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Great Places to Celebrate Apollo 11's 50th Anniversary

Many locations nationwide are holding fun moon-landing events

Apollo 11 moon landing

Wings Over the Rockies Museum

En español | Do you remember where you were when you saw the TV images of Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969, some 239,000 miles from Earth and uttering his famous words: “That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind"? An estimated 650 million people worldwide watched the mind-blowing moment, the achievement of a seemingly impossible goal — to land humans on the moon.

Now, 50 years later, cities, agencies and museums across the country are planning events to commemorate this stunning event. Here's a rundown of places where you can learn about and celebrate the first moon landing.

Apollo Saturn V on display at the Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

1. Relive history at the Kennedy Space Center. On July 16 at 9:32 a.m. (exactly 50 years after the mission's launch), a “flashback” event at the Space Center will take visitors through the liftoff sequence in real time by showcasing original footage — all from an area that offers a clear view of the Apollo 11 launch pad. Guests can also step into a recreation of a 1969 American living room to experience what it was like to watch from home.

Also on display: a Saturn V rocket — the type that launched Apollo 11, 36 stories tall and 6.2 million pounds, one of only three left in the world — and the Astrovan that transported the astronauts to the launch pad. The celebration continues on July 20 with a “moon landing” commemoration and on July 24 (the date astronauts Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins safely came back to Earth) with a “splashdown” party. (Regular admission prices apply: $57 for adults, $47 for children.)

Armstrong Air and Space Museum Entrance to museum for Neil Armstrong Wapakoneta Ohio.

Alamy Stock Photo

2. Celebrate in Neil Armstrong's hometown. The Apollo 11 commander hailed from Wapakoneta, Ohio. From July 17 to 21, the 2019 Summer Moon Festival will take place at several locations throughout the town, including the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Highlights include Run to the Moon races; presentations by NASA astronauts; interactive science experiments; a bike tour of 12, 25, 40, or 62 miles; the world's largest Moon Pie; a Moon Menu Trail with space-themed dishes at restaurants in town; and a “Wink at the Moon” evening concert. The concert's name is a nod to this request from the Armstrong family, upon his death in 2012: “The next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.” (Free)

3. Watch a really big rocket launch at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Huntsville, Ala., is known as Rocket City because the Saturn V was developed there at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Huntsville is also home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which will pay tribute to the city's history by attempting to break the Guinness World Record with the simultaneous launch of 5,000 model rockets at 8:32 a.m. CT. (Guests can watch from outside at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis.) Inside the museum, visitors can build and launch their own rocket. (Tickets: $25 per adult, $17 per child, kids under 4 free.)

Space buffs who can't get to Alabama can participate in the Global Rocket Launch from wherever they are. Register online — where you'll also find instructions for making your own rocket and links to purchase one — then share your photos and videos on social media using #globalrocketlaunch. More than 20,000 people have already registered.

4. See Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 space suit. It will go back on display for the first time in 13 years at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., as part of a three-day celebration on the National Mall. (Admission is free)

Too far from the nation's capital? No worries: Statues created using the Smithsonian's 3-D scan of the suit will be on display at 15 baseball parks throughout the country this summer, from New York to Chicago to Seattle. The suits will feature an interactive component that allows fans to scan parts of the suit and access additional information about the Apollo 11 mission. Some of the ballparks will also host “Apollo Night” on July 5, featuring Apollo activities and stargazing.

Reconstruction of 1969 mission control at Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston

The restoration of the Apollo Mission Control Center is currently under construction and will open in July.

5. Imagine history being made from Mission Control. “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Armstrong's first words after landing on the moon were radioed to Mission Control in Houston, where workers erupted in cheers. The controller radioed back, “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again.” In honor of the 50th anniversary, the control room at Space Center Houston, a national historic landmark, has been restored to its 1969 appearance, complete with vintage furniture. Guests can step back in time as they take a NASA Tram Tour and watch the original consoles operate. (Timed tickets, $69.96 for $35.95 for children)

6. Meet an astronaut at Apollopalooza. From July 13 to 20, the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver, Colo., will host Apollopalooza. On the agenda: a launch day breakfast, educational STEM activities, movie screenings, a presentation by Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz, and an evening with Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Sen. Harrison Schmitt of New Mexico. The week culminates in a 1969-themed part with an all-American BBQ buffet, live music, and a viewing of the moon landing — timed to the minute it happened (8:56 p.m. MST). (Daily passes $27.95 for adults, $22.95 for children; event with Harrison Schmitt, $45 per person)

7. See the moon in photographs. “By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs” will open at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., on July 14 and run through Jan. 5. The exhibit of 50 works will feature a selection of photographs from the unmanned Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter missions that led up to Apollo 11, as well as glass stereographs taken on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. (Admission is free.)

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, from July 3 through Sept. 22, “Apollo's Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography” will feature photographs from the dawn of photography through the present, plus drawings, prints, paintings, films, astronomical instruments and space-flown cameras. (Admission: $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students, free for children under 12.) In a related event, teens ages 15 to 18 can attend a free mixed-media art workshop from July 8 to 12.

8. Run a 5K at the Bell Museum. This venue in St. Paul, Minn., is hosting a yearlong celebration titled “Year of Apollo: The Moon and Beyond.” Highlights include Moon Yoga on June 1, a Super Moon Pajama Party on June 19 (parents and grandparents welcome), and the Apollo Anniversary and Cosmic 5K on July 20. The race kicks off at 8 a.m., followed by a kids’ fun run at 9:15 a.m. Also on hand: games, crafts, lunar samples, NASA artifacts and learning activities. (Museum admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $9 for youth, and free for children under 3; extra fee for the 5K.)

9. Dine with Apollo alumni at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. From 1961 to 1972, employees of Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., based on Long Island, N.Y., designed, built and tested the Apollo Lunar Module that successfully landed 12 men on the moon. The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, N.Y., will celebrate that contribution at the Apollo at 50 Anniversary Dinner. Special guests include Apollo astronauts Fred Haise (Apollo 13), Walt Cunningham (Apollo 7), and Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9), plus two Apollo flight directors. (Tickets are $275 and benefit museum programs.) The museum's Apollo at 50 Moon Fest on July 20 will feature virtual reality experiences, model rocket launches and a photo op in a re-created 1969 living room ($20 for adults, $15 for children), plus a champagne dinner with 1960s music and dancing and a community countdown of the moon landing. ($125 per person)

10. See the Apollo 11 command module in a traveling exhibit. Apollo 11 artifacts will be on display in the “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission” exhibit developed by the Smithsonian. It has been to Houston, St. Louis and Pittsburgh already, and will be at the Museum of Flight near Seattle until Sept. 2 before returning to a new permanent gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. In addition to more than 20 historic objects, such as the helmet and gloves worn by Buzz Aldrin while on the surface of the moon, the exhibit features the Apollo 11 command module Columbia — the only portion of the historic spacecraft to return from that momentous mission. Visitors can see the inside of the module through an interactive 3-D tour. (Tickets are $10 in Seattle and free at the Air and Space Museum.)

11. Meet Buzz Aldrin at the Reagan Library. He'll be on hand on July 13 at the “black tie, white spacesuit” 50th Anniversary Gala at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. So will Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham and Charlie Duke and actor Gary Sinise, who played astronaut Ken Mattingly in the Apollo 13 film from 1995, directed by Ron Howard. Guests will dine under the retired Air Force One that served seven U.S. presidents, bid on Apollo 11 memorabilia in a silent auction and have a photo op with Aldrin. (Tickets are $1,000 and benefit Aldrin's new nonprofit.)

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