Over-the-top ways to celebrate Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary

(CNN) — From museum exhibitions to outdoor fairs and themed hotel packages, there are literally hundreds of events happening around the United States this month (and throughout 2019) in honor of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

The world-famous mission — when humans first touched the moon — made astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong instant celebrities.

The men were on a spaceflight that launched on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. They took their momentous first steps on the moon four days later on July 20.

The excitement surrounding Apollo 11 is more than warranted, according to Alex Young, an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“The mission is one of the biggest events in the history of space and gave us a completely new perspective on our place in the universe,” he says. “It also paved the way for future space exploration and opened the door to boundless curiosity and discovery about space.”

Museums in Houston (including the Museum of Natural Science pictured here) and beyond are offering up space-centric exhibitions in honor of the Apollo 11 anniversary.

Museums in Houston (including the Museum of Natural Science pictured here) and beyond are offering up space-centric exhibitions in honor of the Apollo 11 anniversary.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Many of the events for the milestone are in Houston because the Texas city is home to NASA Johnson Space Center, which includes the Mission Control Center that monitored Apollo 11.
But other destinations around the country, along with a handful of high-end travel companies, are also going all out.

We’ve cut through the head-spinning options and brought you the six most unique ways to say “Happy 50th Anniversary” to Apollo 11.

Multiday museum extravaganza

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will feature a special family-friendly inflatable planeterium.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will feature a special family-friendly inflatable planeterium.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is celebrating the milestone with five days of free activities, from July 16 to July 20. Museums galore around the country are also hosting Apollo-themed events within a similar time frame, but this is the only one to showcase Neil Armsrong’s space suit — the actual suit he wore during the mission.

On July 16, the carefully conserved suit will be unveiled to the public for the first time in 13 years.

From July 18 to July 20, the festivities will move outside with the Celebration on the National Mall. The museum’s communications director, Marc Sklar, describes the event as an outdoor fair with educational displays related to space, hands-on activities for children, talks by space experts and performances.

On July 19, Discover the Moon Day will take place inside the museum; visitors can learn about current and past lunar science from the museum’s scientists, who will be giving talks.

The climax will be an evening celebration on July 20 that will stretch until 2 a.m. The museum is keeping details of the party under wraps, but expect an extravagant affair.

Festive hotel packages in Houston

The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston is offering a package that includes a private tour of Johnson Space Center.

The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston is offering a package that includes a private tour of Johnson Space Center.

Courtesy of Space Center Houston

More than a fair share of hotels in “Space City” have packages in July pegged to Apollo 11’s anniversary. The majority are cookie-cutter offerings that bundle accommodations with a standard meal or amenity, but there are a few that stand out either for their over-the-top factor or their creativity.

Among the standouts, The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, a swanky property with several notable restaurants and a 20,000 square-foot spa, has partnered with NASA Johnson Space Center to bring guests on a mystical journey.

The extravagant two-night package is priced at $10,000 for two people and includes suite accommodations, $300 toward food and drinks at the hotel and a spa treatment.

But that’s just the beginning. The adventure includes a round-trip private helicopter transfer to Ellington Field from the hotel’s helipad, where a local astronaut will greet you when you land and drive you to the Space Center for a private tour.

Your astronaut guide will show you significant Apollo artifacts, take you into Mission Control and Rocket Park, with its restored Saturn V rocket, and offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. The half-day visit will end with lunch at the Space Center with the astronaut.

A local astronaut will take guests who've purchased The Post Oak Hotel's package on a guided Space Center tour.

A local astronaut will take guests who’ve purchased The Post Oak Hotel’s package on a guided Space Center tour.

Courtesy of Space Center Houston

The JW Marriott Houston Downtown, conveniently located next to the city-wide train system, METRORail, is offering the “Fly Me to the Moon” package from July 20 to the 21.

The price for the one-night stay starts at $374 and includes accommodations, turn-down service with moon rock truffles (handmade chocolates with Pop Rocks candy) and black hole donuts.

The package also includes special access to The Discovery Dome, an inflatable planetarium at the hotel provided by the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Guests who book the package also get entry into the 1960s-themed dinner on July 20 in the property’s Carter Room, which will be decked out with space gear.

The buffet style meal will include Tang (a favorite beverage in space), deviled eggs, onion rings, Salisbury steak, meatloaf, pork chops with apple sauce, gelatin pudding and fudge cake. Tickets for the dinner can be purchased separately for $52 per person.

Hotel Alessandra, a contemporary luxury hotel in downtown Houston, is offering an “Over the Moon” package every weekend this month.

For a starting price of $464 a night, guests receive accommodations and a welcome amenity of freeze-dried ice cream and a NASA Archives coffee table book plus a $50 food and beverage credit to use at the hotel.

A retro-inspired dessert, the Eclipse, and cocktail, the Rocket, are also part of the deal (the details of each are still in the works).

Ultimate insider experience

Confirmed360, a luxury Los Angeles-based concierge company that specializes in getting access to sites and experiences closed to the public, has created the “Inside Space” tour in honor of the anniversary. The tour is available to book anytime in 2019.

The exclusive experience involves Space X, an aerospace manufacturer in Hawthorne, California, that is not open to the public. It was founded by Elon Musk, of Tesla fame.

On this one-day experience, an engineer from the company gives guests a look at the facility including the areas where rockets, engines and spacecraft are constructed and the operations room for upcoming launches. Following the walk-through, guests have lunch at Space X’s restaurant with an astronaut.

The starting price is $30,000 for two people to partake in this exclusive tour.

Serious space geeks only

The high-end New York City travel company Embark Beyond is offering a behind-the-scenes experience at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Pegged to the anniversary, the experience is actually available all year.

Participants are in for a real treat, starting with boarding a Zero G aircraft designed to recreate the true sensation of total weightlessness, as if flying in space. In other words, you’ll go up in the very aircraft that NASA and other space agencies use to train astronauts to live and work in space.

Your day at the Space Center begins with a detailed briefing from your flight crew who will present you with a zero gravity flight suit (it’s yours to keep as a memento).

Then, you’ll be driven onto the tarmac from the private hanger and escorted onto the plane. Once in the air, the aircraft will perform 15 parabolic maneuvers creating 15 to 30 seconds of weightlessness each.

Landing back on Earth, you’ll be given a certificate of your achievement, along with photos and videos of you floating in the air.

Embark can also arrange for hotel accommodations in Orlando, along with transfers to and from Cape Canaveral. The experience will cost you though — approximately $10,000 per person.

This article originally appeared here