Making memories in the Rocket City doesn't have to break your budget. We've been named one of the best Christmas towns in the nation, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays that validate that honor. Here’s a list of 20-plus ways to enjoy the Rocket City – and do so without spending money.
Of course we have plenty of fabulous paid attractions too, and we have a Holiday Magic Pass 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 standing ready to help you explore the Rocket City!
Huntsville and Madison Free Holiday Activities
Bridge Street Town Centre Santa and Laser Light Show - November 27 - December 24
If you are looking to find Santa and tell him your wish, you can find him at Bridge Street each weekend started on November 27. You can take photos in an open-air environment near their giant Christmas tree. While visits will look a little different this year, the magic of the Santa experience will remain the same. The photos will be socially distanced and visitors are asked to wear a mask at all times except for when you snap a photo. Each household must stay six feet apart from other groups. Click here for dates and times of Santa sightings.
New this year will be a 10-minute laser light show in two locations: at the bridge near the Belk Courtyard and the Christmas tree near Cinemark. On the weekends you will get at least two chances to catch the show starting November 27 at 6:00 p.m. Click here for dates and times of light shows.
Downtown Huntsville's Tinsel Trail - November 27 - January 3
Big Spring International Park takes on a holiday glow with over 300 elaborately decorated trees. Enjoy a festive stroll through both sides of the park for plenty of space to socially distance. 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.
Huntsville's Christmas Fireworks Spectacular - December 4
Kick off the holiday season with a socially distanced fireworks show in the parking lot of Joe W. Davis Stadium. Parking starts at 6:00 p.m., and the show will start at 7:00 p.m. The fireworks will be synchronized to music on local Christmas station Mix 96.9 and last for 20 minutes. Blankets, hot chocolate, and snacks are encouraged.
Spirit of Christmas Past Luminary Tour - December 12
If you want a peek at some of the decorations outside of antebellum homes in Downtown Huntsville’s Twickenham Historic District, 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 area a true Christmas glow. It's free to walk by and enjoy these historic homes on Saturday, December 12 from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Photo Credit: Randall Belk (2018)
Virtual Living Christmas Tree - December 17 - 20
This year watch a pre-produced spectacle of sight and sound, with more than 150 singers, a 50-piece orchestra and thousands of lights that will bring a 39-foot Christmas tree to life. Experience this celebration online through television, social media, and livestream. Special guest artists Lisle Gwynn Garrity, Committed, and the North Alabama Dance Center will participate this year.
Free Holiday Markets for Local Handmade Gifts
Holiday Market at MidCity - November 15
Celebrate the beginning of the holiday season at the last Market at MidCity of the year.=More than 50 vendors will be selling candles, jewelry, locally raised meat for your holiday meals, Piper and Leaf teas, Christmas ornaments, elderberry syrup, delicious baked goods, handmade wood carving, locally designed t-shirts, and more. Masks are required and households are asked to stay six feet apart this year.
NEACA Craft Show at VBC - December 4 - 6
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. With more than 100 crafters each spreading 6 feet apart, you will find a unique gift this holiday. Masks will be required inside the Von Braun Center.
Holiday Art Marketplace on Monroe Street - December 5
More than 50 artists will be spread out along Monroe Street from the VBC parking lot to the AC Hotel by Marriott next to Big Spring Park. The Von Braun Center will be showing SEC football games in the Mars Music Hall and you can visit the NEACA Craft Fair in the South Hall. The Tinsel Trail will be up from Downtown Huntsville Inc. and The Huntsville Museum of Art will have Skating in the Park going as well. Plus, just a short walk away, you can find the Downtown Sidewalk Sale.
"Yule Y’all" at Lowe Mill - December 5
Show your spirit this year at "Yule Y’all", the outdoor 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- 6:00 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 outdoors, culminating at 5:00 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.
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-plus vendors, and a new treat at every corner: ranging from steam punk to primitive, re-purposed to shabby chic. Whether you are planning to visit Huntsville for the day, or just happen 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 Appalachian mountains provide 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.
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 earn 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.
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 win a special prize.