Houston is known as the Space City, and there’s a good reason for it – here is where NASA’s Johnson Space Center is located. While in the city, you can explore the Space Center Houston, a museum and Visitor Center full of space artifacts and interactive exhibits where you can learn more about some of mankind’s major accomplishments.
Find here a guide with all you need to know to visit Space Center Houston, one of the top things to do in the city.
Table of contents
- Space Center Houston vs Johnson Space Center
- Space Center Houston Location and Getting Here
- Best Hotels in Houston
- Space Center Houston Hours
- Space Center Houston Tickets
- Things to do at Space Center Houston
- Suggested Space Center Itinerary
- Tips for visiting Houston
Space Center Houston vs Johnson Space Center
There may be some confusion about the difference between the Space Center Houston and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. In a nutshell, Space Center Houston is the official museum and Visitor Center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which is where both the Mission Control and training facility for astronauts are.
Visitors can explore and wander through the many exhibits of the Space Center Houston as well as take the NASA Tram Tour to have a peek inside the actual NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
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Space Center Houston Location and Getting Here
The Space Center is located in the Southeast part of Houston, close to Clear Lake.
If you aren’t in Houston, the closest airport is William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), less than 20 miles away. You can also fly into the international airport of the city, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), which is located approximately 50 miles away. Once in the city, rent a car at the airport to make sure you can get around easily.
The Space Center address is 1601 E NASA Pkwy, and you can easily reach it by car or with a sightseeing tour.
Best Hotels in Houston
If you’re not from Houston, you may need to find a hotel to stay in the city. If you choose to stay in Downtown Houston or Medical Center, you can be in the Space Center in around 30 minutes, and if you prefer to stay in the Galleria area, it’ll take you approximately 40 minutes to arrive. Additionally, you can find a few hotels near Clear Lake, where you can be very close to the complex.
- Marriot Marquis Houston – A great option of a hotel in Downtown Houston and a perfect place to stay near Minute Made Park, the Convention Center, and the Theater District – a few main places to see while in Houston.
- The Post Oak Hotel – This hotel is in the Galleria area where you’ll have access to a wide offer of malls and restaurants.
- Hotel Zaza Museum District – A perfect hotel if you’re planning on exploring the museums of Houston and walking around Herman Park, one of the best parks in the city.
- Hilton Nasa Clear Lake – if you want to have an early start, this hotel is located only 5 minutes away from the Space Center Houston, and you can come and go with flexibility.
Space Center Houston Hours
The Space Center is usually open from 10 am until 5 pm, but operating hours can change during busy times. Be sure to check the Space Center website before going to learn about seasonal hours.
Besides, if possible, avoid visiting Space Center during weekends, holidays, and summer, since during these times it can be very busy inside. If you can only go on these periods, try arriving as soon as it opens.
Space Center Houston Tickets
Tickets can be bought online in advance on the Space Center website for US$ 29.95 per adult, US$ 27.95 for seniors, US$ 24.95 for kids ages between 4-11, and children ages 3 and younger are free. These prices include parking.
You can also purchase the Space Center Houston ticket at GetYourGuide, the website I use to buy most of my entry tickets, for US$ 23.49 per adult and pay an extra US$5 for parking.
Additionally, if you purchase the Houston CityPass, the ticket to Space Center Houston is already included, along with other 4 main attractions of the city: Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo OR Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Kemah Boardwalk OR Children’s Museum Houston. By purchasing the Houston CityPass for US$ 64, you can save up to 47% on some of Houston’s top attractions.
Lastly, on-site parking is available for US$ 5, which is already included when you buy your tickets on the Space Center Official website.
Things to do at Space Center Houston
There’s a lot to do in the Space Center Houston, and the suggested itinerary can last up to 7 hours – the entire day. Along with limited experiences, the exhibits you can find here include:
Independence Plaza and Space Shuttle Independence
In the Independence Plaza, you’ll be able to enter and see the features of both the replica of Space Shuttle Independence as well as the historic and original NASA 905 shuttle carrier airplane. This is one of the most unique experiences you can have at the Space Center.
SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Exhibit
Near Independence Plaza, in the outdoor area of the complex, you’ll see and walk underneath the unique SpaceX Falcon 9, a marvel of modern-day technology that is part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX reusable rocket program.
Nasa Tram Tour
The NASA Tram Tour is your way to get a glimpse into NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s most fascinating features. In this tour, you’ll see up-close the astronaut training facilities, the Mission Control, and more!
Currently, a boarding pass is required to take the NASA Tram Tour. You can either get the pass by joining the Tram Virtual Line via the free Space Center Houston app (must be on-site to do so), or at the Guest Services Desk at the entrance of Space Center Houston, where a crewmember can help with the reservation.
The NASA Tram Tour is an open-air tram (no air conditioning), so keep this in mind when visiting during the summer. Also, the last train departs the Space Center Houston at 3 pm, so plan your visit accordingly.
One of the best things to do at the Space Center is to visit the Mission Mars exhibit. In this display, you can learn more about NASA’s journey to Mars and have the unique chance to see and touch an actual piece of rock from Mars!
In the Starship Gallery at Space Center Houston, you can take in the amazing artifacts used to explore the space – the Apollo 17 Command Module, Lunar Roving Vehicle, a Moon rock you can touch, and other Space Center treasures.
There are many other things to do at Space Center Houston. Don’t miss the chance to walk around the Astronaut Gallery, where you can understand more about spacesuits and assorted astronaut gear used by men and women throughout their expeditions.
And you can also visit the International Space Station Gallery and watch films and live presentations to have a glimpse of mission updates at Mission Briefing Center, learn about how astronauts live in the International Space Station (ISS), and more.
Additionally, you can also have exclusive experiences that can provide a deeper insight on NASA Johnson Space Center:
- Space Expert Tour – a guided tour through the Space Center Houston where you can learn with experts (US$ 69.95)
- Astronaut Experience – where you can interact with a real astronaut in two different ways: Breakfast with an Astronaut or Astronaut Mission Memories (adults’ tickets are $69.95 for members and $99.95 for the general public)
- Level 9 Tour – the most VIP experience you can have! On this approximately 5-hour guided tour of NASA Johnson Space Center, you can explore where and how astronauts train, learn how NASA Mission Control Center communicates with the International Space Station, and find out more about space exploration.
Suggested Space Center Itinerary
The Space Center Houston has 3 suggested itineraries to follow as you explore the site, depending on the amount of time you have. Here’s what they recommend if you have:
- 7 hours: NASA Tram Tour, Starship Gallery, Independence Plaza, The Food Lab, Mission Mars, Astronaut Gallery, Space Center Theater Film, International Space Station Gallery, New Perspectives Presentations, and Gift Shop.
- 4 hours: NASA Tram Tour, Starship Gallery, Independence Plaza, Mission Mars, New Perspectives Presentations, and Gift Shop.
- 2 hours: Starship Gallery, Independence Plaza, Mission Mars, New Perspectives Presentations, and Gift Shop.
You might also like to read: How to spend 3 perfect days in Houston – a complete itinerary
Tips for visiting Houston
To explore the best of Houston, you should purchase the Houston CityPass. By purchasing the pass for US$ 64, you can save up to 47% on some of Houston’s top attractions.
When you purchase the Houston CityPass, you can visit 5 of the top places to visit in Houston, including the Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo OR Museum of Fine Arts, and Houston Kemah Boardwalk OR Children’s Museum Houston.
Top things to do in Houston
Of the many attractions of Houston, Space Center is only one of the best. If you want to explore other top places to visit in the city, here are a few you should add to your itinerary:
- Houston Museum of Natural Science: one of the must-visit museums in Houston, especially for kids that want to see dinosaur fossils. You can also purchase the ticket at GetYourGuide, along with other attractions of the city, or see it as one of the attractions of the Houston CityPass.
- Buffalo Bayou Park and Hermann Park: they are two of the top parks in the city, and excellent places for a walk, running, or just for a picnic.
- Downtown Aquarium: very close to the POST Houston, the aquarium is within a 5-minute walk. You can go to Downtown Aquarium in the morning and then to the POST Market in the afternoon for a bite to eat. It’s also another place you can visit with your Houston CityPass.
- Houston Zoo: a go-to place for family fun. Visit the zoo and then go for a walk at Hermann Park as a perfect way to finish your day. Use the Houston CityPass to visit this attraction.
You might also like to read: POST Houston – tips for planning your visit and Top things to do in Houston – the best attractions of the city
How long is the tram tour at Space Center Houston?
The NASA Tram Tour takes around 90 minutes.
How much does it cost to go to Houston Space Center Houston?
Admission tickets to Space Center Houston are US$ 29.95 per adult (parking included), US$ 27.95 for seniors, US$ 24.95 for kids ages 4-11, and children ages 3 and younger are free. You can also purchase the admission ticket at GetYourGuide for $23.49 without parking.
Is Houston Space Center still active?
Yes, NASA Johnson Space Center is still home to Mission Control and the current-day astronaut training facility.
Do spaceships launch from Houston?
No, spaceships aren’t launched from Houston. NASA in Houston operates as Mission Control Center and training hub for astronauts.
Is there food available at Space Center Houston?
Yes, there’s a food court in the Space Center Houston where you can purchase food and beverages.
Is there a gift shop?
Yes, there are two gift shops inside Space Center Houston.
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