How to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Pay homage to the historic voyage at these events and exhibits in the continental United States

Neil Armstrong made "one giant leap for mankind" when he became the first man—shortly followed by Buzz Aldrin—to set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969. There are many ways to commemorate this patriotic event—from viewing historic photos to rubbing elbows with former crew, even attending a futuristic fashion exhibit. Let us introduce you to the best.  

The Splashiest Events

The Kennedy Space Center does it up in style with a month-long series of events in July: everything from giveaways to NASA broadcasts to the unveiling of two new Forever postage stamps to commemorate the first Moon landing. Enjoy a special Splashdown celebration on the day Apollo 11 safely splashed back to Earth (July 24), with family-friendly activities, a DJ in the Rocket Garden and footage of the spacecraft's splashdown, recovery, quarantine and ticker-tape parade.

Luke Jerram's "Moon"

Houston, we have a celebration! Artist Luke Jerram's "Moon" sculpture at the Houston Museum of Natural Science applies projection mapping to detailed 120-dpi NASA imagery of the Moon's surface. Your interactive experience continues with the virtual reality delights of "Destination: Moon." It'll help gear you up for the nine-day extravaganza at the Space Center Houston, jam-packed with NASA tram tours, pop-up science labs, mission briefings and lunches with Apollo flight controllers, and an outdoor festival and concert.

A space festival like no other, Apollopalooza is eight dazzling days of presentations, films and interaction with astronauts and flight crews at Denver's Wings Over the Rockies museum. Highlights include breakfast with Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz (July 16) and the Apollopalooza Viewing Party (July 20), a 1969-themed evening with a buffet, go-go dancers and a to-the-minute viewing of the Moon landing (8:56 pm MST). Costumes are encouraged, and there's a chance to win a Celestron Nextstar Evolution 8 telescope (must be present at the party to win). 

East Coast Celebrations

An impressive number of events honor the momentous event in New York City. Hayden Planetarium's SpaceFest is part of its 150th anniversary celebration and includes programs for kids and adults, such as models of the mission's flight and landing, GeoDome demonstrations, space stories read by librarians from the New York Public and Bronx libraries and more.

Mark the anniversary by visiting the Intrepid Museum's newest installation, "Apollo 11: Media, the Moon and Beyond," where you can watch archival footage on vintage televisions. July 19 and 20 see outdoor film screenings, pop-up installations, planetarium shows and a night of comedy, history and science with the Upright Citizens Brigade (July 20).

Pierre Cardin vinyl eyewear, 1970.

The galatic tribute continues at the Brooklyn Museum with "Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion," launching July 20 (through Jan. 5, 2020). The retrospective includes more than 170 objects—haute couture and ready-to-wear fashions, accessories, photos and film—from the 1950s to present day that best reflect the designer's Space Age aesthetic. 

Additional NYC events include "Apollo's Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography" at The Met (July 3-Sept. 22) and a multimedia presentation and concert at Carnegie Hall (July 20) with a 30-piece orchestra, Broadway singers and space-themed songs from David Bowie, John Fogerty and Elton John. For a more in-depth look at NYC events, click here.

Washington D.C.'s National Gallery of Art presents "By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs," 50 works from the 19th century through the Space Age that focus on the Moon's ethereal beauty (July 14-Jan. 5, 2020). Visitors can also partake in the Moon and Celestial Bodies film series (July 20-21); movies include "A Trip to the Moon," "The Man Who Fell to Earth" and "The Right Stuff."

Neil Armstrong's spacesuit

Neil Armstrong's spacesuit will go on display for the first time in 13 years on July 16 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It's the launch for an Apollo-related week full of festivities; its premier event, the Apollo 11 Festival, takes place on the National Mall. In addition, July 20's late-night "The Eagle Has Landed" celebration includes scavenger hunts, trivia, astronaut costume designing and a "lunar traverse" walk that traces the steps the astronauts took from the lunar module across the Moon's surface.

Orlando's Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has created some out-of-this world offerings to celebrate Apollo 11. The festivities take place from July 12-14 and include an astronaut golf tournament, a Families of Apollo brunch and panel discussion and a grand reopening of the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Moon Over the Midwest

Chicago's Adler Planetarium kicks off its Apollo 11 anniversary celebrations on July 18 with Moonshot, an after (museum) hours party where guests can party like it's 1969—don your best '60s attire and learn about the mission with a '60s-inspired cocktail in hand. The weekend continues with a Moon Bash on July 19-20, with special hands-on programs, talks and lectures and one-day-only theater shows. For the athletically inclined, Fly Me to the Moon yoga takes place beneath mesmerizing images in the Grainger Sky Theater. 

Bell Museum in the Twin Cities

In addition to its space camps for kids, the St. Paul, Minnesota, Bell Museum July coverage includes a lunar sample disk on view (July 16-28), paper and textile crafts, movies, author talks and telescope observation. On anniversary day, watch historical landing and news footage, make a mini space diorama and participate in a cosmic 5K race.   

Under the Western Skies

There are a multitude of events during "Moon Month" at Oakland, California's Chabot Space & Science Center. "Luminous Moon" (through Sept. 8) is an exhibition of high-res lunar images captured by NASA astronauts, satellites and Chabot's own telescopes. The Adult Full Moon Night Hike and Sip (21+) takes place on July 19, followed by an anniversary party and celebration on July 20. 

Chabot Science Center in Oakland

Count down to the 50th anniversary in Phoenix by screening the Arizona Science Center's newest giant screen film, "Apollo 11: The First Steps," in which you can experience the final moments of preparation, liftoff, Moon landing and return through never-before-seen 70mm footage and newly discovered audio recordings. The program of events continues with a launch of the center's festivities with astronaut Mark Kelly on July 6, a commemoration of Rocket Launch Day on July 16, Observe the Moon night (also on July 16) and multiple parties on July 19 and 20.   

Los Angeles celebrates Apollo 11 with the aforementioned namesake film at the Griffith Observatory during a Golden Moon Star party on July 13 and a rooftop Moon party on July 19. The weeklong slate of events also includes the Stations of Apollo on the observatory's lawn, guest panels, a look toward the future of aeronautics and a tribute to the Southern California aerospace industry. 

Music lovers will want to visit Seattle's Museum of Flight for the Lunar Block Party (July 19-21). Join the Britishmania Beatles Tribute Band for a '60s-themed party on July 19, "American Idol's" 2019 finalists, including winner Laine Hardy, on July 20, then chill with space experts for a brunch meet-and-greet on July 21.

Jennifer McKee
About the author

Jennifer is the Managing Editor of Morris Visitor Publications, where she has worked since 2005. She grew up in small...