Launching our vacation in Huntsville, Alabama, also known as the Rocket City, was a blast! Located in northern Alabama at the foothills of the Appalachians, Huntsville is the state’s largest city and one of the fastest-growing in the southeast. With this growth, you’ll see cultural diversity in the food scene represented in the area. While I visited, I enjoyed everything from southern comfort food to sushi.
You’ll find this same variety in the best things to do in Huntsville AL! The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has a history even before America’s first satellite was launched from Huntsville in 1958. Today, you’ll learn more about what’s happening in NASA’s space launch system and the Artemis program.
If you’re more interested in history and art, Huntsville has that too. You can visit the Big Spring that drew settlers to Huntsville in the first place. Alabama’s Constitution Hall Park had a role in history through the 19th century. Today art and outdoor activities abound in Huntsville.
While this article isn’t a history tour per se, I’ve arranged the attractions in chronological order, starting with Huntsville’s beginnings and finishing with the modern U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Visiting other destinations in Alabama? Check out our other delicious guides:
- Must-Try Alabama Food | 10 Best Alabama Dishes
- 9 Must-Try Decatur Alabama Restaurants | The Best Restaurants In Decatur, AL
- 8 Must-Try Florence AL Restaurants | Best Places to Eat In Florence, Alabama
The 7 Best Things To Do In Huntsville AL
200 Church St // +1 256 883 3754
Start your tour of Huntsville in Big Spring International Park, where it all began more than 200 years ago. By the early 1800s, John Hunt, Huntsville’s namesake, built his cabin near where the underground spring provided a water source during the 18th century. Check out the bluff behind the historic First National Bank building to see the Big Spring as it is today.
When I was scouting things to do in the downtown area, multiple people mentioned this park as a must-visit venue. You’ll find a lot to take in here with running paths, footbridges, and koi ponds. When the cherry trees burst with pink blossoms, spring is an ideal time to visit. Japan gifted the cherry trees to Huntsville and a Red Bridge for foot traffic. Other interesting international gifts include Norway’s Fog Bell and Britain’s park bench.
Pro Tip: The park hosts concerts and events like the Panoply Arts Festival.
109 Gates Ave SE // +1 256 564 8100
As you enter Alabama Constitution Village, a time machine transports you. Huntsville, the first capital of Alabama, is where the state’s forefathers wrote the Alabama constitution here in 1819.
The 90-minute guided tour includes the cabinet shop where delegates signed Alabama’s Constitution. While you’re in the cabinet shop, see the woodworking demonstration and try giving the wheel lathe a turn.
In the Boardman Complex, take a look at the Ramage printing press, where Mr. Boardman printed the Alabama Constitution. Then, you can participate in the hands-on demonstration using the authentic Ramage printing press.
Discover how they made clothes using the spinning wheel at the Neal House, where you can learn more about the lives of the Neal family and how they lived in 1819.
Pro Tip: At the front desk, buy the combo ticket with the Huntsville Historic Depot for savings.
300 Gates Avenue // +1 256 536 7718
Located in the Twickenham Historic District, the Weeden House Museum, built in 1819, is the oldest building in Alabama open to the public. Alabama’s largest antebellum district, Twickenham, is on the National Register of Historic Places, with 360 buildings designated as historically significant. If you love architecture, you won’t want to miss this area in Huntsville.
Dr. William Weeden purchased the house in 1845, and the family and their descendants continued to live there until 1956. Weeden’s daughter, Maria Howard Weeden, a painter and poet, published her poetry using her middle name Howard. She published four books of poetry before her death at age 58 and was an internationally recognized artist.
The Weeden House Museum is an example of Federal-style American architecture from the Scottish architect Robert Adam. It features six rooms, including two parlors, a dining room, and three upstairs bedrooms.
Pro Tip: Call ahead to schedule a tour, where the entrance fees are payable with cash only.
404 Madison St SE // +1 256 564 8100
If you have some kids in your group between the ages of two and nine, the Earlyworks Children’s Museum needs to be on your must-do list. They’ll love the museum’s interactive, hands-on approach to history. Nothing is off-limits, as they can climb, touch, pull, and check things out.
The littlest ones will find the Talking Tree enchanting, where they’ll hear a variety of folk tales about Native American Culture and the history of Alabama. The preschoolers will love Biscuit’s Backyard, where they can develop their fine motor skills using blocks and the water table. What kids don’t love water play?
The school-age kids will have a ball in the 46-foot keelboat, where they can sail down the river and experience 19th-century river travel. These are some of the experiences the youngest family members will enjoy at this attraction.
Pro Tip: Even if the kiddos are into the pre-teen double digits, they’ll have a good time with their little siblings here, but if they’re with adults, Constitution Hall Park and the Huntsville Historic Depot are safer bets.
109 Gates Ave SE // +1 256 564 8100
The 112-acre garden is open year-round and features a variety of ecosystems. The specialty here is Alabama’s native plants. You can stroll along the woodland paths and discover flowers in various gardens and aquatic habitats. The Damson Aquatic Garden is a 100-foot pool with an Aquatic Pavilion showcasing a variety of wildlife, water lilies, and lotus.
The children’s garden combines eight gardens in one. Then, of course, the park will draw them to its many water features, especially on hot days when they’ll want to get in the wading pool. Next, they can learn about prisms, spaces and create a maze.
In addition to the children’s garden, the kids will love the largest seasonal open-air butterfly house in the United States. Everyone will enjoy the miniature landscape of the G-scale Garden Railway. You’ll see a farm, a village, a waterfall complete with a pond and a tunnel and train trestle.
Pro Tip: To avoid the busy times at the ticket counter, arrive after 11:00 a.m.
300 Church Street S // +1 256 535 4350
The Huntsville Museum of Art focuses mainly on 19th and 20th-century American art, highlighting the southeast. The permanent collection features over 3,200 pieces. A secondary focus is on European, Asian, and African art that has influenced American art. You’ll find 20th-century artists like Andy Warhol and James McNeil Whistler in the collection.
The museum also shares a collection of American artists with ties to Alabama, including the works of Stephen Rolfe Powell, William Christenberry, and David Parrish. They also have a permanent exhibit called American Glass Studio that features works by Dale Chihuly and Cam Langley.
Pro Tip: They close the museum on Mondays.
2620 Clinton Ave // +1 256 519 6212
Once a site for various educational institutions from 1951 to 2009, it ended as Stone Middle School in 2009 when the Huntsville City School system closed it. Today, the campus is bustling again as a brewery and entertainment hot spot.
Campus No. 805 offers plenty of breweries and dining options. Some of my favorites are the Straight to Ale Brewing featuring Ales Kitchen. The burgers here are outstanding. If you want Mexican food, give Hops N Guac a try. They offer counter-style ordering, self-service beer, and fun games like snook ball.
Also, click here to discover my complete guide to the best restaurants in Huntsville.
For entertainment, you can learn ballroom dance at Huntsville Ballroom, play a round of virtual golf at X-Golf in a sports bar setting, take out your aggression at Civil Axe Throwing, or play some pinball arcade games at Pints and Pixels or Ronnie Raygun’s. No matter your choice, you’re sure to have a great time.
Pro Tip: You’ll find plenty of free parking on campus.
One Tranquility Base // +1 800 637 7223
Huntsville’s nickname, Rocket City, is hard-earned as here is where scientists developed rockets that put men on the moon. At the U.S Space & Rocket Center, you’ll find all things related to landing men on the moon.
In addition to moon rocks, you can see one of the three remaining Saturn V Moon Rockets, a full-scale mock-up of the space shuttle stacked for launch, a flown Apollo capsule, and a new walk-through exhibitof the International Space Station.
Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team made landing on the moon a reality, and you’ll learn more about what NASA plans to do in traveling to Mars. Also, learn about the Space Launch System(SLS), the globe’s most powerful rocket.
Pro Tip: Be sure to take a live guided tour of their planetarium.
This list of things to do in Huntsville, AL, scratches the surface of all the fun you’ll find in Huntsville. No matter your interest area, history buff, art aficionado, science geek, or beer lover, you’re sure to have a blast while you’re in Rocket City.
What will you do first in Huntsville? Tell us in the comments below!
Amy Piper is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and blogger. A native of Michigan USA, she has traveled to 41 countries and 42 states, most recently adding New Mexico to the list. She aspires to go to Antarctica and finally visit all seven continents. She specializes in food and multi-generational travel, frequently traveling with her husband, daughter, and two granddaughters. Amy has had six-month-long expat assignments in South Korea and Argentina. She has been chased by bomb-sniffing dogs in the middle of the night in Bogotá (working late), refused boarding for a plane from Buenos Aires to Paraguay (wrong visa), and Federal Marshals once announced her seat number on a flight while looking for a murder suspect (traded seats.) It is always an adventure! She is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), Travel Massive, TravMedia, and the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA). Follow her on Twitter @amythepiper