Along with being one of the New York Times 52 Places to Go in 2019, Huntsville was also named one of the best Christmas towns in the nation. Making memories in the Rocket City doesn't have to break your budget. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays and the winter season in Huntsville, Alabama! We made a list of 30+ ways to enjoy our area without spending money.
Of course we have plenty of fabulous paid attractions too, and we have a holiday coupon sheet you can download to help save some money.
If you have any questions about any items on the list below, head on over to our Visitor Center (located at 500 Church Street in downtown Huntsville) or give us a call at 256.551.2230 or 800.Space.4U. We're open seven days a week and have a team of Visitor Information Assistants that are standing ready to help you explore the Rocket City!
Huntsville and Madison Free Holiday Activities
Bridge Street Town Centre Tree Lighting - November 22
As a kick-off to the holiday season, Bridge Street Town Centre will light up like a winter wonderland to welcome Santa. The new minor league baseball Trash Panda mascot will also be revealed that night! Big Daddy Kingfish will perform. After the 45-foot Christmas tree is lit, view the spectacular fireworks display from the lake choreographed to holiday music.
Village of Providence Christmas Tree Lighting - November 29
Enjoy festive lights and carolers as the Village marks the official start of the Christmas season. Santa Claus arrives at 4:00 and the 50' tree will be lit at 6:00. Stay for dinner, a drink or sweet treat at one of the eateries in the area.
On this special evening, Toys for Tots will be collecting new unwrapped toys for area children.
Downtown Huntsville's Tinsel Trail - November 29 - January 4
Big Spring Park takes on a holiday glow with over 300 elaborately decorated trees. Enjoy a festive stroll through the park. Stop to watch the ice skaters. Enjoy a hot beverage or purple cup drink along the way. Create a full experience by adding dinner at one of downtown Huntsville's many restaurants.
Madison's Christmas Card Lane - November 30 - December 31
Christmas Card Lane is an outdoor, life-size card exhibit located in Madison's historic district. You’ll find whimsical, traditional, and religious themes among the more than 30 designs on display. Drive along Church and Front Street, in the historic downtown neighborhood, to enjoy this visual holiday delight! The cards will be illuminated for 6 hours after dark each night in the month of December.
During the day, you may park on Main Street and stroll the sidewalks to admire the details of each design.
Don't miss the 6th annual Madison Station Polar Express on Sunday, December 1st. The event kicks off with the Children's Lantern Parade by the Madison Arts Council at 4pm, then the Madison Public Library will read the Polar Express. At 4:30 pm, The Madison City Community Orchestra will play Christmas music and the tree trail lighting will happen at 4:45pm. The decorated trees will be displayed on historic downtown Madison's Main Street from December 1st until January 4th.
22nd Annual Rocket City Tuba Christmas - December 1
Tuba, euphonium, and baritone players perform holiday favorites. Bring yours and join the band.
City of Huntsville's Christmas Parade - December 3
Welcome Santa Claus to Huntsville as he ushers in the Christmas season at the annual Christmas parade. This year's theme is Christmas Around the World. Enjoy the excitement and music with many entries and bands from across North Alabama. This year’s official Grand Marshal is the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champ, Erin Howard.
Literary Trails with Santa - December 13
Head to Hays Nature Preserve and enjoy a story with Santa, along with hot chocolate and apple cider. After story time, there will be picture time with Santa and holiday crafts.
City of Madison's Christmas Parade - December 14
Madison's Christmas Parade begins at Plaza Drive and Hughes Road. The theme this year is Polar Express.
Spirit of Christmas Past Homes Tour - December 14
If you want a peek at some of the decorations outside of antebellum homes in Downtown Huntsville’s Twickenham Historic District, a select few are open each year for one evening as part of the Spirit of Christmas Past Home Tour. Private residences along with the Weeden House Museum go “all out” with holiday décor, and the entire district lines its streets with luminaries, giving the entire area a true Christmas glow. Tickets are available if you wish to go inside the homes, but it's free to walk by and look at the outside.
Photo Credit: Randall Belk
Living Christmas Tree - December 19 - 22
A spectacle of sight and sound, over 150 singers, a 50 piece orchestra and thousands of lights bring a 39-foot Christmas tree to life. Experience this celebration sure to be a highlight of your Christmas observance. Tickets are free, but must be reserved for the 35th annual tradition. Free tickets are available beginning December 2.
Annual Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival - December 22
This festival dates back to 14th century Great Britain, when Christmas was celebrated as a triumph of good over evil. The event includes a processional, colorful costumes and singing.
Bridge Street Town Centre Community Menorah Lighting - December 26
Come celebrate Hanukkah with the annual lighting of the menorah by Rabbi Moshe Cohen, presented by Chabad of Huntsville. A fun evening filled with music, food and good friends. Across from the Apple store.
Bridge Street Town Centre Kwanzaa Celebration - December 26
The 7-day long celebration of history and culture is designed to bring people together. To mark the occasion, people will gather for a candle lighting near the Cinemark at Bridge Street.The holiday is a celebration of the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, and faith.
Free Holiday Markets for Local Handmade Gifts
Holiday Market at Mid City - November 17
It's the FINAL Market at MidCity for the year and your opportunity to #shoplocal for the holiday season. Nearly 30 vendors to celebrate the end of our Market at MidCity and celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. Candles, jewelry, locally-raised meat for your holiday meals, Piper and Leaf teas, Christmas ornaments, elderberry syrup, delicious baked goods, hand made wood carving, locally designed t-shirts, AND MORE.
Kris Kringle Market in Madison - November 23
The Kris Kringle Market will feature artisans and craftsmen from across North Alabama, an Olde World Santa, lantern-making workshops for children, and various food and drink options for guests. Madison Arts Council and Madison Parks and Recreation bring this cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Madison.
Christkindlmarket Huntsville - December 6 - 8
Christkindlmarket Huntsville is held on historic Downtown Square. Christkindlmarket Huntsville is the largest Christmas market in Alabama. Featured in Food and Wine and AAA Alabama Journey Magazine, this German-inspired Christmas market is home to dozens of local and national craft vendors. Thousands of attendees are expected throughout the weekend from Huntsville, the Tennessee Valley and beyond. 360 entertainment on all four sides of square with live music, Santa Claus and delicious traditional foods, will surely get you in the Holiday spirit.
NEACA Craft Show at VBC - December 6 - 8
There's something for everyone at the NEACA Craft Show at the Von Braun Center. Needlework, ceramics, flower arrangements, jewelry, decorated and hand-woven baskets, pottery, stained glass, clothes, toys, woodwork and other items are featured.
Yule Y’all at Lowe Mill - December 7
Show your spirit early this year at ‘Yule Y’all’, the Christmas market with a southern twist and twinkle. Discover the work of hand picked makers from across the south who will peddle their unique crafts and wares from 10:00 AM- 6:30 PM. Inside, keep your eyes peeled for unique seasonal artwork from participating Lowe Mill A&E studios. You’ll be sure to find that one of a kind gift or stocking stuffer. Regional distillers will be on site to share samples of their crafted spirits in limited quantities.
Live music, holiday themed entertainment and overall cheer will be sprinkled high and low from floor to floor, culminating at 7:00 PM under the iconic water tower for a lighting ceremony like no other. Krampus will be there and available for pictures, and if you’ve been good this year you may survive them. Photo sessions $5.00.
This event will take place throughout the entirety of the grounds and is accessible at no other cost to the public other than a $5.00 fee (per car) for parking on property.
Invasion of Nerdy Noel at Campus 805 - December 8
The FOURTH year of Nerdy Noel brings some exciting changes--it's INVADING the entire 1st floor of Straight to Ale! Vendors and artists will be set up in the gym/brewery, and in the taproom, the hallways, the Speakeasy, and the Absinthe Bar.
There will be activities for kids, and cosplayers, and door prizes, and raffle baskets, and SO MUCH NERDY STUFF! Items for sale are focused on nerdy/geeky/pop culture/sci-fi/fantasy/gaming/anime themes.
Winter Solstice at Lowe Mill - December 21
This is The Barking Dog Arts largest artist market of the entire year. This year, Barking Dog Arts will be partnering with Lowe Mill to extend out the Winter Solstice Market to the entire second floor which means more vendors and lots to do in the artist studios.
Indoor Shopping for Unique Gifts
Harrison Brothers is the oldest continuously operating hardware store in Alabama. It was established in 1879 and has been on the Square since 1897, operated by the Historic Huntsville Foundation, staffed by volunteers. Better than a museum, Harrison Brothers is a living 19th century landmark sitting serenely in the midst of downtown Huntsville. High-tech Huntsville itself seems 100 years away as you enter the store.
Harrison Brothers is more than a glimpse of old Huntsville. It is a shopper's delight. On the west side of the store, a stack of antique biscuit jars brimming with old-fashioned candies tempts youngsters of all ages. Cotton throws, colorful tins, marbles by the scoop, cast iron cookware, and oak rocking chairs share space with garden gadgets, bird feeders, and whirly-gigs. They stock books, cookbooks, prints, postcards, and other items relating to Huntsville and Madison County's history.
When you are searching for that perfect gift, a souvenir to take home, or just plain looking, Harrison Brothers is the place to visit.
The Shop at the Park offers a handsome selection of handcrafted goods, unique gifts and old fashioned candies. Open Monday - Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. It's also home to local favorite tea artisans, Piper and Leaf, that happens to be on the Craft Coffee Trail!
University Pickers is more than 7,000 sq ft of vintage and local artisan goodness. Visitors often say, "it's Pinterest come alive!" Bursting at the seams with creativity, the locals have poured their hearts and souls into this place.
It's more than an "antique mall." Expect to be surprised to find over 50 booths, 75+ vendors, and a new treat at every corner: ranging from steam punk to primitive, re-purposed to shabby chic. Whether you are just visiting Huntsville for the day, or it just so happens that find yourself traveling Hwy 72, be sure to stop by and say hello.
Don’t leave Huntsville empty-handed! Along with some of the nicest people you will ever meet who know all there is to know about Huntsville, you can pick up souvenirs and gifts for yourself or for someone back home.The Downtown Huntsville Visitor Center also has coupons to our major attractions and is open seven days a week!
Many visitors are attracted to Huntsville’s rich history, and you’ll find plenty of that in our antique shops. Whether you want a piece in its original state or something that has been refurbished or repurposed, you’ll enjoy the search for just the right piece from one (or more!) of these stores or antique marts. Some popular stops include:
- Railroad Station Antique Mall located in downtown Huntsville
- Firehouse Antiques in South Huntsville
- Madison Station Antiques in downtown Madison
Outdoor Adventures in the Winter
Photo Credit: Cindy Markushewski
For hikers, the beautiful lower Appalachia provides plenty of opportunities to explore terrains of various difficulties, from more advanced slopes of Monte Sano Mountain to the peaceful blacktop of the expansive Huntsville Greenway system.
Embrace Nature with Preserve Pals - Tuesday through December 17
Connect with your family at Hays Nature Preserve! Drop in to the natural playground to enjoy a new nature-themed activity each week with your child. FREE for children of all ages with their favorite available adult. Clothes that can get a bit wet or dirty are recommended. In case of inclement weather, check Operation Green Team’s social media channels/platforms for notice of cancellation.
Want a super fun and totally unique way to explore downtown Huntsville? Take part in the Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt and see a side of the Rocket City you can’t see any other way!
The Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau has cleverly hidden 14 ducks around downtown Huntsville, and it’s up to you to find them all. And while you're looking, you can experience the sights and history that the heart of our city has to offer. Perceptive players who find all 14 ducks can stop by the Visitor Center and get a special prize.
Twickenham, Old Town and Five-Points Historic Districts - Drive or walk through several historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. Tour using your smart phone and the Digital Huntsville History Tour or a brochure available at the Visitor Center.
Explore the Foundations of Faith Trail
Madison County has 16 churches over 100 years old, most on their original sites, and still holding services today. These places of worship define Madison County’s rich and diverse cultural and spiritual heritage.
Want a super fun and totally unique way to explore downtown Madison? Take part in the Trains on Main Scavenger Hunt to learn more about the history of downtown Madison you can’t see any other way!
The Madison Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau has cleverly hidden 8 trains around historic downtown Madison, and it’s up to you to find them all. And while you're looking, you can experience the sights and history that the heart of our city has to offer. Players who find all 8 trains can stop by the Madison Chamber of Commerce or City Hall and get a special prize.