Known as the Rocket City, Huntsville, Alabama has a long history with science and technology. Home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the city rose to fame in the 1960s when engineers and scientists from around the world came here to be a part of the program. But the area actually dates back to over 100 years prior, when it served as a Civil War train depot. Some of the homes that existed during this time are still standing today, especially in the Twickenham neighborhood. Today, the city is still known for STEM fields, but now have more startups than astronauts. And thanks to the influx of workers during the 1960s, Huntsville is a surprising destination for international cuisine. Craft breweries have also popped up all around town in the last few years. There’s always something going on in Huntsville and Madison county, so plan your visit accordingly.
What to Do
U.S. Space & Rocket Center– The most legendary attraction in town includes the Marshall Space Center and is the home to Space Camp. Prepare to spend at least three hours here at interactive exhibits on the process of sending someone to space. 1 Tranquility Base
Monte Sano Mountain–Spanish for “mountain of health,” this state park is the best place around to connect with nature. It sits on over 2,000 acres and has hiking trails, a museum, a disc golf course, and accommodations. 5105 Nolen Avenue
Huntsville Museum of Art – The humble art museum features surprising exhibits on American art as well as a permanent collection of American and regional pieces as well as sculptures. 300 Church Street South
Huntsville Botanical Garden Society– This year-round garden is a favorite of locals for its unique species of wildflowers and plants. The garden has themed sections including the Children’s Garden and Nature Center with its adjoining butterfly house. 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue
Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment– Set in a former mill, this complex now has shops, restaurants, offices, and artist studios. On weekends, they host live music and food trucks as well as seasonal festivals and events. 2211 Seminole Drive
Earlyworks Museum– The interactive museum is a favorite of families, encouraging moving around and touching the exhibits. Favorite galleries include the Talking Tree, the Kidstruction Zone, and the Keelboat. Even pre-schoolers have their own play area. 404 Madison Street
Alabama Constitution Village– Step back in time at the living history museum devoted to the location where the state’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document. Dress up in costumes and see what life would have been like during the time. 109 Gates Avenue
Huntsville Depot Museum– Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this former train depot dates back to 1860. It was operational until 1968 and is now a museum devoted to transportation in the region. 320 Church Street
Where to Eat
Blue Plate Cafe– Grab a seat at the counter of this greasy spoon for Southern favorites and family recipes. Breakfast is available from 6 am and specials change daily based on what’s in season. 3210 Governors Drive, (256) 533-8808
Bandito Burrito Co– For a quick bite or after-work margarita, try this Mexican dive. The ingredients in their burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. They also carry a modest selection of locally brewed beers. 3017 Governors Drive Southwest, (256) 534-0866
Cotton Row– Soft lighting and brick walls make this an intimate restaurant set in an 1800s cotton warehouse. The menu focuses on seasonality and uses the best products from local farmers and foragers. 100 South Side Square, (256) 382-9500
Commerce Kitchen– Another restaurant ideal for an evening out, grab a drink at the quieter bar before your table is ready. Menu options include fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and pan fried gulf fish. 300 Franklin Street, (256) 382-6622
Viet Huong– Don’t let the strip mall location fool you. There’s frequently a wait at the cozy and authentic Vietnamese restaurant, but they turn tables quickly. Pho, bun cha, and clay pot chicken are all on offer. 930 Old Monrovia Road NW, Suite 1, (256) 890-0104
Beignet Cafe– You don’t have to go to New Orleans to experience its flavors. Brunch favorites are beignets, French toast, and egg bakes, while lunch offers po boys and other sandwiches. 2246 Winchester Road NE, (256) 929-4402
1892 East Restaurant & Tavern– This neighborhood favorite is located in the Five Points neighborhood and carries Huntsville’s best craft beers. The menu features sustainable ingredients in dishes like burgers, trout, and even vegetarian dishes. 720 Pratt Avenue, (256) 489-1242
Happy Tummy– Located within Lowe Mill, head here when you need something a little lighter. The vegetarian-friendly menu includes unique sandwiches and wraps. Lowe Mill First Floor, 2211 Seminole Drive, (256) 348-8132
Honest Coffee Roaster- Huntsville– Brand new to Huntsville, this hip coffee shop serves breakfast and lunch as well as coffee. It’s perfect for a quick bite and is the second location for the Tennessee-based company. 116-198 Clinton Avenue E, (615) 308-1470
Where to Stay
In the greater Huntsville area, you can find just about every chain hotel. Some are closer to downtown while others are near the Research Park, where business travelers tend to congregate. Embassy Suites and The Westin Huntsville are among the top tier options. I stayed at Residence Inn, which was surrounded by dining and shopping options and was a short drive from the city. It also had free breakfast and a full kitchen. Dogwood Manor Bed & Breakfast is a historic home with claw foot tubs and cozy interiors. Camping is another option in the Huntsville area, with sites at Monte Sano State Park and even at the Space and Rocket Center. Both have facilities for RVs and tents as well as bathhouses. If you’re staying longer or with a bigger group, you’ll find plenty of AirBnB properties.
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Huntsville-Madison County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Residence Inn Huntsville assisted in the research for this guide.