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

from EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary Edition by EXCURSIONS BY CITYVISION

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 ‘EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary…’Wide Open Spaces

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 EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary Edition by EXCURSIONS BY CITYVISION

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

NORTH ALABAMA BIRDING TRAIL

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 STATE PARK

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.

WADE MOUNTAIN PRESERVE

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.

CATHEDRAL CAVERNS

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.

THE LAND TRUST OF NORTH ALABAMA

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

CHICKASAW CANOEING

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.

DITTO LANDING

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.

NORTH ALABAMA CANOE & KAYAK

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

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

ASBURY UMC

  • 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.

BRAHAN SPRING PARK

  • 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.

DUBLIN PARK IN MADISON

  • 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.

FLYING DRAGON

  • 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.

INDIAN CREEK GREENWAY

  • 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.

MASTIN LAKE

  • 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.

MONTE SANO STATE PARK

  • 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).

NATURAL WONDERS SOUTHSIDE PARK

  • 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.

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE (UAH)

  • 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

from EXCURSIONS GUESTBOOK HUNTSVILLE, MADISON & DECATUR 10th Anniversary Editionby EXCURSIONS BY CITYVISION

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

BY KIMBERLY BALLARD

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.

Destination: Stovehouse

Excerpted from EXCURSIONS

Waiting just off I-565 at 3414 Governors Drive, Stovehouse is 13 acres of eats, drinks, shopping, event space & live entertainment.

The building was originally constructed in 1929 and housed Martin Stove Company. See signs of pride, progress and preservation around every corner of this “little village.”

A couple thousand folks a day come to enjoy the ideallic backyard-party-vibe, dozens of restaurants, bars, shopping & nightly entertainment on stage!

Plenty of outdoor games & family-friendly entertainment in the “Food Garden” & Courtyard areas.

It’s not all outdoors. Enjoy meals & drinks from eclectic restaurants inside The Booth, The Canteen & The Shed.

Charming murals & clever signage provides Insta-ready backdrops. More importantly, they remind us what’s important in life! Look for several quirky signs as you approach 3414 Governors Drive, Huntsville, AL 35805. There’s ample parking at east & west entrances.

POURHOUSE

Pourhouse is a comfortably swanky bar that sits at the heart of the food garden at Stovehouse, a mixed-use development. The unique round bar is the first of its kind in Huntsville, serving cocktails, wine, and beer with a large screen, showing movies and sports daily. The first roof top bar in Huntsville also offers a wrap-around patio with fans and heaters, making this outdoor seating area comfortable year-round.

CHARLIE FOSTER’S

Charlie Foster’s is a local family-owned coffee shop dedicated to employing people with special needs and serving our community high quality specialty coffee. They have a unique aesthetic and charging ports at every seat. They offer espresso drinks, a variety of sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch, and a variety of teas and cold brews. Dine inside or enjoy their patio. Charlie Foster’s invites you to come on by and hang out for a while.

CO-OP BREWPUB

The Co-Op Brewpub is part of the Brewers Cooperative consisting of Good People Brewing Company, Avondale Brewing Company, Straight To Ale Brewing and Druid City Brewing Company. The 10,000-square-foot facility makes beer, spirits, and wine for onsite consumption. In addition to brewpub fashioned suds, the location offers its four collaborators’ beers. The kitchen serves up made-from-scratch “American comfort food.”

FRESKO GRILLE

Where family tradition meets modern Mediterranean cuisine. Fresko Grille offers a variety of Mediterranean favorites, rich with a variety of spices and ingredients that make each dish pop with flavor. From baba ghanoush to shawarma and falafel to kafta kebobs, their rotating weekly specials and customizable menus are offered in a fast-casual setting. Enjoy a classic Mediterranean dish or build your own to your liking by selecting your desired protein, fresh vegetables, sides, and sauces. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are readily available.

BARK & BARREL BBQ

Bold Alabama Barbecue with a foodie twist. Bark & Barrel serves up house-smoked wings, turkey, BBQ, homemade chips, great sides, and yes, even smoked chocolate chip cookies. Did we mention they have specials like their coveted Brisket French Dip?! Follow on Facebook for daily specials. Or, just show up because whatever you order will be perfection!

OSCAR MOON’S MILKSHAKE BAR & ICE CREAM SHOPPE

Oscar Moon’s is the country’s most soulful shake shop! Featuring milkshakes, floats and ice cream, the experience is a nod to 50s soda-counter-culture. But with Motown music pumping, disco balls spinning & spontaneous sing-alongs happening, it’s becoming a timeless tradition. ❖

Best Places to Ring in the New Year in North Alabama

2021 is coming to a close, and we’ve got the best places to ring in 2022 in north Alabama! Happy New Year!

Hopper’s Bar & Grill

Don’t miss the exciting New Year’s Eve party at Hopper’s Bar & Grill in the Holiday Inn in Huntsville! There will be three bands, a DJ, and a dinner buffet to ring in the new year.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Huntsville

Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Huntsville invites you to make plans to join them at their new “Home of Serious Steaks” at Twickenham Place. After 10 years of distinctive Huntsville dining, they’ve moved to a brand new location and designed a restaurant space where you can enjoy Happy Hour daily from 4-6:30 PM in our bar and lounge and dinner nightly from 5 PM on in our dining rooms. New Year’s Eve – 3pm-midnight.

Photo: Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Stella’s Elixir Lounge

Stella’s Rooftop NYE 2022 will kickoff celebrating among the Stars! Celebrity guest, Aiden Zhane from RuPaul’s Drag Race, will be featured for the evening at Sapphire Starlington’s always spectacular Drag Show! After the show, we will be ringing in the New Year with DJs Caleb and Dustin starting at 11pm and toast to 2022 with champagne!

Stovehouse

To celebrate the new year, Stovehouse is offering a sneak peek of The Electric Belle, our new bar inside The Belle at Stovehouse. Dress up or dress down, and come inside The Belle at Stovehouse from 9pm until 1am on New Year’s Eve for a night of music, drinks, and games! Signature cocktails and an all-night DJ will keep things rocking until that ball drops! Warm up your voice for Auld Lang Syne and come ring in the new year—Stovehouse-style! 21+ only. Tickets are $10. Free advance tickets are sold out!

SideBar

Don’t miss SideBar’s New Year’s Eve Bar Crawl! Click SideBar for more info and passes!

Oasis Bar

Spend New Year’s Eve at Oasis Bar watching the CFP games! Opens at 2pm on Friday, December 31.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – Birmingham

Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Birmingham will be open from 3pm-midnight in order to celebrate New Year’s Eve in style! Ruth’s Chris is situated in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel, conveniently located just off the Red Mountain Expressway between the Homewood and Mountain Brook neighborhoods.

Photo: Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Mom’s Basement 

Spend New Year’s Eve at Mom’s Basement in Avondale! Open from 2pm-2am.

‘Tis the Season to be Merry!

‘Tis the season for Christmas lights and fun! Nothing can get you in the Christmas spirit like checking out beautiful Christmas lights and attending fun holiday events! Check out these fun places and let us know what your favorite is.

Cruising with Santa – Rocket City Rover

Join Santa for a grown up Christmas crawl with Rocket City Rover in downtown Huntsville. Everyone becomes Santa’s bad little elves on December 19 and 20. Christmas trivia games, naughty Holiday jokes and of course “Christmas Spirits” to keep you in a festive mood.

FAMILY FRIENDLY RIDE on December 19th at 4:00PM
Santa will put away his bad Santa alter-ego for this family friendly ride. He’ll be back to his jolly old elf self to delight children and their adults with carols, stops for sweet treats, Tinsel Trail photo ops, and kid’s trivia with prizes. No alcohol is allowed on this ride.

Galaxy of Lights at Huntsville Botanical Garden

The Huntsville Botanical Garden is a magical place during the holidays! Drive the Garden and see thousands of bright lights going on now through January 1.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas at the VBC

Do you remember the first time you heard the Christmas sounds of Mannheim Steamroller? You can again celebrate the holiday magic of Mannheim Steamroller in 2021 when they bring their annual holiday tour to fans throughout the country. While 2020 was the first year the group was unable to tour in 35 years, 2021 will reunite the #1 Christmas music artist in history with its legion of long-time fans. Experience the music that has become the hallmark of the holidays and a tradition for multi-generational families: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas live in concert in 2021!

Tinsel Trail

The Tinsel Trail is a display of live Christmas trees in Downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring Park. Over 300 trees will decorate the park for the holiday season. Join us in this festive Downtown tradition going on now through January 2!

Skating in the Park at Huntsville Museum of Art

Did you know you can ice skate in Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville? Located behind the Huntsville Museum of Art, you can lace up a pair of ice skates and glide across the ice.

Photo courtesy of Skating in the Park.

Vulcan Park’s Magical Nights

Vulcan Park and Museum is transforming the park into a magical holiday experience. Go enjoy the holiday light experience along with food trucks, music, Santa, and so much more.

Give the Gift of Experience

From kids to adults, we have tons of stuff that just takes up space, so instead of getting another thing to sit around why not give the gift of experience this year? A gift membership to one of these amazing attractions is a gift that your friends or family will enjoy all year long.

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 Museum as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Today, it is home to the largest collection of motorcycles in the world.

Burritt on the Mountain

Burritt on the Mountain — A Living Museum has been referred to as a “Jewel on the Mountain.” Start with Dr. William Henry Burritt’s eclectic mansion, add a historic park with restored 19th century houses including barnyard and animals, and finally throw in the artistic side with concerts, plays and exhibits, and you have a delightful mixture of old and new for young and old!

In 1955, Dr. Burritt willed his mansion and surrounding 167 acres of land on Round-Top Mountain to the city of Huntsville (making it Huntsville’s first museum). Since that time, volunteers and community activists have brought original homes from the area to Burritt to be restored and utilized as an educational facility. Our interpreters are always busy demonstrating activities as one would see on a 19th century farm. Blacksmithing, spinning, and cooking over an open hearth are just some of the skills employed in our historic park. In the Burritt Barnyard, visitors can get “up close and personal” with an animal that would have been used for work, wool, or even food for the farmers and their families.

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.

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.

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® DomeTheater, 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.

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 Shotand 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

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. Visit the Vulcan Park & Museum to see this magnificent statue.

Retail Therapy in Huntsville

Who doesn’t need a little retail therapy from time to time?! Whether you’re looking for gifts for friends and family or a treat for yourself, we’ve put together a list of unique places that are perfect for that therapeutic shopping trip.

Bridge Street Town Centre

Bridge Street Town Centre is the premier mixed-use lifestyle center in Huntsville, Alabama. Featuring over 80 upscale shops and restaurants, the 232-room Westin Huntsville Hotel, a 150-room Element by Westin hotel, a 14-screen Cinemark movie theater, and a six-story office tower. The property also features a customer service center, carousel, fountains, and lots of green open spaces.

The center is located in Cummings Research Park at the intersection of Old Madison Pike, Interstate 565, and Research Park Boulevard (Alabama State Route 255).

Bridge Street offers a wide variety of shops and restaurants. Among them are Altar’d State, Anthropologie, Apple, Bar Louie, Barnes and Noble, Bath and Body Works, Bed Bath and Beyond, Belk, Cantina Laredo, Connors Steak & Seafood, DSW Shoes, Francesca’s, Gap, H&M, Mountain High Outfitters, P.F. Chang’s, Sephora, The Melting Pot, Victoria’s Secret and other boutique shops.

Clinton Row

Clinton Row is an innovative mixed-use space comprised of over 20 storage units repurposed into hyper-local retail shops and startup offices. Offering a wide variety of eclectic creations, Clinton Row provides a unique retail experience at the high visibility intersection of Clinton Avenue and Jefferson Street.

Merchandise ranges from vintage records to men’s and women’s clothing to locally and regionally made art. The shops are located in the Quigley Entertainment District, allowing patrons to enjoy their favorite beverage as they browse Clinton Row’s offerings. In addition, Redstone Federal Credit Union’s first Downtown ATM is located at Clinton Row.

Current businesses include: Clachic Boutique, In Bloom, Clinton Row Gifts, Carol Foret Gallery, Echo Records, 81 Home Gifts and Glam, and more. Come out and shop local in Downtown Huntsville!

Stovehouse

In the century-old building that was once all work and no play, the reimagined Stovehouse complex is now manufacturing leisure.

The old factory is being transformed into a village of eclectic restaurants, gourmet cocktail & coffee bars, event & entertainment spaces, boutique shopping, offices and more.

Best BBQ in Huntsville and Decatur

Barbecue is always in season, and we’ve got some fantastic restaurants in the Huntsville and Decatur area that are known for their scrumptious barbecue. Check them out and let us know where your favorite place to get barbecue is!

Bark & Barrel

Bold Alabama Barbecue with a foodie twist. Bark & Barrel serves up house-smoked wings, turkey, BBQ, homemade chips, great sides, and yes, even smoked chocolate chip cookies. Did we mention they have specials like their coveted Brisket French Dip?! Follow on Facebook for daily specials. Or, just show up because whatever you order will be perfection!

Bark & Barrel at Stovehouse in Huntsville is a foodie destination.

Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ pork, beef, chicken, ribs, stuffed potatoes, and homemade pies are amazing, and they have some really good smoked wings, too! They have been the Memphis in May Grand Champion and state Champion in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee. There’s two locations to serve you in Decatur: 6th Avenue and Danville Road.

Big Bob Gibson’s has the best wings around!

Boarhog’s BBQ

Boarhog’s BBQ on Highway 72 in Huntsville is home to some memorable barbecue! They serve up “true-blue classic Southern barbeque with all the fixins!”

Photo by Boarhog’s Barbecue.

Greenbrier Restaurant

Known as “hushpuppy heaven,” Greenbrier Restaurant in Madison has delicious barbecue, fried catfish, and those delicious hushpuppies that you cannot get enough of.

Delicious hushpuppies at Greenbrier.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Decatur & Priceville

Moe’s Original Bar B Que serves up an award-winning, all things Southern, BBQ experience. Our fast casual eatery and catering company offers Moe’s award-winning Bama-style BBQ offerings including Pulled Pork, Ribs, Wings, Chicken and Turkey in addition to Catfish and a Shrimp Moe-Boy sandwich, not to mention an array of Southern Sides prepared fresh daily. The full premium bar serves frozen concoctions including the famous Bushwacker and Moonshine Margarita, Southern-style cocktails, wine and plenty of craft beers on tap and will even stay open until midnight on Thursdays through Saturdays. Located in the Downtown Decatur Arts & Entertainment District next to the historic Princess Theatre, there is occasional live music on the weekends that ranges from Southern rock and blues with an emphasis on the Muscle Shoals and North Alabama music scene. Large party takeout orders and full service catering with delivery are also available. 

Moe’s Original Bar B Que nachos are delicious!

New Market BBQ

New Market BBQ is a locally-owned Mom & Pop restaurant established in 1995. They dry rub their meats with their signature BBQ rub and then wood-smoke them in old-fashioned brick pits with hickory and pecan wood.
Step back in time and enjoy a delicious meal on their screened-in porch or enjoy a picnic under the pavilion. Enjoy the flavors that made this BBQ destination a“Taste of Huntsville” Winner. Savor the flavor of the smoked mac ‘n cheese that made the “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” list. Visit this weekend destination BBQ Joint and enjoy the famous homemade-from-scratch sides and desserts!

Visit New Market BBQ for delicious hickory and pecan smoked barbeque.