EXCURSIONS Hotel Guestbook 10th Anniversary Edition – Check it out before it’s gone!

Our 10th Anniversary edition hit hotel rooms in Madison and Morgan Counties in December of 2021 and it’s been one of our most popular publications to date!

EXCURSIONS is chocked full of local information, places to visit, restaurants, night spots, local attractions, and shopping venues. This is the first in-depth and detailed introduction hotel guests get when they check into their rooms. Placed annually and maintained in more than 5,700 local hotel rooms. EXCURSIONS is a trusted and proven resource for Huntsville, Madison and Decatur travelers.

Enjoy the read and get out and explore Huntsville, Madison and Decatur, Alabama!

Best Places to Hear Live Music in Huntsville


Huntsville has become a music mecca over the past few years! With the Von Braun Center, Mars Music Hall, The Orion Amphitheatre, Stovehouse, and many other cool venues in the Rocket City, you can take in live music just about any day of the week. Check out these favorite places to catch live music.

Von Braun Center

The Von Braun Center in downtown Huntsville is the host to a wide variety of musical acts, comedians, and other live entertainment. You can see some big names at the VBC! The VBC also has the Mark C. Smith Hall and Mars Music Hall that are smaller venues that make for a more intimate setting for artists and fans. The VBC also opened a new restaurant – Rhythm on Monroe – that features a roof-top bar that looks out onto downtown Huntsville.

Mars Music Hall

Mars Music Hall at the Von Braun Center opened in 2018 and has changed the landscape of music in downtown Huntsville. With the open-floor plan and balcony at Mars Music Hall, you get great acoustics and a more intimate concert and performance setting.


Stovehouse is in a 100 year-old factory that has been transformed into a village of eclectic restaurants, gourmet cocktail & coffee bars, event & entertainment spaces, boutique shopping, offices, and more. You can hear live music all through the week at this eclectic new venue located on Governors Drive.

Photo courtesy of Stovehouse.

Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment

Concerts on the Dock at Lowe Mill are great places to hear local bands! You’ll hear an eclectic mix of music that includes: rock ‘n roll, folk/Americana, jazz, funk/r&b, and quirky cabaret pop. Check out their Fall Concert Series! Concerts are free, but there is a $5 parking fee.

The Orion Amphitheater

The Orion Amphitheater is a state-of-the-art, open air venue that opened in May 2022. Seating 8,000, this Greek-inspired amphitheater provides a more intimate performance than a larger, closed-in arena. So far, The Orion has hosted the likes of Dave Matthews Band, The Black Crowes, Chris Stapleton, and has many more world-famous acts on tap!

Downtown Huntsville

Whether you’re looking to grab a drink and chill to some tunes or dance into the night, you can find just the right spot in Downtown Huntsville. Live bands are a mainstay at many bars and clubs, including The Martin Bar & Bistro, Jefferson St. Pub, and Sidetracks where you can also grab a bite to eat. Or, you can rock out at such local favorites as Stella’s Elixir Lounge, Sammy T’s Music Hall and Whiskey Bottom Saloon.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center


Since opening its doors in 1970, nearly 16 million people have toured the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The vast majority of those visitors have been from out of state or from foreign nations. Many of the more than 550,000 annual visitors are school students on field trips to their future. Dozens of interactive exhibits encourage visitor participation, prompting one official to note: “Here, everyone can be an astronaut for the day!”

Home to Space Camp® and Aviation Challenge® Camp, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) is the most comprehensive U.S. manned spaceflight hardware museum in the world. Its large rocket and space hardware collection is valued in the tens of millions of dollars. From America’s first satellite, Explorer I, to next generation space vehicles like Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, the museum showcases the past, present and future of human spaceflight.

The USSRC is more than just artifacts! Experience the physics of astronaut training like never before in simulators like Space Shot and G-Force. Our Spacedome IMAX® Theater transports you to different worlds with amazing documentary films like Hubble, and live demonstrations in the Discovery Theater will have you seeing space science in a whole new light. There’s always something happening at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center!

Notable Artifacts

National Historic Landmark Saturn V Moon Rocket
Pathfinder – the world’s only full-stack space shuttle display
Apollo 16 Command Module
Skylab Orbital Workshop
Apollo 12 Moon Rock

Huntsville Botanical Garden


Spring, summer, fall, or winter – the Garden is an oasis of natural beauty in every season!

Open year-round, the Huntsville Botanical Garden has 112 acres to explore, learn, and discover the beauty and wonder of plants. From grassy meadows to woodland paths, aquatic habitats to stunning floral collections, the Garden invites guests of all ages to make memories together in nature.

On a visit to the Garden, you can stroll along the nature trails while admiring collections of Alabama’s native plants. If you visit with little ones, head to the Children’s Garden for play, pretend, and hands-on learning. From May through September, you won’t want to miss seeing over 1,000 brightly colored butterflies the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house. Finally, at the end of the day, you can find a moment of serenity in the cool shade of the trees, surrounded by the sounds of nature.

The beautiful Guest Center features additional amenities to make your trip extra special, including recommendations for dining and a gift shop with a hand-picked selection of unique items for your own home and garden.

With additional events, exhibits, and programs happening throughout the year, the Garden is a place of beauty, education, and celebration for all in every season.

8 Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer

Alabama Splash Adventure

Water slides, wave pool, lazy river, kid’s area…there’s so much fun to have at Alabama Splash Adventure this summer! Grab the kids and plan to spend the day beating the summer heat.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Have you considered how exquisite a motorcycle is in its styling, mechanics, and capabilities? Their artistry is what Birmingham native George Barber saw when he began collecting motorcycles in 1988. Six years later, he established the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Today, it is home to the largest collection of motorcycles in the world.

Cook Museum of Natural Science

The Cook Museum of Natural Science, located in downtown Decatur, Alabama, is a hands-on, immersive experience where guests can explore, interact with, and learn about nature.

High Point Climbing

High Point Climbing and Fitness in Birmingham is located in the completely renovated Next Fitness facility on Highway 280. High Point Birmingham brings world class climbing to Alabama with 25,000 square feet of indoor climbing surface featuring up to 52+ feet of climbing. The facility is now completely open with the Kid Zone, Bouldering, Weight, Aerobic, Yoga Room, and Route Area! Climbing Clubs and Team can be joined at anytime.  Yoga is now offered five nights a week and is included with any Membership or Day Pass.Come have fun and get fit at High Point!

McWane Science Center

Fun and learning never end at McWane Science Center, a nonprofit, hands-on museum and IMAX® Dome Theater. Four floors of interactive exhibits celebrate science and wonder — from an amazing collection of dinosaurs to innovative environmental showcases, imaginative early childhood playgrounds, and an awe-inspiring aquarium. The energy and excitement of discovery spring to life through an extensive lineup of science demonstrations performed daily by talented educators. The adventure intensifies in the IMAX® Dome Theater, where wide-eyed visitors experience the sights and sounds of breathtaking films on a 5-story-tall screen surrounded by 3 tons of high-intensity speakers.

Point Mallard Park

The Point Mallard Waterpark is home to America’s First Wave Pool and so much more! There’s also Point Mallard Golf Course, Point Mallard Ice Complex, Point Mallard Camp Ground, and Strike Zone Batting Cages.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Since opening its doors in 1970, nearly 16 million people have toured the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The vast majority of those visitors have been from out of state or from foreign nations. Many of the more than 550,000 annual visitors are school students on field trips to their future. Dozens of interactive exhibits encourage visitor participation, prompting one official to note: “Here, everyone can be an astronaut for the day!”

Home to Space Camp® and Aviation Challenge® Camp, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) is the most comprehensive U.S. manned spaceflight hardware museum in the world. Its large rocket and space hardware collection is valued in the tens of millions of dollars. From America’s first satellite, Explorer I, to next generation space vehicles like Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, the museum showcases the past, present and future of human spaceflight.

The USSRC is more than just artifacts! Experience the physics of astronaut training like never before in simulators like Space Shot and G-Force. Our Spacedome IMAX® Theater transports you to different worlds with amazing documentary films like Hubble, and live demonstrations in the Discovery Theater will have you seeing space science in a whole new light. There’s always something happening at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center!

See an actual moon rock at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Vulcan Park & Museum

What kind of city builds a huge statue of a burly, bearded, bare-bottomed man to tower over its entire population? One that never forgets its roots. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, watches over all of Birmingham as a symbol of the city’s iron origins–and the ever-present spark of its indomitable spirit at the Vulcan Park & Museum.

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Super 7 Experiences in Downtown Huntsville

Experience our Arts and Culture

Looking for a cultured night out on the town? Head to the Von Braun Center for a variety of performances by local and regional and national groups. Treat yourself to an evening with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and enjoy classical and modern performances led by maestro Gregory Vajda. For information, visit hso.org. The Huntsville Ballet Company also calls the VBC home. Visit huntsvilleballet.org for a schedule of performances by some of the country’s most talented professional dancers. The VBC hosts Broadway Theatre League shows, brought straight from NYC to the Rocket City. For a list of dates and shows, visit broadwaytheatreleaque.org. If you are looking for local theater talent, the Von Braun Center Playhouse hosts the Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater (fantastplayhouse.org) and Theatre Huntsville.

Art can be found all throughout Downtown Huntsville. Don’t miss the murals that bring life to the walls of downtown buildings. The newest mural in Downtown can be seen off of Washington Street on the side of the Clinton Row Garage. This mural is in honor of the “Votes for Women” campaign.

You can also enjoy art in hidden locations through the Downtown Huntsville Secret Art Trail. Art can be found on ceilings, in alleys, and even underneath your feet! Plus, the new Mae Jemison segment of the Secret Art Trail in Big Spring Park features seven painted power boxes in honor of the first African American woman in space. You can learn more at downtownhuntsville.org/secretarttrail.

If you want to bring Downtown Huntsville Art back home to you, then check out the Friday Night Art Walks. From May to October, Downtown Huntsville, Inc. hosts their Friday Night Art Walks, where local art vendors gather around the Historic Square in Downtown Huntsville for a night of fun local shopping. More information about Friday Night Art Walks can be found at downtownhuntsville.org/FridayNightArtWalk.

Located in the heart of Downtown Huntsville in Big Spring Park, the nationally accredited Huntsville Museum of Art fills its numerous galleries with a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, including prestigious traveling exhibits, the work of nationally and regionally acclaimed artists and exhibits from the museum’s own 3,000-piece permanent collection. After you take in the art, stop in the Museum Store for unique jewelry, pottery, glasswork and more.

For more Downtown History and Culture, head to any of our Historic Residential communities. The city of Huntsville boasts more homes on the National Register of Historic Places than any other in Alabama. Located downtown, the Twickenham District is one of the South’s best-kept secrets, featuring the largest collection of antebellum homes in Alabama.

Kids and adults alike will be impressed by the recreated world of the past at EarlyWorks Children’s Museum, the Alabama Constitution Hall Park, where interpreters live the lives of early Huntsville settlers. And who doesn’t love trains? Stop by the Huntsville Depot Museum for a ride through railroad history. Can’t decide which one you want to visit? See all three and enjoy a discount. Call 256.564.8100for more information.

Experience the Downtown Trail Network

If the Downtown Huntsville Secret Art Trail interests you, then you might want to consider journeying on the other Downtown Huntsville Trails. These include the Craft Beer Trail, Craft Coffee Trail, and the newest Craft Cocktail Trail.

For craft beer fans, Huntsville is a popular destination for your favorite ales, stouts and more, and many of the top craft beer establishments are concentrated in the Downtown Huntsville area! The Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail is an informal alliance of local craft breweries and craft beer stores. Guests on the trail can pick up a trail card at any of the establishments on the trail. From there, you can get your trail card stamped at each stop. Once you complete all the stops, you can redeem your trail card for free trail swag. In other words, the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail rewards you for tasting all the great local craft beers in the city center.

If Huntsville wasn’t known for it’s beer, then coffee would be the runner up! With the same concept in mind as the Craft Beer Trail, the Craft Coffee Trail rewards You for staying caffeinated! Visit local craft coffee establishments to get a trail card, stamps, and earn a fabulous Craft Coffee Trail mug!

The newest addition to the Downtown Huntsville Trail Network is the Craft Cocktail Trail. These impressive cocktails may seem like a reward themselves, but you might as well start earning your stamps while you are indulging!

Drink handcrafted cocktails, collect your stamps, and at the end of the trail receive a cocktail strainer to make your favorite drink right at home! For a true Rocket City experience, book a ride on the Rocket City Rover party trolley and take to the trails in style and comfort!

Whether you’re looking to grab a drink and chill to some tunes or dance into the night, you can find just the right spot in Downtown Huntsville. Live bands are a mainstay at many bars and clubs, including The Martin Bar & Bistro, Jefferson St. Pub, and Sidetracks where you can also grab a bite to eat. Or, you can rock out at such local favorites as Sammy T’s Music Hall and Whiskey Bottom Saloon.

Unique rooftop experiences and the city’s top bartenders await you at Stella’s Elixir Lounge and Rhythm on Monroe where you may also enjoy live music many nights of the week. Church Street Wine Shoppe, Purveyor, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and Domaine South also offer handcrafted cocktails and glasses of wine and appetizers. Nightlife in Downtown Huntsville is an adventure around every corner.

Experience Shopping Local

In the mood to do a little shopping? Then look no further than the Clinton Row District. This one-of-a-kind shopping destination in historic Downtown Huntsville is home to some of the city’s most unique boutiques. From boho chic goods at Indigo Boutique, Caley Paige Home and Gifts, Silhouette Boutique, 5th Avenue inspired fashions at Elitaire Boutique to a full servicemen’s provisioner at Roosevelt & Co., these locally-owned and operated shops are sure to have a unique selection of items you won’t find anywhere else. Plus head underground to the Clinton Row Shops for some of Downtown Huntsville’s best keptsecrets! See all the unique shopping in theClinton Row District at shopclintonrow.com.

Around the Historic Square, you will find the oldest store in DowntownHuntsville, Harrison Brother’s Hardware.Established in 1894, the store retains its original historic fixtures and offers merchandise that reflects “American made” at its finest. This shop is not just a great place to find Huntsville gifts and galore, but an entire experience with plenty to learn about Huntsville history.

If you are heading up to the mountain, stop by The Little Green Store and the gift shop at Burritt on the Mountain for great Monte Sano themed merchandise and amazing gift ideas.

Other notable shopping locations include the Preservation Company, Holtz Leather, and Brooks & Collier all located within the Lincoln Mill District. Find handmade artisan goods at the Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment Center. In the Medical District, you can find Merchants Square and Merchants Walk full of quirky boutiques. Twickenham Square is home to a few small businesses as well as a Publix for convenient grocery shopping. Supporting local small businesses is easy when there are so many great options from which to choose.

For a full list of shops, visit downtownhuntsville.org/shopping.

Experience an Active Lifestyle

Without a doubt, Big Spring Park is the epicenter of life and culture in Huntsville, and now zipping around downtown is easier than ever. Downtown Huntsville Blue Bikes, presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, are spread out throughout downtown at eleven stations including at the VisitorsCenter, Big Spring Park, and Campus 805. Riders will pay a simple $2 per 30 minutesof riding.

Throughout the year, the park plays host to numerous events, including the Panoply Arts Festival, Crush Wine & Food Festival, Tinsel Trail and Paddle the Canal. But you don’t have to wait for a major event to enjoy the park. Children will love the famously friendly ducks, geese and koi that call the lagoon home. Or, use the park as a starting point for your exploration ofHuntsville. Visitors can enjoy strolling the walking trail, viewing the light displays every evening after dark, stopping for a peaceful picnic or even surfing the web courtesy of free wi-fi.

However, don’t miss out on Downtown Huntsville’s other parks! Visit our urban pocket park, Washington Park, for a splash of nature in the middle of bustling buildings. Or enjoy thrilling sports and a covered patio at California Park. For a peek at many of our Downtown Parks, check out the Downtown Huntsville Explorer Vlog Park Series at downtownhuntsville.org/vlog.

Downtown Huntsville is also only five minutes away from over 40 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails. Land Trust of North Alabama’s Monte Sano Nature Preserve offers 22 miles of free public trails showcasing native wildflowers, historic sites, waterfalls and more. Anchoring the district is Monte Sano State Park which offers panoramic views of Huntsville.

If you are seeking an indoor fitness experience, Downtown Huntsville offers everything from cycling, to martial arts and everything in between. Cycling classes can be found at Zoom Fitness or the new Cyclebar. Enjoy Yoga with Light On Yoga Fitness. Learn martial arts through Maverick Training, or try trainer led classes at Regymen Fitness. For a full list of indoor fitness experiences, visit downtownhuntsville.org/dorentorn-outdoors.

Experience Dine Huntsville

One thing’s for sure you won’t go hungry while you’re visiting Downtown Huntsville. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite, a leisurely dinner or fine dining, there are plenty of options to please your palate. In the downtown core try local favorites like Rhythm on Monroe, Honest CoffeeRoasters, and Domaine South. The Church Street Family has several dining options in the downtown core including the new Church Street Wine Shoppe on Gates andSea Salt: Oyster Bar. For hand crafted cocktails and an unforgettable dinner, try Purveyor; they have an inventive menu and they’re open late for shareables. Downtown is also home to Cotton Row and Commerce Kitchen by celebrity chef James Boyce.

In West Huntsville you can find Fresko Grille at Stovehouse for a healthy option or stop into Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza at Campus 805 for a meal for the whole family.

The Medical District is home to fine steak at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.Find more dining options atdowntownhuntsville.org/dining-nightlife.

See ExcursionsGo.com for a complete list of dining options.

Experience Live Music

The Von Braun Center has multiple facilities to host live musical performances. Big name concerts as well as local musician lineups are held at the VBC. It is located conveniently next to many downtown restaurants, parks, and hotels. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy a night out at the Von Braun Center in Downtown Huntsville.

The newest addition to the VBC is the Mars Music Hall. Its open-floor plan and balcony overlooking the oversized stage make this one of the most unique live music venues in the state. It is also equipped with four bars/food service areas perfect for big events.

Aside from live music venues, Downtown Huntsville is also home to the Women in Music weekend. Celebrating women in music, this weekend is filled with Huntsville’s top women musicians performing at local establishments downtown. You can enjoy music sessions with multiple artists at bigger venues or cozy up with a single artist in smaller unconventional stages. Learn more at downtownhuntsville.org/womeninmusic.

If you can’t make it out to any live music event venues or the Women in Music weekend, you can visit downtown any day or time and be able to find buskers performing. Local buskers are welcome to set up in certain areas of Downtown Huntsville to provide live music for those dining or shopping in the area.

Experience Unique Venues

Campus No. 805 has become the connecting point for the resurgence of West Huntsville neighborhoods, the treasured historic districts and the hundreds of exciting new loft residences in downtown. Campus 805, once home to classrooms filled with students, is now filled with a growing list of tenants including craft breweries, restaurants, catering, bars, retail and entertainment venues!

Stovehouse, an old factory building, is now one of the best social pubs in downtown. Great food and beverage options line the courtyard at Stovehouse all encompassing a beautiful area for socializing or listening to live music. Recurring events here include trivia night, dueling pianos, movie nights, and more.

Find more information about our venues at downtownhuntsville.org/shopping.

Stop by the Welcome Center

Need information about what to do during your stay in the Rocket City? Stop by the Visitor Center, located in the lobby of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Downtown Huntsville. Pickup Passport coupons to use at area attractions. Sports fan? Pick up an All-Star Sports Pass which allows you to buy one ticket and get one FREE to Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Huntsville Havoc hockey, UAH Chargers hockey and Huntsville Tigers women’s football. TheVisitor Center is also the perfect place to pick up a Rocket City souvenir, or the Arts & Entertainment Pass.

For more information about the Visitor Center and to see online listings of where to stay, shop, dine and play, call 800.SPACE.4.U or visithuntsville.org. Open seven days a week, the Visitor Center is conveniently located at 500 Church Street NW in Downtown Huntsville.

Chef Spotlight: Chef Tukky Phornroekngam with Phuket Thai Restaurant and Sushi


If you’re in the mood for absolutely authentic Thai dishes, Phuket will not disappoint. Head Chef Tukky Phornroekngam is a masterful Thai Cuisine Chef, certified by no less than the government of Thailand. How’s that for authentic?

Far from her homeland, Chef Tukky has made a name for herself in the states, having been voted one of the Best Chefs in the Tennessee Valley in 2009. She says it’s her familiarity and artistry with exotic ingredients that make her such a successful chef.

“I love to use kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Thai basil leaves and any herbs that are essential to Thai cuisine,” Chef Tukky says. Though it’s hard to nail down a favorite, Tukky says it’s a toss-up between what she would order for dinner at Phuket. “Our grilled ribeyes are delicious, and any of the curry dishes are great,” says Chef Tukky, who has one more piece of advice for diners.

“I love having a Lychee Martini or a Thai Tea Martini with my meal,” she says.”You’ll be surprised how well they compliment the Thai dishes.”

Main Attractions


From shopping to museums to nature preserves, Huntsville has the perfect agenda for every traveler.

Alabama Constitution Village

Discover the newly renovated Alabama Constitution Village.

Constitution Village is a unique and unforgettable journey into Alabama’s past. Come see villagers busy with their daily tasks, seemingly unaware that nearly two centuries have come and gone. Hear the whir of the spinning wheel, smell the enticing aroma of freshly baked bread being prepared over an open fire and turn the great wheel lathe in the cabinetmaker’s shop. Admission charged. See website for hours. {109 Gates Avenue, 256.564.8100; earlyworks.com}

Big Spring International Park

Located in downtown Huntsville, this iconic park serves as the center of the city. Named after an underground spring that John Hunt, Huntsville’s founder, built a cabin next to in 1805, it’s now surrounded by museums, hotels and more. The park plays host to major area events, like the Panoply Arts Festival and local concerts, and showcases gifts bestowed upon the city by other countries, including the “Red Bridge” and 60 cherry trees from Japan. Free Admission. {Located adjacent to downtown Huntsville}

Bridge Street Town Centre

The Carousel at Bridge Street Town Centre is a favorite for all.

Bridge Street Town Centre is the premier retail and entertainment center in North Alabama. Featuring over 70 upscale shops and restaurants, including favorites like J. Crew, The Apple Store and Anthropology. The center also includes the 14-screen Monaco Pictures Theater, a 10-acre lake with gondola boats and watercraft rentals, a beautiful carousel, fountains and lots of open green spaces. Free admission. {Located at the corner of Old Madison Pike and Research Park Blvd.; 256.327.8400; see their ad inside back cover; bridgestreethuntsville.com}

Burritt on the Mountain

Explore the past at Burritt on the Mountain.

Also known as the “Jewel on the Mountain,” this living museum is seated atop RoundTop Mountain and features entertainment for all ages. At the 19th-century farm, children can pet barnyard animals, while adults can wander the 14-rooms of the unique X-shaped 1930s mansion. Visitors can explore the winding nature trails, visit authentic exhibits and even attend concerts and plays. Admission charged. See website for hours. {3101 Burritt Drive, Huntsville; 256.536.2882}

Ditto Landing

Visit the newly renovated Ditto Landing.

For overnight, over the weekend, or week-long vacation, Ditto Landing is a camper’s paradise. Nestled in the shaded comfort of densely wooded lots, the campground is cool, peaceful and just a moment’s walk from an abundance of fun-filled activities. It serves as the gateway to Wheeler reservoir, which has more than 60,000 acres of adventurous playground. There are ample facilities for boats of all sizes. See website for hours. {293 Ditto Landing Road, Huntsville; 256.882.1057}.

Dublin Memorial Park

Located in Madison, this park features 66 acres of recreational activities. The Dublin Memorial Park Facility includes an outdoor swimming pool with baby and diving pools. Indoor facilities include a double-court gymnasium equipped for basketball and volleyball, an upstairs walking

track and a 25-yard heated indoor swimming pool. Other outdoor activity areas include a walking trail, five soccer fields, a community-built playground and seven tennis courts. See website for hours. Free admission. {8324 Old Madison Pike, Madison; 256.772.9300}

EarlyWorks Children’s Museum

Children love exploring the past at EarlyWorks Family of Museums.

EarlyWorks was designed for children—go ahead…touch, climb, pull, explore! Hear stories from the Talking Tree, play a tune on the giant-sized instruments at the Alabama bandstand and try your hand at building in the Kidstruction Zone. Explore a 46-foot Keelboat, trade your wares at the general store and try on clothing from the 1800s in the federal house. Preschoolers will enjoy exploring Biscuit’s Backyard, a touch-and-learn area that includes a garden, grocery store and even karaoke. See website for hours. Admission charged. {404 Madison Street in Huntsville; 256.564.8107; earlyworks.com}

Harrison Brothers Hardware

Shop for souvenirs at Harrison Brothers Hardware.

Better than a museum, Harrison Brothers is a living 19th-century landmark sitting serenely in the midst of downtown Huntsville. When you’re searching for that perfect souvenir to take home, Harrison Brothers is the place to visit. This shopper’s delight is filled with treasures, like a stack of antique biscuit jars brimming with old-fashioned candies, cotton throws, colorful tins, marbles by the scoop, cast iron cookware and oak rocking chairs. See website for hours. Free admission. {124 South Side Square in Huntsville; 256.536.3631; harrisonbrothershardware.com}

Historic Huntsville Depot

Meet Andy at the Historic Huntsville Depot.

Hear the rattle of the tracks and the engineer’s whistle as you experience life on the rails in 1860. Discover Civil War graffiti and listen as Andy, the robotic ticket agent, tells of Alabama’s railway history. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Depot was an active passenger station until 1968. The original depot building now stands as a symbol of Huntsville’s transportation history and city growth. See website for hours. Admission charged. {320 Church Street, Huntsville; 256.564.8100}

Huntsville Botanical Garden

The Huntsville Botanical Garden also offers a beautiful setting for private events.

Open year-round, the Huntsville Botanical Garden has 112 acres to explore, learn, and discover the beauty and wonder of plants. From grassy meadows to woodland paths, aquatic habitats to stunning floral collections, the Garden invites guests of all ages to make memories together in nature.

At the Garden, you can admire collections of native plants or stroll along nature trails. You can play in the Children’s Garden or find a moment of serenity in the cool shade of the trees. With additional exhibits and events throughout the year, the Garden is a place of beauty, education, and celebration for all in every season.

In this dynamic young garden, you’ll find inviting woodland paths, stunning floral collections and exhibits to delight visitors of all ages. Paths meander through the shady woodlands of the Dogwood Trail and the lush fern glade, while native wildflowers quietly populate the Nature Trail. The daylily and herb gardens rival or surpass those of older, more mature botanical gardens. The demonstration vegetable garden showcases varieties of produce and inspires home gardeners. With new exhibits every season, there’s always something blooming at the gardens! See website for hours. {4747 Bob Wallace Avenue in Huntsville; 256.830.4447; hsvbg.org}

Spring, summer, fall, or winter – the Garden is an oasis of natural beauty in every season!
4747 Bob Wallace Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35805 256.830.4447 hsvbg.org @HuntsvilleBotanicalGarden @hsvgarden

Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial

Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial honors our fallen heroes.

This memorial recognizes by name the Madison County veterans killed in action during all wars from WWI to the present and recognizes and honors Madison County veterans awarded the Medal of Honor. The mission of the memorial is to inspire visitors by instilling a sense of pride and respect for all veterans who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America, to provide an incentive to serve and to educate visitors, especially the young, about the sacrifices made by those that came before them and those who continue to guarantee our freedom by serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. {200 Monroe Street NW; 256.604.3896; hmcvm.org}

Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment

Located in historic Lowe Mill, supports a diverse creative community dedicated to the free expression of the arts in Huntsville. Our vision is to be a true arts destination and to grow Huntsville’s appreciation and interaction with the arts. {2211 Seminole Drive Huntsville, 256.533.0399; lowemill.art}

Monte Sano State Park

Get back to nature at Monte Sano State Park.

Slip into your walking shoes and get ready to explore beautiful North Alabama outdoors! Spread across more than 2,100 acres, historic Monte Sano State Park sits 1,900 feet above sea level and boasts some of the most beautiful views of the Huntsville area. Spanish for “Mountain of Health,” this park features cabins and camping facilities, as well as 20 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of biking trails. Hours: 7 am – sundown. Admission charged. {5101 Nolen Road SE, Huntsville 256.534.3757}

North Alabama Railroad Museum

Located just east of Huntsville in the historic Chase community, this museum is a boon for train lovers. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, take a guided tour of more than 30 train cars, including locomotives, dining cars and sleeper cars. On Saturdays from March – Dec, you can even take an hour-long train ride and enjoy the local scenery. Admission charged. {694 Chase Road in Huntsville; 256.851.6276; northalabamarailroadmuseum.com}

Old Town Historic District

The Old Town Historic District features homes in a variety of styles including Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, American Craftsman and Prairie School with homes dating from the late 1820s through the early 1900s. {Roughly bound by Dement and Lincoln Streets and Randolph and Walker Avenues}

State Black Archives Research Center and Museum

Located in the historic James H. Wilson Building on the campus of Alabama A&M University just outside Huntsville, the center is a repository of African American history and culture, providing a dialogue between the present and past. Archival collections and featured exhibits span three floors of beautiful gallery areas. Admission charged. {Located on the campus of Alabama A&M University in Normal, AL; 256.372.5846}

Twickenham Historic District

Alabama’s largest collection of pre-Civil War homes features Federal, Italianate, Queen Anne, Bungalow and Classical architecture, including the Weeden House Museum, Alabama’s oldest house open to the public. Guided tours conducted. {109 Gates Avenue at Constitution Village in Huntsville}

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

The world’s largest space attraction features dozens of interactive exhibits surrounding Apollo, Mercury and Space Shuttle spacecraft. The U. S. Space and Rocket Center is the only place in the world where you can stand under a “full stack”—the Space Shuttle, external tank, and two rocket boosters. Experience three times the force of gravity as you spin in the G-Force Accelerator, feel the powerful G forces of launch aboard the Space Shot and maneuver through space aboard the Mission to Mars. You can also stop for a show in the Spacedome Omnimax theater. Hours: 9 am – 5 pm, seven days a week. Admission charged. {One Tranquility Base in Huntsville; 1.800.63.SPACE; rocketcenter.com}

Veterans Memorial Museum

Take a walk through American military history at this museum filled with exhibits, memorabilia and more. The collection includes more than 30 military vehicles, including tanks, helicopters, motorcycles and boats. Dedicated to promoting and disseminating the accomplishments of American military men and women, the museum is popular among veterans and their families. Cash only admission. {2060A Airport Road in Huntsville; 256.883.3737; memorialmuseum.org}

Von Braun Center

The Von Braun Center is a multi-purpose facility located in downtown Huntsville, Alabama and is home to Huntsville Havoc (a professional ice hockey team in the Southern Professional Hockey League), Broadway Theatre League, Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, and Arts Huntsville. The VBC offers multiple venues for presenting cultural, educational, entertainment, sporting and social events. Venue spaces include the Propst Arena, Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, Mars Music Hall, North Hall, South Hall, and East Hall. Additionally, the VBC has an on-site full-service restaurant and rooftop bar – Rhythm on Monroe. With over 170,000 square feet of flexible meeting space the VBC is able to accommodate events of all types and sizes. {700 Monroe Street, Huntsville; 256.533.1953; vonbrauncenter.com}

Weeden House Museum

Alabama’s oldest open-to-the-public building is best known as the birthplace of 19th-century poet and artist Maria Howard Weeden, whose poetry and paintings captured the essence of nineteenth-century Southern culture. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Weeden House is the only home in the Twickenham Historic District open as a museum. {300 Gates Avenue, SE, Huntsville; 256.536.7718; weedenhousemuseum.com} ❖

Wide Open Spaces


From awe-inspiring mountain vistas and pristine waterfalls to echoing caverns and meandering creeks, the Huntsville area offers a wealth of outdoor escapes.

Major Outdoor Attractions


Comprised of 50 sites throughout north Alabama, The North Alabama Birding Trail is not a “trail” in the traditional sense, but a series of mostly roadside stops throughout north Alabama selected for their bird-watching characteristics. While all of the sites can be accessed from a vehicle, many of the sites also have traditional walking trails associated with them; and a few sites contain extensive areas that are best explored by boat or canoe. Contact the Huntsville/MadisonCounty Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information at 256.551.2230.


Monte Sano, Spanish for “Mountain of Health,” rises more than 1,600 feet above sea level. The mountain has attracted visitors since the mid 1820’s. Currently over 14 miles of hiking/biking trails service our state park and its patrons. The North Plateau Loop and South Plateau Loop trails offer stunning vistas of theTennessee Valley, with mild trail elevation changes. For our more serious hikers and bikers we invite you to try our Mountain Mist and McKay Hollow trails. Call 256.534.3757 for more information.


Approximately 11 miles of trails on a combination of land trust and private land and TVA easements. The trails are moderately technical single-track that ring the west and south sides of Wade Mountain. When followed in the correct order, the trails can provide nearly two hours of enjoyment, riding on undulating or descending single-track (after one long climb). The trail can be ridden in two segments, one 8-mile figure-8 loop with the option of the more difficult 3-mile Land Trust Devil’s Racetrack trail at the beginning or end of the ride. The Devil’s Racetrack is a unique geological formation that surrounds the crest of Wade Mountain and has one of the best views of north Huntsville and views to Tennessee on a clear day. This feature is a rock outcropping of limestone and is generally covered with grasses and wildflowers. Folklore that claims the Cherokee Indians raced horses atop the mountain. It is connected to trails that encircle the south and west portions of Wade Mountain. Located on Spragins Hollow Road. For more information call 256.534.5263.


Located deep beneath Gunter’s Mountain in northeast Marshall County is a hidden treasure that offers breathtaking sights and chilly temperatures. Cathedral Caverns, originally called Bat Cave, was opened to the public by Jacob Gurley in the1950’s. The cave was renamed because of its cathedral-like appearance. It was opened as a State Park in the summer of 2000 and boasts one of the world’s largest stalagmites, frozen waterfalls, flowstone walls and stalagmite forests. The constant year-round temperature is 60 degrees F (16 C) in the 14-acre underground wonderland, designated as a Registered National Natural Landmark in 1972. Call 256.728.8193 for more information.


Showcasing leisurely walks and challenging hikes, wildflower trails and natural springs, The Land Trust ofNorth Alabama preserves and protects green space and natural resources for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education. The Land Trust offers more than 62 miles of free public trails for hiking, biking, and outdoor recreation. Fagan Creek runs along Wildflower Trail on Monte Sano Nature Preserve. It’s a great spot for a family hike. Kids can play in the creek and look for salamanders, tadpoles, etc. Trail Maps available at landtrustnal.org. Call 256-534-5263 for more information.

Canoeing & Boating


Featuring two courses on the Flint River; the upper course is great for small children, while the lower course is a bit more adventurous. Call 256.682.1561 for more information.


Servicing Wheeler Reservoir, which has more than 60,000 acres of adventurous playground. There are ample facilities for boats of all sizes. Call 256.882.1057 for more information.


Large variety of canoe and kayak rentals variety of river tours for groups of any size shuttle service to all local waterways, guide service to all local waterways, and daily information on water conditions. Call 256.529.0357 for more information.


Madison County Lake is 15 miles northeast of Huntsville. The lake is a 105-acre, public fishing lake offering concessions, picnic facilities, grills, rentals and a bait shop. Fishing license and daily permit required. Madison County Lake is located at 2501 Country Lake Road in Gurley. For more information call 256.776.4905.

Disc Golf Courses


  • 980 Hughes Rd., Madison
  • Hole Type: DISCatcher

Redesigned in 2021, this is a longer recreational course that can be enjoyed by beginners. The course begins in the back corner away from Gillespie road in theGrace parking lot. It’s on the side with two, modern buildings. The first tee off is right next to that corner of the parking lot.You’ll see the road change to a gravel road and a field were the course begins.


  • 3771 Ivey Ave. SW, Huntsville
  • Hole Type: Mach X

This mostly flat and moderately wooded 18-hole course’s fairways weave among tall pines, demanding accuracy. Front and back 9 end at parking lot. Restrooms are located across road from No. 6.


  • 2324 Madison Pike, Madison
  • Hole Type: Black Hole Portal

This moderately hilly and lightly-wooded a hole course is designed for beginners and is easily played with a mid-range and a putter.


  • 2616 Modaus Road, Decatur
  • Hole Type: DISCatcher

This technically challenging, medium length 18-hole course winds through jock-filled terrain dominated by cedar and hickory and the course’s namesake the “Flying Dragon”, which is a wickedly beautiful thorny bush that produces hitter oranges in the fall. Although these plants and the moss and fern covered boulders provide great scenery, they canal so quickly turn a birdie opportunity into a double bogie, so bring your A for Accuracy game! It also has a very popular warm-up area with two baskets a short distance apart; great for practicing your short game.


  • 300 Harvestwood Ct., Huntsville
  • Hole Type: DISCatcher

This 18-hole course is very challenging and spans 50 acres of diverse terrain. Open holes with elevation and length and a good mix of wooded holes. Four holes have water hazards and over half the holes have some out-of-bounds danger. Multiple pin positions and the longer holes have baskets in both long and short positions. Aluminum benches throughout.


  • 3317 Watson Dr. NW, Huntsville
  • Hole Type: DISCatcher

Wooded course moving up and down the side of a hill. The most elevation changesin the Huntsville area, but maxes out at 40 feet of elevation change on any one hole.


  • 5105 Nolen Ave., Huntsville
  • Hole Type: DISCatcher

This 18-hole course spans the entire top of the mountain, and also includes a 8-hole mini-disc golf course along the main course. Park entrance fee is required to play, entrance is collected at front entrance gate and is cash only. $5 per adult & children ages 12+$2 for seniors & children ages 3-11. Active & Retired Military always free (ID required).


  • 15935 Chaney Thompson Rd., SE, Huntsville
  • Hole Type: DISCatcher

An 18-hole course with a wide variety of wooded and open holes, Southside course provides for a variety of shots. Southside isa shorter course geared toward beginner disc golfers, but still provides enough shot variety for any golfer to enjoy. Local Directions: From Huntsville take Memorial Parkway South to Hobbs Road. Turn left on Hobbs Road, drive approximately one mile, then turn right on Chaney Thompson Road. Course is one mile down on the left. Golfers park along the side of the road between holes 1 and 10.


  • 301 Sparkman Dr., Huntsville
  • Hole Type: DISCatcher

A very difficult links type course with 21 holes requiring a variety of throws. Open, long beautiful vistas, wooded shots, lots of water hazards and OB. Long, but those with accurate middle distance can play this course well. Lots of risk/reward will penalize long shots that lack control. Local Directions: I-565 to Sparkman Drive, go north 0.25 mile to a right on Technology Dr. which runs into John Wright Drive. Turn left into first parking lot on left.

Huntsville: From Big Spring to Big Dreams


Captivated by dreams of space travel since his youth, Wernher von Braun brought powerful passion and vision to the American space program.

HUNTSVILLE: From Big Spring to Big Dreams


Photographs courtesy of the Huntsville-Madison County Library Archives

Tucked in the rolling foothills of North Alabama, the city of Huntsville is a hidden oasis of culture, innovation and progress. Known best as the cradle of the American space program, this “Rocket City” has blasted off, amazing visitors and residents alike with its surprising pedigree of events and attractions. But like most places, Huntsville’s origins are much more humble.

The story begins more than 200 years ago. Absent were the towering projectiles of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, missing was the sprawling luxury retail jungle of Bridge Street. Back then, Huntsville was all fields, trees and foothills. That is, until Tennessee frontiersman John Hunt scaled Monte Sano Ridge and changed everything.

The rumor of a freshwater spring lured Hunt from his home to explore the North Alabama wilderness. Amid the Chickasaw Indians who hunted along the banks, Hunt built a two-bedroom log cabin for his family on a bluff overlooking the spring he discovered. The word spread, and by 1808, around three hundred settlers lived near “Big Spring,” where locals transported their cotton crops down the Indian Creek Canal to the Tennessee River. Huntsville Springs to Life

As cotton production picked up, the settlement grew. In 1807, Wyatt Bishop established the town’s first school. The next year, Stephen Neal stepped up as the first sheriff and married the town’s first couple, James McGuire and Elizabeth Ghormley. Soon after, John Bunch’s Old Tavern opened as the city’s first watering hole, and by 1810, the town’s first murder trial had taken place, and Eli Newman had been hanged at the edge of town.

With Hunt’s Big Spring booming, the city’s founder headed back to Tennessee to sell his family’s land to pay his settlement registration fees. While he was gone, three profit-minded pioneers bought up his spring-front property and the surrounding area. One of these men, LeRoy Pope, renamed the town Twickenham after the English hometown of his famous ancestor, the poet Alexander Pope. But in 1811, Hunt’s land around Big Spring was reinstated and Huntsville was given its permanent name. LeRoy Pope may have lost the name game, but Twickenham lives on as the name of Huntsville’s antebellum district—the largest in Alabama—famous for its Federal, Italianate and Neo-Classical architecture.

With land disputes resolved, Huntsville was free to grow in peace. By 1812, a city newspaper, the Madison Gazette, had been established. Near the end of that decade, the growing city was named Alabama’s first capital, albeit only temporarily, when state lawmakers gathered in a local cabinetmaking shop to draft the state’s first constitution. By 1823, Huntsville had developed a public water system, thanks in part to its famous spring. With its infrastructure taking shape, the city took its first steps toward industry.

Huntsville Faces War and the Great Depression

The influx of cotton farmers to the area soon drew the railroad industry’s attention to Huntsville. By the mid-1800s, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad had been constructed through Huntsville, becoming the first railway to link the Atlantic seacoast with the lower Mississippi River. Partly because of its strategic location (and perhaps its charm), Huntsville never saw battle during the Civil War. Union forces, led by Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel, moved in quickly in 1862 to cut the Confederate supply lines. Mitchel decided to stay a while, using the Huntsville railroad depot to incarcerate Confederate soldiers. Federal officers occupied Oaklawn Plantation on Meridian Street, while renegade Confederate soldiers hid out in the Mayhew home, located on Eustis Avenue.

Having avoided the destruction suffered by many southern cities in the war, the thankful townspeople found their lives getting back to normal fairly quickly. But tough times were still ahead. Following the depression and throughout the 1930s, Huntsville faced its first true economic downturn since its founding. Struggling against waning industry, Huntsville survived only on cotton production and its fleeting fame as the watercress capital of the world.

But things were to turn around in 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared “a state of unlimited emergency” and the Chemical Warfare Service began searching for an artillery manufacturing facility. The State of Alabama ceded 160 acres of cotton fields to the War Department to build Huntsville Arsenal, which went on to employ nearly 20,000 people. By 1943, the redesignated Redstone Arsenal had expanded to 475 acres.

From Warfare to Wonder

However, it seemed that this success would be short-lived. In 1949, WWII was over, and the U.S. Army hung a “for sale” sign on Redstone Arsenal’s doors. What were they to do with this secluded outpost? At the last possible moment—on July 1, 1949—a new prospect appeared on the horizon.

That prospect centered around a German scientist, Wernher von Braun, who had grown up in the shadows of Nazi Germany but had maintained a fascination for space travel and rocketry. Von Braun became part of the infamous “Operation Paperclip,” a mission in which the Third Reich’s most brilliant scientists were drafted by the United States. After the war, von Braun found himself and his colleagues transplanted to the isolated cotton fields of North Alabama, where, over the next four years, they would invent rocket science.

In September 1954, von Braun presented his first thesis proposing the use of the Redstone military missile, which he would be instrumental in developing, as the prototype for a vehicular rocket that could launch satellites into space. Over the next few years, numerous military missiles were successfully built, tested and launched using von Braun’s thesis.

On January 31, 1958, Huntsville earned the nickname “The Rocket City” after the Explorer I became the first U.S. satellite to orbit the earth. The front page of The Huntsville Times read: “Jupiter C Puts Up Moon: Eisenhower Officially Announces Huntsville Satellite Circles Globe,” and the world turned its eyes to Huntsville.

Soon after that momentous event, standing on the steps of Huntsville’s new Marshall Space Flight Center, President Eisenhower proclaimed the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. With von Braun as MSFC’s first director, rocketry moved from the defense sector into civilian space exploration. Not only did MSFC receive 1,900 acres of undeveloped land and buildings, but several thousand U.S. Army engineers, scientists and administrators were assigned a slate of challenging space exploration projects.

Success came quickly for the growing center, and, barely a year later, the Mercury-Redstone rocket boosted America’s first astronaut, Alan Shepard, into suborbital flight. Then, in 1969, the largest of the Saturn family of rockets built and tested at MSFC propelled American astronauts to their most-anticipated destination—the moon.

After the close of the Apollo program, Huntsville experienced an exodus of big business throughout the 1970s. Ultimately, it would be the U.S. Army, and not the space program, that would prevail. Such military innovations as the TOW missiles and the biomedical research from the HudsonAlpha Institute set Huntsville on a more diverse path to technological excellence.

The harsh realities of World War II brought a new industry to Huntsville—the industry of war. Huntsville Arsenal (later Redstone Arsenal) opened to meet the needs of the American military, employing many female workers.

The Moon, Mars, and Beyond

Civilian contractors work at Marshall Space Flight Center. But most visitors are more interested in the Space & Rocket Center’s Rocket Park, with its massive and impressive Saturn V missile.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center contains the most comprehensive flight hardware museum in the world. It also features the Spacedome IMAX Theater and its renowned Space Camp, where, every year, thousands of students come from around the world to experience space education at its finest. But, dominating it all, hovering 10 feet above the floor, the 476-foot-long, 90-foot-wide, 63-foot-high Saturn V rocket floats like a leviathan above the new Davidson Center facility.

Redstone Arsenal is one of the Department of Defense’s most strategic technological assets, employing over 30,000 people and managing over $25 billion in annual federal spending—over half of the army’s total annual weapons procurement budget.

Leading Alabama into the Future

Thanks in part to the aerospace and defense industries, Huntsville has one of the most diverse cultures, per capita, in the country. Today, a mixture of nearly 300 international, high-technology and aerospace/defense agencies, plus 50 Fortune 500 companies, reside in the Cummings Research Park, the country’s second largest research and development park.

Two hundred years after its discovery, John Hunt’s Big Spring is still at the center of downtown life. Buffered on all sides by a beautiful public park, the lagoon is surrounded by fine hotels and such distinguished civic buildings as the public library and the Von Braun Center. Lined with park benches and accented by its distinct Red Bridge (a gift from Japan), Big Spring Park is landscaped with cherry blossom trees, a gazebo and eternal flame, around which the city gathers for festivals, like the Panoply Arts Festival and many local concerts.

It’s fair to say that modern-day Huntsville, with its towering rockets, luxury shopping facilities, manicured parks and decadent dining options, would be hardly recognizable to its grizzled frontiersman founder. But, if you ask its residents and many visitors, they’d say that’s just fine. Supported by a culture of innovation, the Rocket City is poised to lead the state, and the rest of the South, into the next century.