Top 10 space tourist hot spots

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The allure of space travel and exploring the cosmos has enchanted tourists for decades. The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1, an artificial satellite, in 1957 is credited with starting the “space race;” and the world’s interest in space exploration skyrocketed.

As interest in outer space has grown, so has the popularity of air and space museums, planetariums and observatories.  And now space tourists even have opportunities beyond stargazing and Unidentified Flying Object hunting. Space enthusiasts can experience weightlessness, stand nose to nose with a space shuttle and even book a trip to the International Space Station.

For those who dream of the final frontier,  read on for our top 10 space tourist hot spots that are out of this world.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

Marvel at Stonehenge (Image: friedwater / used under a Creative Commons Attribution license)

Arguably one of the most famous pre-historic monuments in the world, Stonehenge attracts 800,000 tourists each year who marvel at the linteled sandstone and bluestone circle. Exactly who built Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago is a fact that has baffled historians and archaeologists. The Neolithic builders would have had to erect the monument – which was first a burial ground – without modern technology and would have hauled the bluestone of the inner ring from Wales, some 200 miles away. Some believe the only explanation for the construction of the sacred site is that aliens placed the massive stones here.

Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States

Kennedy Space Center
Go nose to nose with a space shuttle at Kennedy Space Center. (Image: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex)

Since opening in 1967, Kennedy Space Center has attracted space enthusiasts to the Space Coast in central Florida. More than 1 million people annually visit the 70-acre facility named for U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Visitors can stand nose to nose with the Space Shuttle Atlantis, one of five space shuttles used by NASA that traveled 126 million miles during 33 space missions. Guests can also partake in 60 multimedia exhibits and simulators. The campus also gives visitors the chance to touch a moon rock, stand under the largest rocket ever flown and experience what a shuttle launch is like through the five-minute simulator ride Shuttle Launch Experience. Space enthusiasts can also make reservations to have lunch with an astronaut.

Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico

Arecibo Observatory (Image: amelungc)
Arecibo Observatory (Image: amelungc)

Home to the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope (which served as a backdrop to some heroic James Bond moments in “Golden Eye”), the Arecibo Observatory is one of the most important national centers for research in radio astronomy, planetary radar and terrestrial aeronomy. The Observatory operates 24/7 and is open to the public every day from 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. It’s credited for discovering the first planets outside the solar system and is suited to search for signals from extraterrestrial life by focusing on thousands of star systems. No signals have been found…yet.

Area 51, Great Basin Desert, Nevada, United States

Area 51
UFO hunters flock to Area 51. (Image: Airwolfhound / used under Creative Commons Attribution and ShareAlike licenses)

Area 51 is an Air Force base in southern Nevada’s Great Basin Desert. Conspiracy theorists believe Area 51 is home to the hidden wreckage of UFOs and that extraterrestrials are kept in alien autopsy rooms and their space crafts are parked in lots. Folks started claiming to see UFOs in the area beginning in the mid-20th century and the U.S. government’s classification of details here continues to fuel speculation by some that we are not alone in the universe. UFO hunters often drive State Road 375, which the state designated as the Extraterrestrial Highway in 1996 for the numerous UFO and alien sightings purportedly witnessed along the road and its close proximity to Area 51. The nearby town of Rachel (population 98) caters to UFO hunters with local businesses like Little A’Le’Inn, an alien-themed motel, trailer park, restaurant and gift shop.

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, Vancouver, Canada

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
Look to the stars in Vancouver, Canada. (Image: Torben Hansen / used under a Creative Commons Attribution License)

A gift from lumber magnate H.R. MacMillan to the citizens of Vancouver, the iconic planetarium opened in 1968. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre includes a planetarium, exhibit gallery and theater that features star shows and space-themed movies. For a full on out-of-this-world experience, opt to spend the night. Overnight guests will explore the Cosmic Courtyard, create their own bottle rockets, view the night sky through a special telescope and end the night with a Planetarium presentation.

Zero-G Experience, multiple locations

Zero-G airplane (Image: jurvetson)
Zero-G airplane (Image: jurvetson)

Space enthusiasts who want to experience weightlessness without going to space have the chance to do so at a fraction of the cost with the Zero-G Experience. During a pricey 90- to 100-minute flight (a ticket is $4,950), passengers experience multiple periods of 30 seconds of reduced gravity or weightlessness achieved with 15 aerobatic maneuvers or parabolas performed during the flight. Travelers must be at least 8-years-old to fly on the modified Boeing 727. The five-hour experience includes an orientation, light breakfast, group photo, flight and a “Regravitation Celebration,” which includes refreshments and distribution of photos. The price of the flight includes orientation, flight, refreshments, photos, a video of the flight, a certificate and a Zero-G suit. Flights routinely take off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Las Vegas, and San Jose, Calif.

Roswell, New Mexico, United States

International UFO Museum and Research Center
Learn all about UFOs at the International UFO Museum and Research Center (Image: Angel Schatz / used under a Creative Commons Attribution license)

The city in southeastern New Mexico was made famous when a flying saucer or, as the military reported, a weather balloon, crashed at a ranch near Roswell in 1947. Authorities in Roswell handled the wreckage and investigation of the crash, which became known as the 1947 Roswell UFO incident. Visitors can learn more about the incident at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, which aims to educate visitors on all aspects about UFOs.

Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, Canary Islands, Spain

Roque de los Muchachos
Roque de los Muchachos is in a dreamy locale perfect for stargazing. (Image: Lugares Para Visitar / used under Creative Commons Attribution and ShareAlike licenses)

Located on the edge of the Caldera National Park, the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory boasts one of the largest collections of telescopes in the world. Folks wishing to visit the observatory must apply in advance. Tours of the facilities, located one-and-a-half miles above sea level, include a 70- to 90-minute tour of the observation facilities and the interior of one of the mammoth telescopes.

Space Adventures, Russia

The moon (Image: dingopup used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
The moon (Image: dingopup used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

For those who have dreamed of being an astronaut and taking flight, Space Adventures offers the chance for wannabe astronauts who have $35 million (price depends on trip length among other factors) to fly in the Russian Soyuz space craft to the International Space Station alongside professional astronauts for missions lasting 10 days or more. The company has booked eight flights to date sending seven wealthy citizens into space. Singer Sarah Brightman is currently undergoing training, and she is slated to fly with Space Adventures this year. Space Adventures will soon offer a journey around the far-side of the moon, coming within 62 miles of the moon’s surface. The first lunar mission is scheduled to launch by 2018.

Australian Astronomical Observatory, New South Wales, Australia

Australian Astronomical Observatory
Enjoy starry starry nights in Australia. (Image: Angel Lopez-Sanchez (AAO/Macquarie University)

Standing at an altitude of 3,819 feet on a mountaintop in the Warrumbungle Range, nearly 250 miles northwest of Sydney, the Australian Astronomical Observatory is the largest optical and infrared astronomy facility in Australia. It hosts a dozen of working telescopes, particularly the 13-foot Anglo-Australian Telescope, which is housed in a big white dome, and the UK Schmidt telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory. More than 20,000 people visit each year, including 3,000 stargazers who attend the annual StarFest in October, the only day during the year when the observatory fully opens the big telescope for an up close view and host talks by world famous astronomers.

(Main Image: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex)

Top 10 space tourist hot spots was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Lauren Mack
Author: Lauren Mack (163 posts)

Lauren Mack has traveled to 40 countries on five continents, including Cuba, New Zealand, Peru and Tanzania. For many years, she called China, and then Taiwan, home. Countries at the beginning of the alphabet, particularly Antarctica, Argentina and Australia are on her travel bucket list. Lauren is a multimedia travel and food journalist and explorer based in New York City.