Huntsville, Alabama is also known as Rocket City. If you’ve ever driven south on I-65 from Tennessee to Alabama, you know why: a Saturn I rocket sits outside of the Alabama Welcome Center in Ardmore – about 40 minutes outside of Huntsville.
Rockets were all I knew about this small city. Huntsville is home to the US Space and Rocket Center and during my visit I learned that the rocket that put men on the moon was developed here. Rockets have shaped the history of Huntsville and space flight continues to develop the area, but there is more to discover than just space.
Top 10 Smartest Cities
Huntsville has been ranked as one of the world’s Top 10 Smartest Cities. Admit it. You may not have thought that about Alabama. Home to Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal Army post, several colleges and universities, and numerous engineering firms, you can’t sneeze in Huntsville without an engineer catching a cold. It’s a highly educated town with a booming economy.
I was unprepared for how great the food is in Huntsville! From BBQ to Wickles Pickles to Red Diamond Sweet Tea to banana pudding and peach cobbler – I gained an estimated seven pounds on my five day journey and every bite was worth it!
My favorite local food was Pickle BBQ potato chips from Golden Flake. Imagine a dill pickle chip and a BBQ chip smashed into one sensational flavor that simulates pickles on a BBQ sandwich. These were so good that I had to stop at a convenience store and buy two bags for the trip home. I didn’t know that at the Huntsville Airport they would make me take all food items out of my bags during the screening process. The secret is out, TSA knows I love my chips!
With the recent changes in brewing laws, craft beer is taking off in Alabama. Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer are two of the well-known brewers of Huntsville. I particularly liked the tangerine tinged “T-Minus” brewed by Yellowhammer Brewing for the US Space and Rocket Center in homage to TANG – that orange flavored drink consumed by astronauts. Astronaut inspired beer, what’s not to love?!
The Gose from Blue Pants Brewery of Madison, Alabama was also a favorite of mine.
Repurposing of Old Spaces
A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard used to be exactly that – a lumberyard! Now it’s a multi-faceted entertainment venue. With 4 stages, multiple bars, a robust menu, and game areas, it’s impossible to get bored here.
For over 50 years this building was used as a school. In 2014 a developer purchased the property and it is now home to breweries, an arcade, an events center, and even a speakeasy hidden behind a row of lockers.
Opened in 1901 as a cotton mill, the 171,000 square foot factory was later home to a boot and shoe manufacturer. In fact, many US soldiers in the Vietnam War likely wore shoes made here. In the late 1970s Lowe Mill became a warehouse for heating systems. Then, in the early 2000s it was repurposed into the largest privately owned arts facility in the United States.
Big Spring International Park
The accessible water source of The Big Spring is what drew settlers to Huntsville in 1805. Today The Big Spring has transformed into a green oasis in the middle of downtown. Featuring ponds of coi, ducks, geese, and stepping stones, the recently redesigned park features paved walking trails and Yoshino Cherry trees and a friendship bridge – the trees and bridge were gifts from Japan.
Deserving an entire post to itself, the Huntsville Botanical Garden was probably the best surprise in Huntsville. Expect a stunning view immediately as you walk through the doors. Then explore the butterfly house, daylily garden, aquatic garden, and multiple lakes – just to name a few of the features. And for a limited time only, visit the dinosaurs in the forest. Yes, dinosaurs!
I Heart Huntsville
It’s now been nearly a week since I’ve returned north from my time in Huntsville and I’ve missed it every day. The people are friendly, the weather is warm, and the sites are beautiful. My five day visit was full of surprises. I’m looking forward to going back for more surprises very soon!
Have you been to Huntsville, Alabama? What surprises did you find? During your travels, what city has surprised you the most? Let me know in the comments below. I read them all and I’d love to hear from you.
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