My travels take me to some incredible places, but I’m typically prepared for them. On a recent visit to Huntsville, I didn’t do any research as I wanted to be pleasantly surprised. Wowed, dazzled, and in awe are more of the feelings I ran through as I explored one of Alabama’s greatest treasures. Here are the 9 best things to do in Huntsville, Alabama, that I enjoyed on my trip. I hope you will enjoy them, too.
1. Incredible Gardens
The Huntsville Botanical Garden is one of the best in the South, and I’m still telling everyone I meet about how well done it is. The adventure starts in a lovely Southern mansion-like setting and then you hit the trails as you head outside. There are several gardens to explore over the 112 acres, many on almost hidden paths, as well as waterfalls and ponds.
I loved the vegetable and Biblical gardens best, my first time seeing a biblical-themed garden and some of the plants in it. The Japanese reflecting pool in the Damson aquatic garden is pretty sensational, too, and a great place to enjoy a good book or meditate.
Two other special points of interest are the children’s garden area, with fun dinosaur bones and a water attraction, and the butterfly house.
2. The Rocket Center
The Smithsonian affiliate U.S. Space & Rocket Center is fantastic, and that coming from someone who visits Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a regular basis. Exhibits range from a mock up space station and Moon Shot thrill ride, to Space Camp and the amazing horizontal Saturn V rocket. There are space program artifacts and hands-on areas, as well.
The rocket center is pretty big, so be prepared to walk a bit. My daughter, Taylor, and I even took a spin on the G-Force simulator, which is included in your admission ticket.
Don’t forget to take home your space ice cream sandwich as you leave. Yum!
Fun Fact: Did you know that the International Space Station modules were built in Huntsville? It is also a National Historic Landmark.
3. A World-Class Art Makers Center
You’ll find a two story building chock full of craft studios (around 200) and shopkeepers at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment .It is the nation’s largest privately owned art studio, and that doesn’t even begin to sum up the arsenal of attractions at this venue. The murals on the building and throughout the hallways are impressive, too.
There are food and drink vendors throughout Lowe Mill, but none quite so amazing as Pizzelle’s Confections with the most gorgeous and tasty chocolates I’ve had in ages. Not sure which ones to try? I swear by the Afternoon Delight, Goodbye Earl, and Steel Magnolia. Vertical House Records was another favorite.
Lowe Mill is also a live music hotspot, with many bands performing around the decorative water tower, and a place to take classes to brush up on your hobbies. This is one fun Huntsville attraction.
4. Amazing Food
Not only will you find your favorite Southern dishes in Huntsville, but a large variety of ethnic dishes, diner foods, and just plain exotic. For breakfast, Blue Plate Cafe has everything you could want and for a decent price and quality food. At lunch, swing by Po Boy Factory for a NOLA favorite or grab a hot dog or hamburger at rock bottom prices from the iconic Big Spring Cafe.
Pop into Phil Sandoval’s for a picture-perfect Mexican meal or get an Italian fix from Pane e Vino at the Huntsville Museum of Art.
To read more about where to eat in Huntsville, check out this post.
5. A Revitalized School and Gymnasium
Straight to Ale Taproom is one of the cool businesses you’ll find at the repurposed Campus No. 805, formerly a junior high school and gymnasium. This is one of the best examples of a refurbished space I’ve seen in the country and it helped unleash Huntsville’s hip, urban scene.
The Campus No. 805 has about 20 vendors, from restaurants (Rock N Roll Sushi, Hops N Guac, and Earth and Stone) to a really fun speakeasy and axe throwing.
6. Historic Neighborhoods
Alabama Constitution Village is a place to commemorate the 1819 Constitutional Convention in which Alabama was admitted to the Union. The well-kept village has circa 1800s reconstructed buildings (eight of them) including a cabinet maker, post office, and print shop so that visitors can explore life in those days. Also in the village are Piper & Leaf, a fantastic tea and coffee shop.
Twickenham is another. This is where you’ll find a huge collection of gorgeous Antebellum homes (pre-Civil War), all pretty close together, and some of which you can tour. I visited the Weeden House Museum and Garden and highly recommend a guided tour so you can learn the special relationship between Howard Weeden (a famous poet and artist) and the slaves she painted and cared for, and then wrote poems about. Her story is a fascinating one and her artwork is intricate and beautiful.
The Weeden House was built in 1819 and is the oldest house open to the public in Alabama.
7. Take in Incredible Art
The Huntsville Museum of Art is one of the great offerings in downtown. See famous works including paintings, pottery, glassware, and sculptures, to mention a few, as you wander through the seven galleries. The museum features 19th and 20th century American art, has instructor-led art classes, and an attached restaurant (Pane E Vino) with indoor and outdoor seating. The pizza and pasta dishes are delicious.
8. Explore a Fantastic Park
In the heart of town is also Big Spring International Park. This gorgeous hidden park with 12.5 acres of space is against a limestone spring and features a fantastic waterfall right in downtown Huntsville. A darling red friendship bridge and cherry trees, which were gifts from the Japanese, are only a few of the excellent photo-ops you’ll see here.
I loved the nesting geese and ducks that sat around the stream, as well as the big, fat koi that I watched swimming along the stream day after day.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the popular “Welcome to Huntsville” mural while you are in the park.
9. Living History and Amazing Views in Huntsville
Burritt on the Mountain is a spectacular venue on Round Top Mountain in Huntsville that provides an overlook of the whole city. Also on the property are the historic home of William Henry Burritt, a homeopathic doctor, authentic log cabins, and barn. Guided tours are available for the 1930s home. The barn wouldn’t’ be complete without the adorable goats and chickens that live there. Costumed interpreters tell of life on the mountain and I’m pretty sure that I saw Holly Hobbie on my visit.
Thanks to Huntsville/Madison County CVB for hosting our visit. As with all of my work, reviews and opinions are 100% mine and unbiased.
Need a Place to Stay in Huntsville?
We’ve got you covered. Taylor and I stayed in a beautiful AC Hotel by Marriott Huntsville Downtown. Not only is this hotel in the best part of town to explore everything on foot, but it also has spacious, modern rooms with comfortable furnishings, floor to ceiling windows, a roof-top bar and restaurant, and a gorgeous lobby. AC Hotel is across the street from the Big Spring Park and The Von Braun Center.
Huntsville Trivia That May Surprise You
The city of Huntsville has one of the largest numbers of engineers and scientists in the country. Top employers include Redstone Arsenal, Boeing, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
We cannot wait to go back and explore much more of this beautiful and sophisticated Southern city.
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