If you know why Huntsville is called the "Rocket City," then you're probably already familiar with things in Huntsville like the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Space Camp®️, and maybe even Redstone Arsenal. But there are quite a few things to do in Huntsville that may be unexpected - in a city known for mixing the arts with STEM, you know you'll find something a little different! Here are 5 unexpected things to do in the Rocket City just to get you started.
Explore the state's most extensive collection of antebellum homes
While many cities in the south experienced great destruction during the Civil War, Huntsville and its now historic homes were spared. Today, the Rocket City is therefore home to the South’s largest concentration of antebellum homes and offers visitors experiences from antebellum to antigravity.
Huntsville is home to several districts on the National Register of Historic Places. The Twickenham District boasts scores of homes dating from 1819 while the Old Town District contains Victorian homes ranging from 1870-1930. A replica of the Salem Witch House can even be found on Walker Avenue. Charming bungalows dominate the Five Points District and the Merrimack Mill Village, representing the unique personalities of owners. The Weeden House Museum & Garden, built in 1819, is the state's oldest public house museum (be sure to ask about the button on the newel post!)
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Dive in to your creative side at the largest, privately-owned arts facility in the Southeast
Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is the largest, privately-owned arts facility in the U.S., and you can find it just southwest of the heart of Huntsville. This historic textile factory building has been redeveloped into 131 working studios for over 200 artists and makers, six fine art galleries, a multi-use theatre, and performance venues. You can catch a show, enjoy the renowned Cigar Box Guitar Festival (the longest running in the country!), sip on Piper & Leaf tea, indulge in a special treat from Pizzelle's, and so much more.
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See the nation's largest, open-air butterfly house
As if the arts, science, and history weren’t enough, you can still check out other attractions like the Huntsville Botanical Garden, where lush greenery, beautiful reflecting pools, and the Purdy Butterfly House - the nation’s largest - await. A breathtaking Guest Center built in the traditional Southern style adds the perfect touch of charm as you walk through the doors.
Be on the mountain top to the heart of the city within minutes
Looking for outdoor activities? Take in the fresh air on one of Huntsville’s many hiking, biking, and birding trails, kayak on the Flint River, or enjoy a picnic on Monte Sano Mountain. It’s only “minutes to the mountain” (literally - Monte Sano State Park is roughly a 5 minute drive from downtown Huntsville), making outdoor recreation incredibly accessible from the thriving city center.
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Stumble upon an astronaut's footprints in the sidewalk
Ok, ok, while this last one IS space-related, it's so awesome, we just couldn't help ourselves. If you're strolling along the sidewalk right beside Alabama Constitution Hall Park in downtown Huntsville, you may notice a plaque and a set of footprints. These aren't just any old footprints, though - they belong to moonwalker astronaut Alan Shepard! Where else can you see a set of astronaut footprints a mere few feet away from the very site where the Alabama constitution was signed in 1819? Only in Huntsville.
Bonus: See the Coolest Middle School in the Country
Campus No. 805 is the old Stone Middle School, that has been turned into a multi-use development featuring two breweries, several restaurants, axe throwing, a hidden speak easy and more. With plenty of patio space and areas to explore, you won't be board in school ever again.