Visiting NASA Space Center Houston with Kids: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Check out the Apollo 17 command module, which was used on the last crewed mission to the moon. Photo courtesy of NASA Space Center Houston.
Check out the Apollo 17 command module, which was used on the last crewed mission to the moon. Photo courtesy of NASA Space Center Houston.
1/9/24 - By Sarah Banks

You don’t need to be a budding astronaut to enjoy a day out at NASA Space Center Houston. Kids love the tram rides and interactive exhibits that provide visitors with a glimpse into the history, present, and future of space exploration. With over a million visitors a year, NASA Houston includes the control room of the first Moon landing and exciting developments around upcoming missions to the Moon and Mars.

NASA Houston is huge, with frequent updates, and with so much to see it can be a bit overwhelming. However, we are regular visitors, and our guide will help you make the most of your visit so the whole family has a great time.

Read lots more about Houston-area cultural institutions in our Guide to Children's Museums and Exhibits in Houston

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Best Things to Do at NASA Space Center Houston

1. NASA Tram Tour

Three tours give you access to astronaut training facilities, historic Mission Control, and the Rocket Park. All tours include the fun of riding the tram past longhorn cattle and around the many campus buildings. The rocket park tour is the shortest and most fun for younger kids, with the chance to run about freely and see a jaw-dropping massive Saturn 5 rocket, which is over 300 feet long.

2. Independence Plaza

Go inside the shuttle replica Independence, mounted on top of the historic and original NASA shuttle carrier aircraft, and then explore the giant plane. It is the world’s only shuttle mounted on an aircraft.

3. Starship Gallery

Give your kids a chance to touch an actual moon rock in the Starship Gallery. This exhibit is home to multiple flown spacecraft and national treasures. Get an up-close look at some of the most amazing artifacts tracing the progression of human space exploration, including the Apollo 17 Command Module and a full-size Skylab Training Module.

4. Mission Mars

Discover what it takes to travel to Mars and how humans may live on the red planet in the next few decades in the new interactive exhibit, Mission Mars. 

5. Artemis Exhibit

NASA is planning to land more people on the moon in the next few years! Find out more at this interactive exhibit that highlights NASA’s Artemis program.

6. Space Center Theater

Enjoy a well-earned rest in the largest 4K theater in Texas. The towering 5-story-tall Space Center Theater has comfortable seats and a range of programs related to space exploration that you can watch on a come-and-go basis.

7. Real-Life Astronauts

Every Friday and Saturday, a NASA astronaut shares some of their mission memories with guests at Space Center Houston at 11:30am and 1:20pm.

Events at NASA Space Center Houston

Galaxy Lights

NASA Houston hosts a fabulous light show every holiday from mid-November to early January called Galaxy Lights. Walk through an illuminated Rocket Park Experience with 3-D projections. Enjoy a high-tech light show where dozens of suspended lights move in choreographed sequences above the Main Plaza. On the tram tour, you can travel through an LED light tunnel of more than 250,000 lights synchronized to festive holiday music. Kids age 3 and younger are free.

Overnight Camping

Did you know you can camp out at NASA Space Center Houston? Around 6 times a year, families can stay overnight, and the $79.95 cost Includes camping, meals, a tram tour, and activities.

NASA Space Center Houston: Know Before You Go

  • NASA Houston is a hugely popular attraction. Even on a weekday, there are often long lines before opening time, so arrive early if you can.
  • Buy your tickets in advance. If you plan to go on the Mission to Mars tram tour, book online when you buy your general admission ticket. The tour involves a sit-down presentation in the mission control room of the first landing on the Moon, which may not suit active kids.
  • Book your other tram tour(s) for free at the guest services desk as soon as you arrive, as they fill up early. You can plan to visit the exhibits around your tram tour schedule. 
  • Strollers are allowed at NASA Houston but must be left in the stroller parking before embarking on a tram tour.
  • NASA Houston can be a busy environment. Sensory backpacks, including sound-reduction headphones, sunglasses, fidgets, books, and guides are available at the Guest Services Desk. The center also runs sensory-friendly events with reduced lights, sounds, and crowds.
  • Before or after your visit, check out NASA’s home crafts and activities

Eating at NASA Space Center Houston

The "Food Lab" inside NASA Houston is a large food court with ample seating and a variety of food and drink options, ranging from pizza to sandwiches and salads. There is also a coffee bar for those needing a caffeine boost. While bringing your food into NASA Houston is not allowed unless you have a dietary or medical need, there is an outdoor picnic area located near the front entrance. If you aren't staying the whole day, another option is to head 15 minutes down the road to Kemah, where there are many restaurants and other kid-friendly attractions.

Visiting NASA Space Center Houston

  • Children aged 3 and younger are free.
  • Kids age 4-11 are $24.95. Ages 12+ cost $29.95.
  • There is a large car park, and parking at NASA Houston costs $10.
  • Current hours are 10am-5pm. Hours vary depending on time of year, and Galaxy Lights is in the evening from 6pm-10pm.

All information is correct at the time of writing, but please check the NASA Houston website before visiting.

If you're visiting multiple attractions in Houston in addition to the Space Center, it’s worth it to look into a Go City - Houston Pass, which includes entry to the Space Center, children's museum, zoo, aquarium, and more—all for one ticket price.

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