12 Reasons to Visit Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville, Ala., is one of those destinations that has something for everyone. Whether you’re young, old or somewhere in the middle; traveling with kids, as a couple or by yourself; enjoy the arts, like the outdoors or love history, there is definitely something (or some things) that’ll appeal to everyone’s interest.
Here are 12 reasons (and there are plenty of more) to visit Huntsville:
1. Home to 1,500 space artifacts from the spaceflight program, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Space and Rocket Center holds the distinction of being one of the most comprehensive U.S. manned space flight museums in the world. It is also home to Space Camp, Aviation Challenge Camp and Robotics Camp as well.
As the state’s most popular attraction, plan on spending some time here. You don’t want to miss viewing artifacts like the Skylab Training Module, Pathfinder Shuttle Shack and more, like the grave for “Miss Baker,” the squirrel monkey-naut. Check out the collection of rockets in Rocket Park or challenge yourself on simulators like Space Spot or G Force Accelerator. Over in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration is the Saturn V Moon Rocket, one of three in the world, suspended from the ceiling. You’ll realize how small you are as you walk under it. Be sure to take you time looking at the different exhibits covering space exploration.
2. At Huntsville Botanical Gardens, it is very easy to lose track of time as you leisurely explore its 112-acres. Enjoy the scenic Four Seasons Gardens or find inspiration at the Herb Garden or Vegetable Garden. No matter where you go in the garden, there is always something to see. Don’t skip over the Nature Center, where you’ll find Purdy Butterfly House, the country’s largest open-air butterfly house.
3. No doubt about it, history is a big part of Huntsville. Downtown is home to three historic districts: Twickenham, Old Town and Five Points, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Twickenham has one of the largest concentrations of antebellum homes in the South with over 65 structures. It is here that you’ll find Alabama Constitution Village. The living history village highlights the years of 1805-1819, and the Alabama’s entry into the Union as the 22nd state during the 1819 Constitutional Convention.
Also located within Twickenham District is Howard Weeden House Museum and Garden. Among the many other points of interest in this district include the I. Schiffman Building (birthplace of actress Tallulah Bankhead), and the Harrison Brothers Hardware Store.
For those who enjoy exploring historic cemeteries, Maple Hill Cemetery, located in the Five Points Historic District, is both the largest and most historic cemetery in Huntsville. It is the final resting place for five former governors as well as soldiers from the War of 1812 and Revolutionary War.
And that’s just a start when it comes to Huntsville’s history. There are plenty of more attractions (like North Alabama Railroad Museum and Veterans Memorial Museum), and places (like Historic Huntsville Depot and Alabama State Black Archives Research Center and Museum) to keep every level of history lover busy.
4. Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is somewhere that needs to be explored in person, not just read about. The former textile mill is the site of over 120 working artists, small businesses, eateries and more, making it the country’s largest independent center for the arts. Meet and chat with artists and shops owners as you browse (and possibly purchase) their wares. Enjoy such local goodies as artisan chocolates from Pizzelle’s Confections, gourmet popsicles from Suzy’s Pops, or handcrafted teas from Piper and Leaf.
5. The culinary scene in Huntsville is diverse, much like the city itself. For instance, you can start the morning with very berry pancakes at Blue Plate Cafe or veggie sandwich (or a treat from the bakery) at Main Street Cafe & Bakery for breakfast. Indulge for lunch or dinner from either Commerce Kitchen’s or Cotton Row Restaurant’s seasonal menus. Stop in at a Cup of Everything for some coffee, and peruse the upstairs art gallery and check out the Drum Room.
And don’t forget about the food trucks, either. Whatever you are hungry for, you’ll be able to find it in Huntsville.
If you happen to be in Huntsville on a Thursday, head downtown to visit Greene Street Market at Nativity. Never know what you’ll discover and purchase to try later. If your travels don’t include a Thursday, you can always stop by the Greene Street Market Store.
7. Take a stroll through Huntsville Museum of Art to view their permanent collection as well as traveling exhibits. For a more in-depth experience, consider taking a docent-led tour available on Saturdays.
8. Burritt on the Mountain offers some of the best views of the city. On a clear day, it is possible to see Rocket City at U.S. Space and Rocket Center in the distance. Perched atop Red Top Mountain, “X-“ shaped mansion was the home of Dr. William H. Burritt. A character of sorts, he, despite three marriages, never produced any heirs. Therefore, he deeded the house and property to Huntsville, making it the city’s first museum. You can tour the home as well as view his restored 1949 DeSoto on display in the garage below. Also on the 167-acre site is a historic park that features historic log structures depicting 19th-century farm life. At scheduled times, you can watch and chat with interpreters demonstrating specific skills related to the period.
9. Earlyworks Children’s Museum and Sci-Quest, respectively, not only entertain and educate but also bring broad smiles to both parents and kids. Both places have hands-on activities and interactive exhibits to keep everyone engaged.
11. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, start in downtown. Take a break and go on a leisurely walk through Big Spring International Park. Another option from downtown is Ditto’s Landing, which offers views of the Tennessee River and a walking/jogging path. Here marks the midpoint of the river. If you are in the mood for something a little more active, visit Monte Sano State Park and hike one of its trails.
12. Play on the Robert Trent Jones Trail at the 54-hole Hampton Cove. If you want to work your way up to that course, there are other courses where you can hone up on your game.
Monte Sano State Park
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