A quick guide to visiting the NASA Space Center in Houston TX. Includes tips on how to get here, what to expect, and how to get cheaper NASA Space Center tickets online.
If you’re visiting Houston, TX, and you’re a fan of everything science and space exploration, you’ll want to visit the NASA Space Center. This attraction was the biggest draw for me but unfortunately, getting to NASA in Houston and organizing tickets was a little tricky, at least at first.
To help you out, and to make your experience more enjoyable, I’ve written this quick guide with useful and up-to-date information on how to get to there, how to get NASA Space Center ticket at a discounted price online, and give you some tips to help you enjoy your visit.
How to Get Cheap nasa houston tickets
If you visit the official NASA Space Center website, you’ll find that it takes you to their official booking checkout for tickets. However, this is NOT what you want to do.
That’s because if you book directly on the NASA website, you’ll be paying $30 for a ticket. Instead, you can book discounted NASA Space Center tickets online using Viator (Tripadvisor company) for only $24.99.
Book discounted tickets in advance: $24.99 NASA General Admission Tickets
It seems that Viator has a promotional deal where they are able to sell cheaper tickets to Nasa Houston. These tickets are for General Admission only, which is the same as if you bought your tickets on the NASA website, only $5 cheaper. Keep in mind that this means you’ll need to arrange your own transport (more on how to get to NASA in Houston below).
Since the start of the pandemic, NASA have changed admissions to timed events. As a result, visitors are required to pick a time when booking. I recommend picking the earliest possible admission, which is 10:00 AM. This gives you the most time and flexibility, as tickets are valid for an entire day, regardless of the time you book.
Where is NASA in Houston?
NASA in Houston hours: 10 AM to 5 PM Monday – Sunday
NASA in Houston, refers to the public admission/museum named NASA Johnson Space Center. This is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum and educational center highlighting all eras of U.S space travel and includes interesting exhibits, tours, and attractions like the Rocket Park and the retired SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The NASA Space Center is located in the southeast region of Houston near Nassau Bay. What surprised me at first is just how far away NASA is from Houston Downtown. You can expect a roughly 30-40 minute drive from downtown to get here!
Below I’ve pinned the exact location of the NASA Space Center in Houston TX so you know where you’re heading.
How to Get to NASA SPACE CENTER In Houston TX
To get to the NASA Space Center in Houston, visitors have four main options. This includes driving there yourself, getting a taxi or ride-share, taking the public transport bus, or booking an organized, guided tour from Houston.
Below I’ll give you a rundown of each option to help you pick the best one for you.
Option 1: Self-Drive Directions to the NASA Space Center From Houston TX
If you’ve got your own car, you can easily drive to NASA from Houston downtown in roughly 30-40 minutes. What you’ll want to do is get onto the Gulf Freeway, I-45 between downtown Houston and Galveston.
Once you arrive at the pin above, you’ll find a large parking lot where you’ll need to pay $5 to park your vehicle for the day.
If you don’t have your own car, then you might find that renting one for the day works out cheaper than booking a lyft/Uber or taxi. This is especially true if you use Discover Cars, which has a huge network of available cars to rent in Houston.
Option 2: Guided Day-Trip Tour to NASA Space Center From Houston
For those interested in taking a group tour and a guided experience of the NASA Space Center, your best bet is to book the famous City Tour + NASA combo. This works out great, especially if you want to squeeze as much as possible into your trip.
This costs $83, making it one of the most-booked tours in Houston due to how much you get for your money. It includes a city tour, return transport and general admission tickets to the NASA Johnson Space Center. Considering the return transport often works out more expensive than the ticket itself, this is not a bad choice.
Option 3: Taxi or Ride Share
The most expensive option would be to get a Taxi or ride-share service from Houston to the NASA Space Center.
Currently, Lyft is the cheapest ride-share service in Houston and trips from downtown to NASA cost between $27-$35 each way.
If you’re taking a taxi instead, expect to pay around $50 each way.
Option 4: Public Bus from Houston Downtown to NASA
When I was researching options for visiting NASA in Houston, there wasn’t a lot of information about public transport. However, I was able to find out that in fact, there is a bus running from downtown to nearby El Dorado Pr, which is quite close to the Space Center.
The bus route is called the line 249 bus. to El Dorado Pr then take a taxi to Space Center Houston. You can use the Metro App to compare schedules or check on Moovit. I believe a fare is only $3.50 per person.
However, keep in mind that this service only runs Monday to Friday and is unavailable on weekends.
Best Things to See at the NASA Space Center In Houston TX
Now that we have tickets and transport out of the way, let’s jump into some of the things you’ll definitely not want to miss on your visit!
Remember, this is one of the best day-trip activities in Houston! You’ll have a blast, especially if you’re a bit of a space geek like me.
SPACEX FALCON 9 ROCKET EXHIBIT
The retired SpaceX Falcon 9 is probably going to be the first thing you see when you arrive at the NASA Johnson Space Center. This rocket is arguably one of the most important scientific innovations in space travel and exploration during the past two centuries.
This particular rocket is the first orbital class rocket capable of reflight, and has transported both humans and cargo to the ISS (International Space Station).
For space history geeks, the Starship Gallery at the Houston Space Center is going to blow you away! This gallery is home to several actual, flown spacecraft and national treasure replicas. This is going to give you an amazing run-down on the progess of human space travel and exploration.
One of the artifact highlights in this particular gallery is the actual Apollo 17 Lunar Module (LM) “Challenger”, which was the final mission to the moon under the Apollo mission in 1972.
Tip: There’s even a moon-rock specimen taken from the Apollo 17 mission that you can touch with your own hands.
Independence Plaza is located directly outside the entrance and houses the historic and original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. This was a transformed Boeing 747 airplane, which was altered to mount a SCA space shuttle (Independence).
You are free to explore both the NASA 905 shuttle carrier and the replica SCA Independence on multiple floors.
The Mission Mars exhibit at the NASA Space Center in Houston TX is a gallery dedicated to the future of human exploration and colonization of the red planet. Here, you’ll discover all the latest innovations and planned missions for Mars, including rovers like the latest Perseverance and planned manned missions in the Orion space shuttle.
International Space Station Gallery (ISS Gallery)
The International Space Station Gallery is an exhibit dedicated to the largest structure ever built in space.
The ISS provides an interesting look at the history of the space station, as well as information about its history and what it’s like living in earth orbit.
The Astronaut Gallery is also a must-see exhibit at the NASA Space Center in Houston TX. Here, you’ll get to see the evolution of astronaut life, from spacesuits to food, to training and simulations necessary to equip NASA astronauts with the skills required to explore the moon and live at the ISS.
New Perspectives Presentation
Just near the ISS exhibit, you’ll find a timed presentation entitled New Perspectives. This is a 20-minute, live presentation by official NASA Mission Briefing Officers.
It’s designed to give you an insight into what the lives of astronauts are like onboard the ISS. It also allows you to ask questions and learn about the ins and outs of life in space, from eating to working out, to showering, to growing food in space.
Houston Space Center Theatre Film
When you arrive, head over to the information desk to find up-to-date timings for the Space Centre Theatre Film. This five-story-tall cinema is the largest 4K theatre in Texas where you can enjoy great films on space exploration and science. This is included in your General Admission ticket.
NASA Tram Tour
The NASA Tram Tour is one of the best offerings at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston TX. However, you’ll need to book this in advance. I suggest doing this as soon as you arrive via the app or at the information counter.
The tram tours are one of the biggest draws to NASA in Houston as it allows visitors to explore the site and learn more about NASA operations. The three main tours include:
George W.S Abbey Rocket Park Tour
An amazing stop where one of only three remaining Saturn V rockets are displayed.
Astronaut Training Facility Tour
This stop lets you walk the uphill path through the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility in Building 9. This is where NASA astronauts train for missions to space and where enginers are able to develop the latest and greatest space vehicles.
Mission Control Center Tour
Perhaps the most famous and the most anticipated tour is to the Mission Control Center (Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control). This is where NASA led mission control for Gemini and Apollo missions, including the first lunar landing mission.
Important: While the NASA tram tour is free and included in your ticket, you’ll still need to make a reservation as it fills up. Unfortunately, we missed out on this amazing experience during our first visit because we didn’t book in time and all slots were sold out by 2 PM!
Must-Know Tips & Visitor’s Information
Here are some more must-know tips and useful insights that will make your visit to the Houston Space Center more enjoyable.
- Book a Space Center Train tour as soon as you arrive – it’s free, but slots fill out very quickly!
- Buy a ticket on Viator to save $5
- Food is quite expensive at The Food Lab – this is the onsite restaurant attached to the museum.
- Purchase merchandise at the SpaceTrader Gift Shop
- There is Wifi throughout the entire Space Center
- Don’t bring any large luggage – there are no storage lockers
- Don’t bring – Large professional cameras, tripods and lighting equipment is not allowed. I was told this before I arrived but I noticed there were a few guys walking around with DSLR’s and mirrorless setups. I took all the photos with my phone instead.
- There are toilets, restrooms, and phone-charging banks available at the Space Center in Houston
- You’ll get a photo taken when you enter – you can pay for these when you leave. There are also photo booths near the exit.
- There’s a free Space Center app that you can download – this includes an audio guide, so bring earphones!
- The daily schedule, including theatre showings and presentations change frequently.
More Resources for Visiting NASA in Houston
I hope that this quick and useful guide for how to get to the NASA Space Center in Houston TX has been useful for planning your visit. If you find cheaper NASA Space Center tickets, or you discovered something I might have missed, please let me know in the comments below.
Otherwise, I’ve included a few useful resources below, including a map of the Space Center in Houston. While you can pick up a map and small guide when you arrive, this section is for those of you that like to be prepared.