Where on Earth to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing

From meet-and-greets with astronauts to a concert that's "out of this world," America is celebrating Apollo 11 all month long.
Image: Silvia Freddo, Jose Eduardo Santos, Gustavo Santos, Rafiel Santos
Rafiel Santos and Silvia Freddo, and their two children Jose Eduardo and Gustavo of Santa Catarina, Brazil, take a selfie as some of the first visitors to view Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit after it is unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington on July 16, 2019.Andrew Harnik / AP
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By Harriet Baskas

As anniversaries go, the celebration of America's moon landing is definitely out of this world, with special events and museum exhibitions across the country marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission.

The historic spaceflight began at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. Four days later, on July 20, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people ever to walk on the moon.

NASA is keeping a good running list of Apollo 11 anniversary celebrations around the country. In addition to the major events listed below, the parties will include the weeklong ApolloPalooza celebration at Denver’s Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum (July 13-20); a parade and Summer Moon Festival at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio; and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit of moon-inspired images, films and space-flown cameras titled Apollo's Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography (July 3–Sept. 22).

A space party is planned at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum from July 16 to 20.

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A full list of educational and commemorative activities is on the museum’s website. Among the highlights: the July 16 return to display of Armstrong’s spacesuit, which has been off view for the past 13 years, and the July 20 festivities that will keep the museum open until 2 a.m. so that everyone can celebrate at the exact time — 10:56 p.m. — when the astronauts took those first steps on the moon.

At Seattle’s Museum of Flight, it’s officially the Summer of Space, with the museum hosting an enhanced version of the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition, Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission, now through Sept. 2.

The exhibit includes more than 20 of the Smithsonian’s Apollo 11-related artifacts, including the medical kit flown on the Apollo 11 mission, Aldrin’s extravehicular gloves and the NASA Apollo 11 command module, Columbia.

Apollo 11 command module, Columbia.Eric Long / National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Dozens of NASA and Russian spaceflight items from the Museum of Flight’s own superb collection are on display as well. In addition to special programs through the run of the exhibition, a weekend festival is planned for the July 20 anniversary of the moon walk.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville, Florida, will mark the 50th anniversary of the liftoff with a series of real-time “flashback” events that will include original viewing area film footage of the launch, a special Moon Landing event, and a “Splashdown” party in the complex’s Rocket Garden.

At Space Center Houston, the visitor center at the NASA Johnson Space Center, there’s a long list of Apollo 11 50th anniversary-week events and activities, including Apollo-themed pop-up science labs and special tours of the Apollo Mission Control Center, the national historic landmark where NASA kept tabs on the historic mission.

On July 20, the celebrations will include a countdown to Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, as well as late-night tram tours to the Apollo Mission Control Center.

Many hotels in Houston have put together moon landing packages. Hotel Dreck is offering a “Love you to the Moon” couples package that includes a moon-inspired welcome cocktail, moon-themed chocolates, personalized horoscopes, valet parking and breakfast in bed. (Prices start at $189 weekend; $259 midweek.)

For those interested in a space splurge, The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston and the Johnson Space Center are offering a $10,000 two-night package that includes round-trip helicopter transfer to Ellington Field from the hotel’s helipad, a meet-and-greet and lunch with a local astronaut, and a guided tour of the space center that includes a look at significant Apollo artifacts.

A Saturn V rocket on display in Hunstville, Alabama.U.S. Space and Rocket Center

The Saturn V rocket that got the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon was built at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and Rocket City’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center is going all out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. Throughout 2019, the center is hosting the special exhibit, “Apollo: When We Went to the Moon” and during the anniversary week will host a variety of events, culminating in a Moon Landing Concert on July 20.