1 Tranquility Base, Huntsville, Alabama
At this state-of-the-art interactive museum, people of all ages can experience zero gravity, maneuver through space, and travel with astronauts. Out-of-this-world experiences include a step inside the G-Force Accelerator, where bodies actually rise up off their seats, and a genuine blastoff—140 feet straight up in 2.5 seconds—courtesy of the Space Shot. There is even a Mission to Mars, packed with astounding sights, sounds, and physical sensations.
The museum also features dozens of hands-on learning exhibits. Visitors can see inside an authentic Apollo Command Module and check out the $200 million Blackbird, the sleek U.S. Air Force spy plane that flew coast to coast in less than 68 minutes. Or they can delve into the technology behind the world’s first ballistic guided missile and view the latest in high-tech weaponry, including futuristic soldiers armed with particle beam guns. For the youngest aspiring astronauts, a tot-size space station offers rockets for crawling into. And for those who prefer to sit back and be awe-inspired, the Spacedome Theater projects footage of planets, galaxies, and other cosmic amazements, filmed in space by astronauts, onto a 67-foot domed IMAX screen.
Outside the museum, visitors can stroll through what astronaut John Glenn calls the finest rocket collection in the world. Rocket Park boasts more than 1,500 pieces of space hardware, including a Mercury-Redstone rocket, like the one that launched Alan Shepard. The new Davidson Center for Space Exploration is home to NASA’s first Saturn V rocket. Next door, Shuttle Park is home to the world’s only “full-stack” shuttle.
Alternatively, experience life on Mars in the Olympus Moons Mining Colony. While there, scale a replica of the largest volcanic crater in the solar system, or climb a 25-foot-high wall. (The climb can be strenuous.)
–Open YEAR ROUND, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, 9am – 5pm; closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Day and Thanksgiving Day.