Huntsville, Alabama is an amazing US city. I’ve been there several times and always find new and fun things to do in Huntsville, Al. If you’re wondering what to do in the family-friendly Rocket City, here’s a long list of possibilities!
Many thanks to the Huntsville CVB for sponsoring this post. I updated this post to reflect current offerings as of April 2022.
- Brief History of Huntsville
- 25 Fun & Educational Things to Do in Huntsville, Al
- Are you looking for active things to do in Huntsville?
- Are you looking for Historical Things to Do in Huntsville?
- 11. Explore Twickenham Historic District
- 12. Weeden House Museum
- 13. Visit the Alabama Constitution Hall Park
- 14. Step Inside the 1879 Harrison Brothers Hardware Store
- 15. Learn Civil War History at the 1860 Historic Huntsville Depot
- 16. Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial
- 17. Civil Rights Landmark Tour
- 18. Huntsville Revisited History Museum
- Do you want to do things in Huntsville Related to Music & the Arts?
- Things to do in Huntsville related to SPACE
- Food in Huntsville
Brief History of Huntsville
Huntsville was named after pioneer John Hunt, one of the first settlers to the area in 1805. Huntsville is the birthplace of Alabama and the Alabama State Constitution was signed here in 1819 and is currently the fastest growing and second largest metropolitan area and qualifies as the largest city in Alabama! Huntsville was also first in midsize US metro areas in economic growth in 2021!
Huntsville comes from modest beginnings. Originally it was a cotton trading center where wealthy merchants and planters came to trade cotton. Because many of the business men remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, Huntsville was not destroyed, like many other southern cities. For this reason, there’s a large number of historic antebellum buildings that are fun to see in Huntsville.
In 1950, US Senator John Sparkman brought a group of German scientists to the Redstone Arsenal to develop the Saturn V Rocket for the US Army. Ultimately, Huntsville is responsible for putting men on the moon, and it’s this history with the US Space and Rocket Center that gives Huntsville the nickname Rocket City.
From arts, to space exploration, to nature, to wonderful food and music, everyone in the family will find something fun to do in Huntsville. I highly recommend adding Huntsville to your MUST-visit list. Check out all of the amazing things there are to do there.
25 Fun & Educational Things to Do in Huntsville, Al
Because there are so many fun things to do in Huntsville, I split up the activities into a few categories:
- active adventure
- music and arts
Note that there is overlap between categories, but if you are looking for a specific type of activity, those categories might be a good place to start.
Are you looking for active things to do in Huntsville?
We love to be active when we’re on vacation. First of all, because being active is good for our bodies. And second of all, so we can justify all the yummy food and drinks we want to eat when we’re visiting a new place. Here are a few of the active adventures you can have in Huntsville!
Burritt on the Mountain is an interactive 167 acre living history museum located on Round Top Mountain overlooking Huntsville. Called the “Jewel on the Mountain,” it’s an excellent place to learn about Huntsville Alabama’s past.
At the Historic Park and Barnyard, living history interpreters dress in period outfits to demonstrate farm life from long ago. The interactive displays give visitors a real feel for what life used to be like when our grandparents walked two miles to school uphill, in the snow, both ways.
Historic homes that were brought to the area have been decorated with authentic furnishings, and farm animals wander the property. Chickens, cats, sheep, goats, and horses are out and about and if you’re lucky, you might get to pet one! Burritt on the Mountain offers many educational programs for children, including a lot of homeschool classes.
I really enjoyed the historic homes that were brought to the area and decorated with authentic furnishings, as well as the animals that wander the property. Chickens, cats, sheep, goats, and horses are out and about and if you’re lucky, you might get to pet one!
2. Tour the 1936 Burritt Mansion
I also really enjoyed touring the 1936 Burritt Mansion. Home of Dr. William Henry Burritt, inventor and physician, this mansion really interested me from a building science and architectural point of view.
Burritt was “green” before his time and built a very modern and energy efficient home. If you’re a loyal reader, you might know about our own Passive-Aggressive House, also a very modern and energy efficient home.
3. Take a Panoramic Photo of Huntsville
You’ll see sweeping views of Huntsville from the back patio of the Burritt Mansion. Step back onto the terrace and take it all in! You can spot the State and Rocket Center and so much more from this amazing vista. You’ll find lots more beauty to photograph as you hike one of the trails at Burritt on the Mountain.
4. Visit Huntsville Botanical Garden
Another one of my favorite things to do in Huntsville, Al is visiting the Huntsville Botanical Garden! There’s always something fun “growing on” there! When we visited, the gardens were transitioning from fall to Christmas and I’m so glad we got to see a bit of both seasons. Huntsville Botanical Gardens is a lovely place for a stroll, with over 100 acres waiting to be explored!
From the Butterfly House to the Children’s Garden to the Galaxy of Lights Preview we toured, this 112 acre nature center is a must see in Huntsville. They offer lots of fun activities for kids and adults of all ages. I’m also drooling over the homeschool events offered at the Botanical Garden. I know my kids would love them as well.
5. Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt
Taking your kids on the Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt might be a good way to get an unwilling walker to agree to a bit of exercise! See if you can find the 14 little ducks that are hidden throughout the downtown area! Go on a scavenger hunt and try to find them all! Download the free clue card and get searching!
I’ll give you one duckling hint in the photo above! 😉
This lovely park which houses the beginning of the spring for which Huntsville was originally settled is another place for a nice stroll. The kids might enjoy the koi fish and the living ducks. There are also a few murals to find!
7. Monte Sano State Park
Like State Parks? Head out to Monte Sano, Spanish for Mountain of Health. This 2,140 acre state park has attracted many visitors since the late 1800s when people came to experience its fresh, healing air and mineral springs.
With over 22 miles of biking and hiking trails, water falls, camping, and cabins, and stunning views, you will enjoy visiting Monte Sano in all seasons.
Want more hiking? Head out to the Land Trust of North Alabama and check out a few of their 70 + miles of breathtaking trails! When we’re considering things to do in Huntsville, Al – we always look for active outdoor activities. Sometimes, we do this for no other reason to give one kid something to groan about. LOL
there’s more to enjoy at the Land Trust of North Alabama than hiking though – enjoy an exclusive live music concert at the Land Trust Members-only Concert at Three Caves or the annual Moon Dance in the Fall.
9. Learn to Curl
If the Olympics got you interested in curling – take a curling class with the Rocket City Curling Club. I was not surprised that curling is definitely much more difficult than the professionals make it look, but I was surprised at just how much coordination you do need!
Fortunately, there are adaptations available that make curling accessible to all ages and ability levels. I highly recommend getting on the ice and trying your hand at curling! If nothing else, it’s very humbling to try something completely new.
By the way, if a lesson is not for you, you can also watch a match!
10. Go Axe Throwing
There are a couple places you can throw axes in Huntsville – but we went to Civil Axe Throwing and it was a lot of fun! I found out I’m better at axe throwing than I was at curling. LOL
You must wear closed toe shoes and be 10 or older to try your hand at axe throwing.
Are you looking for Historical Things to Do in Huntsville?
One thing that we love about travel is learning about the local history, listening to the stories, and learning what makes a particular area a special place to visit, in the United States or beyond. If you’re looking to learn about the really interesting history of Huntsville, I recommend the following activities.
11. Explore Twickenham Historic District
If you’re into historic homes and interesting history tidbits, you absolutely must go on a walking tour of the Twickenham Historic District in downtown Huntsville. If you’re super lucky, you might meet Tallulah Bankhead, actress and nontraditional woman of the 1930s, fond of drinking, drugs, and chatting in the nude.
That’s her in the red, well, it’s not really her because she died a long time ago, but we really enjoyed running into “Tallulah” in the Twickenham District and listening to colorful stories about her life.
Full of charming cobblestone streets and antebellum homes because the Twickenham District was spared during the Civil War and is full of fun stories and entertaining history just waiting to be discovered.
Take a guided tour to learn all sorts of interesting stories from Huntsville’s past – about a rivalry so deep that a house called The Spite House was built just tall enough to block the city views from the home above it.
You can also find a home that was built backwards on a lot. Can you imagine hiring your home to be built and coming back months later to discover it sits backwards? It’s the bottom house in the collage above and the Spite House is on top. There’s even rumored to be a Tiffany window in one of the beautiful homes we walked by.
While many of the homes in the Twickenham Historic District are not open to the public, the Weeden House Museum is a home you can visit. Built in 1819, this museum tells another story about Huntsville and is an interesting visit!
13. Visit the Alabama Constitution Hall Park
Alabama became the 22nd state when the Alabama Constitution was signed in Huntsville in July 1819. Pre-Covid, you could tour the park and learn about early life in Alabama. The outside area is open now, but the indoor tours are still suspended due to. Hopefully they will return for visits soon!
14. Step Inside the 1879 Harrison Brothers Hardware Store
More than a hardware store, visit Harrison Brothers and take a walk back in time. This neat business was first established in 1894 and the store retains characteristics of an original, old time Hardware Store!
Not only can you buy a lot of American-made goodies here, but they also offer more – live music performances, a store scavenger hunt, and high tea demonstrations as well!
15. Learn Civil War History at the 1860 Historic Huntsville Depot
The indoor interactive displays at the Huntsville Depot are currently closed, but keep an eye out, because it really is a neat visit recommended for adults and kids 12 and up! If you get the chance to visit, you can see where civil war soldiers were kept as prisoners and read graffiti they left behind as well.
16. Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial
Veterans as well as non-veterans will be moved during a visit to the Huntsville Veterans Memorial which was dedicated to veterans of all wars on Veterans Day, 11-11-11. Follow along on the walking tour and learn about Huntsvillians who served in US wars and conflicts. It’s a very reflective visit.
If you’d like to learn about the civil rights in Huntsville, I highly recommend taking a Civil Rights and Black History Landmarks Tour with Scene that Tours. Professional Tour Guide Denise can provide a completely customized tour based on your interests as she shares about Black History in Huntsville.
18. Huntsville Revisited History Museum
This is another fascinating place for an in depth dive into local Huntsville history and also lore. We really enjoyed our visit led by William Hampton. He was full of stories and information about Huntsville.
If you want a deeper understanding of Huntsville history, definitely plan a visit to the Huntsville Revisited History Museum, part of the HC Blake Art & History Center.
Do you want to do things in Huntsville Related to Music & the Arts?
If you like music and the arts, you will find plenty of things to occupy your time! One thing I was really exited to learn about on my most recent trip to Huntsville was that they are almost finished constructing a huge music venue and they an an amazing line-up of musicians already scheduled to preform there. Learn more about the Orion Amphitheater here!
19. Huntsville Museum of Art
Great for art lovers and rainy days, I enjoyed our afternoon at the Huntsville Museum of Art. I especially enjoyed their children’s area – very interactive and so much fun. You might not think that art museums are great stops for families with small children, but once again, Huntsville as thought of everything!
Lowe Mill has a little bit of everything: shopping, food, art, music, entertainment. You’ll find a lot of ways to pass the time if you head out to this converted industrial building. It’s served a lot of roles, first as a textile mill and later as a shoe factory that made jungle books for Vietnam War soldiers. If for no other reason, it’s worth a visit just for a ride in the old elevator. But you will find lots of great things to do besides ride that elevator, for sure!
Things to do in Huntsville related to SPACE
Huntsville is called Rocket City for good reason! It does have a diverse economy but aerospace and the defense industry are two of its biggest claims to fame. With one of the highest concentrations of engineers in the United States, and as home to the Redstone Arsenal and the US Space and Rocket Center, there are lots of STEM activities to look forward to in Huntsville!
The only thing I really knew about Huntsville before I went is that Space Camp is there and I was so excited that we also visited Space Camp during our TBEX Pre-view Trip. My husband went when he was a kid and I have always been jealous of that. If you go to Huntsville, definitely stop at the Space & Rocket Center.
I grew up in Germany and have always been fascinated by WWII. Learning about the US connection to Hitler through Wernher von Braun and the other German scientists that were brought to Huntsville was fascinated!
If you have time, enjoy one of the Cocktails & Cosmos in the INTUITIVE Planetarium events or take a docent-led tour. My first tour, led by Dr. Alex McCool (retired manager of the US Space Shuttle Projects Office) was so fascinating! Sadly, he has since died, but there are many other knowledgeable docents who are happy to share their NASA experiences!
23. Space Camp
Of course, another highlight was visiting the Space Camp side and participating in astronaut training activities like the 1/6th gravity chair and the multi-axis trainer. I think my stomach finally recovered from the Space Shot and the multi-axis trainer. YIKES! A definite must visit for space enthusiasts.
24. Visit Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal
The Redstone Arsenal is open to the public (you do have to pass a background check and obtain a visitor’s badge at Gate 9) and is a great place to learn more about Operation Paperclip and the 148 German Nazi Scientists who were moved to Alabama in 1949 to develop the Saturn V rocket.
Established in 1941 as a chemical weapons research facility, engineers are currently working on Artemis at Redstone to put people back on the moon by 2024! If you’re interested in NASA history, you’ll definitely want to visit the Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal.
25. Find the Huntsville Moonwalk Plaque
Just outside the Alabama Constitution Hall, you can find Alan Shepard’s footsteps at the Huntsville Moonwalk Plaque! On July 20, 1994, Huntsville commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing with Alan B. Shepard’s moon boot footprints in their downtown concrete.
They’re the striped boots in the above picture around the leaves. You can visit this spot and compare your feed to his, then think about how much work the people of Huntsville undertook to get us to the moon.
Food in Huntsville
The food in Huntsville was just delicious. We discover many one of a kind culinary experiences and an emphasis on local and sustainable food. It just makes my heart happy when businesses seek out local options.
The micro-brew beer industry is alive and fun, and we enjoyed fantastic drinks as well. If you’re in the Huntsville area, I highly recommend checking out all the fabulous restaurants in Huntsville in the next post.
Surely, will all of these great ideas, you can find some really fun things to do in Huntsville, Al! I would love to hear if you've been and what you enjoyed most!
Many thanks to the Huntsville CVB for several amazing trips to Huntsville! Each visit to the Rocket City is better than the last and I can’t wait to return to see what’s new and to update this list of things to do in Huntsville, Al.