibits, experiences, and space artifacts. Among the exhibits included in general admission tickets are the Starship Gallery, Mission Mars, the NASA Tram Tour, and many more. A new exhibit, “Apollo Art: 50 Year Retrospective,” explores the moon landing through various artworks.

On July 20, the Space Center will be hosting the “Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Celebration.” Purchase of a “Golden Ticket” gets you all-day event access, which includes a nighttime concert with guest performers Walk the Moon and Phillip Phillips. Also available are Apollo 11-themed pop-up science labs for kids and informative panels and presentations about the Apollo 11 mission. Tickets cost $49.95 for the general public.

On regular days, General Admission costs $24.95 for children (aged 4-11), and $29.95 for adults (aged 12+). Normal hours for the Space Center are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT.

Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, FL)

The Kennedy Space Center, where the Apollo 11 mission launched into space, has a full list of anniversary events going on this summer. These events include a concert by British rock band Duran Duran on July 16, a fun Global Launch Event for all ages on July 16, and a real live rocket launch scheduled for July 21. From July 26 through 28, you can also buy tickets to spend the day with an Apollo astronaut, touring the center, eating a catered lunch, and enjoying stops for fun photo ops.

Kennedy Space Center even has suggested itineraries for your visit, which map out the perfect plan depending on the age, amount of time at the museum, and interest level of your group. You can also download a free app to guide you around the faculty. With the app, you can plan your trip before you get there by favoriting certain displays that you want to see.

The Kennedy Space Center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET until August 11. Admission costs $47 for children (aged 3-11), and $57 for adults (aged 12+). The Apollo two-day admissions pass costs $65 for kids and $75 for adults.

In addition, don’t miss out on the wide offering exciting Apollo Anniversary Community Events happening in July. Panels, pub crawls, and parades are just a few highlights.

Palomar Observatory, San Diego, CA

Owned by the California Institute of Technology, this research facility has been in operation since the mid-1930s, and currently has three active telescopes that are used for astronomical research.

At the Palomar Observatory, you can visit the Addison White Greenway, Jr. Visitor Center, which is open to the public, and get a glimpse of the famous Hale Telescope. The Hale Telescope can also be accessed for close-up observation through purchase of a ticket for the one-hour guided tour. These guided tours only take place on Saturdays and Sundays from April to October, and tickets can only be purchased day-of on a first-come, first-served basis. Self-guided tours are also popular at the observatory.

You can also visit the Greenway Visitor Center for more special astronomy-themed exhibits.

The observatory is open from 9 a.m. to 3: p.m. PT, but specific tours are only available on select days.

Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum (New York, NY)

This New York museum is housed in the aircraft carrier Intrepid, a National Historic Landmark, located right on the Hudson River.

Among other highlights, this museum hosts the Enterprise, a version of the Space Shuttle built for atmospheric testing but incapable of spaceflight. (The Intrepid itself served as a recovery vessel for two space missions as well.) The museum’s Space Shuttle Pavilion houses 17 exhibit zones. Visitors can also buy spots to spend the night inside the museum, with activities, shows, and meals included.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the museum will have a new installation called “Apollo 11: Media, the Moon, and Beyond” that brings to life the various news media related to space exploration through the ages. Along with the exhibition, there will be a free, 20-minute Apollo Tour Guide Talk every day at 3:30pm. This installation will be open through September 3.

Some fun events coming up on the aircraft-carrier-turned-museum:

On Friday, July 19, there is a free screening of the film First Man.

On Saturday, July 20, the museum will be hosting a famous New York improv group who will perform an Apollo 11-inspired set following a talk with a former astronaut and NASA’s deputy project scientist. Tickets are $15 for the general public; the event is for ages 21 and up.

The Intrepid is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Tickets cost $24 for children (aged 5-12) and $33 for adults (aged 13-64). Also check the museum’s Free Fridays for free admission times.

California Science Center (Los Angeles, CA)

Despite this center’s more general collection of scientific exploration, it still boasts an impressive array of space-related artifacts.

Visit the Samuel Oschin Pavilion to see the space shuttle Endeavour, which flew the first service mission to the Hubble Telescope, and an external tank, which carried propellant for the orbiter.

You can also visit the California Science Center’s Science Court to see the Humans in Space exhibit, which includes a Gemini 11 capsule, an Apollo-Soyuz Command Module, and an Apollo 16 spacesuit.

The IMAX theater will be screening Hubble 3D (and this ticket also gets you in to see the Endeavour). Starting July 15, it will also be screening Apollo 11: First Steps Edition in the IMAX theater.

Permanent exhibitions and galleries at the center are free to the public, but the IMAX experience and special exhibits (including the Endeavour) require tickets. Single IMAX tickets cost $6.75 for kids, and $8.95 for adults, and include admission access to the Endeavour. Prices for special exhibits vary depending on the package you choose. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL)

Known as “The Rocket City,” Huntsville has big plans for Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary. Home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the city has long dedicated itself to all things space-related.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center serves as the visitor center for the official research facility. Activities and exhibits at the center include an Apollo 11 virtual reality simulator, daily movies, tours, and a planetarium show. The center also boasts a replica of a Saturn V — the famous rocket that was used as a launch vehicle to get the Apollo missions into space.

From July 13 to July 20, the center will be hosting Rockets on Parade, a celebration of the city’s contribution to space travel and the moon landing. On July 16, the center is planning to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of rockets launched at once, with 5,000 model rockets taking off at the exact time the Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral 50 years ago.

General admission tickets are $17 for children (aged 5-12), and $25 for adults (aged 13+). Children aged 4 and under get in free. Additional features, like the movies, planetarium shows, and some VR simulations must be bought in a separate admission package.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

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