Huntsville: A day in the Rocket City

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Story by David Hitt

Photos courtesy Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau

You can’t visit the Rocket City without seeing the rockets – the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home to Space Camp, is a national treasure.

But there’s much more to Huntsville, Alabama, than its role in space history. It’s a city brimming with museums, local eateries and plenty more to see and experience.

Here’s how we recommend you spend a packed day in Huntsville enjoying amazing food, incredible arts, the beautiful outdoors, and, yes, a bit of awe-inspiring space.

Morning Stop: Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment

Housed in a historic textile mill, Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment has become a Huntsville icon. Its signature water tower is a fixture of the city skyline, and with more than 150 studios housing over 200 artists, Lowe Mill is the largest privately owned arts facility in the South. Check out the work of hundreds of artists under one roof and pick up some unique gifts you’ll find nowhere else.

Lunch: Stovehouse

Stovehouse is a food hall without the hall. Instead, it has so much more. Like Lowe Mill, Stovehouse is a repurposed classic Huntsville building. It opened originally as a stove factory, but today, it’s home to a collection of local restaurants, with options to suit everyone in your group. Ramen? Yep. Barbecue? Of course. And for those with more international tastes, there’s authentic Mexican, French crepes and much, much more. Indoor seating is available, but on even a decent Huntsville day, you’ll want to sit outside. An entertainment venue with multiple stages for live music, Stovehouse also offers unique shops once you’ve finished eating.

Afternoon stop: The U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Huntsville’s space museum is a must-do, and it’s a lot to pack into a one-day itinerary.

“It’s easy to spend the entire day at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and still not see everything,” said Pat Ammons, senior director of public and media relations. “If they’re short on time, however, I would send visitors straight to the Saturn V Hall to see the National Historic Landmark Saturn V moon rocket.”

Ammons said it’s difficult to describe the space that houses the 363-foot-long rocket.

“Awe-inspiring is one word that gets used a lot,” Ammons said. “The Saturn V Hall also displays the Apollo 16 capsule that went to the moon and many other exhibits that showcase one of humankind’s greatest achievements – space exploration – and Huntsville’s role in making it happen.”

If you have time left before supper: Campus 805

If you’ve never been to a speakeasy in a middle school, your opportunity has arrived. Continuing the trend of great Huntsville spots repurposed from classic buildings, Campus 805 was a high school and middle school before becoming a collection of local breweries, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Supper: Downtown Huntsville

If you’re in a hurry and want a specific recommendation: get dinner at Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria on the courthouse square. The pizza’s great, and odds are on any given night, their gelato options include a flavor you’ve never seen before.

If you’ve got time, stroll around downtown until you find something that strikes your fancy. Chances are, something will. On just one side of the square, for example, you’ll find Korean, French and English eateries within a few yards of each other. Or walk down a few steps to Huntsville’s beautiful Big Spring Park and have an outdoor dinner waterside.

If you need more ideas, stop by the Visitor Center where they’ll be glad to help with dinner recommendations or provide attraction coupons.

“With so much to do and see in Huntsville, especially downtown, I encourage everyone to come to the Visitor Center,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our friendly and knowledgeable Visitor Information Assistants will help you make the most of your time in The Rocket City.”

Too late to head home?

If you find that there’s too much to see and do in Huntsville in a single day, you should spend the night in one of the city’s new downtown hotels, like 106 Jefferson or the AC Hotel. The next morning, you can visit the Huntsville Botanical Garden on your way out of town!